Skip to main content

Grading the Bears: Gritty Team Hauls Off Winning Marks

DeAndre Houston-Carson's interception lets the Bears escape with win and with some high grades

The Bears offense might want to consider taking up a collection for the closer, reserve safety DeAndre Houston-Carson.

Two straight weeks he's made a play for the defense at game's end, an interception Sunday in a 23-16 win over Carolina and a defensed pass on fourth down against Tampa Bay.

"Sometimes that ball just fall in the right places at the right time," safety Tashaun Gipson said, after the Bears had three turnovers and could have had one more if not for an official's falg.

Houston-Carson's interception put a positive spin on everything Sunday, although the task ahead of the Panthers looked daunting at the time with 1 1/2 minutes left and 80 yards to go for the tie. 

In the end even the Bears' severely challenged running game surfaced with several key David Montgomery runs as they turned a possible day of failure into positives.

Here are Week 6 grades for a 5-1 football team.

Running Game: D+

It could have been much worse. They came in with 13 yards at halftime and using Rashaad Coward at left guard instead of Alex Bars in place of injured James Daniels seemed to be a flop, considering this was the league's 31st-ranked run defense coming in and the Panthers had two key injuries on the defensive line. However, David Montgomery's last six runs went for 31 yards at a time when they needed the production on the ground and kept the ground attack from being a total failure for the third straight week.

Passing Game: B-

The inability to get the ball downfield still plagues the offense, as Foles threw for 5.1 yards per attempt. No team should win a game doing this. The good thing Foles did was disperse the ball to a lot of receivers, five with at least three catches, and he found a way to work both Cole Kmet and Montgomery into the passing game at crucial times. Carolina focused on keeping Allen Robinson from beating them and by and large accomplished this, but his one big catch for 23 yards on third-and-9 helped set up a two-score lead. No one caught a pass longer than 23 yards, and Demetrius Harris disappointed again with a key dropped pass. One key aspect of the passing game which will go largely unnoticed was without James Daniels and Rashaad Coward playing left guard for the first time in his life, the Bears held Carolina without a sack.

Read More

Run Defense: B +

Allowing 112 yards on the ground made it possible for the Panthers even to be in the game, but the defensive front shut down the ground attack in the second half by allowing only 34 yards then. Bilal Nichols and Roquan Smith played large roles shutting off Mike Davis' runs, but the biggest run stop had nothing to do with Davis or those two defenders. Cornerback Kyle Fuller made a one-on-one vicious tackle of Teddy Bridgewater trying to score on second-and-goal from the 3 and the Bears then forced an incompletion and made the Panthers accept a short field goal just before halftime.

Pass Defense: A+

They held Bridgewater to a passer rating of 50.4 while five different players shared in four sacks of Bridgewater, including one by Khalil Mack. The heat was constant and usually the rush was able to keep Bridgewater from getting outside the pocket to do his damage. Two interceptions was a season high and one was returned to the 7 by Tashaun Gipson. Jaylon Johnson was obviously picked on, first by Bridgewater and receivers D.J. Moore and Robby Anderson, and then by the officials with a total mystery pass interference call that all but gave the Panthers a critical TD. Eddie Jackson again had a pick-6 stolen way by the officials while Fuller had a mysterious unnecessary roughness penalty called in the red zone. If not for the officials and the gains they spotted the Panthers in the passing game, this might have been a totally one-sided game. The officials don't get a grade here, though.

Special Teams: A-

Cairo Santos may have won the kicking job for the rest of the season with his clutch 55-yard field goal before halftime, the third-longest kick in Bears history. The Panthers kept Cordarrelle Patterson from doing damage with returns but the Bears did the same to the Panthers. Pat O'Donnell and the punt coverage team did a number on the Panthers in field position, as their average drive starting point was the 18, 26 yards worse than the Bears.

Coaching: B

Chuck Pagano's game planning of Bridgewater showed real knowledge of what the Panthers could do and had to be from experience after they saw him shred their defense with New Orleans last year in a similar attack. They kept Bridgewater within the pocket and he rarely did real damage in the open field. Matt Nagy could easily have abandoned the run again after 13 yards in the first half but went back to it when it was necessary and the Bears made it work. Still, how the Bears could get a delay of game after a timeout to prevent a delay of game, and one of Nagy's worst play-call decisions of the year nearly put the win in jeopardy. The play call was when he passed on third down on the next-to-last Bears possession instead of letting David Montgomery run and force Carolina to use its final timeout. Nagy can join the Bears offense in offering up a big thank you to Houston-Carson for that interception which saved the day.

Overall: B+

If the offense ever finds ways to pick up more yards downfield in the passing game, this could be a dangerous team to face in the playoffs. Until then, they need to keep stacking wins, biding their time, and pray the offense comes around.

Twitter: BearDigest@BearsOnMaven