The Chicago Bears defeated the St. Louis Rams 23-6 today at Soldier Field in Chicago. The Bears (2-1) relied heavily on a strong effort from the defense as they applied constant pressure on Rams' quarterback Sam Bradford all day long. It was a slow-paced game, in part because of the shaky officiating by the replacement referees and both offenses playing sub-par for most of the game. Let's go over some key aspects of today's matchup and also take a look at the "hero" and "zero" of the game.
The Bears controlled the tempo of this game the entire afternoon. With star running back Matt Forte out with an ankle injury, Michael Bush took his place and had a pretty strong performance. He collected 73 yards from scrimmage and a rushing touchdown. Bush would have liked more yardage in the running game though, with only 55 rushing yards on 18 carries.
Jay Cutler did not look very sharp in this game. He was looking to bounce back after a very poor performance in Week 2 against the Green Bay Packers highlighted by four interceptions, and although his team got the win, his play was very inconsistent. He finished the game 17-for-31 with 183 yards passing with no touchdowns and one interception.
All of the talk about Cutler being a poor leader in the media is greatly exaggerated, but there is no denial that it seems Cutler lets his emotions affect his play on the field. He often looked upset with his offensive line and overall, the Bears' offense did not play well.
As previously mentioned, the Bears defense had a very strong showing. The defense finished with six sacks as defensive end Israel Idonije led the team with 2.5 sacks. Linebackers Lance Briggs and Brian Urlacher both looked great today, collecting seven and four tackles respectively. That's a great sign for the Bears as Urlacher seems to be steadily improving after missing all of training camp with a knee injury.
The Bears defense was the reason they won this game, and for that reason they will be collectively awarded as the "hero" of the game. Some other key contributors were cornerback Tim Jennings and safety Major Wright. With the game 13-6 in the second half, Bradford's pass was deflected by a diving Jennings and the ball bounced right into the chest of Wright. He ran it back 45 yards for the score. Jennings also had another pick today, giving him four interceptions on the year. Jennings has had an outstanding season to this point, and if he keeps up his high rate of interceptions, he very well may be heading to his first Pro Bowl season.
The Rams (1-2) could never get into an offensive rhythm during this game. Their offense was stagnant from start to finish. Their star running back Steven Jackson was hampered by a nagging groin injury, and although he suited up, he was unable to get anything going, rushing the ball 11 times for 29 yards.
Bradford could not get comfortable in the pocket looking for his receivers due to the impressive pressure from the Bears defense. Bradford finished the day 18-for-35 with 152 yards passing and two interceptions. it was a day to forget for Bradford and the Rams.
The "zero" of this game goes to Rams' wide receiver Brandon Gibson. The Rams could probably find a handful of "zeroes" after watching the film of this game, but Gibson stood out due to a huge drop. It was a huge opportunity to get some points and swing the momentum, as Bradford lobbed a deep ball towards Gibson. He ran a great route and beat the coverage, but he dropped the pass as he dove inside the Bears 10 yard line. Gibson added another dropped pass later, securing his status as the "zero" of the game. If Gibson makes that catch, the Rams day may have turned out much differently than it did.
Other notable players from this game were Rams' cornerback Cortland Finnegan and Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall. This battle between two Pro Bowl players was interesting to watch, as Finnegan did a great job containing Marshall and the other Bears wide receivers finishing the game with three tackles and an interception. Marshall ended the game with five receptions for 71 yards, which is not great production, but he made some timely catches and led the Bears in receiving.
This was a sloppy, slow-paced game, but it included some great defensive play from both sides. The Rams seem to be greatly improved from a year ago and new head coach Jeff Fisher looks to have the young team headed in the right direction. The Rams will get ready for a big NFC West battle as they host the Seattle Seahawks next Sunday. As for the Bears, they improve to 2-1 and will prepare for a tough road game next Monday night against the Dallas Cowboys.