The Bears sneak a win and move to 9-3, a game clear at the top of the NFC North, but the manner in which they got their win over a Drew Stanton-led Lions team won’t help silence the detractors.
Anyone looking to question the credentials of the Bears’ ability to contend need only look to the capitulation just before the half, when they surrendered a touchdown to Detroit on a pair of plays with almost the entire field to span and around a minute in which to do it.
But credit the win, and they were able to keep Detroit’s better players away from killing them for the majority of the game.
Bears: Three performances of note
Jay Cutler had a solid and efficient game, but the player who was killing the Lions was Earl Bennett (+3.2). Cutler and Bennett brought back memories of their Vanderbilt days and kept destroying the Lions on lightning-fast, one-step, quick slants from the slot. Detroit couldn’t figure out how to cover it and the Bears kept picking away and moving the chains. Any time the Lions blitzed a linebacker or DB on that side, the Bears hit the quick slant and picked up 10.
We’ve been accused of ignoring the season Brian Urlacher (+5.4) is having, but another excellent game will go a long way to forcing him into Pro Bowl contention. Urlacher may end up being a casualty of numbers in the NFC in our final ballot, with several other ILBs having great years, but he was dominant in this game, rushing the passer well and making frequent stops around the line of scrimmage.
Pass protection is still a major issue for Chicago, with both Frank Omiyale (-2.7) and J‘Marcus Webb (-2.7) struggling badly in (both players graded positively against the run). They combined to give up 10 total pressures on Cutler during this game, including a pair of sacks, and it’s an awfully big ask to expect a quarterback to play well in spite of that kind of protection long-term. If the Bears have serious aspirations of challenging this season they need to figure out a way to reliably protect Cutler, especially around the edge.
Lions: Three performances of note
Cliff Avril (+7.6) had a monster game, racking up three sacks and five further pressures on the day from just 27 attempts rushing the passer. Avril was able to put pressure on the passer once every 3.38 rushes and was a constant thorn in the side of the Bears. Often the forgotten man in the Detroit front, Avril has impressive pass-rushing skills and a tendency to get hot in games when he is in the mood.
Ndamukong Suh (-1.3) won’t win anybody over with his performance in this game. Anyone that wants to see what we mean when we talk about his struggles against the run and against unorthodox blocking schemes needs only to watch the first couple of drives in this game. On the very first play he was hit with a trap block to open up a running lane, and the Bears frequently confused and distracted him with blockers other than the man lined up directly in front of him. It seems the Bears more than anyone else have figured out how to play against Suh, and while he has definitely been improving over the past few weeks, this game highlights what he still has to learn. To his credit, he did show up with a batted pass at the line of scrimmage, showing good awareness even on a bad day.
Tight end Brandon Pettigrew (-5.6) had a day to forget. Pettigrew managed to stink it up across the board, struggling in his blocking, dropping passes, and being flagged for penalties. It’s interesting that a guy billed as one of the most complete tight end prospects in years at the time of his drafting has managed to struggle more or less in all areas.
Major Wright (+0.5) continued to see a bigger portion of the game, recording 31 snaps on D for Chicago.
For Detroit, Jahvid Best (+1.0) only played 16 snaps, but actually looked as good as he has for some time, and probably deserved more. … Amari Spievey (+0.2) again started at safety and played almost all of the defensive snaps. He didn’t distinguish himself either positively or negatively.
Announcer Tim Ryan referred to Suh as “the best defensive tackle in pro football. Rookie or ten-year veteran, it doesn’t matter.” Now, come on. Rookie of the Year talk is one thing, but that’s just silly.