Bears

Hoge’s Grades: High Marks As Confidence Carries Into Bye Week

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Jay Cutler. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

Jay Cutler. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

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By Adam Hoge-

(CBS) Looking back on it, a 4-1 record going into the bye week really was the best-case scenario for the Chicago Bears. Thinking they would be 5-0 was unrealistic and you were just looking for them to split the road games in Green Bay and Dallas.

That’s exactly what the Bears did, and while it wasn’t always pretty, they took care of business against the Colts, Rams and Jaguars.

Here are my grades following the Bears’ 41-3 win over the Jaguars Sunday:

Offense: A-

Besides getting the win, the Bears really needed to get the running game going this week — and they did. Mike Tice committed to the run, giving Matt Forte 22 carries, which he turned into 107 yards. Overall, the Bears racked up 214 rushing yards and averaged 6.5 yards per carry as a team. The run blocking has been inconsistent for most of the season, but the line looked good Sunday. Traditionally, the Bears run the ball better after the bye week and that’s a good sign going forward.

You would certainly like the Bears to put together a complete game on offense, especially against the Jaguars. That said, they still racked up 501 total net yards and Jay Cutler didn’t let a shaky first half carry over after halftime. There’s still plenty of room to improve and I’m not sure the offense has “clicked” yet, but there are plenty of signs that the unit is close. If that happens, watch out.

Defense: A

Even though the defense only gave up three points in the first half, it wasn’t a great first 30 minutes. The line didn’t get much of a push and they were letting Blaine Gabbert beat them on third down.

Then Corey Wootton happened. The defensive end came up with a huge play before the half to force a fumble and keep the Jaguars from taking a lead going into the locker room. That play seemed to set the tone for the second half as the Jaguars went nowhere and Charles Tillman and Lance Briggs recorded defensive touchdowns for the second straight week.

This is a truly dominating unit and it’s pretty incredible considering Brian Urlacher is only making plays North-South and not East-West.

Special Teams: B

Robbie Gould and Adam Podlesh continue to be great, but where’s Devin Hester? No. 23 got his hands on four punt returns Sunday and only racked up eight total yards. Eight. That’s an average of two yards per return. The Jaguars did a great job of staying in their lanes and they forced Hester into maybe the worst return we have ever seen from him, when he ran backwards towards the sideline and then got flagged for a facemask on top of it. We know Hester will break one at some point this season, but he’s had a disappointing start to the season in the return game.

Coaching: A-

Other than a few offensive play calls early, I thought the coaches had a great game. Mike Tice made it a priority to get the running game going and that will build a lot of confidence going into the bye week. Lovie Smith’s decision to go for it on 4th-and-1 on the first drive of the second half was a big moment in the game. The Bears only got a field goal out of it because of Gabe Carimi’s false starts, but that entire drive built momentum that carried through the rest of the game.

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adam hoge 2012 small1 Hoges Grades: High Marks As Confidence Carries Into Bye Week

Adam Hoge

Adam is the Sports Editor for CBSChicago.com and specializes in coverage of the Bears, White Sox and college sports. He was born and raised in Lincoln Park and attended St. Ignatius College Prep before going off to the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he earned a Journalism degree. Follow him on Twitter @AdamHogeCBS and read more of his columns here.

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