Gabriel: Bears-Packers Positives/Negatives
By Greg Gabriel-
(CBS) When an NFL team plays at home, it's supposed to have a home-field advantage. Such is not the case with the 2014 version of the Chicago Bears, who through are 0–2 at home and 2-0 on the road.
After Green Bay dispatched Chicago, 38-17, on Sunday at Soldier Field, you could say that it may be difficult to find some positives, but like in most games there was some things the Bears did well. The same holds true for the negatives, but as we get deeper into the season, the negatives are too often the same each week.
Let's break Sunday's game down.
The Bears went into this game with the idea of establishing the ground game. In the first three games, they'd done virtually nothing rushing. Matt Forte had run 42 times for a total of 136 yards against Buffalo, San Francisco and the New York Jets. On Sunday, he carried the ball 23 times for 122 yards, which is a healthy 5.3 yards per carry.
Rookie Ka'Deem Carey also got involved with 14 carries for 72 yards. Many of Carey's runs were between the tackles, and his overall play bodes well for the rest of the season. Carey's should give the Bears' coaching staff confidence that he can spell Forte without a dramatic drop-off in production.
All told, the Bears put up 235 yards on the ground. Because they were running the ball so well, the Bears were able to win the time of possession battle by almost 13 minutes. Any time an NFL team runs for more 200 yards and has that much time of possession, it should win the game.
Statistically, Bennett had his best game as a Bear. He finished the game with nine receptions for 134 yards, both career highs. He not only caught the ball well, but his run after the catch was also outstanding.
Bennett's play this season gives the Bears another huge weapon to go along with receivers Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. For the year, Bennett already has 29 receptions for 295 yards and four touchdowns. He has has been one of the most productive tight ends in the league through the first quarter of the season.
Throw out the two interceptions by Jay Cutler, and the passing game was very good. Cutler was 23-of-34 for 256 yards, and this was with Marshall at about 50 percent of his usual effectiveness because of an ankle sprain.
Marshall had only two catches for 19 yards and a touchdown, so it was on Bennett and the other receivers in the groups to pick up the slack. Jeffery had four catches for 39 yards and a touchdown, and Josh Morgan finished the game with three receptions for 24 yards.
Forte also had his best game as a receiver this year with five catches for 49 yards. All told, the passing game was effective for much of the game.
No one can put any blame on the offensive line. The offense had 496 yards of total offense and rushed for 235 yards. They did this without starters Roberto Garza and Matt Slauson at center and right guard, respectively.
In pass protection, the line gave up one sack, but as a whole, Cutler pretty much had as much time as needed to find an open receiver and make plays.
As has been the case in recent years, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers had his way with the Bears. He completed 22 of 28 passes for 302 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions
When a quarterback has that kind of a day, it's usually because his opponent had no pass rush. That was the case with Bears. Though the Bears were credited with one sack, it came on a Rodgers scramble when he stepped out of bound just short of the original line of scrimmage. The rest of the afternoon, Rodgers had all the time he needed to throw.
For the most part, the Bears were rushing with just the four defensive linemen. There were a few blitzes, but they weren't effective. Granted, the Bears were playing without end Jared Allen and defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff, but that's no excuse. Going forward, the defensive line has to be able to generate more pressure on the quarterback.
As poorly as the defensive line played, the defensive backfield played worse. In NFL football, the window to compete a pass is usually very small. In Sunday's game, the Green Bay receivers were often uncovered with the nearest defender yards away, not feet away. The secondary looked unprepared for the game.
On Rodgers' fourth touchdown pass, safety Chris Conte had man coverage on Randall Cobb in the slot. Cobb used a head fake to the inside on an out route that left Conte flat-footed. The result was that Cobb was open by about four yards for an easy touchdown. Rodgers had windows like that all afternoon.
I know, I cited the passing game as a positive and all the blame can't go on Cutler, but when the defense is playing poorly, Cutler can't afford to make mistakes. And he made two costly ones.
Cutler played a strong first half. He was patient, found the open man and got the ball out of his hand quickly. Though he threw the ball a bit high on a crossing route to Jeffery on a third-down play in the red zone, the ball should have been caught to a touchdown.
I also can't blame him for the Bears not scoring on the final drive of the first half, when the clock ran out. The throw to Bennett was the right read, and the Bears came up six inches short on the play. Poor clock management had hurt them earlier in the drive.
It was in the second half that Cutler began to falter. On his first interception, Packers cornerback Tramon Williams was playing inside technique and basically taking away the slant route. Cutler didn't read the coverage, and Williams closed on the ball quickly and the deflected pass landed in the arms of Clay Matthews, who returned the ball to the Bears' 35. A few plays later, Green Bay had a 14-point lead.
Looking back, that was the play that turned around the game. The Bears had a first-and-10 at the Green Bay 24-yard line. The worst-case scenario was that the Bears would get a field goal and be down four points. The interception was perhaps a 14-point swing in the Packers' favor.
On the following drive, Chicago was again moving the ball and in Green Bay territory at the 45. On a first-down play, there was a miscommunication between Cutler and Marshall, who ran a go instead of a hitch. That resulted in an easy Green Bay interception. A few plays later, the Packers scored again and were up by 21 points. Ballgame over.
As talented as Cutler is, he keeps making mistakes like this that helps cost the Bears games. Championship-caliber quarterbacks don't make those type of mistakes.
Play-calling on the final drive of the first half
I don't usually criticize coach Marc Trestman's play-calling, because for the most part he does an excellent job. That wasn't the case on the final drive of the first half.
The Bears got the ball at their own 20 with 1:03 left on the clock, and they had all three timeouts available. The first two plays called were running plays. After the first run, the Bears used their first timeout. With the ball at their own 33, a second straight running play wasn't the best use of the clock.
The thinking was that the Packers would be playing coverage, and there was a chance the Bears could break a long run. That didn't happen though, as the run gained only five yards. That put the Bears in hurry-up mode the rest of the drive and took away valuable seconds.
When the half ended with Chicago at the Green Bay 6-inch line, it could be argued that the time lost on that second running play cost the Bears at least three points. The score at the half ended up being 21-17 at halftime when it should have been a 24-21 Bears lead or a 21-20 Packers lead at worst.
Yes, the Bears special teams unit blocked a field goal attempt, which may be the unit's best play all season. Still, the special teams made some costly mistakes.
Their biggest mistake of the afternoon was being called for holding on a Packers field goal in the first half. That call gave the Packers a first-and-goal, and one play later they scored a touchdown. The holding call ended up costing the Bears four points.
The other mistake was Rashad Ross bringing out a kickoff from about eight yards deep in the end zone. Ross was tackled at the 15-yard line, giving the Bears awful field position for a drive. Normally, that wouldn't be considered a big mistake, but the special teams play this season has been horrible, and there's no longer a margin for error.
Greg Gabriel is a former NFL talent evaluator who has been an on-air contributor for 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @greggabe.
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