On the NFL
9:21 PM CDT, September 24, 2012
The Bears didn't need Jay Cutler to be on his game to win Sunday, and it's a good thing.
Cutler usually is a pretty accurate passer, but his throws frequently were not where they should have been against the Rams. He completed 54.8 percent of his passes, but that doesn't tell the whole story. Breaking down each of Cutler's throws on tape does.
Of his 33 passes, including two that didn't count because of penalties, 14 of them were inaccurate. Three of them still were completed, however.
Brandon Marshall had all three of the receptions of inaccurate passes. Seven of Cutler's 11 throws to Marshall were not accurate.
Five of Cutler's inaccurate passes were high. Three were low. Two were in front of receivers, one was behind and one was short. One was affected by Cutler being hit as he threw, and another appeared to be the result of a miscommunication between Cutler and Devin Hester.
Six of his passes were either screens or dumps, and three of those were even off target.
One of Cutler's inaccurate passes was intercepted, and another, to tight end Kellen Davis, should have been. He missed out on a should-have-been touchdown to Hester with a high throw in the end zone. His longest completion of the day, a 34-yarder to Marshall, was underthrown.
Here is what else a review of the tape showed.
Grading key: Grades are between 0 and 10 with 0 being complete failure and 10 being perfect.
The best thing Cutler did is he didn't lose the game. He didn't make stupid throws or panic under pressure. But he certainly didn't win the game, either.
His most impressive play might have been his 21-yard run that set up a field goal. His next most impressive play might have been his tackle of Cortland Finnegan after an interception.
Bears receivers are better than this. Both Marshall and Alshon Jeffery allowed defenders to break up passes they are capable of catching. Jeffery, who normally is as sure-handed as any receiver, also bobbled another pass before hauling it in.
The pass to Hester in the end zone was too high, but Hester should have found a way to catch it after running an outstanding route and freeing himself from Finnegan.
The numbers aren't pretty, but Michael Bush gave the Bears an edge early, as 60 percent of his 55 rushing yards came in the first quarter.
He got the tough yards, including converting a third-and-1, and a fourth-and-1 (he lowered his shoulder and trucked over a fine middle linebacker in James Laurinaitis), and scoring from the 3. In the second quarter, he got eight extra yards on an 11-yard rush after running through Laurinaitis' tackle attempt.
This group continued to have a minimal impact in terms of pass catching, but the tight ends did make some blocking contributions.
Matt Spaeth in particular had a nice game as a blocker. After playing only 11 snaps against the Packers, Spaeth started and played 31 snaps Sunday as the Bears used a number of two-tight-end sets.
Spaeth came across the formation for wham blocks effectively, picking off defensive end Chris Long on a 12-yard Bush run and blocking linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar on an 8-yard end around by Hester.
Here is the good news: There were only two sacks allowed against a pretty good defensive front, and neither appeared to be the fault of offensive linemen.
On one, Bush couldn't handle Long one-on-one (no kidding). On another, Cutler could have avoided the sack if he had moved left. Instead he stepped up right into the rush of Long.
J'Marcus Webb was penalized for holding Robert Quinn, but it wasn't a terrible penalty considering Webb had been beaten on an inside move and Quinn might have splattered Cutler if Webb didn't get his arm around his neck.
The penalty was one of four by offensive linemen. Three were false starts, which is inexcusable at home.
Overall the run blocking wasn't consistent enough.
The Bears defensive line should have dominated against the overmatched Rams offensive line, and it did.
Julius Peppers had only a half-sack out of six for the Bears, but he was the best player on the field. He got consistent pressure and was almost always playing across the line of scrimmage. He played the run very well, including tackling Steven Jackson for a loss of 1 on third-and-2 in the fourth quarter.
Also turning in strong performances were Israel Idonije, Stephen Paea and Amobi Okoye. Paea and Okoye both combined excellent first-step quickness with powerful hand use to free themselves in both the run and the pass game.
Brian Urlacher has shown incremental improvement in each game. He's still not as quick or explosive as he probably will be, but it appears to be coming. And in the meantime, he's being productive, especially against the run.
Lance Briggs had an excellent game. He was reading well and hitting the hole hard. He even got his hands on a couple of passes.
In addition to making the play of the game on a pick-six, Major Wright tackled well. He came up and took down running back Daryl Richardson in the open field. Wright hasn't always made the tackle in similar situations in the past.
The safeties helped take away the downfield throws. The Rams had only one pass of more than 15 yards all game.
If Tim Jennings didn't come up with his late interception, Chris Conte might have.
Jennings seemed to know what was coming on every pass, and he played most of them about as well as possible. He created Wright's interception by tipping the ball, he picked off one of his own and he broke up another pass on fourth down.
D.J. Moore also played strong, contributing with excellent tackling and even putting the pressure on Sam Bradford on a blitz.
This was a solid performance from the special teams. Devin Hester is returning the ball well. He was close to breaking a couple Sunday.
Robbie Gould hit a 54-yard field goal and Adam Podlesh punted admirably.
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