Week 8 Report Card: A late push
Week 8 Report Card: Chicago Bears 23, Carolina Panthers 22
The Bears established the run early on, and averaged 6.4 yards per attempt in the first half. But in the second half, the club strayed from the rushing attack despite trailing by just six points at intermission. Matt Forte and Michael Bush combined to run for 64 yards and a touchdown on 10 attempts through the first two quarters, but received handoffs in the second half a total of eight more times. What's baffling is the Bears continue to try to run play action before actually running the ball sufficiently to set it up.
Jay Cutler admitted to making errant throws, while acknowledging he might have been at fault for some of the six sacks. Brandon Marshall admitted to dropping catchable passes, but he wasn't the only player out there bobbling balls. The Bears couldn't convert a third down until there was 9:27 left in the game and finished with a 25 percent conversion rate (2 of 8). The pass protection improved in the second half, after giving up six sacks. But 11 sacks in seven days is alarming.
Carolina's offense displayed more commitment to the ground attack than the Bears, but the Panthers were largely ineffective. Running the ball 36 times, the Panthers averaged just 3.3 yards per attempt with Jennings (eight tackles) also playing a role in run defense, along with Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs and Charles Tillman, who each contributed seven tackles. Because of Carolina's inability to gain first downs by running the ball, it was unable to hold onto the late lead. Obviously, Chicago's front seven had a lot to do with that.
The Bears never worry about the yardage they surrender, as long as they're keeping points off the board. But it's definitely a tad concerning to see the Panthers complete three passes for gains of 25 yards or more, including one 47-yard completion and another from 62 yards out. Steve Smith gained 118 yards, but didn't score. Despite the yardage given up, the Bears deserve credit for taking away the ball and scoring on Tim Jennings' 25-yard interception return. Jennings finished with two INTs, and the Bears sacked Cam Newton twice, which isn't an easy feat.
Despite Robbie Gould missing a 33-yarder in stiff wind, the Bears still receive an "A" because the veteran atoned for the miss with the game-winning 41-yard field goal as time expired. Adam Podlesh finished with a 44.8-yard net punting average in addition to knocking three balls inside the 20 in difficult elements. To put it in perspective, his counterpart Brad Nortman finished with a 22-yard net average, with his longest punt travelling 36 yards. Devin Hester tried to be more aggressive in the return game, but averaged just 5.5 yards on punt returns.
Offensively the Bears continue to start slow in part because they haven't fully committed to running the ball. Cutler suffering a sack on the team's first play from scrimmage is starting to seem like a common occurrence. But at the same time, it's not easy for a team to play a tough opponent on Monday night, then come back and face another team in six days. So the staff deserves credit for having the team ready to go. The defensive staff continues to put its group in the position to make plays. Sure the defense gave up yards, but it made timely stops and forced its usual turnovers.