Sunday was filled with heartbreak and sadness as the Bears' postseason dreams fluttered away late in the afternoon. But for the sake of improvement in 2013, many positives can be taken from Sunday into next season, most notably the play of wide receivers Alshon Jeffery and Earl Bennett.
Usually for the Bears, if Brandon Marshall is having a bad day, then the entire Bears passing offense is having a bad day. But Jeffery and Bennett made sure that was not the case on Sunday. Bennett caught five passes for 109 yards and one touchdown, and Jeffery caught four passes for 76 yards. Marshall only had 42 yards.
Jeff Dickerson of ESPN Chicago writes that ex-coach Lovie Smith was proud of the effort from his wideouts:
"(Earl's touchdown) was huge, and we went to Alshon Jeffery quite a bit, too," Smith said. "We needed somebody else of course besides Brandon. But you needed someone to really step up and Earl did. You know he's been steady for us for a lot of years around here and it's good to see him play that way today."
Bennett scored the first touchdown of the game for Chicago. On a simple bubble screen, Bennett caught the ball and ran out left toward the sidelines. He beat one defender, got a crucial block from Brandon Marshall and sprinted 60 yards for the score. It was only his second touchdown of the season.
Heading into next season, the Bears will need production from more than just Marshall in order to have sustained success in their passing attack. Bennett's and Jeffery's showing on Sunday proved that such success is indeed possible.