By Adam Hoge-
SOLDIER FIELD (CBS) Here are my grades following the Bears’ good, but sometimes ugly 13-7 win over the Lions Monday night:
The Bears got off to a great start with Matt Forte busting off a 39-yard run on the first possession, leading to a Jay Cutler touchdown pass to Brandon Marshall. From there, it was a struggle. I’m going to give Cutler a pass for the second half as his ribs were clearly bothering him, but there were points left off the scoreboard in the first half. The Bears had two drives stall in Lions territory when it looked like they could put the game away early. The first led to a field goal and the second led to a blocked field goal.
The offensive line played well in pass protection, but penalties are still a major problem. Matt Forte had a solid game on the stat sheet, but his 96 yards on 22 carries are slightly deceiving when you factor in the 39-yard run in the opening minutes. Outside of that big run, he only averaged 2.7 yards per carry.
Brandon Marshall had a fine game (six catches, 81 yards and a touchdown) on a night when his quarterback was hurt and struggled.
This is truly a Super Bowl-caliber unit right now. It’s amazing how the Bears are constantly swarming to the football, forcing the other team to make mistakes. The Bears forced six fumbles in the game, recovering three of them. Lovie Smith loves to see a plus-four turnover margin.
Charles Tillman played like a pro-bowler against Calvin Johnson. Megatron was limited to just three catches despite being targeted 11 times. The defensive line continues to shine and the unit is getting contributions from everyone, including rookie Shea McClellin. The Lions got into the red zone four times and didn’t come up with any points until their last possession of the game.
Special Teams: C
Not a great night for a special teams unit that has struggled to reload this season. Adam Podlesh did not have his best punting night and Robbie Gould had a kick blocked. Devin Hester is lost in the return game and couldn’t get anything going against a Lions coverage unit that has allowed four returns for touchdowns this season. A bright spot was Zack Bowman, who recovered a muffed punt in his return to the Bears.
Just so we’re clear, Rod Marinelli gets an A+. His gameplan against the pass-happy Lions was great and Matthew Stafford once again looked like a below-average quarterback at Soldier Field.
Elsewhere, however, I thought the coaching was questionable. Mike Tice did not have a good game with his play calls. With a 1st-and-goal at the 3-yard line and Cutler not 100 percent, the Bears threw the ball three straight times. Cutler may have checked out of a run on third down, but isn’t that situation the reason why you brought Michael Bush here? And speaking of Bush, why is Forte taking the carries out of the end zone when the Bears are backed up at their own half-yard line? Then there was a screen pass for Bush, when those should be going to Forte. It seemed like Tice had his running backs crossed up Monday night.
And then there’s Devin Hester. The Bears just can’t let this go, can they? Mike Tice promised that Hester would be used in the offense more this week and that led to Earl Bennett and Eric Weems getting looks in the return game, which Lovie Smith said was a part of the plan. Hester caught three passes for 38 yards, including a 23-yard gain, but he was also missed on three other targets, mainly because of his lack of size. Haven’t we been through this before? Hester is never going to do much on offense — he’s good for that occasional home run hit — and every time they try to give him more work in the offense, his return game slumps.
Let him be what he is, Lovie: The best return man in the history of football.
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.