Kahlil Bell averaged 4.8 yards per carry in the first half, and Josh McCown gained 29 yards on a pair of scrambles. The Bears played a balanced opening half, running 10 times and passing on 10 occasions. But the Bears only called four runs and eight passes in the third quarter, which had been an all-too-familiar theme with coordinator Mike Martz. But they eventually evened it up with 25 runs and 25 passes.
J'Marcus Webb deserves some of the credit for this grade -- which should have been better -- after allowing Jared Allen to dominate him all game for 3.5 sacks. By the start of the fourth quarter, McCown had been sacked six times, and was dropped seven times for the game. But the QB maintained his poise. Earl Bennett and Roy Williams produced when called upon, and Devin Hester made his first catch since Dec. 4.
The Bears gave up runs for gains of 24 and 13 yards, but the defense stuffed the Vikings most of the day, holding them to a 2.9-yard average on 27 runs. Brian Urlacher led the way with 10 tackles, and Major Wright contributed nine more. Toby Gerhart averaged 4.5 yards per attempt, with most of his carries (11 of 15) coming in the first half, but wasn't a factor because Minnesota was forced to throw the ball.
Joe Webb started the game off hitting on seven of his first 10 passes for 93 yards, and the defense struggled early to contain Percy Harvin (10 catches for 115 yards) and Devin Aromoashodu. A 22-yard interception return for a touchdown by Charles Tillman improves this grade, in addition to the INTs by Tim Jennings and D.J. Moore. Jennings' pick is significant considering his past struggles to catch the ball.
Minnesota's average drive start was the 22-yard line, which means the kickoff coverage unit didn't sufficiently do its job. The Vikings averaged 29 yards on the two kickoffs they returned while Devin Hester and Armando Allen combined to average just 13 yards on three returns. Chicago's grade here is a little higher because of the impact Julius Peppers made in blocking a Ryan Longwell field-goal attempt in the first half.
It can be difficult to get a disappointed team motivated to play in a game that means basically nothing to close the season. But that's exactly what Chicago's staff did as the team played with plenty of passion. Despite all that's gone wrong this season, the staff has been able to consistently get the team to play with maximum effort. After taking a two-game hiatus, the defense finally played like the stingy unit Bears fans have grown accustomed to seeing.
EXPERTS' PREDICTIONS FOR WEEK 17
- J.D. (8-7)
- Jon (8-7)
- Isaacson (9-6)
- Silvy (11-4)
- Spain (11-4)
- Harry (10-5)
- Wilbon (10-5)
- Woj (10-5)
- Wright (9-6)