Bears

Bears report card not championship worthy

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Bears report card not championship worthy

Sunday, Jan. 23, 2011
8:00 p.m.

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

Another difficult game to critique in a season with many of them. The offense was bumbling, then came to life with the game on the line. The defense was pushed around for the first 20 minutes, then shut the Packers out. And the Bears nearly won the NFC Championship with their No. 3 quarterback.

Quarterback C-

Jay Cutler D

Todd Collins F-

Caleb Hanie A (grading on a curve, for extenuating circumstances)

Cutlers knee injury took the No. 1 out of a game in which he was ineffective for two quarters and was unable to deliver key plays for a unit that needed a big boost in what was ultimately a close game. His interception in the first half was costly and gave the Packers momentum.

Collins was a disaster and is probably done in the NFL.

Hanie, however, is a different matter altogether. As the No. 3 he has not run a Bears offensive play since the off week 12 weeks ago. He came off the bench and directed two scoring drives in the fourth quarter against the No. 2 scoring defense in the NFL. The interception thrown to DT B.J. Raji was not his finest moment but that was in the flow of a defensive scheme that someone who hasnt run his teams offense since October could hardly have recognized.

Running backs A-

Matt Forte provided what little initial offensive pop the Bears managed on a disappointing afternoon. He netted 160 total yards on 70 rushing and 90 receiving and was targeted on 15 passes, catching 10 of them. Chester Taylor got the goal-line score he was supposed to while Forte, clearly the focus of the Green Bay defense, delivered a respectable 4.1 yards per carry against a strong defensive front.

Receivers C-

Receivers appeared to have a bad case of jitters at times and did not distinguish themselves with route-running to give Cutler opportunities early. Devin Hester slowing at the end of a third-down route cost a potential completion inside the Green Bay 20 on the first possession and seemed out of his element with other poorly run routes. Earl Bennett nearly brought the Bears back with his 35-yard TD catch against double coverage that included Charles Woodson. Johnny Knox finished with just two catches but broke loose for a 32-yarder to set up a fourth-quarter score. Greg Olsen caught three passes and the tight ends made contributions to Fortes running.

Offensive line C-

Frank Omiyale and Chris Williams were flagged for false starts, in a home game. Bears linemen were repeatedly bull-rushed and were thoroughly handled for the better part of three quarters. But the Packers managed just two sacks and six quarterback hits despite repeated blitzing The run game was serviceable but in no area were the Bears able to establish consistent control on the line and the offense had seven three-and-out possessions in large part because the bigger front three of Green Bay was not being consistently blocked.

Defensive line B

Julius Peppers and Israel Idonije were invisible on the edges early and the tackles were being controlled in the first half. Tommie Harris had only one quarterback hit on his stat line and Matt Toeaina was initially credited with nothing in the way of even an assisted tackle. The play of the front picked up significantly in the second half with Peppers getting hits on Aaron Rodgers and Henry Melton contributing two solo tackles. Green Bays offense was shut out for the final 41 minutes of the game and the play up front was the key.

Linebackers B

Brian Urlacher had a sack of Rodgers in the first quarter to save points by moving the Packers back out of field goal range and his interception in the third quarter was (briefly) a momentum-changer. Lance Briggs intercepted a bobbled pass. Urlacher was credited with a team-high 10 tackles and Briggs with five plus a pass deflection to go with his interception. The linebackers were beaten on occasional plays; Urlacher was thoroughly faked out on one screen pass and Briggs lost contain on Rodgers. But the linebacker fills were solid and Packers running backs carried 25 times for 81 total yards.

Secondary D
Bears cornerback Charles Tillman looks on as the Packers celebrate winning the NFC Championship. Tillman and the secondary struggled to stop Green Bay receivers throughout the game. (AP)
The Packers had eight plays of 20 yards or longer and Rodgers threw for 244 yards against coverages that appeared slow to close with receivers and forced no turnovers. Greg Jennings caught eight passes for 130 yards, Jordy Nelson added four for 67 yards and the Packers piled up 107 passing yards and nine first downs in just the first quarter. Danieal Manning had six tackles, one for a loss, and Major Wright, Chris Harris and D.J. Moore all were credited with five.
Special teams C

The return game got a 22-yard punt runback from Bennett and Hester returned one kickoff 24. But Hester managed just 16 yards on three punt returns and the Bears started no possession in Green Bay territory, only one as far as their own 45. Brad Maynard punted nine times, with two inside the 20 but coverage allowed one to be a touchback and the unit did little of note in a game where note was needed.

Coaching C-

Moving Todd Collins ahead of Caleb Hanie on the depth chart made little sense when it happened and cost the better player practice time that may have equipped him to better handle his moment. But that was a while ago. The adjustments on defense at halftime allowed the unit to be more aggressive and hold the Packer offense scoreless as the Bears were rallying. Offensively the Bears held to a balanced plan (under the circumstances) with 21 run calls and 43 pass calls even though the Bears trailed throughout the game.

John "Moon" Mullin is CSNChicago.com's Bears Insider, and appears regularly on Bears Postgame Live and Chicago Tribune Live. Follow Moon on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bears information.

Even without practicing, Allen Robinson is making a strong first impression with the Bears

Even without practicing, Allen Robinson is making a strong first impression with the Bears

Before Bears wide receivers coach Mike Furrey met with the media on Wednesday, Allen Robinson was curious what his position coach would say about him in public. 

“I just told him, I don’t know you,” Furrey quipped. “Who’s Allen Robinson?”

Furrey, of course, knows who Robinson is. But the point behind that joke is that Furrey, the Bears’ court wide receivers coach in four years, is still getting to know all of his receivers — let alone the one who hasn’t participated in a practice yet. For all the positivity that's easy to find around Halas Hall these days, the Bears' biggest offseason acquisition hasn't taken a rep yet. 

The good news for the Bears, of course, is that Robinson’s past play speaks for itself. He combined for 153 catches, 2,883 yards and 20 touchdowns in 2015 and 2016, and has been adamant he’ll return to that high level of play when he’s cleared to practice. The Bears were confident enough in Robinson’s medicals to guarantee him a little over $25 million in March, per Spotrac, about a month before they let Cameron Meredith sign with the New Orleans Saints largely over medical concerns (Meredith’s torn ACL was viewed as more serious than Robinson’s, in short). 

So the getting-to-know-you phase for Furrey and Robinson is largely taking place off the field in the meeting rooms of Halas Hall. 

“What a great young man,” Furrey said. “He’s come in here, obviously, rehabbing and doing all those things. But he’s alert, he comes to meetings, he’s ready to go. Really, really smart, you can tell that from the beginning and he’s a professional.”

What Furrey, in particular, likes about Robinson is that he’s an “alpha,” but is far more than all talk and no action. 

“And a lot of times that alpha talks a lot and they don’t really put it out there,” Furrey said. “He kind of has that alpha quietness to him. He understands what’s going on, you can look at him and you just kind of get that feel of he has a great understanding of how to approach this game at this level. Obviously he’s been highly successful for a couple years with some big numbers, but he doesn’t act like that. He’s still hungry, he wants to learn, and I think he’s got a chip on his shoulder, which is a good trait to have too. So we’re excited about that.”

The expectation all along has been for Robinson to be cleared to fully participate in training camp practices. So while coach Matt Nagy said last week Robinson is “ahead of the game,” that may not mean he takes part in the final round of OTAs next week or veteran minicamp the first week of June. 

But while Robinson can’t prove himself to his new coaches on the field yet, he’s doing the right things off the field to make a positive first impression. 

“He knows you gotta come in early, he knows you gotta be the last one to leave, he knows you gotta study,” Furrey said. “It doesn’t matter five years in, six years in, you gotta take notes. It doesn’t matter if you hear it 10 times, you just gotta keep taking notes. He’s been really good at that, and I’ve been really impressed with that. I’ve been able to get on the field with him a little bit, just kind of throwing some balls to him, and I didn’t know he was that big. But obviously we’re excited for it to happen out there.” 

Protection Issues: Bears O-line ranked 21st in NFL

Protection Issues: Bears O-line ranked 21st in NFL

Mitch Trubisky has been set up for a huge season in 2018 with all the firepower the Chicago Bears added on offense. Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, Anthony Miller and Trey Burton will give the second-year quarterback a variety of explosive targets to generate points in bunches.

None of the headline-grabbing moves will matter, however, if the offensive line doesn't do its job. 

According to Numberfire.com, the Bears' starting five could be the offense's Achilles heel. They were ranked 21st in the NFL and described as poor in pass protection.

Last year, the Bears ranked 26th in Sack NEP per drop back and 23rd in sack rate. These issues were especially apparent after Trubisky took over. In the games that [Kyle] Long played, their sack rate was 8.2%. It was actually 7.2% in the games that he missed. They struggled even when Long was healthy.

The Bears added Iowa's James Daniels in the second round of April's draft and he's expected to start at guard alongside Long. Cody Whitehair will resume his role as the starting center, with Charles Leno, Jr. and Bobby Massie at offensive tackle.

If Long comes back healthy and Daniels lives up to his draft cost, they should be a good run-blocking team from the jump. But Long has played just 18 games the past two years and is entering his age-30 season, so that's far from a lock. On top of that, the pass blocking was suspect last year and remains a mystery entering 2018.

The biggest addition to the offensive line is Harry Hiestand, the accomplished position coach who returns to Chicago after once serving in the same role under Lovie Smith from 2005-2009. He most recently coached at Notre Dame and helped develop multiple first-round picks. He's going to have a huge impact.

The good news for the Bears is they weren't the lowest-ranked offensive line in the NFC North. The Vikings came in at No. 25. The Packers checked-in at No. 13, while the Lions were 16th.