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Defensive grades: Peppers, Tillman lead the way

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Defensive grades: Peppers, Tillman lead the way

GLENDALE, Ariz. The overall play of the defense in a must-win game like this one is a little difficult to critique in absolute terms just because of the quality of the opponent. But all the Bears can do is play who shows up across from them and the Bears certainly did that on Sunday, against a woeful Arizona Cardinals team that faced one of the NFLs best defenses with quarterbacks Ryan Lindley and then Brian Hoyer in the second half.
The defense scored two touchdowns of its own, one on a fumble recovery by backup defensive back Zackary Bowman and the other on an interception by Charles Tillman in the third quarter. That ran the defenses total to nine for the season and the Bears record to 6-0 when their defense has scored in 2012.
A workmanlike effort when one was needed.
DEFENSIVE LINE A
Julius Peppers was dominating, with three sacks and a forced fumble as well as four tackles for loss and two quarterback hits in a game with the season on the line. He has played with emotion and leadership through the losing stretch and led by example on the field.
Without 3-technique Henry Melton, Israel Idonije moved in at tackle and provided good push inside, including a first-half sack of Lindley. The Bears frequently went with a rush line of four defensive ends that included Idonije, Peppers, Shea McClellin and Corey Wootton. The group played the run sufficiently and got enough pressure on two bad quarterbacks.
Amobi Okoye also was in on a forced fumble that the Bears recovered for a touchdown.
LINEBACKERS A-
The linebackers flow to the ball prevented Arizona and Beanie Wells from getting into any rhythm in the run game, forcing the game into the hands of inept quarterbacks.
Nick Roach led the Bears with eight solo tackles and continues to be very solid alternate to Brian Urlacher. His responses to reads has gotten progressively quicker and he delivers more significant hits as his confidence has grown.
Lance Briggs broke up a pass and had six tackles in a strong performance overall. Geno Hayes was back in the lineup after missing last week with a knee injury.
SECONDARY B
Zackary Bowman gave the entire team a boost when he fell on a Beanie Wells fumble for a first-quarter touchdown. Charles Tillman, who contributed eight solo tackles, drove in the final nail with his interception return for a score in the third quarter. Kelvin Hayden gave the offense a scoring opportunity with an interception and return of 39 yards.
Chris Conte was lost with a hamstring injury, sending Anthony Walter into the free-safety spot and played well.
All-Pro receiver Larry Fitzgerald had 111 yards on eight catches and rookie Michael Floyd caught six for 47 yards.
COACHING A
The Arizona offense was not much of a challenge in any area so the key was not exposing areas for big plays or mistakes. A conservative game plan was called for and the Bears executed it well.
SPECIAL TEAMS
The Cardinals blocked a field goal attempt in the fourth quarter and returned it for a touchdown in something of a disappointing breakdown that needs to be fixed before the Lions or someone else exploits it.
KICKING D
Adam Podlesh was called on to punt nine times and averaged 43.8 yards with three inside the 20. But the blocked field goal was a costly mistake that gave the Cardinals seven free points. Olindo Mare did kickoff three times for touchbacks.
COVERAGE A-
Amobi Okoye avoided a problem by staying on assignment when Arizona tried a fake FG in the second quarter. Patrick Peterson, one of the NFLs most dangerous returners, was limited to 11 net yards on two punt returns and the Cardinals averaged only 19.5 yards on two kickoff returns.
RETURNS D
Devin Hester put the offense in jeopardy fielding a punt inside the Chicago 5 and getting nothing on a frenetic return try. D.J. Moore effectively handed the Cardinals three points late in the second quarter when he let a punt bounce off him and into Cardinals hands. But it was on Hester to let Moore know where the ball was and he did not. Hesters one kickoff return for 40 yards was his best.
COACHING C
Penalties continue to occur too frequently and the breakdowns that allow kicks blocked cannot occur at the next level. Devin Hesters returning has always had an element of freelance, but without the explosiveness of his early years, something else needs to be built in.

VOTE: Viewers' Choice Game Of The Week

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NBC Sports Chicago

VOTE: Viewers' Choice Game Of The Week

Who wants it more?

We are putting High School Lites, Chicagoland's top prep sports show, in the hands of area football fans in our "Viewers' Choice Game of the Week." Fans will get the chance to pick one game that the @NBCSPreps crew will cover on Friday night. We will send our cameras to the game that gets the most votes; highlights and postgame reaction of that game will appear on that night's "High School Lites" broadcast at 11 p.m. — just after Chicago White Sox baseball. The show also live streams at www.nbcsportschicago.com/watchlive. High School Lites will also have broadcast replays at 7:30 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. the following Saturday. This week we spotlight some Indiana vs. Illinois border wars:

Gary (West Side) at Woodstock, 7 p.m.

Hammond (HS) at Reavis, 7 p.m.

Hammond (Gavit) at St. Ignatius, 7:30 p.m.  

Poll opens Monday at 12 p.m. and closes Thursday at 4 p.m. Here is what fans need to do to vote:

— Follow @NBCSPreps on Twitter.
— Note the "pinned Tweet" atop the @NBCSPreps feed. Vote for the game you want us to cover.
— Spread the word! 

We will make an announcement on @NBCSPreps just after 4 p.m. Thursday with the official results of which game will be covered. And as a reminder, be sure to follow @NBCSPreps for updates on the "Viewers' Choice Game of the week," along with other high school sports news, scores and highlights this season.

Power Rankings: #4 - Batavia

Power Rankings: #4 - Batavia

NBCSportsChicago.com preps reporter "Edgy" Tim O’Halloran spotlights 100 high school football teams in 100 days. The first 75 team profiles will focus on teams making strides across Chicagoland and elsewhere in the state. Starting July 30, we’ll unveil the @NBCSPrepsTop 25 Power Rankings, leading up to kickoff on Friday, Aug. 24.

School: Batavia

Head coach: Dennis Piron

Assistant coaches: Matt Holm, Billy Colamatteo, Sean Anderson, PJ White, Dan Cadena, Adam Lester, Steve Bailey, Alvin Cole, Shane Holl and Gary Urwiler

How they fared in 2017: 13-1 (5-1 Upstate Eight River Conference). Batavia made the 7A state playoff field and defeated Glenbard North, Wheaton North, Lincoln-Way West and Benet Academy. They went on to defeat Lake Zurich in the state title game to capture the 7A state championship.

2018 Regular Season Schedule:

Aug. 24 @ Lemont

Aug. 31 vs Naperville North

Sept. 7 vs Lake Park

Sept. 14 @ Glenbard North

Sept. 21 vs Wheaton Warrenville South

Sept. 28 vs Geneva

Oct. 5 @ St. Charles East

Oct. 12 vs St. Charles North

Oct. 19 @ Wheaton North

[MORE: 89 Days to Kickoff - St. Charles East]

Biggest storyline: Can the Bulldogs, winners of state titles in 2013 and 2017, get back to state and claim another 7A title?

Names to watch this season: LB Luke Weerts (North Dakota State) and LB Michael Jansey Jr. (Northwestern)

Biggest holes to fill: The Bulldogs will need to replace nine graduated starters from last seasons's state championship squad. 

EDGY's Early Take: The Bulldogs are turning the page from their championship season, which was capped off with a 21-14 OT victory over Lake Zurich in the title game. While the offense will be inexperienced to start the season, the program has never been in better shape under head coach Dennis Piron. The Bulldogs' defense feature two D-1 senior team leaders in Luke Weerts (North Dakota State) and Michael Jansey Jr. (Northwestern). The offense will look to run the football behind two starters back on the offensive line in senior Evan Holden and senior Anthony Glisson. Batavia will also see a ramped-up schedule, thanks to the new DuKane Conference. It will challenge the Bulldogs week in and week out. Bulldogs fans also have an added treat: this season marks the 100th rendition of the Batavia-Geneva rivalry game. If Batavia can get their play-action passing game sorted out they have the tools to make another deep run in 2018.