By Adam Hoge-
SOLIDER FIELD (CBS) Here are my grades following the Bears’ 28-10 win over the Minnesota Vikings Sunday:
Sunday was a big step forward for the offense. Coming off a short week with shake-ups on the offensive line, rhythm was somehow found and for the most part, sustained.
The return of Jay Cutler obviously helped a lot. The offensive line was better, but not outstanding, and Cutler often used his feet to create space and complete passes most quarterbacks can’t.
Earl Bennett. Evan Rodriguez. Matt Spaeth. New receiving targets emerged and old ones returned. That’s a great sign going forward, especially with Alshon Jeffery nursing a knee injury. Brandon Marshall, of course, continues to be the best player on the entire offense.
Jonathan Scott was effective filling in for Gabe Carimi at right tackle and Carimi played a key role coming in as an extra blocker on short yardage situations. It would be foolish for Mike Tice to change that combo going forward, except Carimi might have to play guard now after the injuries piled up Sunday.
The Bears only managed three points in the second half, but that was largely because they had to go into survival mode with four offensive starters going down with injuries.
The defense the Bears thought they had returned Sunday. They held the Vikings to zero first downs in the first quarter, giving the offense a chance to build a lead. The takeaways returned, a formula necessary for the Bears to win football games.
The Vikings oddly stayed away from Adrian Peterson early and then were stuck throwing later. That was a gift the Bears will gladly take and the unit took advantage by putting heavy pressure on Christian Ponder. Nick Roach’s early forced fumble on Peterson helped set the tone.
Even when the Vikings put together some impressive drives in the second half, the defense came up with big stops, turning them over on downs twice.
Special teams: C
It hasn’t been the best season for the Bears’ special teams, but the fake extra point was vintage Dave Toub. Adam Podlesh ran it in easily with Carimi supplying a key block.
The Bears lost Devin Hester to a concussion, but Eric Weems was getting opportunities in the return game before Hester even went down. Weems didn’t do anything spectacular, but he wasn’t worse.
Julius Peppers notched his 13th career blocked field goal, but the Bears gave one back when the Vikings blocked a Robbie Gould field goal. Toub also won’t be happy with Armando Allen downing a punt early when it appeared the ball would roll 10 more yards.
The Bears’ coaching staff deserves a ton of credit for Sunday’s win. On a short week where the Vikings had two weeks to prepare, the coaches got a lot done without a lot of time. The changes on the offensive line paid off and Tice provided a sound game plan against a decent Minnesota defense. They were prepared with an emergency situation when both offensive guards went down and the move to play Carimi at guard for the first time in his life paid off.
Rod Marinelli deserves credit for the defense being ready for Adrian Peterson and putting last week behind them quickly.
The Bears’ ability to bounce back from awful games has been a constant theme under Lovie Smith. Now the challenge is to avoid the awful games in the first place.
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.