Week 12 Rewind: Bears’ Defense Ascending, Offense Regressing

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Stephen Paea sacks Josh McCown and knocks the ball loose. (Jose M. Osorio, Chicago Tribune)

It’s a short week, so let’s dive right into the grades and observations from the Bears’ 21-13 win over the Buccaneers:

Five Highest Grades

DT Stephen Paea (Grade: 12.0) — You didn’t need to watch the film to know that Paea had a great day Sunday, but if you did, you know he played even better than it looked live. Paea was consistently violent at the point of attack, using his hands and leverage to blow by the interior of the Buccaneers’ offensive line, namely center Evan Dietrich-Smith. I’ve maintained throughout his four-year career that Paea has been a good player when healthy, but staying healthy has been the problem. This has been the healthiest season he’s had, so it’s no surprise he is playing well. Now, do the Bears pay him?

DT Jeremiah Ratliff (7.0) — Speaking of good defensive tackles, Ratliff was dominant Sunday as well, and he’s having just as good of a season as Paea. In fact, both of them are tied for the best overall grade on the defense this season (3.00). Ratliff and Paea worked well together against the Buccaneers as defensive coordinator Mel Tucker ran more line stunts than usual. Both showed off their versatility as it was Ratliff (the 3-technique) who excelled as clogging gaps and Paea (the nose tackle) who penetrated the line and got to the quarterback.

RB Matt Forte (6.0) — Just another workman-like week for Forte who ran for 89 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries while also leading the team with five receptions. His 3.9 yards/carry Sunday was actually kind of low, but he didn’t always get adequate blocking and if you watch the tape, you’ll see that he constantly slipped tackles to get extra yardage.

S Chris Conte (5.0) — Conte has quietly stayed healthier in recent weeks and he put together his best game of the season Sunday. The concentration he showed on his interception was tremendous, batting a high-pass to himself as he was falling to the ground. No one has ever questioned Conte’s athleticism and it was on display there. The safety also proved to be a reliable open field tackler Sunday and he was the one who chased Louis Murphy down late in the first half, saving a touchdown and even drawing an offensive facemask penalty.

DE Cornelius Washington (5.0) —  Drafted in the sixth round in 2013 based solely on potential, Washington is starting to show some growth both as a pass rusher and a reliable run defender. I thought he quietly played well in the disaster in Green Bay, which is why I thought it was odd he received zero defensive snaps the following week against the Vikings. Instead, the Bears activated David Bass and gave him five snaps. Sunday against the Buccaneers, Bass received 15 defensive snaps to Washington’s eight, and actually, both players took advantage of them. But Washington was especially noticeable, logging a sack and two tackles for loss. That’s good efficiency for just eight snaps. One play that stood out was when he took the fullback head-on, bounced right off him and stopped running back Doug Martin in the backfield.

Five Lowest Grades

QB Jay Cutler (-3.0) — Perhaps the most frustrating part of trying to “fix” Jay Cutler is that his problems aren’t very consistent. Sunday, it seemed like he was throwing a heavy ball, with the nose often angling down, causing his passes to dive. I didn’t think Cutler played horrible Sunday (he had zero interceptions) but he wasn’t very accurate and there weren’t any spectacular throws. The biggest  passing play of the game was the 26-yard completion to Martellus Bennett, and even that throw was a little high. Bennett did well to go up and get it. The game-plan was conservative, but Cutler needs to be more accurate on the shorter throws. Drops by Forte and Marquess Wilson were aided by the low, heavy throws.

LG Brian de la Puente (-3.0) — It’s asking a lot of de la Puente to fill in for Matt Slauson, and frankly, de la Puente looked more comfortable at center. He’s certainly not the first guard to get beat by Gerald McCoy, but McCoy made it look too easy, simply swatting de la Puente to the side before sacking Cutler and knocking the ball loose for a takeaway.

WR Brandon Marshall (-2.0) — Marshall only had three catches for 32 yards, but it’s the penalties that landed him on this list. Wide receiver false starts? Unacceptable. And the blocks in the back were a result of poor technique early in the down, losing leverage on the target.

WR Marquess Wilson (-2.0) — Wilson had more drops (2) than he did catches (1) Sunday. I see some of the potential the Bears’ have been raving about, but it needs to be backed up by at least some Earl Bennett-like production.

LT Jermon Bushrod (-2.0) — Bushrod is probably not 100 percent after injuring his right ankle/knee earlier this season, but he’s struggling a little bit right now. The Bears need their left tackle to be the rock of the offensive line and in two of the last three games, he hasn’t been that guy.

Other Observations

– The Bears still need to see more consistency and play-making ability from linebacker Jon Bostic who made a few nice plays, but also missed out on two interceptions and had a brutal missed tackle on Louis Murphy’s 54-yard catch-and-run.

– The referees missed a blatant hold on Buccaneers center Evan Dietrich-Smith on the 3rd & 23 the Bucs converted with a minute left in the first half. Willie Young had a good inside rush off a stunt and Dietrich-Smith just stuck out his right arm and held him back, allowing Josh McCown to get the pass off. According to the Buccaneers media relations staff, that conversation was the Bucs’ first third down conversion of more than 20 yards in 17 years.

– Walt Coleman’s crew definitely should have stopped the clock before the two-minute warning after the Bears stuffed Josh McCown’s quarterback sneak on 4th-and-1. The play was dead and in that situation, either a measurement or change of possession stops the clock. Instead, the clock ran down to the two minute warning, which cost the Bucs a timeout. Lovie Smith then lost another timeout by erroneously challenging the spot.

– It’s one thing for Martellus Bennett to give a halftime speech, but it’s another to come out of the locker room and back up the speech with a big play. His 26-yard catch-and-run sparked the Bears’ first touchdown and he made a nice play to go up and get a high throw.

– What might be most startling for the Bears right now is that Sunday’s game against the Buccaneers was probably their worst offensive game of the season. Considering the opponent — the Bucs’ came into the game ranked 27th in total defense — 204 yards of offense just isn’t good enough. I guess they deserve some credit for bouncing back in the third quarter with three touchdowns, but do scoring drives of 58-, 13- and 15-yards make you think the offensive arrow is pointing up? It’s now Week 13 and this unit might actually be regressing.

– Here’s how to throw the ball into quintuple coverage:

https://vine.co/v/O1rJYbuthqx/embed/simple?related=0

Adam Hoge covers the Bears for 87.7 The Game and TheGameChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter at @AdamHoge.

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