Hoge’s Notes: Offense Stays Clean, But Is Far From Perfect
By Adam Hoge-
SOLDIER FIELD (CBS) — Zero sacks. Zero turnovers.
The Bears hadn’t done that since Dec. 23, 2007 against the Green Bay Packers.
But as great of a feat as that was, they also know they left a lot of points off the scoreboard Thursday night in their 27-21 win over the winless New York Giants.
“Offensively, we played a clean game,” head coach Marc Trestman said. “It wasn’t as good as we wanted it to be. We didn’t finish some drives, but Jay (Cutler) took care of the football. Our guys took care of the football.”
Overall, the Bears put up 372 yards of offense and Cutler posted his second straight game with a plus-100 rating (106.5 Thursday), completing 24-of-36 passes for 262 yards and two touchdowns.
But the offense only accounted for two touchdowns, a result of too many promising drives ending prematurely.
The Bears were just 5-of-11 on third down and failed on its only fourth down try, leaving them with no points on their first possession.
“It wasn’t all pretty and we know that,” Trestman said. “That’s exciting from our standpoint because we know we have a chance to get better.”
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One area where they need to get better is in the running game, where Matt Forte gained only 67 rushing yards on 19 carries (3.5 yards/carry) and Michael Bush gained only eight on six carries (1.3 yards/carry).
Fourth Down Fail
The Bears won the toss and elected to defer, but they ended up getting the ball quickly when Giants quarterback Eli Manning threw an interception to Zack Bowman on the third play of the game.
Bowman returned the interception 24 yards to the 12-yard line, but the Bears came up with nothing.
After failing to get the first on third down, Trestman opted to go for it on fourth down instead of taking the field goal.
“We talked about that this morning, about that possibility,” Cutler said. “Like the call, we just got to get it in front of (Brandon Marshall) a little more.”
Cutler was taking blame for the incomplete pass on the play, which was near the first down line, but Marshall admitted he should have caught it and wondered if he could have even broken a tackle and scored.
“We were hoping to score a touchdown, obviously,” Trestman said. “I felt our defense was in a play that if we didn’t make it, they’d have to go the distance.”
As it turned out, Manning threw another interception five plays later and Tim Jennings returned it for a touchdown.
Big Game For Jennings
On top of his pick-6, Jennings also sealed the game with another interception late in the fourth quarter. Manning appeared to overthrow his intended target and the play looked a lot like a play they had run just moments before, when Jennings got his hand on the ball but couldn’t secure it.
“They went back to a play that they had run a couple plays earlier, one that I actually got my hands on,” Jennings confirmed. “I guess they saw something, and we were in a Cover-3 deep. I was kind of overlapped to No. 2. The ball was overthrown, and I was there to make the tackle, but I saw the ball tipped and I was able to get my hands on it.”
The Bears now have 17 takeaways on the season and a plus-7 turnover ratio.
Cornerback Charles Tillman did not play for the first time in 55 games as he couldn’t recover in time on the short week. Tillman has been nursing a knee injury since Week 1 of the season.
“If he had had through Sunday, I think he would have played,” Trestman said. “He worked extremely hard. He was in the building at 6:00 in the morning. He didn’t leave the training room. He was doing everything he could to get ready.”
And with 10 days to prepare for the Redskins now, it appears Tillman will be back for the next game.
“I got a lot of respect for the work that he put in in the training room to try to get himself ready for tonight,” Trestman said. “Fortunately we found a way to win without him and it will be great to have him back next week.”
Bostic Gets The Call
With middle linebacker D.J. Williams leaving the game with a chest injury, rookie Jon Bostic received his first playing time on defense this season. And once James Anderson left the game with a back injury, he also saw time with the nickel defense next to Lance Briggs.
“I felt fine in the nickel situation,” Bostic said. “Just got to get back in the playbook, making sure I’m 100 percent on everything. During the season you don’t have as many reps as you do during camp, so it’s a lot of watching. I just got to make sure I’m there. You never know who is going to go down.”
– Kicker Robbie Gould and kick returner Devin Hester got into a heated exchange on the sideline after a poor kickoff and 46-yard return by Jerrel Jernigan, but the exchange was downplayed after the game and did not appear to be a big issue.
– Undrafted rookie defensive tackle Zach Minter saw the first playing time of his career Thursday night.
– After all the drama the past week about wanting the ball more, Brandon Marshall finished the game with nine catches on 11 targets for 87 yards and two touchdowns.
Adam Hoge covers the Bears for CBSChicago.com and is a frequent contributor to 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter at @AdamHoge.