Bears

Report card: Championship nearly earns straight A's

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Report card: Championship nearly earns straight A's

Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2010
12: 52 AM

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

The second-highest point total of the past two seasons was the result of impact plays in virtually every area and helped the Bears become the first team to clinch a division title. Not many negatives in a 26-point win on the road in adverse conditions.

QUARTERBACK A

Jay Cutler shook off some early struggles to seize momentum with a 67-yard TD pass to Johnny Knox on a third-and-long. He finished with three TD passes, all to different receivers, and was in control of the offense throughout. Cutler completed a modest 14 of 24 passes and threw a bad interception, but his teams are 20-0 when he puts up a 100-plus passer rating and in a game for a division championship, he posted a 106.6.

RUNNING BACKS B

Matt Forte netted 92 yards on 17 carries (5.4 per rush) and had repeated runs for first downs which set up second downs without long yardage to convert. Forte carried 10 times in the first half to help establish a ground presence in inclement weather and forced the Vikings to slow their pass rush to account for him. Chester Taylor struggled against his old teammates with just five yards in 11 carries.

RECEIVERS A

Knoxs 67-yard TD catch was a precision route and game-changer in the first quarter. Devin Hesters post route set him up for a 15-yard strike from Cutler in the second quarter. Rashied Davis scored his first TD of the season. Greg Olsen caught all four of the passes thrown to him and gave the offense solid underneath threats. All four WRs averaged at least 11.5 yards per reception.

OFFENSIVE LINE A

The offense netted 104 rushing yards and Cutler was sacked just once in 25 pass plays. Chris Williams and Olin Kreutz had 10-yard penalties on consecutive first-quarter plays but the line consistently righted itself in difficult situations and kept Minnesotas front from ever establishing any control over the line of scrimmage.

DEFENSIVE LINE A

Julius Peppers collected his second interception of the season on a pass deflected by Henry Melton and nearly had another in the second quarter. Corey Wootton beat Pro Bowl LT Bryant McKinnie for a 12-yard, second-quarter sack of Brett Favre that sent him out of the game. Matt Toeaina had his second career sack when he took down rookie Joe Webb in the second quarter. Melton recovered a red-zone fumble in the fourth quarter.

LINEBACKERS A-

Lance Briggs sacked Webb at the end of the second quarter and added a tackle for loss, quarterback hit and pass breakup. Toby Gerhart rushed for 5.7 yards per carry as Adrian Petersons fill-in and had too many yards after first hits. But Nick Roach and Brian Iwuh forced fumbles and gave the defense solid performances.
SECONDARY A-

Tim Jennings had an interception of a Favre pass but it was taken way after an offsides penalty. Charles Tillman and Chris Harris collected interceptions while Harris also added six tackles. Tillman and Jennings had pass breakups as the secondary kept Webb from enjoying his first extended action.

SPECIAL TEAMS A
Hester nearly had his TD return record when he broke the opening kickoff of the second half 79 yards. He then got the record on a 64-yard punt return for an NFL record. Robbie Gould was perfect on all four field goal attempts - from 29, 26, 34 and 20 yards - to finish possessions that the offense couldnt punch into the end zone. Coverage units limited Minnesota to 19.6 yards per KOR and Brad Maynard punted well under the conditions, averaging 41.7 on three kicks and posting a 39.7 net.

COACHING A

Leaving Cutler in a game with a 23-point lead and throwing the ball put the franchise quarterback at questionable risk in a game where the outcome was no longer in question. But the Bears were well prepared and focused on winning a division championship and playing with no ill effects left over from the New England massacre. Return teams executed precise plans of attack against Minnesota weaknesses. The defense adapted well to the change in quarterbacks after the Vikings first possession.

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.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Is the Robbie Gould Bears reunion realistic?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Is the Robbie Gould Bears reunion realistic?

David Haugh, Ben Finfer and JJ Stankevitz join David Kaplan on the panel.

0:00- Robbie Gould wants the 49ers to trade him. Will the dream of Bears fans come true? David Haugh thinks his departure three years ago might make a reunion difficult.

12:30- Tony Andracki joins Kap from Wrigley to preview the Cubs-Dodgers series opener. They discuss Jose Quintana's recent success, the need to keep Jason Heyward in the every day lineup and talk about Kris Bryant's struggles.

17:30- The panel discusses the Cubs' lineup for Game 1 with the Dodgers and if Pedro Strop is one of the three greatest relievers in Cubs history.

Listen to the full episode in the embedded player below:

As NFL Draft looms, anything is possible for Ryan Pace and the Bears

As NFL Draft looms, anything is possible for Ryan Pace and the Bears

Ryan Pace’s pre-draft press conference began with the Bears’ general manager dryly referring to it as “always fun,” which elicited a round of chuckles from the assembled media at Halas Hall. Two days before the NFL Draft commences in Nashville, there’s no chance Pace is going to publicly tip his hand for what he’s planning to do later in the week. Fun, right?

Pace did tip one thing, though: When the 24th pick comes around — the first of the two first-round picks the Bears shipped to the Raiders last Labor Day weekend — he’ll pull up highlights of Khalil Mack in Halas Hall’s high-tech new draft room. Consider it a welcome reminder of why Pace doesn't have a first-round pick and might as well hook a Nintendo 64 up to the digital draft board and challenge anyone in the building to MarioKart on Thursday night (if this is possible, Toad on Koopa Troopa Beach is always a winner). 

While the Bears won’t be on the clock until pick No. 87 in the third round (last year’s trade to move back into the second round to draft Anthony Miller is also why), Pace said the pressure on him remains the same as it was the last four years, when he made four selections in the first nine picks of those drafts. So that’s one aspect of this year’s draft that won’t change. 

Another: The Bears aren’t going to switch their philosophy to drafting for the few needs a 12-4 team coming off a division title has. For Pace, the reasoning is twofold: First, he’s always been a best-player-available guy; second, he doesn’t see any truly glaring needs on his roster. 

“We feel fortunate with our roster right now,” Pace said. “This press conference feels a little different in that there's no pressing, huge needs. We can honestly select the best players. That's a great spot to be in.”

That’s not to say the Bears don’t have any needs. Another running back, a reserve receiver, a backup tight end, cornerbacks and safeties for the future — those are all needs. Teams can never have too many offensive linemen, defensive linemen and edge rushers. 

Of those, though, the only position with a path to a starting/prominent role on offense or defense may be running back. Even then, Pace said Mike Davis — who the Bears signed in March — is “built to handle a lot of carries,” so if a running back is drafted the expectation will be for him to be part of a rotation, not necessarily a true No. 1 starter-type. 

“Right now, I know running back's been talked about a lot, but we feel good about that position,” Pace said. “We feel good about Tarik (Cohen), we feel really good about Mike Davis, we feel good about Ryan Nall and we feel good about Cordarrelle Patterson and the things he can do out of the backfield.

“… I think there's probably always a storyline with every draft. I understand why it's that way, but I don't feel like we go into this draft saying, 'Man, we have to take this position or we're in trouble.' We're in good shape.”

So consider this another intentionally-murky statement by Pace in this pre-draft press conference. The Bears probably need to take a running back, but he’s not going to say that and tip his hand or paint himself into a corner three days before he actually gets to make a pick. 

(That Pace mentioned Nall, a 2018 undrafted free agent who spent last year on the practice squad, by name was at least interest-piquing.)

So as Pace took questions on Tuesday, most of the answers were some variation of “sure, it’s possible.” Trading down? Sure, it’s possible. Trading up? Sure, it’s possible — though not into the first round. Drafting a quarterback? Sure, it’s possible. A kicker? Sure, it’s possible. Not drafting a running back? Sure, it’s possible. 

We’ll have a complete picture of what Pace was actually thinking come Saturday evening. But while he didn’t reveal much on Tuesday, and doesn’t have much draft capital with which to work, this draft is important. The Bears can find players for the present and future — when their roster will be more expensive — starting on Friday night. And hitting on a few of these picks will be critical for keeping the Bears’ window to win open as long as possible. 

“If we take a player where we happen to have a lot of depth right now, but it’s a good player, that’s okay,” Pace said. “I think it’s short-sighted to say, ‘well, this guy might be able to play a little bit quicker so let’s take him.’ Let’s just take the best player. If that means it takes a little bit longer for him to play, let’s just make sure we take the best guy.”