Hub Arkush: Cutler looks better, earns B+
The Bears’ game Thursday against the Giants is the most difficult one to grade this season because of all kinds of extenuating circumstances.
It is really hard to play an NFL game on just three days’ rest, and expecting any player to be at his best is unreasonable.
There’s also the short preparation time for coaches and players alike. It’s hard to fully prepare for what your opponent does best and for the players to have time to study them and practice whatever unique wrinkles might fit.
There are also the losses of Henry Melton, Nate Collins, Stephen Paea and Charles Tillman to consider.
Weighing all of that and starting at quarterback, I thought Jay Cutler played very well. He took care of the football, targeted three guys for the first time and two more in total than he had in the first five games combined.
He still missed badly a few times for no apparent reason and looked bad on an intentional grounding early in the fourth quarter. But, all things considered, I believe he earned a B+.
The running backs get a C+. It’s actually a solid B for Matt Forte but a C- for Michael Bush. Forte got his 25 touches with 19 rushes and six receptions, and although he managed only 3.5 yards a pop on the ground, the blocking in front of him was not exceptional.
Something is off with Michael Bush. Against the Giants he had just 8 yards on six carries and he dropped a well-thrown ball from Cutler. Again, the blocking in front of him wasn’t great, but on the season he’s had 44 yards on 24 carries, a 1.8 average, and that just won’t cut it.
The receivers get a B-. Brandon Marshall was efficient with nine catches for 87 yards, two touchdowns on 11 targets, but Alshon Jeffery backslid to one catch for 27 yards on five targets, and Earl Bennett and Joe Anderson failed to make a catch.
Martellus Bennett gets an A- at tight end. He played with multiple injuries and caught six of the seven passes thrown to him for 68 yards. It was a gutsy night against a former team that didn’t invite him back after one season.
I have to give the offensive line a B -. They did a great job of keeping Cutler clean, but they were blocking the 32nd-rated pass rush in the NFL. And the run blocking was sketchy at best. Roberto Garza also had a costly third-quarter holding penalty.
The defensive line gets a D+ for no improvement at all. The only thing that keeps them from an F and puts the plus on the D is the fact they’re trying to battle through the loss of their top three tackles.
Julius Peppers failed to show up on the stats sheet for the third time this year. That must change.
The linebackers get a B- this week. Lance Briggs played well again, for the most part, but as high as I’ve been on these guys the past few weeks, they needed to do more to get in the way of Brandon Jacobs, who went off for 106 rushing yards.
The secondary gets a B. As huge as the Tim Jennings and Zack Bowman interceptions were, the overall pass coverage was just average and it was shown clearly several times again, but specifically on the Rueben Randle touchdown that Major Wright doesn’t understand deep help, and Chris Conte struggled with it again as well.
I can’t justify anything more than a C+ for special teams. Devin Hester really hasn’t been a factor in any game except against the Vikings and wasn’t against the Giants. The Bears also allowed a 46-yard kickoff return to Jerrel Jernigan. The plus on the C is because although Adam Podlesh’s net average was just 36.7 yards, all three of his punts were downed inside the 20-yard line.
• Hub Arkush covers the Bears for Shaw Media and HubArkush.com. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.