By Adam Hoge-
(CBS) Here are my grades following the Bears’ fourth loss in their last five games:
How bad would the Bears be without Brandon Marshall?
Sure, the Bears were OK without Marshall last season before Jay Cutler and Matt Forte got hurt, but that shows you how far they have regressed in other areas. Forte was better Sunday (6.5 yards per carry — 1.5 yards higher than Adrian Peterson), but he’s been largely inefficient this season.
Marshall (10 catches, 160 yards, one touchdown) and Forte (85 yards, 13 carries) were pretty much the only bright spots. Cutler gutted it out with very little help, but he was inaccurate for most of the game and his two interceptions proved to be the difference in the game.
Alshon Jeffery has serious potential, but he played like a rookie Sunday. He showed his promise with a touchdown, but also fell down on Cutler’s first interception and dropped a touchdown (a huge play in the game). Jeffery has to learn to keep his balance — he can’t be falling down in a dome. There was some contact on the slip that led to the first interception, but that’s were a big bodied receiver needs to be balanced and play tough. On his drop in the end zone, he was turned around and falling down. If he stays on his feet, it’s an easy catch.
The Bears out-gained the Vikings 438-248 in total yards… and lost. That can’t happen.
After a disastrous start, the defense settled down and gave the Bears a chance to win. Still, that first series was ugly. Filling in for Brian Urlacher, Nick Roach was lost in the middle and Geno Hayes couldn’t slip a block. Kelvin Hayden had a chance to make a play on Adrian Peterson’s game-opening 51-yard run, but just didn’t. Chris Conte stopped completely and then took a terrible angle — his angles were questionable all day.
The Bears also allowed Christian Ponder to complete some easy passes. For a quarterback who only racked up 91 yards passing in the game, the Bears sure made him look good.
That said, after allowing Peterson to run for 104 yards in the first quarter, he only gained 50 in the final three. The Bears didn’t lose this game because of the defense.
Still, it was clear early in the season that the defense needed to create takeaways to win and they badly need to get back to that or the Bears might not make the playoffs.
Special Teams: C
How Robbie Gould pulled a calf muscle during pregame warmups in a dome is beyond me, but he’s likely wondering the same thing.
The coverage units continue to play well, but Dave Toub’s unit has missed the home run threat all season and it is exposing some of the team’s other flaws.
While Devin Hester isn’t scoring touchdowns, he’s still an effective returner when he decides to actually catch the ball and run forward. Right now, that would help. His decision to let a punt fall and roll all the way to the three yard line was puzzling.
I’ve been a Lovie Smith supporter for years, but the offensive inefficiencies this season are inexcusable. The Bears finally have big play weapons and are getting zero production. The NFL has changed a lot since Lovie Smith became the head coach in Chicago and it might be time for the Bears to catch up. You need to be able to throw the ball consistently to win and the Bears can’t do that right now.
And because the Bears can’t throw the ball consistently, you have to wonder how they threw the ball 53 times Sunday and only handed it off to running backs 15 times. The Bears were down early, but there was no need to panic and abandon the run. There were also puzzling personnel and play call decisions. Why wasn’t Michael Bush on the field on 3rd-and-1 when Cutler was intercepted for a touchdown?
Meanwhile, there’s no excuse for not being ready for Adrian Peterson on the first drive. He’s extremely good, but scheme was just as much to blame as execution. The Bears knew the Vikings were going to run early and often and they weren’t ready to stop Peterson.
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.