Grades for Bears’ ‘Vital 6’ leave team in a flunk
By Rick Telander firstname.lastname@example.org December 4, 2011 10:46PM
Offensive coordinator Mike Martz seemingly had no options for quarterback Caleb Hanie other than seven-step drops. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times
Updated: January 6, 2012 8:18AM
Two weeks ago when Bears starting quarterback Jay Cutler broke his right thumb — a Bennet’s fracture and displacement requiring surgery — I said six people needed to step up for the Bears to keep winning.
They were, in order: Jerry Angelo, Lovie Smith, Mike Martz, Matt Forte, Brian Urlacher and Devin Hester.
I didn’t mention fill-in quarterback Caleb Hanie because he is what he is: a 2008 undrafted free agent who went undrafted for a reason. Actually, many.
So how did our six do in Sunday’s nausea-inducing 10-3 loss to the lowly Kansas City Chiefs?
1. Angelo: Grade, F
The Bears’ general manager could have — should have — had a decent backup quarterback in the house since last training camp. He should have at least found one after Cutler went out. And, no, Josh McCown is not that person.
Angelo could have picked up the overpriced and fading Donovan McNabb even this week. McNabb sucks, you say? More than Hanie?
So what price, victory? The Bears just lost two winnable games, by a combined 12 points, because the GM left them unprepared and without help at the most important position there is.
(Just to point out how badly Hanie played, consider his 11 completions in 24 attempts for 133 yards and three interceptions left him with a 23.8 quarterback rating, lower even than Chiefs sub Kyle Orton, who was in for one play, threw an incompletion and broke his finger in the process.)
2. Smith: F
The Bears’ coach stood motionless and voiceless on the sideline, which is the norm. But he also made a mess when he called two timeouts in 14 seconds before the two-minute warning in the second quarter, essentially giving the Chiefs enough time to throw the game-winning Hail Mary touchdown pass as the half ended.
“We were thinking about getting the football for us to have a drive before half,’’ Lovie said. Oops.
Also, isn’t it the coach’s job to stop the bleeding somehow, to fire up the troops even when they’re half-conscious? Shouldn’t Smith have tried to stop the offensive ineptitude, tell the defense what to do on the Chiefs’ all-important, last-second Hail Mary pass? Maybe just call a timeout? Oh, that’s right. He didn’t have any left.
3. Martz: F
The offensive coordinator apparently only knows how to call plays for genius quarterbacks. If there was any way to make Hanie look worse than his limited abilities might show, leave it to Martz.
Hanie ran one time for three yards and was obliterated on seven sacks. Even in the fourth quarter, as he was being sacked four times, Hanie was taking seven-step drops. Did Martz ever tell Hanie it is not against the law to roll out or scramble to his left?
4. Forte: Incomplete, course dropped, major changed
The Bears’ star running back carried five times for a paltry 12 yards before being hit on the right knee in the first quarter by Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson. That was it for Forte, who, uh-o, had lots of chances to sign a long-term deal with the Bears before the injury.
Maybe Martz was going to run Forte to death in this game. Forte’s number was, indeed, called five times in the Bears’ first eight plays. But, again, there didn’t seem to be a backup plan other than “Hanie Time.’’ And Forte died a little death, anyway.
5. Urlacher: D-
The veteran middle linebacker needed to step up his playing and leadership to a higher caliber after Cutler went down. He needed to make great plays and create turnovers and make the whole defense play better.
He had but two tackles in this game, and he jumped up and — with the help of safety Chris Conte — knocked the 38-yard Hail Mary pass from Chiefs quarterback Tyler Palko directly to little Chiefs running back Dexter McCluster for the game-breaking touchdown.
“We didn’t have any takeaways,’’ said Urlacher. “You don’t get takeaways, you don’t win the game.’’
6. Hester: C-
The Bears’ game-breaking, record-setting punt and kick returner needed to ratchet up his return game to hyper speed to compensate for Cutler’s absence.
He did have one punt return for 44 yards, but he had two more for minus-5 yards. He did make Chiefs kicker Ryan Succop boot one kickoff out of bounds, and he made punter Dustin Colquitt punt one out of bounds. But he failed to fair catch three punts, and he returned his one kickoff 23 yards, the same as Chiefs returner McCluster.
Add it all up, and it’s failure.
Like the game.