THE 2005 SEASON
BY D. MALINOWSKI
Well, once again it's that time of year when Bears fans wander around listlessly, wondering what went wrong, and guessing how much longer it'll take for the Bears to get to another Super Bowl. The 2005 Chicago Bears surpassed what most people thought they would accomplish, and still should go down as a memorable team relative to all the other losing seasons in recent times. Here's a breakdown of individual and team efforts:
THOMAS JONES - Jones had a career year, setting highs in attempts (314), yards (1,335) and rushing touchdowns (9), and averaging a respectable 4.3 yards a carry. His efforts get him in the top ten lists of Bears season annals, placing him tied for 9th in attempts with Payton's 1983 season, as well as 9th in rushing yards. Jones is the only other Bears back besides Payton to reach 1,300 yards in a season and 300 carries in a season. His receiving numbers (26 catches for 143 yards), however, were not impressive at all this year, considering he had such a good season in 2004 catching the ball. He posted 5 100-yard rushing games this year. Jones had a solid playoff performance as well, posting 110 yards from scrimmage. This season was Jones' best performance to date, and he continues to climb the Bear charts. One would think that this will solidify his position as the starter for next season, but with big money Benson in the picture, who knows?
ADRIAN PETERSON - This guy continues to show why the Bears hold onto him. Adrian saw his most extensive work as a back this season, going 76 for 391 with 2 TDs, an amazing 5.1 average. He also had 7 catches for 48 yards. He runs every play as if his life depended on it, and showed he could break tackles big time. Adrian put up his first 100-yard rushing game of his career against the 49ers. He also put forth a Herculean effort by extending the ball over the goal line on 4th down in the playoff game. Combined with his special teams play, Adrian will be an important piece of the puzzle for the Bears as they continue their Super Bowl quest.
CEDRIC BENSON - The rookie went 67 for 272 (4.1 YPC) and had a catch for 3 yards. Benson looked sloppy at first, failing to convert short-yardage situations and fumbling. Cedric started to get the hang of things and was showing promise with some long runs, when the knee injury in the 49ers game cost him the 2nd half of the season. He should only be better next year, and we'll see how his battle with Jones for the top spot pans out.
BRYAN JOHNSON - After finally coming back from an injury, he posted 5 catches for 15 yards and a carry for 5. He is supposedly the Bears best fullback blocker, but he keeps getting hurt, and I don't know how much confidence you could have in the guy.
MARC EDWARDS - Did a spectacular job filling in for Johnson, catching 10 passes for 66 yards and 2 TDs. It was a shame that they let him go, because I really thought they had some consistency with him in the game, especially on running plays.
JASON MCKIE - He had 4 catches for 15 yards, and he rumbled for 22 yards on 3 carries. He also scored a rushing TD in the playoff game against the Panthers. Unfortunately, he is probably the weakest fullback on the team, as evidenced by his poor pickups on blitz coverage. I would've preferred to keep Edwards over him.
MUHSIN MUHAMMAD - The Bears' #1 receiver had 64 catches for 750 yards and 4 TDs. This was a vast, but expected, dropoff from his previous years' numbers with the Panthers. Although he had some nice, tough catches, the year was characterized by a slew of drops. Muhsin easily cost himself a 1,000-yard season with all of those. Hopefully, he'll be on a better track next year with Grossman back at the helm.
JUSTIN GAGE - With 31 catches for 346 yards and 2 TDs, Justin didn't make the kind of 3rd-year splash we had hoped. He did show flashes of his rookie brilliance, but was inconsistent and looked awfully slow on the field. Justin may fall down the depth chart due to better performances from younger receivers, like...
BERNARD BERRIAN - Berrian missed a lot of playing time with an injured thumb, but when he came back, he was the go-to deep threat, posting 13 catches for 246 yards. Bernard also ran twice for 31 yards. He was an absolute hero in the playoff game, making catch after catch and being an absolute warrior. I have a feeling that he will explode in his 3rd year!
MARK BRADLEY - The rookie started coming into his own at the Detroit game, but then promptly blew out his ACL. He finished the year with 18 catches for 230 yards. If he comes back well from his injury, his big-play ability will vault him into the #2 WR position, but only time will tell.
BOBBY WADE - As a reciever, Wade only got 10 catches for 80 yards, a worse average than tight ends. He had the ability to take the punt returns to the house (once against Detroit, and once in the pre-season against the Colts). However, his NINE or so fumbles more than negated that return ability, and Bobby became an ultimate liability, leading to his release before the season was even over.
EDDIE BERLIN - 2 catches, 9 yards. Oh yeah.
DESMOND CLARK - 24 catches for 229 yards, 2 TDs. Clark had some nice catches, but would constantly miss the easy completion. In three years, he hasn't turned into the dominating tight end the Bears were hoping for. I have a feeling a rookie tight end will challenge him for the top spot next year.
JOHN GILMORE - 1 for 1 for 1 TD. He's such a dominator.
GABE REID - 3 for 20. Another dominator.
KYLE ORTON - Thrust into the staring position after Grossman went down, Kyle went 10-5 as a starter; however, this was probably more because of the defense. He went 190 for 368 for 1,869 yards, with 9 TDs and 13 interceptions. Orton also ran 24 times for 44 yards. His attempts were enough to make 9th all-time in passing attempts for a season. He did fumble the ball numerous times as well, which definitely hurt. Kyle did look like a rookie, although he did what he could. I still give him credit for going through all of that in a rookie season. He got more of a chance than her could've hoped. Kyle probably won't play at all next year, thanks to the signing of Brian Griese, but it's good to know that we have an experienced 2nd-year QB on the roster.
REX GROSSMAN - Sexy Rexy was out AGAIN for practically the whole season. His return in the 2nd half of the Atlanta game was like the 2nd coming of Christ for some people, and he finished the year going 20 for 39 for 259 yards, with 1 TD and 2 picks. His rating was exactly the same as Orton, but he won his only start of the season against the Pack, and the offense looked twice as strong with him at the helm. He also gave a valiant effort in the playoff game. Although his overall numbers were lousy, he was able to get three touchdown drives in the game. Let's hope that next year is THE year for Grossman.
JEFF BLAKE - Blake went 8 of 9 for 55 yards and 1 TD. In spot duty, he looked REAL good. But he'll probably be off the team with the signing of Griese.
As far as the passing/receiving game was concerned, there were no 300-yard passing games, which isn't unusual (it's the Bears!) However, no receiver had a 100-yard receiving game, making this the first time SINCE 1993 that the Bears were held to under the century mark.