By Adam Hoge-
(CBS) — Bears offensive tackles Jermon Bushrod and Jordan Mills faced their toughest test of the season Sunday against the St. Louis Rams and there are some extreme differing opinions on how they fared.
Pro Football Focus gave Bushrod a grade of -11.1, which is the worst grade handed out to an offensive tackle all season by the web site. Mills didn’t fare well either, as he earned a -5.6.
But after watching the film, what did their head coach think about how they played?
“Our offensive line played an outstanding football game. No doubt about it,” Marc Trestman said Monday. “Bushrod and Mills on the edges did an excellent job of running these guys by. Josh did a very good job of climbing the pocket. He had the ball low a couple of times, but overall did a good job of climbing, redirecting, getting outside the pocket. He didn’t take a lot of hits. Obviously he took a couple that were vicious. One was late. One he took on the run. But overall our protection was very good.”
Was it though?
It all depends on how you look at it. If you look at it from a pressure standpoint — and we know the Bears look closely at “disruptions” when they grade their own defensive line — then Bushrod and Mills did not play that well. They got beat off the line of scrimmage constantly and forced McCown to move around a lot. Trestman correctly pointed out that McCown did a very good job of climbing the pocket. In fact, I’d say McCown’s pocket presence Sunday was outstanding. He avoided at least three additional sacks and two strips by feeling the pressure behind him and stepping up. Pro Football Focus calculated that McCown only had a 2.4-second “average time to sack” number, which is essentially how much he had to make a play. That number was the lowest in the NFL in Week 12.
So if it was McCown doing the work, should Bushrod and Mills deserve credit for simply running guys deep enough to allow the quarterback to step up?
It appears they did receive that credit from their coaching staff, based on what Trestman said Monday. And the coaching staff may have had different expectations. They knew their tackles were facing two of the best pass-rushers in the game in Robert Quinn and Chris Long and when the game was over, McCown had only been sacked once and hit five times.
According to Pro Football Focus, Quinn leads all NFL defensive ends with pressure on 20.2 percent of his pass rushes. Chris Long is at 13.1 percent, which is also a respectable number. Sunday, Quinn got pressure on 25.6 percent of his pass rushes, while Long was at 15.4 percent. Quinn primarily rushed against Bushrod and Long primarily rushed against Mills — thus, you can see why the offensive tackle received the grades they did from Pro Football Focus.
But if Trestman is simply taking into account that his quarterback was only sacked once against two of the better pass rushers in the league, then yes, maybe Bushrod and Mills played well after all. It all depends on how you look at it.
So how did I look at it? Let’s switch things up this week and look at my lowest grades first:
Five Lowest Grades
LT Jermon Bushrod – Pro Football Focus and I saw eye-to-eye this week. Bushrod earned the lowest grade I have handed out this season. The way I saw it, McCown went above-and-beyond to avoid pressure. I understand that the tackles were supposed to redirect Quinn and Long upfield, but there’s a difference between running a guy upfield and simply getting beat. There were plenty of times when Bushrod simply got beat. Also, there’s no gray area on the following plays: Bushrod whiffing on a block with Forte running behind him, getting bulldozed backwards into the pulling Kyle Long on the 4th-and-goal at the 1-yard-line, and a holding penalty that brought back a touchdown. Those last two plays were worth 14 points. And the one sack the Rams got? It was a strip and fumble recovery for a touchdown by Quinn after he beat Bushrod — another seven points.
RT Jordan Mills – Mills wasn’t much better. He received the second-lowest grade I have given out this season. Remember that third down pass Chris Long batted in the air and nearly intercepted right before halftime? That was on Mills. He also allowed a TFL to Long. All-in-all, I counted 11 snaps in which Mills either allowed a pressure or missed a run block. It’s surprising to me that the Bears didn’t provide more help to Bushrod and Mills. Tight end Martellus Bennett aided in that role, but Eben Britton only played 18 snaps (23 percent).
MLB Jonathan Bostic – The encouraging trend of three straight games with positive grades ended for Bostic Sunday. He still made a number of good plays, which show his potential, but there were also a lot of mistakes. He tends to get too aggressive and overpursue in the run game and that leaves him blocked out when a running back cuts back. Bostic also allowed a touchdown to tight end Jared Cook and failed to see a loose ball sitting right in front of him when Khaseem Greene forced a fumble.
DE Shea McClellin – I actually counted three pressures by McClellin on pass rushes, but he was completely lost in the run game. The Tavon Austin 65-yard touchdown run appeared to be schemed specifically to take advantage of McClellin’s aggressive backside pursuit and the defensive end failed to set the edge or get off run blocks throughout the game. Both of those issues are a continuing trend.
RG Kyle Long – Long had an up-and-down day and really only ended up in the bottom five because of the kick he tried to land during the first half brawl. That’s simply something that can’t happen and the Bears are lucky they didn’t lose Long for the rest of the game.
Take a look at the five players listed above, which include three promising rookies, a first round pick from a year ago and the Bears’ prized free agent from the offseason. If those five players play poorly, the Bears are probably going to lose.
Five Highest Grades
RB Matt Forte – Much like McCown moving in the pocket to avoid pressure, Forte overcame missed blocks and earned extra yardage by slipping at least a dozen tackles throughout the game. If it weren’t for his killer fumble on the Bears’ first offensive play, this would have been his highest-graded performance of the season.
WR Brandon Marshall – Marshall had a touchdown, improvised on one route to gain a first down and also slipped some tackles to get extra yardage on a 23-yard catch. His only blunder was a drop that would have been a first down. That’s happened twice in two weeks now.
WR Alshon Jeffery – A quietly productive game for Jeffery, who averaged 10.5 yards on four catches, including an 18-yarder.
QB Josh McCown – McCown didn’t have his best game and appeared to be throwing a heavy ball at times, but he still did a brilliant job of avoiding pressure and giving the Bears a chance to win. He may have only been hit five times, but he took a beating on those five hits and had the bruises on his face to prove it. His 36 completions in the game were a franchise record.
TE Martellus Bennett – Bennett missed some key run blocks, including one at the goal line, but he had a good receiving day, catching four passes for 62 yards and a touchdown. A second touchdown catch was wiped out by a penalty.
– The Bears played base defense for 71 percent of the game and linebacker Khaseem Greene played a season-high 40 snaps as a result. He made some mistakes with his run fits, but he also flashed with some nice tackles and his first forced fumble (which didn’t get counted in the box score). Greene left college holding the NCAA record for all-time forced fumbles.
– Landon Cohen and Christian Tupou essentially split the reps at nose tackle. Cohen got 29 snaps and Tupou received 27. Tracy Robertson, who was activated off the practice squad before the game, received only one snap.
– Despite a great performance against the Ravens the week before, defensive end David Bass only saw 16 snaps against the Rams, which was one less than Cheta Ozougwu received.
Adam Hoge covers the Bears for CBSChicago.com and is a frequent contributor to 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter at @AdamHoge.