Bears Grades: Bennett paces up-and-down day for receivers


Bears Grades: Bennett paces up-and-down day for receivers

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.

[MORE: Bears in the win column after victory over Raiders]

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.

Grade: B+

Rob Gronkowski 'highly unlikely' to play Sunday against the Bears

Rob Gronkowski 'highly unlikely' to play Sunday against the Bears

Sunday's game against Tom Brady and the Patriots will be a tough test for the Bears, but it looks like they're going to receive a big break.

According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski didn't travel with the Patriots to Chicago and is "highly unlikely" to play Sunday.

Avoiding Gronkowski, who is one of Brady's favorite targets, would be a huge break for the Bears' defense. In six games this season, the tight end has 26 receptions for 405 yards and a touchdown; in 14 games last season, Gronkowski had 69 catches for 1,084 yards and eight touchdowns.

Gronkowski has not officially been ruled out yet, though time is running out for the Patriots to make a decision.

Meanwhile, Khalil Mack appears set to play Sunday despite dealing with an ankle injury. Between having Mack on the field and Gronkowski off of it, good news keeps coming for the Bears' defense.

Final thoughts: Cody Parkey quickly moves on from missed game-winning kick

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Final thoughts: Cody Parkey quickly moves on from missed game-winning kick

There’s, probably, only one position in sports that can match the you-had-one-job scrutiny of a placekicker attempting a critical field goal late in a football game. As in: If you make the kick, it was expected; if you miss it, well, you didn’t do the one thing you were brought on to do. 

The comparison here is a closer in baseball. The expectation is whoever is called upon with a one-to-three-run lead in the ninth inning will convert the save and win his team the game. 

But when a closer blows a save and is in the spotlight during baseball’s regular season, there’s always a game the next day or, at worst, in two days. The immediacy and pace of a Major League Baseball team’s schedule lends itself to closers having to “flush” a bad outing and move on to the next one, since it might be tomorrow. 

For Bears kicker Cody Parkey, though, he’s had to wait a week until he gets his next “meaningful” chance at making a field goal after missing a game-winning 53-yard attempt last weekend against the Miami Dolphins. But moving on from a critical missed kick has never, and is not, a problem for the fifth-year veteran. 

“(It takes) five minutes,” Parkey said. “You kick the ball, and if it doesn’t go in you’re not going to sit there and cry on the field, you’re going to continue to move on with your life. I don’t think there’s really much to it other than knowing you’re going to have to kick another one sometime throughout the season, next game, in the next week, you never know. You stay ready so you’ll be ready for the next week.”

Not allowing those missed kicks to fester is an important trait for a placekicker to possess. What helps Parkey quickly work through his misses is focusing on having a good week of kicking in practice, and also an even-keel mindset that’s been instilled in him since a young age. 

“I think I’ve always been pretty mellow,” Parkey said. “At a young age, my coaches told me never let the highs get to high, never let the lows get too low. And I’ve kind of taken that to heart. If I miss a game winner, make a game winner, I’m going to have the same demeanor. I’m just going to be super chill and knowing it’s a game, it’s supposed to be fun, we’re supposed to go out there and try our best. I put in a lot of work and I try my best on the field.”

That’s something, too, that special teams coach Chris Tabor sees in Parkey. 

“He's always been like that,” Tabor said. “He hit a good ball, his line was just off. In his career going in he was 7-of-8 over 50 yards. I'll be honest with you, I thought he was going to make it. And next time we have that situation, I know he will make it.” 

Age is just a number

Sunday will mark the 6th time in Tom Brady’s career that the 41-year-old has faced a head coach younger than him, but the first time it’ll be a coach other than Miami’s Adam Gase (who’s 40). Brady is 3-2 against Gase’s Dophins. 

Matt Nagy, meanwhile, is also 40. Brady just missed playing Kyle Shanahan (38) and Sean McVay (32), facing the San Francisco 49ers and Los Angeles Rams in 2016, a year before both those youthful coaches were hired. 

Meanwhile, the youngest player on the Bears — 21-year-old Roquan Smith — was three years old when Brady made his unassuming NFL debut on Nov. 23, 2000. 

They said it

A couple of amusing one-liners out of Halas Hall this week…

Nagy, when it was brought to his attention that Mitch Trubisky (105.6) has a better passer rating than Brady (98.2), chuckled: “You want to say that one more time?” 

Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, when asked if he’d ever heard of “Baby Gronk” Adam Shaheen: “(long pause)… Sometimes.”