Bears

Bears Week 3 grades: Offensive line, running backs lead the way for first win

Bears Week 3 grades: Offensive line, running backs lead the way for first win

Quarterbacks: D+

The Bears didn’t ask much of Mike Glennon, with the 22 passes he threw accounting for just 101 yards. The red zone interception he threw was bad, with him either woefully throwing behind tight end Zach Miller or not being on the same page as the tight end, who cut outside instead of sitting down (Glennon, if this were the case, was expecting him to sit down). Either way, that’s another mistake on Glennon’s season resume. 

Glennon might’ve had an opportunity to connect with Markus Wheaton on a deep ball in the first quarter but wasn’t able to move away from pressure quick enough and was forced to throw the ball away. He did make a good throw deep down the sideline to Wheaton later in the game, but that pass was dropped. 

Glennon also almost threw a catastrophic interception in Bears territory with just over a minute left, but it was dropped by safety Mike Mitchell. 

Running backs: A

Jordan Howard, playing through a reported sprained AC joint, continually hit the holes created for him by the Bears’ offensive line and was dangerous in the second level. Pittsburgh’s defense wasn’t threatened by any deep passes, so they were able to play up and scheme against the run, but Howard (23 touchdowns, 138 yards, two TDs) was outstanding. Howard also caught all five passes thrown his way for 26 yards. 

And then there’s Tarik Cohen, who ripped off a 36-yard run in overtime that nearly was a game-winning 73-yard run (he thought he stayed in bounds, replays were inconclusive and left the call on the field to stand). Cohen finished with 78 yards on 12 carries and also caught four passes for 24 yards. Add in the three receptions for 23 yards from Benny Cunningham and the Bears’ running backs combined for 35 carries, 216 yards, 13 receptions and 73 yards.

The only thing keeping this group from an A+ was Howard’s fumble in the third quarter, which gave the Steelers the ball deep in Bears territory. That was a mistake, but Howard was so good the rest of the game that he largely covered for it. 

Wide receivers: D+

The negatives from this unit are clear: Glennon targeted his receivers only four times, with Wheaton dropping a deep ball and Deonte Thompson recording the first catch by a receiver with just under six minutes left in the fourth quarter. Wheaton dropped a pass over the middle late in the first quarter, too, but was bailed out on the box score by a roughing the passer penalty. The limitations this group faces with Glennon as the team’s quarterback and Cameron Meredith and Kevin White were clear on Sunday. The Bears only ran 22 snaps with three wide receivers on the field. 

A positive, though: Thompson’s outstanding block on Howard’s walk-off touchdown in overtime. This group as a whole contributed in run blocking, raising their grade from a low D/F to a high D. 

Tight Ends: B

Adam Shaheen caught his first career pass for a two-yard touchdown and Zach Miller’s lone reception was the Bears’ longest completion of the game (17 yards). But while this group didn’t make much of an impact in the passing game, it did well to contribute to the Bears’ run blocking efforts as Dowell Loggains deployed plenty of two- and three-tight end sets. Dion Sims, in particular, did well blocking to set up Howard's penultimate run of the game. 

Offensive line: A

This wasn’t a perfect game from the Bears’ offensive line, but given the circumstances — without Josh Sitton and, during the game, losing Hroniss Grasu to a hand injury that forced Bradley Sowell in at left guard — its play was outstanding. Kyle Long’s return was noticeable, with the three-time Pro Bowler mauling in the run game. Charles Leno Jr., Cody Whitehair and Bobby Massie all blocked well for Howard and Cohen, and fill-ins Grasu and Sowell held their own. Howard and Cohen combined to average 6.2 yards per carry and frequently got to the second level, as good a sign as any that the offensive line did its job blocking on a play. 

Defensive line: B

The defensive line didn’t record a sack, but Akiem Hicks and Eddie Goldman were key in holding Le’Veon Bell to only 61 yards on 15 carries. The Bears never trailed on Sunday, and the tone for the game was set by the defense holding Pittsburgh to 1.7 yards per play in the first quarter. 

Linebackers: A-

Sunday was another quiet day for Leonard Floyd in the backfield, who had a shot a Ben Roethlisberger but couldn’t hit home. Both Pernell McPhee and Willie Young recorded key sacks in the fourth quarter, though. McPhee was active in stopping the run as he continues to see more snaps (four in Week 1, 24 in Week 2, 28 in Week 3) and put being on PUP during training camp behind him.  

Secondary: B

There were plenty of negatives from this group, but the positives out-weighed those. Let’s start with the negatives: Marcus Cooper was beat by Martavis Bryant on the first play of the game, but the Steelers receiver dropped Roethlisberger’s deep heave. Kyle Fuller missed a handful of tackles. Antonio Brown had too easy a time gaining 45 yards on two receptions to set up Pittsburgh’s field goal attempt at the end of the first half. And Cooper’s holding foul on Brown in the end zone on third and 1 set up an easy touchdown that brought Pittsburgh within three points midway through the third quarter. 

But the positives: Good coverage allowed Bryce Callahan to hit home with a strip-sack on Roethlisberger. Prince Amukamara played well in his return, breaking up a pass in the end zone toward JuJu Smith-Schuster, and was the only Bears’ cornerback to not be flagged for a penalty during the game. Cooper had three pass break-ups — all of which came after his special teams gaffe — and nearly recorded his first interception of the season. 

Overall, while Brown got his (14 targets, 10 receptions, 110 yards, 1 TD), the Bears’ secondary successfully limited Smith-Schuster and Bryant to a combined four catches on 14 targets for 69 yards. 

Special teams: C-

If we’re breaking this down a little further, Sherrick McManis gets an A+ and everyone gets gets an F. McManis beat the man across him to get in a perfect position to recover Eli Rogers’ dropped punt in the first quarter, and his field goal block at the end of the second half was the kind of thing that’ll get him to Orlando for the Pro Bowl again. His impact on a six-point win was significant. 

But the rest of this group made far too many critical mistakes to make up for how good McManis played. Connor Barth missed a 47-yard field goal that would’ve put the Bears up 10-0 in the first half, and Cre’von LeBlanc committed a holding penalty that gave Pittsburgh an extra 10 yards on a kickoff return. Pat O’Donnell had a punt bounce the wrong way, leading to Pittsburgh getting the ball on their own 38 with just over five minutes remaining. 

And then with Cooper, that’s the kind of mistake that gets people fired and loses you games. Fortunately for the Bears, it didn’t cost them a win. But if it did…yikes. 

Coaching: C+

High marks are deserved for coordinators Dowell Loggains and Vic Fangio. The Bears’ offense leaned on the run and designed some good blocking schemes to get Howard going early and often (the Bears called for 12 runs and only two passes on the game’s first two drives, and then didn’t pass the ball at all in overtime). While the defense didn’t blitz much, it shut down the run game and made enough plays in coverage against a potent passing attack and only allowed one extended scoring drive (a 13-play, 77-yard drive in the second quarter). 

But there were too many penalties committed in critical moments, like Leno’s false start on the untimed down from the one-yard line at the end of the first half. Undisciplined play — like those penalties and Cooper easing up and fumbling before the goal line — falls on the coaching staff, which drags this grade down. 

Bears-Vikings is most tightly contested game of Week 11

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USA TODAY

Bears-Vikings is most tightly contested game of Week 11

With so much parity in the NFL, every week on the schedule has close matchups. This weekend, though, the Bears and the Minnesota Vikings are expected to play the closest.

NFL experts trying to predict Sunday night’s matchup are torn on who they think is going to win, but Chicago has the slight advantage according to NFL Pick Watch.

55 percent of experts are picking the Bears to extend their NFC North lead, the closest margin of predictions for any game this week.

Even Monday night’s contest between the Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Rams has a larger majority supporting Jared Goff and company at 60 percent.

The analytics are also in agreement in support of Matt Nagy in prime time. Microsoft Cortana, FiveThirtyEight, Number Fire and Pro Football Focus analytics are all among the majority picking the Bears.

Our own J.J. Stankevitz predicts they could have statement game to establish themselves as a legitimate contender this season.

Chicago is favored by a slight margin on Las Vegas sportsbooks, but in the battle for first place in the division, anything can happen.

Bears add another weapon to offense, activate Adam Shaheen off injured reserve

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USA Today Sports Images

Bears add another weapon to offense, activate Adam Shaheen off injured reserve

There’s a wrinkle to the Bears’ offense nobody’s quite seen yet in 2018. With Adam Shaheen being activated off injured reserve on Saturday, we might get a look at what it could be starting Sunday. 

To make room for Shaheen on the 53-man roster, the Bears placed tight end Dion Sims on injured reserve. Sims didn't practice the last two weeks after suffering a concussion Nov. 4 against the Buffalo Bills, and has had recurring concussion issues in the past.

Shaheen, who suffered an ankle injury in a preseason game Aug. 18 against the Denver Broncos, began practicing with the Bears last week. 

The aspect to Matt Nagy’s offense we haven’t seen, then, is a “Y” (in-line) tight end being a legitimate receiving threat. While opposing teams have film on Shaheen from his rookie year of 2017, they don’t have film on how Nagy could use him. 

“I haven’t even though about it,” Shaheen said. “For me, I just want to get out there and play. And so, thinking about that, if they don’t see me coming and it gives me better looks, then so be it.”

While Shaheen’s usage could be limited in his first regular season game since Dec. 10, 2017, his go-up-and-get-it ability in the red zone could instantly be a factor against the Minnesota Vikings. Shaheen led the Bears with three touchdowns in 2017 despite only catching 12 passes. 

From a schematic standpoint, how Nagy works Shaheen into the offense will be interesting to observe. The Bears are one of five teams to average seven or more yards per play while having three receivers on the field:

The Bears’ two most-used formations (totaling 90 plays) has had Allen Robinson, Anthony Miller and Taylor Gabriel as the three receivers, with Jordan Howard or Tarik Cohen the running back and Trey Burton the tight end. Their third most-used formation (31 plays) did feature two tight ends in Burton and Dion Sims, though the majority of those plays (18) were rushing plays. 

Sims, though, wasn't a receiving threat, while Shaheen is. 

“It just puts another playmaker on the field, as somebody else they have to account for,” Burton said. “We just have so many guys that can do so many different things, so it makes it really tough to guard. And so I like it because we have two tight ends in there at a time. Hopefully we can get rolling with that whenever he comes back.”

“Whenever” will be Sunday. And the larger point here may be that the Bears were able to add a playmaker into their offense instead of losing one to attrition in November. 

“He’s just a mismatch problem across the board for linebackers and safeties, and when you get a corner on him as well, his size is just too much to handle,” quarterback Mitch Trubisky said. “Getting him back will just open things up even more for this offense, and he’s another option for this offense to be even more dynamic."