Week 9 Report Card: Smashing success
Week 9 Report Card: Chicago Bears 51, Tennessee Titans 20
Matt Forte scored a touchdown and put together just his second 100-yard rushing performance of the season. Forte averaged 8.6 yards per attempt, and the offensive line dominated as the team finished with 160 yards total. Interestingly, Chicago's offensive line seems better suited to run block than pass protect. Yet every time the Bears have success running the ball, the coaching staff decides to get cute with passing plays. From this vantage point, Forte and the rushing attack are the keys to success for this offense. The Bears need to lean on the ground game much more.
Jay Cutler's 138.1 passer rating is somewhat deceiving, as are his three touchdown passes to Brandon Marshall, who finished with nine grabs for 122 yards. As usual, the offense started slow and, despite the dominating victory, the passing game remains a bit of a concern moving forward. The Bears built a 26-point lead in the first quarter, which allowed them to remain two-dimensional. But how well will the Bears be able to throw when the opponent knows they're going to pass it? So far in those situations, the Bears haven't performed. Pass protection also remains a concern.
Chris Johnson busted an 80-yard run late in the game. So the Bears definitely drop one letter grade for the lapse. If you subtract that run, the Titans would have finished with just 79 yards. The Bears hadn't allowed a 100-yard rushing performance in 18 games (Oct. 10, 2011 at Detroit). So even though the Bears thoroughly dominated the Titans, allowing Johnson to hit the century mark should be frustrating for the club on some level.
Matt Hasselbeck threw the ball 35 times, but finished with fewer than 200 yards through the air. Brian Urlacher delivered a 46-yard interception return for a touchdown, and the pass rush managed to sack Hasselbeck twice. The Bears also forced fumbles in the passing game. Tim Jennings gave up a touchdown against Nate Washington, but actually covered the play well. The Bears allowed just one completion for more than 19 yards all day, which is impressive considering the Titans played most of the game in comeback mode.
Sherrick McManis blocked a punt that Corey Wootton scooped up and returned for a touchdown, and Devin Hester broke a 44-yard punt return that set up Forte's touchdown. Adam Podlesh finished with a 38.3-yard net average, and landed only one of his three punts inside the 20. Robbie Gould connected on all three of his field goal attempts, and the kickoff team limited Darius Reynaud to a 20.7-yard average on returns.
It's telling that the Tennessee coaching staff warned the Titans all week about Chicago's penchant for forcing turnovers, yet the Bears still found a way to feast off of them in a road game. That speaks to solid coaching, and the fact the staff has built a culture within that locker room in which turnovers and scoring on defense are paramount to overall team success. Offensively, there's still plenty of work to do in terms of play calling and pass protection up front. The Bears are too reliant on Marshall in the passing game, and need to find ways to successfully deploy and utilize other options.