Stock Watch: The Jeffery show continues
December, 10, 2013
By Jeff Dickerson | ESPNChicago.com
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesAlshon Jeffery is fifth in the NFL with 1,193 yards receiving.
1. Josh McCown, QB: He saved his best performance of the season for the Dallas Cowboys. In front of a national television audience, McCown torched the Cowboys' defense for 348 passing yards and four touchdowns (141.9 passer rating), plus a 7-yard touchdown run that electrified the Soldier Field crowd and pumped up McCown's teammates on the sideline. For the season, McCown has passed for 1,809 yards, 13 touchdowns and just one interception. The veteran's passer rating of 109.8 is the third-highest total in the NFL, and his 66.8 percent completion percentage is the highest in team history for a single season. McCown has positioned himself to receive a multi-year deal in free agency for above the veteran minimum. But most importantly, McCown has the Bears (7-6) in the thick of the NFC North race after the 45-28 drubbing of the Cowboys. The feel-good Chicago sports story of 2013 keeps getting better.
2. Alshon Jeffery, WR: Every week Jeffery seems to make a ridiculous, highlight-reel catch. The second-year wide receiver struck again Monday night when he hauled in a deep McCown pass in the back corner of the south end zone and managed to drag both feet in as he fell out of bounds with two Dallas defenders in the area. Jeffery is on fire. He has a combined 17 catches for 333 yards and three touchdowns in the past two weeks. Already with 75 receptions for 1,193 yards and six touchdowns on the season, Jeffery is playing at a Pro Bowl level. Brandon Marshall is having another incredibly productive season (84-1,090-9), but Jeffery's emergence has been the No. 1 storyline this year in the wide receiver room. The exciting part is the best is yet to come for Jeffery, who doesn't turn 24 until February.
3. Offensive line: For a couple of weeks the Bears' offensive line sputtered at times, but Monday night the group paved the way for Matt Forte to average 5.1 yards per carry, en route to his third 100-plus yard (102) rushing game of the season. Forte also went over 1,000 rushing yards on the season. McCown got sacked only one time in 36 passing attempts, and was hit a total of just three times, according to the official NFL stat book distributed after the game. Granted, the Dallas defense is dreadful, but the Bears offensive line dominated the line of scrimmage. The group surely benefited from returning home following two consecutive games on the road in dome stadiums.
3. Marc Trestman: The Bears didn't fold after that excruciating Week 13 loss in Minnesota. That is a testament to Trestman holding the team together. NFL veterans will often shut it down late in the year if the playoffs are a pipe dream, but the Bears gave maximum effort against the Cowboys. And Trestman's play-calling Monday night was particularly effective and balanced. Now with the Bears at 7-6, Trestman has an opportunity to lead the Bears to the postseason for the first time since 2010.
1. Linebackers: Dallas running back DeMarco Murray had plenty of room to operate on the ground, rushing for a game-high 146 yards on 18 carries. Whenever a defense has difficulty stopping the run, a good chuck of the blame generally falls on the linebackers. Veteran James Anderson registered a sack and tackle-for-loss, but the rookies encountered their share of difficulties and finished with a combined six tackles. The return of Lance Briggs from a fractured shoulder would give the whole defense a lift. There is simply no way to ask Khaseem Greene to replicate the kind of production Briggs has provided the defense in the past 10-plus years.
2. Julius Peppers, DE: Peppers continues to be hit or miss. One week after playing his best game of the season against the Vikings, Peppers was nowhere to be found Monday night. The veteran defender ended the game with zero tackles and failed to set the edge a handful of times while attempting to stop the run. With the final three games all scheduled to be played outdoors in cold-weather cities on natural grass, it's fair to wonder if Peppers has anything left to contribute as the Bears make their final push toward the playoffs.