You'll hear lots of times that football games are a tale of two halves. I'd say that would be the case for this game, but the Bengals started the 3rd quarter with a dominant, shit-on-your-hopes touchdown drive as well. So, really it's the tale of a Bears offense that actually made one those mythical "half-time adjustments" and
dominated a very good defense for about a quarter and a half. The defense was somehow equally brilliant and terrible, the offense looked as vanilla as anything Mike Tice ever did before exploding for 225 yds and 14 points in the second half, and the Bengals did everything they could to fuck up a game they could have had well in hand early on. It all adds up to a 24-21 victory, an undefeated Head Coaching record for Marc Trestman, and a lot of stuff to talk about before week two.
Onto the breakdown:
PASS BLOCKING: Oh lord did I feign confidence all week. "This is a new line!", said I. "They will hold up!" I swore. Inside, though? Oh so much pants-shitting. A team that got 52 sacks last year and added James Harrison? That's terrifying for anybody. So imagine my shock to sit here and look at a stat sheet that shows zero sacks allowed, and (by my amateur estimate) just one QB hit. Astonishing. The run-blocking certainly wasn't stellar, but the Bengals are very stout up front in that department. Those days will come, for now they can win a lot of games if they keep Jay clean. Kyle Long and Matt Slauson were particularly impressive, because Geno Atkins did Nothing today. Let's hope this holds up next week against a still very good Vikings D-Line.
Brandon Marshall: I don't care if Jay targets him 80 times. If he catches 80% of them and averages 13 yards doing so, it'll work out fine. Marshall had 8 catches for 104 yds and a TD, and I'm thinking his hip is fine.
Martellus Bennett, Pass-Catching TE: His blocking left a bit to be desired considering his reputation, but Bennett had exactly the kind of game he needs to have to keep pressure off of Marshall in the passing game. He caught 3 balls for 49 yds (although he did have a bad drop on the first play of the game) and one utterly amazing TD grab. His 3rd down reception in the 4th quarter iced the game. I like when I don't hate the starting Tight End's face.
Stephen Paea: the only member of the defensive line who showed up for most of the game, Paea led the effort to hold the Bengals to just 63 yards rushing, consistently getting penetration. The Bears one sack of the game came when Paea collapsed the pocket and ran Dalton into the arms of Shea McClellin. Let's hope he keeps it up and gets some help next week.
James Anderson: Dude's a huge upgrade in pass defense over Nick Roach at SLB, and he can run. I'm okay with the WORST thing about a guy's day being a dropped pick six on third down.
Jay Cutler: I'd have listed him first if it weren't for that utterly brutal pick. If Tim Jennings doesn't force that fumble, the Bengals probably win and Jay is the goat. But we don't live in an alternate dimension, so I'm going to focus on the Jay Cutler that was otherwise flawless and led three huge drives in the second half to win the game. Jay finished 21/33 (63.6%) for 242 YDs, 2 TDs, 1 INT, and a 93.2 rating against a very good pass defense, and he suffered from at least three drops. Other than the bizarre INT, those are exactly the kind of numbers Jay can manage week in and week out in this offense, especially with that kind of protection.
Marc Trestman: I liked how he called plays in this game. Other than some bad toss sweeps that maybe would work against lesser defenses, he was very smart with his gameplan. In the first half they played it safe and tested the waters to see how their young linemen would hold up, and once they had proven themselves (and, frankly, the score dictated it), they opened things up in the second half. Congrats to him for opening up as a winner.
Defense: Jesus, do I really need to specify? Outside of Stephen Paea and James Anderson, no one really stepped up. The run defense was good overall, but the DL got little to no pass rush going, and everyone suffered accordingly. Charles Tillman battled dehydration and illness all day, and had two beautiful interceptions, so I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, but Tim Jennings and Major Wright were particularly awful in coverage. AJ Green is a menace (and now that the Bears have won I can feel a little less awful about his big day for my fantasy teams), but still this was an atypical showing that you hope to see them rectify going forward. Oh, also, Jesus Christ someone tackle Jermaine Gresham.
Roberto Garza: Holy shit was he awful in run-blocking today, and with the Bears using the shotgun more than ever it was so readily apparent that he fires WAY too high on his snaps that my wife was screaming at him the whole game that he was going to cause a fumble.
Bengals is Stupidz: I'm glad they helped the Bears out, but,
wow. Talk about an impressive self-destruction. They lost to timeouts
because they were beaten by basic math. That's how you Bungle.
That's all for now. This was a great test for the Bears, and while it was ugly at times (and Cincinnati paid them plenty of favors with stupid decisions and turnovers), the Bears gave us plenty of reasons for optimism going forward.