Bears Report Card: Strong Finish Fails to Entirely Offset First-Half Concerns

The Bears started slowly and it was enough to create worries heading into what could be a must-win game against Green Bay on Sunday.
Author:
Updated:
Original:

The Bears speak about attaining the playoffs with optimism, and before Sunday it looked like they might actually have a reasonable shot at it.

"You know, we've been in the playoffs for three weeks now," tight end Jimmy Graham said. "That's been our mentality, is a playoff mentality."

It's been like the playoffs in the sense they couldn't afford to lose.

As coach Matt Nagy said, they had to win four to get in and to get from two to four, they had to have three. They got it.

No. 4 will be much more difficult because while the Bears have had a playoff mentality for the past three weeks, they haven't been playing playoff teams.

Next week they will.

High grades won't be as easy to attain against the Green Bay Packers, as the Bears already know.

Here are the grades from Sunday's 41-17 walkover against the team which will have Trevor Lawrence at quarterback next year.

Running Game: B

It wasn't as easy to spring David Montgomery with Jacksonville cheating into the run lanes based on the look the Bears had shown in recent games. They had only 39 rushing yards in the first half. Halftime adjustments and a lead let them take it to Jacksonville on the ground in the second half and Montgomery came up 5 yards short of the 100 mark. Rushing TDs by Montgomery, Artavis Pierce and by Trubisky on a scamper around the edge all were useful in the second half for padding the lead.

Passing Game: B

Trubisky and wide receivers had trouble hooking up downfield for bigger gains. None of the wide receivers had longer than a 21-yard catch. Darnell Mooney averaged only 9.8 yards a catch with his speed. Fortunately for the Bears, David Montgomery had a 24-yard catch-and-run play, and Allen Robinson made enough shorter catches to extend drives. Jimmy Graham's 30-yard catch and his two TDs made up for some of the problems getting it downfield. Trubisky's inability to avoid the big red-zone mistake normally would be devastating but the caliber of the opponent made it simply a speed bump.

Run Defense: B-

They weren't as effective stopping the run as they were making it unimportant. The Jaguars only could run 16 times as they fell behind by too much, too soon. But they gave up 4.8 yards a carry to backup running backs with a bad team.

Pass Defense: B+

Two interceptions were a refreshing change from recent games, but then again you have to consider the source. They should pick off Mike Glennon twice, at the very least. Roquan Smith showed why he shouldn't just be a Pro Bowl linebacker but also All-Pro, by picking off two passes and recovering a fumble. Danny Trevathan enjoyed one of his more active games in pass defense, with a tip that Smith picked off and another pass defensed. The one thing the Bears didn't do well was rush Glennon. He was a sitting target and the only sack came by Trevathan on a blitz, and they had only three quarterback hits.

Special Teams: B+

Add another two field goals to Cairo Santos' streak and now he's at 24 straight after 20-yard and 40-yard kicks. Cordarrelle Patterson was obviously slowed on kick returns by his knee injury. The Bear won the field-position battle, starting at their own 35 on average with Jacksonville starting at its 27. They did a poor job of defending a fake punt that was obviously coming, but benefited from a Jaguars penalty on the play.

Coaching: B

Throw away the tight end run from the 1-yard line. Tear that page out of the playbook and don't speak of it again. The Bears had first-and-goal at the 1 and kicked a field goal, partly because they insisted on running that play. They could run three straight quarterback sneaks and get a yard. Matt Nagy and Bill Lazor made necessary halftime adjustments to aid the running game in the second half and to get Trubisky more open space to throw. They fared better taking advantage of Robinson on slants and on all pass plays over the middle and underneath in the second half. Chuck Pagano has to stay aggressive on defense, like he was against Minnesota. They played too vanilla against Jacksonville. Apparently their expensive edge rushers can't get to the quarterback themselves these days and neither can Akiem Hicks.

Overall: B+

If they had played in the first half the same way they played in the second half, there would be plenty more confidence they could actually beat Green Bay next week. As it stands, they've left plenty for the Packers to pick at in a game both teams will need to win.

Twitter: BearDigest@BearsOnMaven