Week 17 Report Card: Forte hits milestones
Week 17 Report Card: Chicago Bears 26, Detroit Lions 24
With Michael Bush out of the lineup, it was nice to see the Bears show some faith in Kahlil Bell, who spelled Matt Forte some. The Bears fed Forte the ball a season-high 24 times, and he finished with his third 100-yard rushing performance of the season. In all, the Bears ran the ball 35 times for 144 yards and a touchdown. That efficiency with the rushing attack made a difference in Chicago winning the time-of-possession battle (34:09-25:51).
The Bears finally leaned on the other receivers such as Alshon Jeffery and Earl Bennett, and the duo delivered. The grade would be an "A" had Brandon Marshall been able to make a more significant contribution. Marshall's block did allow Bennett to break free on his 60-yard touchdown reception in the first quarter, but he the No.1 receiver finished with five catches for 42 yards and failed to come up big for the team when it needed him in the red zone. The offensive line gave up only one sack, and Cutler finished with a passer rating of 95.8, in addition breaking 19 yards on a scramble with the game on the line.
Mikel Leshoure seemed to have a few moments, but for the most part the Bears stuffed him. Leshoure led the Lions with 57 yards on 15 carries, and Joie Bell added six yards on two attempts. Because of their inability to run the ball consistently, and the fact they were playing from behind all game, the Lions were forced to throw 42 times. That's too many chances to take against a defense that thrives off turnovers. So by stopping the run, the Bears basically forced the Lions into the mistake-filled day they experienced.
Calvin Johnson needed 108 yards to reach 2,000 and with little for Detroit to play for, it was almost a given it would focus on helping the receiver the milestone. Matthew Stafford threw 14 balls in Johnson's direction, and the receiver came up with just five of them for 72 yards and no touchdowns. Although the Bears registered only one sack, the front four generated sufficient pressure and forced Stafford to throw some errant passes. The Bears also stripped one ball away from Stafford that the offense turned into points. Tim Jennings picked off his ninth pass of the season, and Charles Tillman pretty much locked down Johnson.
Devin Hester averaged 2 yards on three punt returns, and on kickoffs he was outdone by Detroit's Bell. Hester also made a crucial mistake on the kickoff to start the second half by deciding to bring out a ball that traveled 5 yards deep into the end zone. That led the Bears starting their first drive of the second half from their own 5. Special teams coach Dave Toub has spoken a lot recently about Hester's decision-making issues. This game was a prime example. Olindo Mare made four of his five field goals, and Eric Weems recovered a fumble.
The Bears captured a victory to keep alive their hopes for the postseason, and the staff prepared the players during difficult circumstances with all the speculation swirling regarding Lovie Smith's job security. On the offensive side, it appears the Bears prepared thoroughly for Detroit taking away Marshall, and that showed by the types of performances put together by Bennett and Jeffery. On defense, the Bears put together a strong game plan to stop Johnson and the players executed.