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Bears defense hits low point of season

Letting Seahawks march, score on back-to-back drive to end game caps sloppy performance

Dan Pompei

On the NFL

9:30 PM CST, December 3, 2012

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What stood out about the Bears' 23-17 overtime loss to the Seahawks on second view was how sloppy the defensive performance was.

The Seahawks' back-to-back drives to close the game were the defensive nadir of the season for the Bears.

The Bears gave up 177 yards in those drives. That is more than the Rams gained in four quarters of play against the Bears in September, and more than they have allowed in any back-to-back drives this season. They had allowed more than 100 yards in back-to-back drives only five times in previous games.

No one stepped up and made a play in 24 snaps on the drives. Safety Major Wright let a pass go through his hands that could have sealed the game.

But the breakdowns were going on all game. Six missed tackles contributed to 47 gift yards. Wright had two of the misses, including one of Golden Tate on Tate's 14-yard touchdown with 24 seconds left in regulation.

Wright could have brought Tate down at the 5. Kelvin Hayden could have tackled him at the 3. And Shea McClellin could have stopped the play at the 2.

Defensive ends Julius Peppers, Israel Idonije and Corey Wootton all lost containment at various times, giving the Seahawks more easy yards. Whether or not they were following their assignments or freelancing is unclear.

Here is what else we learned upon further review.

Grading key: Grades are between 0 and 10 with 0 being complete failure and 10 being perfect.

Defensive line

Grade: 4

The front four had a number of pressures in this game, but pressures weren't good enough.

Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell put together a fine game plan, and the linemen often were confused whether the Seahawks were passing or running, or who was running. In overtime, for instance, Julius Peppers read run and crashed down while quarterback Russell Wilson scampered 5 yards around right end for a first down.

Wilson dropped back 39 times and the Bears sacked him twice — once with help from a Hayden blitz that put Peppers one-on-one with guard James Carpenter and once on a Stephen Paea stunt.

Defensive tackle Henry Melton was easily the Bears' most effective pass rusher.

McClellin was used as a spy six times on the last two drives. That usually meant a three-man rush. The strategy did not work.

Linebackers

Grade: 5

Brian Urlacher may not move like he once did, but he was around the ball a lot and very active with a strip, a pass breakup and a hustle tackle running almost half the length of the field to prevent a Tate touchdown in the second quarter. He led the Bears in tackles.

Safeties

Grade: 2

This was not a very effective performance by Wright. He was slow to react on Marshawn Lynch's 4-yard touchdown run. His missed tackles and dropped interception were killers.

Chris Conte played only six plays and the Bears missed his speed and range.

Cornerbacks

Grade: 4

The primary corners did some good things, but that's not what stood out. They missed tackles.

Tillman's man coverage on Sidney Rice was awful on the game-winning touchdown. He gave Rice too much space at the line and appeared to be anticipating a vertical route. When Rice crossed the field, he created significant separation and Tillman failed to recover.

In the second quarter, Jennings contributed to another Seahawks touchdown when he went flying from a push-off from Tate. The result was a 49-yard pass play that set up Lynch's score.

Quarterback

Grade: 9

It's a shame the Bears wasted one of Jay Cutler's best games of the year. He avoided pressure deftly, as he did in the previous game against the Vikings, and he scrambled for three first downs. Cutler looked like a running back in the third quarter, avoiding safety Earl Thomas and then putting a spin move on safety Jeron Johnson.

Some of his throws were outstanding. Whether the situation called for a fastball or a floater, he delivered with just the right velocity or touch.

Earl Bennett's drop denied him of what should have been a 62-yard touchdown pass.

Wide receivers

Grade: 9

Brandon Marshall played his heart out and was the best player on the field, as he often has been. His determination and will to win nearly overcame all the incompetence around him.

His 56-yard reception at the end of regulation would have been an interception if it had been thrown to a lot of other receivers. Marshall came back for the ball and cut off cornerback Richard Sherman.

Even his offensive pass-interference penalty was a great play — it probably saved an interception.

His catching radius makes Cutler so much better.

Tight ends

Grade: 4

There were some nice blocking contributions from the tight ends Sunday, including Kellen Davis. Tight ends were no factor as receivers.

Running backs

Grade: 3.5

Evan Rodriguez threw some effective blocks, but he ran into the football when Cutler was trying to hand off to Forte in the fourth quarter. Cutler recovered, but the Bears took a loss of 12. That was a critical play.

Forte didn't have a lot of blocking help, but he did not run with much vision or burst. Michael Bush was considerably more effective, though he allowed middle linebacker Bobby Wagner to get his pads lower than his own on the fourth-and-1 stuff.

It was smart of the Bears to split Forte out, get a mismatch with the Wagner and throw to him in the red zone. He has been underutilized as a receiving threat all season.

Offensive line

Grade: 4.5

The line really needs two grades — one for pass blocking (7) and one for run blocking (2).

Cutler took a few hits, but the line did not give up a legitimate sack (they gave up an official sack on the Cutler fumble). Jonathan Scott struggled with Bruce Irvin's edge speed. So has every other tackle Irvin has played against.

J'Marcus Webb had some help, but he still had a couple of bad plays. His false start in the fourth quarter was inexcusable. He is lucky he did not get called for holding Chris Clemons in the end zone — which would have been a safety.

In his first start at left guard, Edwin Williams played poorly, blowing blocks on the fourth-and-1 play in the second quarter and the preceding third-and-2 run.

Gabe Carimi was considerably better at right guard.

Special teams

Grade: 6

The primary objective of the special teams in this game had to be containing dynamic Seahawks return man Leon Washington, and the Bears did that very well with four touchbacks by Robbie Gould, effective punting by Adam Podlesh and solid coverage.

dompei@tribune.com

Twitter @danpompei