Streaking and Slumping: Week 14
December, 13, 2011
By Michael C. Wright | ESPNChicago.com
Getty ImagesFilling in for injured starters, Craig Steltz and Marion Barber had impact games with different results.
1. Robbie Gould, K: Gould connected on a career-best, and franchise-record 57-yard field goal against the Denver Broncos and the kick appeared to have plenty of room to spare. If Gould hits his next nine field-goal attempts he will surpass San Diego's Nate Kaeding (173 of 200) as the most accurate field goal in NFL history. It's a goal Gould should accomplish considering Kaeding is on the injured reserve.
2. Henry Melton, DT: Melton recorded a sack against the Broncos and now has four sacks in his past five games. Melton's seven sacks are already a career high for the third-year veteran, and he now leads the NFL in sacks by a defensive tackle. Coming into the season, the team had lofty goals for Melton, and the defensive tackle continues to justify the staff's confidence in him.
3. Craig Steltz, S: Starting in just his fourth career game, Steltz put together one of his strongest performances with five tackles, a sack and a forced fumble. Steltz sacked Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow in the fourth quarter and stripped the ball loose with Israel Idonije recovering. The play initially looked as if it would preserve a Chicago victory, but it didn't. Either way, Steltz provides strong depth at a position that sorely needed it coming into the season.
1. Marion Barber, RB: Barber ran for a game-high 108 yards, and showed he was capable of getting out on the edge and making defenders miss, despite his full-steam-ahead reputation. Barber falls into this category because of the two mistakes he made down the stretch that played a direct role in the Bears losing at Denver. Given Barber's experience as a seven-year veteran, it's inexcusable that he ran out of bounds in the fourth quarter with the team trying to run down the clock. His fumble in overtime made things even worse.
2. Earl Bennett, WR: Bennett recently signed a four-year extension, but the four-year veteran has made just two catches over the past three games. So maybe it's time to bring out the orange shoes for luck. Seriously though, Bennett can't contribute if he's not given the opportunity. Bears quarterback Caleb Hanie targeted Bennett just once against the Broncos. Considering Bennett is probably the team's most dangerous weapon on offense, the team should be looking to get the ball into his hands more.
3. Chris Conte, S: A rookie, Conte started his sixth consecutive game against the Broncos, and going into that contest, he and Major Wright had been a strong combination. In the six games Conte started opposite Wright, the Bears gave up four touchdown passes. But the defense also generated eight interceptions. Playing without Wright at Denver, Conte contributed two tackles, but made a mistake in coverage that led to a Broncos' touchdown in the fourth quarter.