By Adam Hoge-
(CBS) I know I’m starting to get the reputation as a hard grader, but I guarantee you the Bears coaching staff grades just as hard as I do, if not harder.READ MORE: Navy Veteran Had Stroke In Costa Rica, And Now He's Stranded As Family Tries To Pay Five-Figure Medical Bills
Here are my grades following the Bears’ 34-18 win over the Cowboys Monday night:
Jay Cutler was great. He completed 18-of-24 passes for 275 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions. It’s not often you see No. 6 with a quarterback rating of 140.1. The offensive line still wasn’t spectacular, but Mike Tice once again gave J’Marcus Webb help on the left side and it gave Cutler enough time to operate. Is there any question about Brandon Marshall being the real deal?
That said, let’s not crown this offense just yet. The Bears only ran for 93 yards on 28 carries. The run blocking has been sub-par since the first preseason game and a 3.3 yards/carry average isn’t spectacular. Forte did manage 52 yards on just 13 carries (4.0 yards/carry) and was playing hurt. He obviously makes a huge difference.
Let’s also not forget that the offense only accounted for two touchdowns and one was a late freebie when the Cowboys failed to cover Brandon Marshall. Dallas has a good defense, but if you take away the Bears’ two defensive touchdowns, I’m not sure everyone would be raving about the offensive performance Monday night.
Five interceptions and two touchdowns. You know Lovie Smith slept well Monday night. I have a feeling the NFL will go back and credit Henry Melton with a sack and forced fumble on Lance Briggs’ pick-6, but it was a tremendous play all around. This is a play-making defense, the type of unit that can carry an offense that won’t be consistent all year.READ MORE: Chicago Weather: Arctic Blast Coming Late Tuesday Night
Still, this wasn’t as dominant a performance as it seemed. The Cowboys racked up 430 yards of offense and 26 first downs, eight more than the Bears. Romo completed 31-of-43 passes for 307 yards. The Bears definitely benefited from a number of drops by Dez Bryant, who also ran the wrong route on Charles Tillman’s pick-6. That was a gift.
This is how the Bears’ defense is going to work this year though. They are going to bend, but not break. They’ll turn you over and get key stops in the red zone. Yards are OK, points are not. It also should be mentioned that the run defense was great, holding DeMarco Murray to a 2.2 yards/carry average on 11 carries.
Special Teams: A-
Solid performance all around. Robbie Gould hit both of his field goal attempts, Adam Podlesh averaged 40 yards on his punts, including two inside the 20, and the coverage units didn’t allow a big return. The only thing missing was an impact play from Devin Hester, who only got his hands on one punt return (eight yards). Credit the Cowboys for that.
Both coordinators called good games. Rod Marinelli is having a fantastic season with the defense, calling the right blitzes and coverages at the right times. Mike Tice did what he had to with the offensive line. There were some weird play calls early with short passes to Forte and Hester in long yardage situations, but Cutler went downfield more as the game went on and it paid off.
Lovie Smith made his first questionable decision of the season, however, when he inexplicably decided to accept a penalty in the second quarter, costing his team seven yards. Essentially, he chose 1st & 10 at the Cowboys’ 34-yard line over 2nd & 3 at the Cowboys’ 27. You might think the extra down is valuable, but look at it this way: If the Bears gained seven yards on the next play (which would be great first down yardage), what would they be left with? 2nd & 3 at the 27. Giving up seven yards to gain an extra down is pointless. The Bears ended up going three and out after that decision and settled for a field goal.
Obviously that decision didn’t mean a whole lot in the outcome of the game, but had that happened in a close loss, Lovie wouldn’t have heard the end of it. I’ll chalk it up as a brain fart in what has otherwise been a great start to the season for the head coach.
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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.