By Adam Hoge-
(CBS) Here are my grades following the Bears’ 51-20 mashing of the Titans in Nashville:
The defense and special teams won this game in the first quarter, but that doesn’t mean the offense didn’t do anything Sunday. Jay Cutler shook off a rough start and had a good game despite shaky offensive line play. He finished 19-of-26 for 229 yards and three touchdowns to zero interceptions. Brandon Marshall looks like the best wide receiver in Bears history. Matt Forte racked up 103 yards and a touchdown on just 12 carries.
- Recap & Highlights
- Bernstein: Now THAT’s A Laugher
- 24 Hours Later: Holmes Breaks Down Bears-Titans
- Podcast: Doug & OB Postgame
- Photos: Bears 51, Titans 20
At this point, the skill position players look like they have turned the corner and are clicking. So why is the offense still inconsistent? It comes down to the offensive line — possibly the only thing holding the Bears back from winning a Super Bowl this year.
My first perfect grade handed out this season. The Titans scored 20 points, but the Bears’ starters were close to pitching a shutout and the takeaways more than make up for any yards allowed. Matt Hasselbeck’s 30-yard touchdown pass to Nate Washington was well defended by Tim Jennings. It was just a perfect throw and catch. Chris Johnson’s 80-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter was against backups.
Forget the points and yards. This defense forced five takeaways and scored its seventh touchdown of the season. Charles Tillman added four more “Peanut Punches” and right now should be the leader in the clubhouse for Defensive Player of the Year in the NFL. In fact, put him in the MVP discussion.
Special Teams: A-
It was nice to see Dave Toub’s unit join the party this week. Special teams hasn’t been a problem for the Bears this season, but it also hasn’t been as impactful as usual. I’m not sure why the Titans decided not to block anyone on Sherrick McManis’ blocked punt in the first quarter, but credit the Bears for taking advantage and scoring a touchdown.
Why isn’t this grade higher than a ‘A-‘? It was great to see Devin Hester bust a big return, but two Bears players failed to make a block downfield to get him in the end zone. Also, Adam Podlesh is having an up-and-down year in my opinion. There seems to be at least one below-average punt a game.
Say what you want about Lovie Smith, but the defensive fundamentals he preaches every year in Bourbonnais are paying off this season. And if Rod Marinelli doesn’t win Assistant Coach Of The Year, then they need to get rid of the award. His play-calling, scheming and rotation on the defensive line has helped create a lot of confusion that has led to takeaways.
Offensively, I thought Mike Tice had a better game plan this week, but I’m still seeing plays that put a weak offensive line in tough positions. He talked a lot in the preseason about scheming to help the line, but I’m seeing the opposite happen way too much.
Dave Toub is coaching his ass off with a special teams unit that had a lot of turnover this season. I expect it to continue to improve as the season goes on. Trust me, he’ll have a few coaching points on Hester’s 44-yard punt return. He wants touchdowns.
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.