Bears

Bears Grades vs. Packers: Efficiency, no turnovers get the job done

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Bears Grades vs. Packers: Efficiency, no turnovers get the job done

Quarterbacks

Jay Cutler has had better games statistically, than the 19-for-31 passing for 200 yards, a TD and 90.8 rating. He overthrew Marquess Wilson open behind single coverage on the first possession and later was nearly intercepted by Quinten Reynolds while scrambling. He was long and late throwing to Alshon Jeffery in the end zone in the second quarter when Jeffery had broken open against single coverage.

But Cutler was victimized by two costly drops on high-percentage throws. And he out-played Aaron Rodgers to win the one matchup that the Bears rarely do vs. the Green Bay Packers. Cutler kept his composure under pressure from a Green Bay blitz, stepping out of an ankle grab and buying time for Zach Miller to work open for a TD in the second quarter.

[MORE: Bears' victory in Green Bay more than just a 'W' for Cutler]

“He was able to stay poised and mentally tough through all that, leader of the offense,” said tackle Kyle Long. “It really wasn’t going our way early but just to stay the course was a testament to Jay’s mental toughness and leadership abilities.”

Moon's Grade: A 

Running backs

The Bears committed to the run, just didn’t do it especially well, again not getting 100 rushing yards out of their tailbacks, although both Matt Forte and Jeremy Langford did solid work in blitz pickup against a Dom Capers defense that brought myriad blitz packages at Jay Cutler and his protections.

Forte returned to the starting lineup and played 37 of the Bears’ 67 snaps, vs. 30 for Langford, the two combining for 92 rushing yards in a workmanlike but not particularly dominant offensive game. Langford was the more effective, with 48 yards on 12 carries vs. Forte’s 44 on 15 (2.9 ypc.).

Langford’s pass receiving was a problem. The rookie dropped a third-down pass with running room in front of him in the second quarter, and juggled away a screen pass in the third, bobbling the ball up in the air and nearly into the hands of Packers.

But Langford was in the game at pivotal points and has moved into what is effectively a shared role with Forte as the primary back.

Moon's Grade: C+

Wide receivers

Operating without injured tight end Martellus Bennett and Eddie Royal (again, fourth straight game), Bears receivers gave a creditable performance overall with second-tier personnel making key contributions at crucial times.

“You look at a Marc Mariani, I mean he’s a guy who just stepped in and made big catches, big plays on third down,” said coach John Fox. “You know, Jay does a great job of buying time to let guys come free. Getting Alshon [Jeffery] back was big, you know, looking at guys in that locker room who maybe not had great success here, they included, were fun to watch.”

Jeffery was a game-time decision (groin, shoulder) but caught 7 of the 11 balls thrown his way, with a long of 22 yards and 90 yards total against physical press coverage particularly from cornerback Sam Shields. Jeffery also had a 21-yarder in the third quarter that was undone by a succession of penalties and breakdowns but gave the Bears some field position on their first drive of the second half.

[RELATED: Could Bears' win over Packers become a turning point?]

Zach Miller scored on a three-yard pass in the second quarter, working into open space on a delayed route out of a three-receiver grouping, giving the Bears a much-needed answer to Green Bay’s first-quarter touchdown.

Khari Lee started in place of Bennett and lost a chance for a first down when he lost his footing with running room on the Bears’ first possession. Lee was flagged for a false start on a first down at the Chicago 10 on the Bears’ second possession, worsening a hole the offense did not need and setting up a second three-and-out to start their game.

Moon's Grade: A-

Offensive line

The Bears weren’t able to gain consistent advantages at points of attack in the run game but pass protection limited a blitzing Green Bay defense to one sack and three other hits on Jay Cutler, allowing Cutler to operate without being forced to run for his life.

Cutler did get into stern words in the third quarter after tripping and holding penalties plus a sack destroyed a promising drive at the start of the third quarter but otherwise the line held up respectably.

Kyle Long was generally solid against Julius Peppers primarily in solo blocking against the Green Bay sack leader. Jermon Bushrod delivered some solid run blocking as a sixth offensive lineman in a “heavy” personnel package.

Charles Leno Jr. held his own against Clay Matthews in rush situations, with the Packers needing a corner blitz to overwhelm the protection on Leno’s side.

The Bears were able to rush for 189 yards and 5.1 per carry in game one against Green Bay but only 101 and 3.3 this time.

Moon's 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.”