I started this piece in a truly foul mood, but much to my surprise, writing it has actually picked my mood up, which I would guess no one else on these boards can say after considering this game! And I can't even blame my blues on having seen the game (nope, it didn't air here, I got Vilma, the Seahawks and the Washington FT, instead), but there it is. Anyhoo, below are the overall Pro Football Focus SEASON grades as of Game 14 (Week 15) of the 2020 season at home against the Bears, whose "league's worst offense!" just scored 30 or more points for the third week in a row, and whose David Montgomery just ran for over 100 yards for the third time in four weeks, so clearly something is starting to click there. A reminder, yet again, that I can't see behind the PFF paywall, so these are the overall season grades, not the game grades, and not broken down by task, such rushing vs. receiving vs. blocking. I'll try to include the game grades if GA Skol included them in his snap count piece.
Cousins, QB1 – 84.6, down from 85.5. JJ was full of crap if he was yelling at Kirk to throw the ball, given what Kirk was running away from. And yes, the drop was completely on Smith. Between the OL and the fans, Cousins really takes it front and back every week (I said my mood was improved, not good).
Cook, RB1 – 87.8, up a point from 86.8. He looked fabulous in the highlight reel (Thanks, GAS). And was it me, or did that one-yard TD run of his occur on a play that looked an awful lot like that 4th and 1 that Kubiak was allegedly incredibly stupid for calling? Game grade of 72.0.
Ham, FB1 – 56.9, down from 58.4, with a game grade of 50.0. Given how so-so his blocking has been this year, I'm not sure we should be surprised that he saw his fewest offensive snaps and lowest O snap percentage since the Atlanta game. This was also Cook's highest yards per carry since the Detroit game, and third highest of the season, so maybe Ham's position is no longer so unassailable.
Thielen, WR1 – 87.9, down from 89.7, down a half-point from 90.2. This is at least the second game in a row where Thielen has basically disappeared during the 2nd and 3rd quarters, even though each quarter featured a drive that got within Chicago's 10-yard line and ended with field goals. Thielen wasn't targeted in the red zone on either of those drives, even though he's been money there this year and was wide open in the end zone in the 1st Q. But that might be it; maybe the Bears did have their #1 CB covering Adam, as another poster suggested, and were selling out to deny him the end zone after that first TD. I don't know, but JJ, Irv and Tyler were all having good receiving days, so the pressure to look for Thielen in order to move the ball might not have been there.
Jefferson, WR2 – 90.2, up a bit from 89.5, thanks to an 84.0 game grade. Yeah, I'd love to have a camera shot where I can see the field from Cousins' perspective on that supposedly indecisive throw into the end zone near the end of the first half.
Beebe, WR3 – 57.8, up from 56.0, with a game grade of 69.4. I don't think this is the highest game grade of his career; I'm pretty sure that was for the Carolina game, where his muffed punt didn't count but his 7-for-7 and TD did.
O. Johnson, WR4 – 66.5, up a tick from 66.4. He was tripped up before the Hail Mary got there so he couldn't make much of a jump for it, and he couldn't get the rebound, in part at least, because of an uncalled facemasking penalty against him that reminded me an awfully lot of the facemasking call against Gladney a couple or so weeks ago.
Smith, TE2 – 70.5, down from 74.5, with a tough game grade of 50.8. From the highlights, Smith was looking at Kirk all the way and had his hands up on that dropped TD pass, as if he knew a pass was possible. It sure as heck did not look to me like Smith was making a move to try to help block for Kirk to run for the TD himself, so I'm not sure where all that mind reading about Irv thinking Kirk was running or over the LOS is coming from. On the other hand, he had at least one pretty catch and run captured in the highlights.
Conklin, TE3 – 55.2, up from 52.0, with a game grade of 69.9. Good, he's living up to the hopes only a few of us expressed for him over the last two years, when even up until a couple of weeks ago people were calling for him to be cut or benched, or predicting he wouldn't be around to finish out his rookie contract next year.
No Hale Hentges, again?
Reiff, LT1 – 73.3, up two ticks from 73.1 and for the fourth game in a row, and his new season high season grade. He and O'Neill are now at the closest in season grades that they've been all season, with only 2.6 points between them. I'm down for a two-year extension that cuts his 2021 salary cap hit if he is.
Dozier, LG1 – 45.8, down from 47.5 based on a game grade of 39.9, and down for the third game in a row. I'm with GA Skol, HagarTheHorrible, MountainViking, Mn-Fan-OutWest and everyone else (well, not Revenge4Kluwe's conspiratorial ravings) that Dozier's still starting is utter madness. And yes, OG in the 1st round, pretty, pretty please!
Bradbury, C1 – 64.1, down from 65.2 for the fourth reduction in his season grade over the last five weeks. Still, it's six points higher than his 2019 season grade, and I'm among those who hope that improving the play of the LG next to him will help him improve. Knock on wood.
O'Neill, RT1 – 75.9, up a tick from 75.8, with a merely average game grade of 67.3. He's not yet the star his more ardent fans make him out to be, but to give credit where credit is due, he's so far on pace to grade more than five points higher than his season grade last year, which saw almost an eight-point increase over his rookie season. He's still trending in the right direction, even with a roller coaster season almost behind him.
Jones and Samia – Holding steady at 77.6 and 33.7, respectively, after being limited to just special teams snaps again this week.
Reasons for cautious optimism on the offense this week – The skill units, top to almost bottom, with even the wide receiver bench looking pretty good this week. The Timex Man, Kirk Cousins, taking a licking and still ticking. Some of the individual parts on the OL, but sure as hell not the whole sum.
Reasons for continued pessimism on the offense – Dozier, Dozier and Dozier, again. And even if he is replaced by a prototype first round guard in next year's draft, I'm still worried that Rich Dennison's coaching will leave Cousins under constant pressure, especially from stunts (although more practice and playing time with each other should help, knock on wood).
Holmes, LDE1 – 52.4, down from 55.2, which after a game grade of 38.6 isn't surprising. I thought I saw him get a pressure on Trubisky in the highlights, but maybe not. He's lost almost ten points off his season grade over the last four games. He'll be in training camp next year, but he might not make the team, especially if Mata'afa's run D holds up.
Mata'afa, LDE2 – 64.4, up very nicely from 59.5 thanks to a game grade of 81.2, and almost but not quite back up to his season high. His season grade has been on a real see-saw since the bye, with increases followed by decreases almost every week, and only a two-week dip breaking up the up-and-down motion. Still, he's made real progress both over last season – final grade of 49.3 – and since the bye, when Zimmer inserted him into his passing downs rotation, all while handling his run D duties pretty well, too. He should be going into camp next year with a real shot at a spot on the D line's six-man rotation.
Brailford, LDE3 – 94.5, down three ticks from 94.8 on the strength of one single defensive snap. Odd that Zimmer didn't insert Brailford on passing downs when Odenigbo went out, like he did the last couple of games. He wasn't using Stephen, Watts or Johnson on passing downs, was he?
Stephen, NT1 – 65.6, up one tick from 65.5. An average starter who happens to be our second highest ranked D lineman after only...Jordan Brailford of the 22 defensive snaps. The best I can say not having seen the game is that in the highlights, he was being double-teamed on a couple of plays where Johnson was being absolutely manhandled by only one guy.
Watts, NT2 – 62.4, up a nice bit from 59.6, and for the fourth week in a row. His game grade was 76.2, and he played his most snaps since the Detroit game, but he should have replaced Johnson in the starting line-up weeks ago.
J. Johnson, DT1 – 38.1, down FOR THE SEVENTH WEEK IN A ROW, from 39.8 He was absolutely raga dolled on Montgomery's 14-yard TD run, with one guy blowing Jaleel out while Stephen was double-teamed, creating a huge hole for the Bear. I'm sorry, but while my executive leadership principles may rule out micromanaging, they don't allow for blithe indifference, either, and the Wilfs should have gone to Rick who should have gone to Zimmer weeks ago with an outright command to replace Dozier (against Jacksonville) and Johnson (vs. the Panthers) in their respective starting units. We've seen enough of Brett Jones and Armon Watts that we should have some confidence that they should be better than DD and JJ, respectively, and not be another Dru Samia. These two players continuing to start is an executive and coaching failure from the ownership all the way down to the assistant coaches (not that I'm throwing out a little hyperbole, myself, of course).
Odenigbo, RDE1 – 62.2, down three ticks from 62.5, and out with an ankle injury suffered in the 2nd Q. He's a RFA after the season, and I'm sure they're going to tender him, although I'm wavering between thinking he'll get an original round (~$2.1 mil in 2020) or second round (~$3.2 mil) tender. Likely the latter, but he might be in a dogfight with Wonnum and Mata'afa for DE2 snaps next year with Hunter back.
Davis, MLB2 – 57.7, a very nice bounce back from 49.3, thanks to a game graded 79.6. I noticed his busy box score last night – a sack AND a pass defense?!? – and saw him in the highlights today. I've been saying since virtually the day he was signed that I want him signed for next year, not to start but to take over Ben Gedeon's old LB3 run defense duties, and now I'm calling for a two-year deal. He's a much better run defender than either Wilson or Dye, and likely at least as good as Kendricks and Barr.
Nickerson, MLB3 – 32.2, up from 29.0 on the strength of 16 defensive snaps, and he no longer has the worst PFF season grade on the team (see not far below)! Woo Hoo! Wait Davis and Dye were both injured, too? Must have been late in the game for both of them. Yikes!
Wilson, WLB1 – 55.5, up from 54.3, but still below his season high of 57.5 after the first Chicago game. I've heard conflicting opinions from other posters about his play yesterday, assured by two that he was solid against the run, while another specifically called out his run D. I remain profoundly skeptical of his ability to start, especially in this defense (maybe he'd fit in as a 3-4 coverage/pass rush LB somewhere). I'd still rather retain Barr and Davis over him, and let Dye and Connelly compete to replace him, although regarding the latter prospect...
Connelly, WLB3 – Holding steady at 30.3 with ST snaps only.
Dantzler, CB3 – 73.7, up from 68.0, with a stellar game grade of 90.7. I admit to having almost immediately become besotted with Dantzler the first time I heard about him before the draft, and long after some of you were already studying his tape. I loved this pick at the time, and remain confident about his future.
Jones, CB4 – 48.3, a significant drop from 53.9 after an ugly 34.4-graded game. And oh, look, Mark Fields of the 66.2 season grade was claimed off of waivers by the Texans, while the suspension some expected after Holton Hill was cut nearly two weeks ago hasn't yet happened. Zimmer seems to have forgotten his own maxim that you can never have too many cornerbacks. Jones was already borderline as regards a RFA tender after the season, but I'd say that ship has pretty much sailed over the horizon now.
Hand, CB5 – Holding steady at 64.1 after yet another game spent only on special teams. See that grade, though? That's based only on defensive snaps, Mikey. Maybe Hand deserves another chance on defense, huh, huh?
Cordrea Tankersley, CB6 – Don't ask me how, but after only nine snaps, all of special teams, yet, he has a PFF season grade of 54.4. Like Curtis Riley and Eddie Yarbrough, he flashed earlier in his career, but is looking like a long shot to every get back into a starting line-up, or even a defensive rotation, again. One of those guys for whom the expanded practice squad has been a godsend this year.
Harris, FS1 – 66.6, up two ticks from 66.4. After watching the highlights, I actually gave Harris some credit for holding Trubisky up long enough for help to arrive to keep Mitchel from bulling in for that TD. Ant even had MT's ankle or foot in his hand while on his butt on the turf at the end of the play.
Metellus and Chisena – Holding steady at 43.3 and with no season grade, respectively, with only special teams snaps again this week.
Reasons for cautious optimism on the defense – Dantzler, Dantzler and Dantzler, again. Todd Davis having a good, all-around professional game. Bending not breaking giving us a chance to win, but only just barely. The significant number of snaps Gladney is getting for his memory banks, and the continued progress of Mata'afa and Watts.
Reasons for continued pessimism on the defense – OK, the Bears offense has definitely improved over the last three games, as noted at the top. But still, we were gouged in the running game, and while Jaleel Johnson is the absolute worst, Troy Dye is right with him ("but at least he's a rookie" is my mantra), and the rest of the talent level up front is just mediocre to average, at best, without Kendricks, Hunter, Pierce and Barr in there. Sure, I'd like to make the playoffs, because I enjoy, you know, actually watching a game with my team every once in a while (a concept seemingly foreign to some of the hothouse flowers – or snowflakes, if you prefer – on these boards), but I have to agree with the folks who just can't see this defense helping us to sustain a playoff run, even if we do get in.