It may not have been evident to the naked eye.
It may not have been evident on the stat sheet, which showed only one sack.
But it was evident after a careful video review.
Pressure on Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman
forced two of the interceptions. On Lance Briggs
' third-quarter interception, blitzing safety Chris Harris
and defensive tackle Amobi Okoye
were closing in on the QB. And on D.J. Moore
's game-cinching pickoff, Julius Peppers
was within inches of Freeman when he made an ill-advised throw.
What's more, the Bears had consistent pressure on Freeman throughout the game, often causing him to throw quickly even when he didn't have to. They pressured Freeman on 41 percent of his throws.
It's unfortunate they couldn't turn more of the pressures into sacks, but the pressures were a hidden factor in why the Bears won.
Here is what else we learned upon further review. Grading key: Grades are between 0 and 10 with 0 being complete failure and 10 being perfect. Defensive line; Grade: 8.5 It would have been a dominant performance by the line but for the absence of finishing plays.
As was the case against the Vikings, virtually every defensive lineman who suited up joined in the fun. The player who caused the most problems was Peppers. The Bucs tried to block him with left tackle Donald Penn
one-on-one for most of the game, and Peppers made them pay.
Peppers had six pressures. Henry Melton had three. Israel Idonije and Stephen Paea had two apiece. Okoye had one, as well as the team's only sack.
Those plays helped offset Okoye's neutral zone infraction and offside penalty within three first-quarter snaps.
Linemen also made some strong contributions against the run game. Peppers' most impressive play, in fact, was on a handoff.
Peppers was lined up at right end near the right hash mark in the third quarter when the Bucs tried an end-around to the left side of the field. Peppers tackled Arrelious Benn
near the left sideline after a gain of 2, showing great hustle, speed, instinct and determination to get through the trash and make the play. Offensive line; Grade: 7.5 This may have been the line's best performance of the year. There is an unmistakable trend that the line is coming together
. Mike Martz
helped the boys out by calling for some quick throws, but there weren't as many extra men chipping in on pass protection as there were a week ago.
The run-blocking was by and large very, very good. One noticeable exception was on the Bucs' safety when defensive tackle Frank Okam
got a good push on Roberto Garza
, forcing Matt Forte
to go wide, where he was doomed.
The only time Chris Spencer was noticed was on his false start, but he should have been noticed for his critical pulling blocks on the most significant runs of the game.
On Forte's 22-yard run, Spencer pulled left and sealed end Adrian Clayborn
. On Forte's 32-yard touchdown run, he pulled right and wiped out linebacker Adam Hayward
. On Marion Barber
's 29-yard run, Spencer pulled left and took out safety Corey Lynch
On Barber's 12-yard touchdown run, Spencer didn't pull, but he sealed the right edge, taking out tackle Roy Miller and linebacker Geno Hayes. Linebackers; Grade: 9 Brian Urlacher
and Briggs left big footprints on this game. The Bucs were down to their third-string running back, and Kregg Lumpkin
was no match for these two with the ball in his hands or in pass protection.
Both players had nice interceptions, and Urlacher also reached up to knock another pass down. Urlacher was reading well, getting off blocks and playing physically.
Briggs had two quarterback hits. Nick Roach also contributed with a quarterback hit and good run defense.
Safeties; Grade: 7 Chris Conte had the first takeaway by a Bears safety this year when he ripped the ball away from receiver Mike Williams on the 2-yard line. Huge play. Harris could have had another interception, but he dropped an easy one.
Harris was a little late getting over to help on Dezmon Briscoe
's touchdown because he bought Briscoe's inside fake, but it would have been a difficult play to stop even if it had been played perfectly.
Conte followed his assignments well and took good angles
. He covered tight end Kellen Winslow
pretty effectively when they were matched up, though he was beaten for a touchdown by Winslow on a good throw and catch.
Conte's most impressive play may have been when receiver Michael Spurlock took a handoff, ran right and threw to Williams. Conte showed excellent discipline, staying with his man and breaking up the pass.
Cornerbacks; Grade: 7 Nickel corner Moore was effective on blitzes with a couple of pressures,
and he had the fourth-quarter interception that finished off the Bucs.
Tim Jennings' block in the back brought back Briggs' interception that ended at the Bucs' 1.
Quarterback; Grade: 5.5
What was best about Jay Cutler's performance is he helped the offensive line frequently and bought second chances by moving in the pocket and sometimes out of the pocket to avoid pressure
. He also didn't hesitate to throw the ball away.
On his fourth-quarter interception, he threw under pressure to a well-covered Kellen Davis
when he should have taken a sack. His first-quarter interception was thrown too high and hard for Barber to handle.
If Ronde Barber
had been able to hang on to a third-quarter throw, Cutler would have thrown a third interception that likely would have gone for a Bucs touchdown. Running backs; Grade: 9 Matt Forte was outstanding again, finding the holes, running through tackle attempts and cutting back against the flow of the defense repeatedly. He is running with great confidence.
In the second half, the Bucs started outnumbering Bears blockers and shooting gaps, making it tough sledding for the running game.
One negative for Forte — he whiffed on end Michael Bennett
in the fourth quarter, leading to Cutler's interception.
Barber chipped in nicely, and Tyler Clutts had some nice blocks.
Wide receivers; Grade: 7
Roy Williams dropped one ball and bobbled another, but he had his best game of the season
. He was a presence on the field. His touchdown catch was well played, from getting off the jam and creating separation, to turning around to make a reception away from his body, to going an extra 10 yards after the catch.
Some effective downfield blocking by Williams, Dane Sanzenbacher and Sam Hurd was responsible for some of the running yards.
Tight ends; Grade: 5
There were no big plays, but the run blocking was pretty good and there were no penalties or lapses in pass protection.
Special teams; Grade: 5.5
The Bucs' opening kickoff that went out of bounds was a credit to Devin Hester
, who later in the quarter had poor judgment on a punt he let bounce to the 4. More good kickoffs from Robbie Gould, but he had his first miss on a field goal this season. firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter@danpompei Fan Shop: Get your Bears hats, jerseys and more
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