Thinking About Where We Are in Terms of Where We’re Going

Steve Rosenbloom at the Chicago Tribune reflects my thoughts exactly after the Bears loss to the Broncos Sunday at Soldier Field:

“[I]t’s hard to get mad about losing to a better Broncos team with the league’s top defense.

“It’s even hard for me to get mad at [quarterback Jay] Cutler for his regularly scheduled interception and sack-strip. It’s what he does an average of once a game, even if that truth runs counter to other people’s happy storyline.

“But hey, at least he’s not doing it in a Super Bowl season.

“This should be one of those times when you stop, breathe, and remind yourself to chill because it’s going to get better, and probably without a lot of the guys you were watching, maybe even Cutler.”

I know it’s frustrating watching the Bears lose. But they were so badly out-manned by the Broncos that it took a game played so cleanly that the Bears had no penalties to just keep it close.

People need to tone down their expectations for this team. When they play good teams with more talent, they’ll always have a chance to win. But only if the other team plays a bad game. That especially goes for Green Bay Thursday where the Bears are eight point dogs in a divisional matchup. Realistically, all you can do at this point is just relax and hope that the talent gap doesn’t show too badly in a blow out loss. If the Bears keep playing like they are, it won’t. But even if it does, try not to be too upset. It’s time to stop thinking about wins and to start thinking about the future.

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Quick Game Comments: Broncos at Bears 11/22/15



  1. The Bears came out trying to run from the start with a triple tight end set. The Broncos were having none of it and did a good job stopping the it. I thought maybe the Bears had slightly more success once they started to spread the Broncos out more in the second quarter. But they still weren’t able to do it well and I’d say the Broncos did a pretty good job overall. this was a big key to the game. The Bears need to run the ball.
  2. The Bears lost the line of scrimmage. Not only could they not run but Jay Cutler was under a fair bit of pressure. It wasn’t a horrible effort. But it needed to be better. Jay Cutler did a marvelous job of moving around in the pocket to avoid pressure.
  3. Cutler found receivers over the middle early on third downs to keep the chains moving. This was apparently a weakness that the Bears identified and tried to take advantage of.
  4. The Broncos had obviously done their homework. They were all over Bears screens that have been a staple in recent weeks.
  5. In addition to taking advantage of the Broncos over the middle, I thought the Bears managed to et in a number of good deep throws against the Broncos, who were likely concentrating on taking away the shorter throws the Bears have been living off of lately.
  6. Martellus Bennett once again didn’t have a good game. He was missing catches that he really should be making. His concentration has been off for some time, now. He did draw three big pass interference calls but the Bears need more from Bennett with Alshon Jeffery not on the field.


  1. The Broncos came out running the ball very successfully. This set up the play action pass nicely and Brock Osweiler scored their first touchdown by sucking the linebackers in on such a pass.
  2. The Bears flat out lost the line of scrimmage this game against the run.
  3. The Broncos came out and took advantage of their speed and really beat the Bears linebackers in coverage. The Bears weren’t horrible. Just not good enough.
  4. The Bears did get pressure on Osweiler. Sometimes it was rushing straight up but they also brought the blitz with some success. They weren’t fancy blitzes by any stretch but the Broncos didn’t handle them well. Osweiler could have gotten rid of it quicker under pressure but most of the problems weren’t really his fault. His linemen were getting beat.
  5. Osweiler looked reasonably accurate. He does have a habit of staring down receivers that might come back to burn him but he makes good decisions. He’s got a good deep ball. He’s not exactly a young Peyton Manning but he looks like a pretty good pro quarterback to me.
  6. This was what the Broncos want their offense to look like. Osweiler was under center the whole time. There was no compromise as there has been with making Peyton Manning more comfortable at quarterback.
  7. Kudos to the Bears on a few defensive stands that took some back bone to make over the course of the game.


  1. Ian Eagle, Dan Fouts and Evan Washburn did a nice job. I really like Fouts, who I think does a good job of breaking down the important plays to let you know exactly what happened and why. Too bad he works for a network that runs commercials mostly for shows targeted at people my parent’s age (that’s pretty old).
  2. Deonte Thompson replaced Marc Mariani as the kick return man. they continued to use Mariani as a punt returner. Omar Bolden made a terrible mistake by letting a kickoff hit the ground in the end zone. It bounced back and dribbled out. The Broncos got the ball at the two yard line. Other than that there weren’t many obvious miscues.
  3. This was a relatively clean game with few penalties for the Broncos and none for the Bears. There was a big thirty yard pass interference call against Brandon Marshall on Martellus Bennett that hurt the Broncos pretty badly in the fourth quarter. Bennett drew two more against Aquib Talib Bradley Roby after that. The Bears were very fortunate not to get a personal foul penalty after both Willie Young and Jarvis Jenkins hit Osweiler after he gave himself up for a sack with two minutes left.
  4. Except for some catches that Martellus Bennett really should have made, I’d say drops weren’t a big part of this game on either side. Jeremy Langford had a drop in the fourth quarter that also didn’t help the Bears offensive effort.
  5. Jay Cutler threw an interception to Danny Trevathan. It’s not a defense but in a way it was understandable. Trevathan, a linebacker, was on a wide receiver in Marquess Wilson. So it’s usually the throw you make. The Broncos got the ball deep in Bears territory. It resulted in no points as the Bears defense came up big and stopped the Broncos on fourth down from the two yard line. Cutler almost threw another one in the fourth quarter to Bradley Roby but Roby dropped it. Then Von Miller stripped the ball from Cutler from behind and Malik Jackson caught it for a second interception.
  6. I thought it was an indication of the progress that the Bears have made that they were competitive in this game. They played well against another team with more talent who was also playing reasonably well. If they had done more offensively with the ball on the Denver side of the field, this could well have been a victory. A very respectable outing overall and, considering the talent gap between the teams, there was a lot to be happy about here.
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Revising Expectations for the Bears

Jon Greenberg at ESPN is revising his expectations for the Bears:

“In the beginning … we predicted 6-10 for the Chicago Bears and it seemed just about right.”

“But then Jay Cutler returned [from injury] ahead of schedule and things settled down, and now, weeks after fans stopped watching games between their outstretched fingers, this looks like, knock on Mike Ditka’s pompadour, it could be a wholly respectable team with a longshot chance of making the postseason.”

The Bears are on a hot streak and Cutler is certainly a big part of that. But Cutler or not, I’m sticking with 6-10.

The Bears are 4-5 and at this point in the season, I think that’s great. But let’s not forget that they are the same team that lost to the Lions a month ago. They’ve won two games since then but they’ve gotten a lot of help from two teams that, frankly, played well below their talent level. Such things have a bd habit of evening out and more often than not, given decent coaching and a good environment, teams end up right where their talent level says they should.

I’m not disparaging the Bears here. I think they’re a well-coached team that is making progress every week. But Denver is a much better team that is unlikely to give the game away with poor discipline in the same manner that the Rams did. And I don’t care how badly the Packers are slipping at the moment, I can’t believe that they won’t pull it together and beat the Bears on Thanksgiving. I also see the Vikings as a loss in Minnesota. After that, the Bears are still a team that’s going to be no more than a coin flip against Washington, San Fransisco, Tampa Bay, and Detroit. If they win half of those, that’s two more wins. And that’s where I’m still sitting.

Posted in Chicago Bears, Denver Broncos, Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings, San Francisco 49ers, St. Louis Rams, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Washington Redskins | 2 Comments

It’s Never Too Early to Think About the Draft

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers your questions. Biggs thinks the Bears will move Hroniss Grasu back to center this Sunday and that Matt Slauson will find his way back to left guard. Slauson did a good job filling in at center but I would agree that it’s about getting your best five on to the line at once.

“The unknown right now is right guard. Vladimir Ducasse has a team-high eight penalties and has had a ninth called against him declined. It’s a situation now where Patrick Omameh might get a shot at right guard in place of Ducasse. Stay tuned on that. What’s impressive is line coach Dave Magazu and offensive coordinator Adam Gase have transitioned rather seamlessly with a handful of different changes on the line this season.”

like most of head coach John Fox‘s staff, Magazu and Gase have, indeed, done a good job in the face of quite a bit of shuffling. The players, of course, deserve a great deal of credit as well.

Having said that, neither Ducasse nor Omameh is a great option to be starting anywhere on your line. Both are decent back ups at best, Ducasse perhaps a little worse than Omameh.

The question of where the Bears should go in the draft is already coming up a lot among fans. It’s a given that getting a quarterback of the future should always be the highest priority. Defensive pass rusher should be high at all times, as well. Usually I would put left tackle in this category, as well, but the Bears seem to have a glut at the position at the moment.

Those considerations aside, interior offensive line tops my list. It doesn’t have to be in the first round but the Bears need at least one starting guard.

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Bears Defensive Backfield a Strength? Not Quite Yet.

The headline says, “Suddenly, the Bears secondary is becoming a primary strength”. But when you actually read the article, its not what Steve Rosenbloom at the Chicago Tribune actually says:

“Don’t look now, but the Bears appear to have a secondary that doesn’t make your eyes bleed.”

I’ll go along with the second quote. But the Bears secondary is far from being a strength. It’s true that Tracy Porter has been a great help and they’re better as long as he’s healthy. And Kyle Fuller us getting better.  And Adrian Amos is starting to appear around the ball more in coverage, though still not as much as I’d like.

But to my eye the defensive backs still aren’t what you’d call a strength. For instance, Antrel Rolle hasn’t gotten younger and still appears slow to me. And the truth is that the Bears got a lot of help from quarterbacks the last couple games, especially from Nick Foles, who has since been benched by the Rams. Foles threw some terrible passes to otherwise open receivers last Sunday. Had they been completed, the performance of the Bears defensive backs may have appeared in a different light.

So don’t get me wrong. The Bears defensive backfield better and will continue to get better. But a strength? That’s a bit of a stretch.

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Bears Turn Broncos Quarterback Troubles to Their Advantage

Phil Thompson and Tim Bannon at the Chicago Tribune pass on information about Broncos quarterback Brock Osweiler, who will start in place of Peyton Manning this Sunday against the Bears. There’s not much there.

“Osweiler accidentally ignored Peyton Manning’s tweet congratulating him on draft day in 2012. He was chosen in the second round (57th overall). It wasn’t until he was boarding a plane later that he finally noticed it. ‘I was like, ‘Oh, shoot! Peyton Manning!'”

Manning was benched during a miserable outing last Sunday against the Chiefs in which,, though he was under siege, it was hard not to notice the lack of accuracy. Broncos head coach Gary Kubiac says it was due to injury. Most people have their doubts. With some exceptions, such as their game against the Packers coming off of their bye, Manning hasn’t looked good this year. Its likely that age is catching up with him.

That leaves the Bears facing a quarterback in Osweiler that the league doesn’t know much about. That would ordinarily be a major advantage for the Broncos. But the guess here is that few people know Osweiler better than Bears head coach John Fox and offensive coordinator Adam Gase. In this, the Bears are fortunate and the Broncos are forfeiting that initial period of uncertainty that would usually come with starting a new quarterback. Further, assuming Gase exposes Osweiler’s weaknesses sufficiently, the Beras will provide a road map against the rest of the league for beating him.

Fox and the Bears are lucky they’re playing the AFC West division this season. The Bear coaching staff knows those teams very well and up until last Sunday’s win against the Rams the Bears had only beaten AFC West teams. Though the Broncos are certainly more talented, there’s at least reasonable hope that the Bears will be competitive in this game despite being underdogs at home.

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Quick Comments: Bears at Rams 11/15/15


  1. The Rams came out with the expected game plan. Lots of short passes to the tight end and the running back out of the backfield to take advantage of the Bears lack of speed at linebacker. They also tried to run the ball with star rookie Todd Gurley. As with Adrian Peterson last week, the Bears didn’t really stack the box in an effort to stop him unless the formation indicated a power run.
  2. You have to like how the Rams try to use misdirection with Tavon Austin. Teams like the Bears have to be aggressive to stop Gurley. That makes them susceptible to that.
  3. Willie Young did a good job of showing up in place of the injured Pernell McPhee. He was around the quarterback a lot and made some good plays in the running game. Generally speaking the Bears got pressure on Nick Foles and that helped the Bears coverage a lot.
  4. Another thing that helped the Bears coverage, Foles did not impress me today. His accuracy was very poor and he often failed to hit the men that got open. The Bears jumped the short routes with little apparent regard for Foles ability to throw the ball deep. That Foles trade for Sam Bradford isn’t looking good right now.
  5. The Rams used Wes Welker sparingly and almost entirely on third down. They usually tried to throw it to him short of the sticks and let him run for the first down with only limited success.
  6. Kudos to Bryce Callahan who had a pretty good day today.  Tracy Porter had a good day in coverage, too.
  7. Kudos also to Lamarr Houston with another sack, too, but I’d like to see it at some point when the whole stadium doesn’t know the Rams have to pass.


  1. The Bears came out with their usual ball control game plan. Lots of short passes and runs with Jeremy Langford. The Rams are pretty tough up front and they generally did a decent job of stopping the run.
  2. The Bears offensive line had their hands full against the Rams front. I thought they lost the line of scrimmage in the run game. They did better in pass protection but Jay Cutler still got knocked around pretty good. Aaron Donald dominated the Bears guards at times. Donald is a star but this highlights the need for interior offensive linemen in the offseason.
  3. Part of the reason why Cutler got knocked around was the Rams tendency to blitz. The Bears took full advantage of the tendency, catching the Rams in a blitz for big plays and two of their touchdowns in the first half, one by Jeremy Langford and one by Zack Miller. the Bears used the screen game to good effect.
  4. Zack Miller with another impressive run for a touchdown early this week. He was helped a great deal by some poor tackling on the part of the Rams. Miller had a heck of a day with another touchdown in the second quarter. The sky’s the limit as long as he stays healthy.
  5. It’s a good thing that Miller showed up because Martellus Bennett looked a little sluggish to me today.
  6. Whatever you say about Ka’Deem Carey, he runs hard. Gotta love that.
  7. Jay Cutler took off on a read option for 26 yards in the third quarter that had everyone in the building fooled. Adam Gase was on the ball with the play calling today.
  8. Another thing the Bears have been doing with some success if stacking receivers. It’s been confusing the coverage allowing guys to pop open behind little crosses at the line of scrimmage.


  1. I didn’t have a tough time with Andrew Catalon, Steve Tasker and Steve Beuerlein. They didn’t teach me much but they weren’t afraid to be critical of anyone with the exception of Jay Cutler. They spent a lot of time kissing Cutler’s rear, making me wonder if someone was related to him.
  2. Robbie Gould was coming off of three straight field goal misses. He hit his field goals today, though. Gould’s kickoffs were pretty deep for once as well. The Bears return teams were poor, leaving the offense with bad field position for much of the game. Bears coverage teams did a good job containing Tavon Austin. Their extra discipline in holding to their lanes and doing their jobs was evident. The Rams weren’t bad on special teams but they tried a fake punt from their 20 yard line in the fourth quarter that failed. To their credit, the Bears looked ready for it. The resulting field goal put the game out of reach.
  3. The Rams spent most of this game just killing themselves with terrible penalties. The Bears, on the other hand, didn’t have any until Alan Ball got called for a stupid unsportsman-like conduct penalty. The Bears had more than their share but nothing like St. Louis. That was a large part of the difference in the game.
  4. Foles’s receivers didn’t help him much with a lot of drops in the game. Foles wasn’t accurate but some of those balls should have been caught.
  5. The teams traded turnovers early with a muffed punt by Marc Mariani followed by a fumble by Tre Mason, both in the first quarter. Each turned in to only a field goal. Willie Young got a nice late interception. Ka’Deem Carey fumbled the ball away in garbage time, as well.
  6. They say that the vast majority of the time, you don’t have teams win a game. Its the other team that loses it. I’m starting to get a good idea why the Rams aren’t doing better despite their talent. That team has the worst discipline of any team I’ve seen all year. The penalties were awful. The drops were inexcusable. Nick Foles looks totally incapable of completing a long pass. Not that the Bears didn’t play a good, game. They did and all credit to them. They made plays and the played a good clean game. But bottom line the Rams handed this game to the Bears on a platter. The Bears only had to accepted it. To their credit, they did.
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The Real Reason Why the Bears Appear to Have a Bright Future at the Season Midpoint

Dan Wiederer at the Chicago Tribune goes over some positives for the Bears at the midpoint of the season, starting with the nice job offensive coordinator Adam Gase has done:

“The 37-year-old offensive coordinator has been as good as advertised and will remain a hot name in head coaching searches when January rolls around. To measure Gase’s biggest impact, look first at the performance and poise of quarterback Jay Cutler.”

It’s far too early to talk about losing coaches. But like most of Chicago, I recognize that he’s certainly been doing well and may deserve his shot.

But count me as one guy who is happy with one of the coaches that Wiederer didn’t mention: defensive coordinator Vic Fangio.

Case’s unit has helped Fangio a lot with a wonderful, ball control offense that I, for one, never thought they had the discipline or the offensive run blocking to pull off. Nevertheless, what Fangio has done with almost no talent on the defensive side of the ball is nothing less than a miracle. The Bears are currently eighth in the league in total defense and fifth in passing defense. All this with a patchwork defensive line that wasn’t very good even when healthy, one very good linebacker in Pernell McPhee, and one average corner and average safety in Kyle Fuller and Adrian Amos, respectively. It’s one of the most unbelievable things I’ve seen since I’ve been a Bears fan.

To his credit, Wiederer does point out the major force behind all of this:

“[Bears head coach John] Fox vowed from his first day on the job to build a smart and tough football team and is clearly succeeding. His skills as a motivator have been lauded across the locker room. His penchant for utilizing bright and experienced assistants has also elevated the Bears’ preparation.”


Fox has shown himself capable of attracting some of the best assistants in football, something that Lovie Smith was only marginally successful at. Smith hired people he’d worked with before whenever possible and that severely limited his choices, particularly on the offensive side. He also didn’t like coaches who disagreed with him like Ron Rivera. “Creative tension” wasn’t in his vocabulary and he ended up with a lot of “yes men” on his staffs.

Fox doesn’t have any of that. He’s gotten the best available and let them do their jobs. And the Bears have benefited and will continue to benefit. Yes, when you hire good coaches you are bound to eventually lose them. But Adam Gase or not, the Bears are set up for a bright future as long as Fox is the head coach.

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The Cutler Debate Encapsulated

One of my favorite podcasts to listen to as I’m walking in to work is the Around the NFL podcast.  During yesterday’s episode (entitled “Midseason Power Poll”) which recapped the Monday Night game against the Chargers, I thought they did a very good job of encapsulating the debate surrounding the future of quarterback Jay Cutler with the Bears.

The debate starts at 31:30.  The guys defending Cutler are Gregg Rosenthal and Dan Hanzus.  The “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me for 10 years, shame on me” guy is Chris Weaseling (but I confess, could have easily been me).  I recommend that you give it a listen no matter how you feel about this issue.

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Bears Will Have Cap Space in 2016 but What Will They Do with It?

Mike Mulligan at the Chicago Tribune highlights the amount of cap space taken up by players no longer on the Bears:

Jared Allen, now playing with the Panthers, is the second-highest cap hit on the team at $11.7 million. Brandon Marshall, catching touchdowns for the Jets, is the eighth biggest hit at $5.6 million-plus. Tim Jennings, playing for the Buccaneers, counts $4.4 million. The Bears have more than $25 million in dead cap space, led by those players.”

That is, indeed, a lot and if I’m the owner of the Bears I can’t be happy at spending that kind of money in that kind of way. Mulligan’s point that you can’t buy a good football team is well taken and I’m sure everyone who is reading this doesn’t need to hear again about how the Bears need to build through the draft from here on out. I realize that the McCaskey’s want to win as soon as possible but you can actually do that through the annual selection process if you have someone who is doing the drafting who knows what they are doing.

What I do want to do is point out that there is some good news here. Former general manager Phil Emery made a lot of mistakes but one he didn’t make was sewing these guys up with long-term cap implications. The Bears have all of this dead space this year because they were in a position to release those players. Yes, the cap space hurts but they still did it without totally crippling the team.

All of these players are off the books next year which means that the Bears are going to have more than the usual amount of cap space to work with in January. What they do with that space will be very interesting to see. Certainly they’ll want to pay their own. Here’s hoping they don’t blow the rest on long-term free agent contracts of the type that could have caused even more damage than we saw this year.

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