An inconsistent day with some elite, winning moments but with too many shaky moments for a group of NFL receivers.
That does not apply, however, to tight end Martellus Bennett, who was targeted 13 times, catching 11 (one short of his career mark set last Dec. 4 vs. Dallas), and scored his second touchdown of the year. Bennett now leads the Bears with 24 receptions through four games.
Bennett played one of the best all-around games by a tight end in recent memory, making the routine catches, blocking consistently in a run game that netted 98 yards and winning several contested, “50-50” balls, most notably a seven-yard completion on the Bears’ final drive on a fourth-and-5 that would have been the Bears’ final play otherwise.
“He had some tough catches, across the middle, had some catch-and-carries where he is turning it up, two-minute drives,” said quarterback Jay Cutler. “He does so many things well, it’s just a matter of us keeping him in the game plan.”
Eddie Royal scored on a 7-yard pass from Jay Cutler to complete a momentum-building first drive.
But other receivers, particularly wideouts Josh Bellamy, Cameron Meredith and Marquess Wilson, failed to get any consistent sort of separation on routes, forcing Cutler to hold the ball too long and putting undue pressure on a strapped offensive line. The first sack of Cutler was directly tied to receivers running from a trips-right package yet getting no one free enough for Cutler to even approach throwing a third-down attempt.
Wilson made a critical catch for a third-down conversion on the final drive after dropping an easy throw earlier in the drive.
“It’s just part of football,” said coach John Fox. “It’s not going to be perfect. It usually comes down to 6-5 plays that make a difference in the game, some of them good, some of them bad… . That was a perfect example of the ebbs and flows of an NFL football game.”
As they did in Seattle the Bears went with three tight ends, a statement both of the commitment to running the football as well as the suspect quality of their wide receivers, with some good reason. Bellamy failed to bring down a pass in the end zone, the second straight week he has dealt the offense a harsh blow with a crucial drop while open. Wilson caught a Cutler pass for 35 yards in the first quarter.
A holding call on Zach Miller at the Oakland 3 cost the Bears shots at the Raiders end zone in the second quarter. Royal inexplicably cost the offense five yards with a delay penalty from throwing the football at the official in the fourth quarter and the Bears driving.