Robbie Gould rebounded from a rare two-miss game last Monday in San Diego to convert field goals of 35, 37 and 36 yards, the last two in the fourth quarter. The kicks were not so much difficult as they were pivotal in a game where the Bears could not come up with a clinching score against a wobbling Rams team and needed Gould’s kicks to push out to what was a three-score lead with 8 minutes to play.
Pat O’Donnell delivered another strong performance with an average of 46.8 yards on four punts which put the Rams at an average starting point of the St. Louis 28-yard line.
The Bears have been undone by poor coverage of opponents’ kick returns this season but they spent too much of Sunday’s first quarter creating problems for themselves in the form of Marc Mariani gaffes in the return game.
Mariani, beset with some shaky hands in the Minnesota game, brought the Bears’ first KO return out only to the Chicago 14 to start the offense in a hole. He followed that by fumbling his first punt return to give St. Louis the football at the Chicago 17. Mariani then got only to the Chicago 12 with a running start on his second KOR. Mariani at least held onto a second-quarter punt but got nothing on the return.
An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Alan Ball following a fair catch was head-shaking and cost the Bears offense field position when the Bears were moving into position to take control of the game.
Sherrod Martin led the Bears with two special teams tackles, part of a solid effort that enabled the Bears to hold return star Tavon Austin to 5.3 yards average on three punt returns, barely half his average as the NFL’s No. 2 returner.
Moon's Grade: B