By Adam Hoge-
DETROIT (CBS) Here are my grades following the Bears’ 26-24 win over the Lions Sunday at Ford Field:
Jay Cutler didn’t sugarcoat it after the game. 16 points off turnovers isn’t good enough. The Bears won the turnover margin 4-0, but only won by two points. Once again, the offense struggled to convert in the red zone. The Bears moved the ball pretty well in between the 20s, but once they got in the red zone, it was a struggle.
Cutler finished the game 18-of-31 for 257 yards a touchdown, continuing his success against the Lions. Matt Forte ran the ball well, finishing with 103 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries. It was one of his best games of the season.
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It was also encouraging to see other receivers get involved. Earl Bennett had five catches on five targets for 109 yards. Alshon Jeffery also contributed 76 yards on four catches. Cutler delivered on his promise to target other receivers. He still went to Brandon Marshall 14 times, and while Marshall only finished with five catches, he blocked well all day, including springing Bennett on his 60-yard touchdown.
I can’t give the offense a bad grade because they moved the ball well, but I can’t give them a high grade because they didn’t finish. It was an average performance and average doesn’t get it done in the playoffs.
The Bears came through with four takeaways, but this was definitely not their best performance. They missed Chris Conte badly as Anthony Walters whiffed on a number of tackles. Tim Jennings was beat by Kris Durham on a 25-yard touchdown and Brian Robiskie was able to score his first touchdown since 2010.
After the Bears took a 20-3 lead, one would have thought the game was over, but the defense let the Lions get back in it. They continue to have two-minute drill problems recently and allowing Detroit to get a touchdown at the end of the first half was demoralizing.
Lance Briggs’ roughing penalty on the Lions’ last touchdown drive was a killer that could have cost the Bears the game.
Special Teams: B
Devin Hester’s problems continue, but there are still issues with the blocking in front of him. Six yards on three punt returns is horrible, though. His decision to take the ball out of the end zone at the start of the second half effectively killed the Bears’ decision to defer after winning the coin toss.
Otherwise, Dave Toub’s unit had a solid day. Adam Podlesh has been much better in recent weeks and while Olindo Mare missed a field goal, the loss of Robbie Gould could have been much worse.
Joe Anderson continues to impress on the coverage unit and has probably earned himself a spot on this team going forward.
Lovie Smith deserves credit for taking the field goal late in the first quarter. He had a similar decision in the Seahawks game, went for it and the Bears lost in overtime. Sunday, it was a free possession after Anderson’s forced fumble on the Lions’ kickoff and it was the right call to settle for three. The Bears ended up winning by two points.
Offensively, though, there’s once again a ton to question. Why is Forte still getting carries on short-yardage situations? Why is Brandon Marshall running a 20-yard route on a key 3rd & 4 late in the game? Why are the Bears throwing it so much when the running game is working so well?
This is an offensive unit that has zero chemistry. Nothing is more indicative of that than the amount of timeouts that are burned every game because Cutler doesn’t like what he sees or because the play call didn’t get in on time.
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.