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.
“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
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+
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.
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-
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-