A Question of Style and Other Points of View

Bears

  • Rick Telander at the Chicago Sun-Times on quarterback Jay Cutler after the Bears loss to the Dolphins Sunday:

    “You know what’s sad? This from Dolphins intercepting safety Reshad Jones: ‘After watching film all week, we saw [Cutler] was looking where he threw the ball. He was always looking at his receivers and never looking off. We tried to take advantage of that, and it paid off.’”

    Rick Morrissey, also at the Chicago Sun-Times, says that wide receiver Brandon Marshall reportedly called out Cutler after the loss (amongst others).

  • Former Bears Blake Costanzo on Twitter. Via Morrissey:

    “[Head coach Marc] Trestman [sic] has made the bears soft. I took pride in wearing that jersey. [Mike] Ditka, [Brian] Urlacher, [Lance] Briggs. Unreal man. No respect”

  • Here’s one thing Morrissey said that I can totally agree with:

    “‘We have no identity,’ cornerback Tim Jennings said. ‘We still don’t know who we are. We win on the road; we lose at home. That’s the most frustrating thing about it. We don’t know who we are just yet.’

    “He might want to consider the very real possibility that this is exactly who the Bears are.”

    So might the fans. As Jeff Dickerson at ESPN.com put it, “This team seems to be destined to be 0.500.” My suggestion is that fans relax and deal with it.

  • Hub Arkush at chicagofootball.com after the loss:

    “Could it be these Bears think too much of themselves and that just arriving at Soldier Field should be enough? Are they playing hard enough and giving 100 percent effort?”

  • Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune shares my concern here:

    “The other thing that jumped out was running back Matt Forte receiving only two carries in the first half. That couldn’t have been part of the game plan in the ‘good week of practice,’ right? The offense runs through Forte and there the Bears were on third-and-1 from their own 47-yard line on their first possession. Shotgun formation? Check. Press coverage from the Dolphins? Check. So throw it deep to Alshon Jeffery with Brent Grimes in coverage? Uh, check.

    “Trestman called it the right move when Miami opted to press the wide receivers. But it was a low-percentage shot and reinforced one thing: The Bears do not always seem comfortable running the ball in short-yardage situations.”

    I didn’t have the big problem with this call that most fans had. You take your shots down field when you can and the call would have been a brilliant surprise move if it had worked.

    But I’m still bothered by the overall situation. The Bears have had trouble blocking in short yardage situations for two years now and it led me after last season to call for changes in the offensive line. The Bears opted to stick with the same five guys and they are reaping their reward.

    Its OK to take a shot down field on a play like this on rare occasions. But if you aren’t confident enough to run the ball on third-and-1 and get it the vast majority of the time its a problem. The Bears resort to passes or trap plays and other types of techniques to get leverage instead because they aren’t strong enough up front to block a run play without it. They need to be able to occasionally just blow off the ball to get a yard. Because good teams simply won’t be finessed.

  • Biggs makes an outstanding point regarding wide receiver Brandon Marshall‘s post game tirade:

    “Former Bears receiver David Terrell was a likable guy with a playful personality. But Terrell had an act from time to time like winning was more important to him than anyone else in the locker room. I’m not comparing Terrell to Marshall at all. Terrell was a bust. Marshall is a big-time offensive producer. But the idea that one guy takes winning and losing more personally than 52 others doesn’t pass the smell test. The locker room is full of professionals and it requires a professional approach. No other player wants to hear another guy in the locker room say it hurts more for him.”

    Rich Campbell and Dan Weiderer, also at the Chicago Tribune try to pass Marshall’s tirade off as something that happens every week. I don’t buy it.

  • Offensive guard Kyle Long on his criticizing the fans in a postgame interview:

    “Long backtracked Monday, telling WXRT-FM (93.1) that ‘it was wrong for me to point fingers at the fans’ and that it was up to the Bears to give the crowd a reason to cheer.

    “‘I just think (reporters) had asked everybody in the locker room how they felt about (fans booing), and a lot of the guys didn’t take the bait,’ Long said. ‘Obviously emotions are running high after a game. Obviously if we were giving them something to cheer about there would be a lot more cheers coming off the field at halftime. Hopefully the score would be a little bit closer as well.”

    The impression of both the players and the media that the fans were booing the poor first half performance as the Bears went in at half time might not be totally off base. There was certainly a lot of frustration and venting at that point. But I can tell you that, right or wrong, the fans around me were most upset by Trestman’s decision to take a knee with time left on the clock rather than taking a time out and to move into field goal position. My impression was that the reaction at the time was more about that than anything else.

  • Patrick Finley at the Chicago Sun-Times places the blame for the Bears not running the ball in the first half squarely on Cutler. He quotes Trestman as saying that the change to more of a run-based offense after half time was because the Bears took the option of changing the plays from Cutler:

    “‘We took some of the options off, and we handed the football off,’ Trestman said. ‘And we got more of what we would expect out of our offense — a good, solid drive.'”

  • With all of the talk of concern about the lack of leadership from Cutler and Marshall, (and Trestman) no one seems to be talking about the obvious void – the lack of leadership on the defensive side of the ball. This was, of course, supposed to fall to Lance Briggs but he has pretty much proven now that its not his bailiwick and I’ve yet to hear of anyone stepping into his shoes.
  • No matter how much criticism Cutler takes he still goes home after every game to this:

Just sayin’

One Final Thought

Morrissey is also questioning Trestman’s leadership style:

“Those of us who respect Trestman and appreciate his mind know that neither respect nor football knowledge necessarily makes a successful NFL head coach. There’s more to the game than X’s and O’s. There’s the matter of dealing with large, talented human beings who, because they have been coddled their entire lives, believe they can do anything they want. It takes a real leader to tell them they can’t. Allow them to run free, and, well, this happens.”

Anyone up for some Double Nickel barbecue?

Posted in Chicago Bears, Miami Dolphins, Points of View | Leave a comment

Game Comments: Dolphins at Bears 10/19/14

Defense

  1. The Bears defense game out playing mostly cover 1. They were trying to stop the run with the standard 6 or 7 in the box (depending on the personnel) and they were getting run over. They eventually had to start sneaking an extra guy up into the box before putting a stopper in it.

  2. The Bears were getting fooled by the read option all day and Ryan Tannehill in particular made allot of yards with it when he kept the ball.

  3. The Bears were back to their old habit of over pursuit and it cost them badly as the Dolphins took advantage of it with a number of misdirection plays.

  4. The defense adjusted at half time and stopped putting an extra man in the box, trying again to stop the run with base personnel with limited success.

  5. Give Ryan Tannehill credit. He looked great today. He’s under fire in Miami and has a reputation for being inconsistent. He had a good game today.

  6. Jeremiah Ratliff came out like a ball of fire and had a very good game, especially early.

  7. I don’t’ know what the stats were on time of possession but the Bears defense was just plain worn out in the fourth quarter. Miami just wore them down.

Offense

  1. The Bears offense was under siege this game. The Dolphins came out with a plan to blitz Jay Cutler and with tight coverage on Bears receivers in the defensive backfield and it worked to a tee. Cutler was under pressure all game and whenever he threw to anybody they were always covered. It was an awesome effort by the Dolphin defense.

  2. I’m not sure who the first Cutler interception was to. It looked like he was expecting Santonio Holmes to cut his route short but it was so far off it was really hard to tell.

  3. Tough day for the bears offensive tackles as Cameron Wake had his way with them.

  4. The Bears did a little better in the second half when they adjusted and came out running the ball, something they didn’t do enough of in the first half. I know that the Dolphins have a very good run defense but you have to do it at least some. The Bears also started feeding Brandon Marshall and, eventually, Martellus Bennett the ball more.

  5. The Bears continue to struggle with screen plays. They must be tipping them off because defensive linemen are reading them like a book.

Miscellaneous

  1. Alshon Jeffery had a tough game with the drops.

  2. Neither team had an excessive number of penalties until the Dolphins starting committing them in droves in garbage time.

  3. Turnovers: Do I really need to say more?

  4. The Soldier Field grass looked good.

  5. Well, let’s look at the bright side. Special teams didn’t kill the Bears today. They even blocked a field goal and had a decent return with some very good blocking.

  6. The Bears looked extremely slow on both sides of the ball, today, especially on the defense. It was much more apparent live and its a serious concern, especially at linebacker. They also got beat badly at the line of scrimmage, especially on offense. These two factors were a big part of this loss. Other than that, the only thing left is to give Miami credit for coming out and playing an outstanding game. The Bears got beat by a better team today.

Posted in Chicago Bears, Game Comments, Miami Dolphins | Leave a comment

Not a Good Sign and Other Points of View

Bears

  • I’ll be attending the game Sunday so whatever Game Comments there will be, if any will be brief. Sorry. Its tough to take notes under those circumstances. Maybe some day someone will give me credentials for the press box. :)

  • Hub Arkush at the Chicago Sun-Times notes that Lamarr Houston was missing in action again last Sunday. This is becoming something of a concern.

    I thought it was also notable that at a time when most media members were handing out kudos to Michael Ola for his work substituting in for various members of the offensive line due to injury, Arkush said that Ola “struggled at times” last week. Arkush tends to be more critical than most but if you buy into the evaluation, Ola may not ever be more than a back up.

  • Another point from Arkush that will rub some fans the wrong way:

    “The rush was great once the jail break started at the end of the game, but for 60 minutes, the Bears were a B-/C+.”

    I must agree. The sacks at the end of the game made the effort look better than it actually was and the performance of the defensive line has been generally exaggerated. But to give credit where credit is due, I thought I saw more consistent pressure through all four quarters than I’ve seen all season. Its just that not all of it resulted in sacks.

  • Rich Campbell at the Chicago Tribune asks safety Ryan Mundy about the fine associated with his helmet-to-helmet hit on Falcons wide receiver Roddy White last Sunday:

    “What could Mundy have done differently on the play?

    “‘Nothing,’ he said Wednesday.”

    Wrong answer. Mundy came in shoulder first, as he should. But he came in too high and clearly hit White’s helmet with his. A couple inches lower and the hit would have been clean.

    Mundy is like many other defensive backs around the league that apparently just can’t get the message into their brains no matter how often the league tells them. You have to lower your target. That’s what he should have done differently.

  • Former Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb is slipping into bitter old man mode again.

  • Arkush thinks that the key to the game today may be the play of the Dolphins linebackers.

One Final Thought

Every single Chicago Sun-Times “expert” picked the Bears on Sunday over the Dolphins. Same for the Tribune and at ESPN. Kiss of death.

Posted in Atlanta Falcons, Chicago Bears, Miami Dolphins, Points of View | Leave a comment

Something for Everyone and Other Points of View

Bears

  • Amongst the less than stellar performances for the Bears on Sunday against the Falcons, that of right tackle Jordan Mills stood out. Rich Campbell at the Chicago Tribune elaborates:

    “The starting right tackle committed a false start before the game’s first play from scrimmage, a harbinger of his struggles throughout the game. He was beaten for a sack and was penalized three times for 15 yards — twice for false starts and once for an illegal formation. Jonathan Massaquoi beat Mills around the edge for a sack of Cutler on the Bears’ second series. Two plays later, linebacker Paul Worrilow beat Mills to set the edge against a [Alshon] Jeffery end-around. Defensive end Kroy Biermann beat Mills late in the first half, forcing Cutler to step into a sack by cornerback Robert McClain.”

    In fairness to Mills, I’m wondering if some of his struggles are due to the fact that left tackle Michael Ola, who was subbing in for the injured Jermon Bushrod, was getting the majority of the help. Though I haven’t gone back to look, the guess here is that Ola got the most help from a chipping Martellus Bennett or Matt Forte, something that may have been more prone to happen on Mills’s side with Bushrod healthy.

  • One of the things that stood out Sunday was the nice play of the “backups” who were on the field due to injuries to the starters. I thought this quote from linebacker Darryl Sharpton was to the point. Via Kevin Fishbain at chicagofootball.com:

    “‘[The coaches] do such a great job giving everybody the confidence – they don’t treat anybody like a ‘backup’ or a secondary-kind of player – everybody gets treated with a great level of respect. That’s one thing I love about this organization.'”

    No doubt the coaches are concentrating hard on training the non-starters this year after last year’s disaster when injured starters went down and the replacements couldn’t handle the load. Its apparently working.

  • Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune quotes cornerback Tim Jennings on the play of nickel back Demontre Hurst:

    “‘That was a great job by Hurst,’ Jennings said. ‘He prepared great all week and he was where he needed to be. He had an opportunity to make a play and with hard work that is what happens.

    “‘It’s definitely him. It’s his job. As long as he continues to prepare each and every week and make the plays he is supposed to make, it is his to take.'”

    It’s hard to watch defensive backs on television but to my eye Hurst did a pretty good job. It’s obvious that Jennings wasn’t comfortable with the move to nickel before the injury to Charles Tillman forced him outside. Unless his play falls off for some reason its very possible that Hurst might be a permanent fixture at the position from here on out.

  • Biggs also had this nugget:

    “Demontre Hurst wasn’t the only inexperienced defensive back pressed into action. Al Louis-Jean, the undrafted rookie from Boston College who was promoted from the practice squad this past week, got four snaps when Tim Jennings was briefly shaken up.”

    This isn’t quite the minor point that it might seem to be. Louis-Jean is a tall, athletic cornerback who is exactly the type that the Bears are looking for. He couldn’t possibly have made less of an impression on the Bears coaching staff during the preseason than he did on me. I think he, too, might have a future with the team.

  • One of Biggs’s 10 thoughts after the Bears victory Sunday:

    “The best quote I got that I didn’t find a place to use after the game came from left guard Matt Slauson. ‘To have second-half swagger back was really great.’ The Bears can call it swagger when they responded with two touchdown drives after the Falcons had tied things up.”

    The key part of this was, “after the Falcons had tied things up”. The Bears defense has been a sieve at the beginning of the second half. I’m not sure what’s going on but they need to work harder to keep the ground that they are being handed in the first half. I thought the Bears offense had to work way to hard to rebuild the game from the rubble that was left midway through the third quarter. The defense has to tighten things up coming out of half time.

  • Here’s an encouraging statistic that flew under the radar. Via Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times:

  • “According to Pro Football Focus, they had three missed tackles against the Falcons. That’s the fewest they’ve had this season. They had 14 against the New York Jets.”

Elsewhere

  • Biggs quotes an anonymous scout on suspended Georgia linebacker Todd Gurley:

    “First round and I don’t give a crap about the kid signing autographs.”

    One Final Thought

    Rick Morrissey at the Chicago Sun-Times assesses the state of the Bears:

    “The Bears are in that murky who-knows category. I see a 3-3 team that will be up and down the rest of the year. Many of you see a defensive line finally coming together, an offense that can amass a lot of yards and maybe, just maybe, a playoff team. Let’s agree to disagree.

    “I see a Cutler who no doubt will revert back to his maddening form. You see a Cutler who is evolving into the precise quarterback he was against the Falcons. Let’s agree you’re wrong.

    “The best thing the Bears have going for them is that there are a lot of teams that look like them. They’re somewhere in the middle, not bad but not great, either. The league has given them reason to believe.”

    There’s a lot to be said in favor of the above. But let me start by disagreeing about Cutler. I think we’re going to see the version that you saw last Sunday for the rest of the year. Maybe, just maybe, we’ll see some turnovers late in games where the Bears are behind and with Cutler trying to make a play. But other than that, I think we’re going to see what we saw a great deal of last year and last week. I think Cutler is much smarter than that and I think he has bought in on head coach Marc Trestman. He’s going to take care of the ball.

    Having said that, I generally agree (and have repeatedly said since the preseason) that what we’re looking at is an 8-8 team. I have two very simple things to watch that will cover everyone who doesn’t agree:

    1. For those who are more pessimistic, keep an eye on the turnovers. If Cutler does revert to previous versions of himself and the interceptions and/or fumbles lost increase, the Bears are doomed to a losing record. Even if the defense starts to create more turnovers, themselves, I don’t think it can make up for the offense handing it back over nor do I think the defense is the type that’s going to be able to hold a decent offense consistently on a short field. I don’t see this happening and I don’t think the offensive turnovers are going to be intolerably high from here on out but, hey, you never know.

    2. For those who are hoping for better, watch the penalties. The Bears are committing them at a rate that they simply can’t afford. Teams have their number and you can expect everyone from here on out to try to force them to take the underneath stuff, to execute and to work their way down the field. You can’t do that if you are committing penalties. The guess here is that they’re going to continue to do it simply because it’s been a problem for weeks now and if they could have solved it, they would have by now. This lack of discipline seems to be a part of the character of the team that isn’t likely to be coached out of them at this point. But, again, perhaps I’m wrong and I’m underestimating them.

    We shall see. It’s going to be very interesting to see. If that’s not why you are watching, you shouldn’t be watching.

    Posted in Atlanta Falcons, Chicago Bears, Points of View | Leave a comment

    Game Comments: Bears at Falcons 10/12/14

    Offense

    1. The Bears have had a lot of trouble with zone defenses, especially the cover two. But to my great surprise the Falcons came out in man defense. They were only playing zone on third down. Personally I thought it was idiotic but it didn’t burn them through the first quarter. Eventually it did as Brandon Marshall caught one deep midway through the second quarter to set up a touchdown. The Falcons eventually ran more zone later but failed to completely stop the Bears from throwing deep as previous opponents have done.
    2. It’s interesting that at a time when most offenses are picking up the pace, the Bears have been consistently running the play clock down to the last 5 seconds.
    3. Atlanta was well prepared for that end around to Alshon Jeffery that the Bears like to run.
    4. Having said that I thought the Bears ran the ball better today than they have in some time. Probably an effect of the presence of both Roberto Garza and Matt Slaughson along with a weaker than usual Atlanta defense.
    5. I also liked the way that the Bears attacked the edges of the Atlanta defense. They took the underneath stuff as they have been doing and hoped to execute better than they have been.
    6. Jordan Mills had a miserable day committing penalties and missing blocks.
    7. Good to see Josh Morgan get involved in the offense with a touchdown.
    8. Was I the only one remembering the Bears last time threatening to score at the end of a half with no timeouts left? Good teams need to turn that into a touchdown but at least they came away with the three points this time.
    9. I thought that Jay Cutler showed good mobility today. It’s a shame he had to show it so often. The pass protection left something to be desired as the Falcons generated plenty of pressure.
    10. The Bears have got to work on the screen plays. Atlanta had them read all the way all day.

    Defense

    1. The Falcons came out obviously thinking they could run the ball down the Bears injured linebacking corp’s throats. They didn’t have a great deal of success early but it did set up the play action pass.
    2. The Bears obviously decided that pressuring the Atlanta offensive line was the thing to do. They brought an extra man frequently relative to previous games. It worked as the Bears got plenty of pressure.
    3. Once again the Bears had a tough time when the opponent went no huddle as the Falcons started picking up yardage in huge chunks in the second quarter. Fortunately they weren’t finishing at the time.
    4. Having said that I do think the defense played reasonably fast. There was obvious high effort out there.
    5. Like Carolina last week, I thought the Falcons had a miserable time on third down, constantly shooting themselves in the foot throughout the first half. They had an egregious number of dropped balls. Like last week the Bears defense broke down in the third quarter letting the Falcons convert on third down almost at will.
    6. Perfect call on the third quarter Atlanta touchdown as the Falcons caught the Bears in a blitz with a great screen play.
    7. The pass rush really showed up once the Bears got 14 points ahead as they could tee off and simply go after Matt Ryan.
    8. Stephen Paea had a big game. Chris Conte just can’t stay healthy.

    Miscellaneous

    1. Justin Kutcher was fine. So was David Diehl who performed much like last week. Diehl missed the fact that Paul Worrilow was called for a personal foul for hitting Jay Cutler helmet-to-helmet and failed to recognize that Kutcher had the right of it but I won’t beat him up over that. Diehl is OK, just nothing special. He hit all of the major points and did a solid job.
    2. The coverage teams limited Devin Hester but I bet I’m not the only one wishing that the kick return team would just take a knee in the end zone and take the ball at the twenty. The missed extra point was uncharacteristic but any more of these kicking failures will become disturbing.
    3. The Falcons dropped so many balls they should be ashamed of themselves. The Bears had some balls you could argue could have been caught but generally they would have been tough. Martellus Bennett had a bad drop to stop a drive in the first quarter.
    4. Far, far too many penalties in this game and the Bears continued to try to shoot themselves in the foot over and over. There was a false start Mills on very first play. That wasn’t a good sign for him or the team.
    5. I was happy to see Jay Cutler throwing the ball away more. He took better care of the ball today. Turnovers were limited on both sides until Demontre Hurst’s interception in the fourth quarter.
    6. I had to smile as the Bears defense cranked up the Bears fans in Atlanta to make more noise. Hopefully Lamarr Houston will remember the experience before he takes to Twitter again.
    7. I’m happy with what I saw in terms of improvement from the Bears compared to last week in this win. Not as much as I’d like but definite progress. Although they are still killing themselves with penalties they did a better job of overcoming the deficits that they caused today with big third down plays. And, most important, they took better care of the ball.
    Posted in Atlanta Falcons, Chicago Bears, Game Comments | Leave a comment

    Game Comments: Bears at Panthers 10/5/14

    Defense

    1. The Bears came out looking to stop the run early, keeping an extra player near the line of scrimmage with three wide receivers and a back on the field.

    2. I thought the Bears got more pressure on the quarterback than last week in the first half. Not so much in the second half as the Panthers went to quick passes that tore up the Bears zone and when they started to see more success on the ground. They occasionally blitzed but it wasn’t getting there in time.

    3. I don’t know what happened to the defense at the end of the first half. They loosened up to not give up the big play – a good idea – but then gave up the touchdown anyway to let the Panthers back into the game. It was the start of good things for Carolina as they went through the Bears defense like a hot knife through butter in the third quarter.

    4. Kelvin Benjamin and Kyle Fuller both looked like rookies today. The Panthers obviously liked the matchup because they kept going to it but there were lots of mistakes between them.

    5. Former Bear Greg Olson looked good.

    Offense

    1. Like the Bears, the Panthers came out playing the run. It certainly looked like they planned well. The Bears came out looking to feed Matt Forte the ball.

    2. It certainly looked like the Panthers defense came out ready to play. They were initially ready to stop Forte however he got the ball. The Bears came out running and with short passing and the Panthers were all over it. It was fairly obvious that they were going to have to go down field to find any points, at least initially.

    3. Loved the one-handed grab by Jeffery in the first quarter. The one thing about Brandon Marshall that can be irritating is his habit of dropping the ball. Jeffery has great hands.

    4. Interesting that right as I concluded that the Bears would have to go long (above), the Panthers began to blitz. The pressure generated led directly to the first turnover in the first quarter. Looks like the Panthers came out with a good defensive game plan. It became a chess game after that. The Bears countered with well-timed screens designed to slow the rush and were able to read the defense to continue to feed Forte at the appropriate times.

    5. The Panthers needed a more disciplined pass rush. Jay Cutler was escaping the pocket far too often. He’s mobile but he’s not Robert Griffin.

    6. Panthers head coach Ron Rivera called out Luke Kuechly last week in an effort to get him to play better. I thought it worked. Kuechly looked great, even early at a time when nothing else on the Carolina defense looked good.

    7. The Bears did a particularly good job moving the ball on third down. The Panthers frequently forced third and longs in the first half and the Bears frequently escaped. The Panthers were much better with this in the second half when the game became a battle of offenses. The Bears lost that battle decisively.

    8. I didn’t like the way that the Panthers stopped the Bears running game in the second half, making them effectively one dimensional. At some point this team is going to have to be able to run and get the tough yards if its going to win consistently.

    Miscellaneous

    1. Thom Brennaman is a consummate pro and its always a pleasure when he does Bears games. Like John Lynch last week, I was less impressed by David Diehl. Diehl is observant and he does manage to point things out that the average fan might miss. That’s nice, especially coming from the natural point of view of someone who is used to playing at the line of scrimmage, something many of us don’t pay enough attention to. But he still didn’t teach me anything about the game in the same way that the best color men in the business do. I can learn more listening for ten minutes to Cris Collinsworth than I can listening to the average color man like Diehl for an entire game.

    2. Only the Bears special teams could actually commit a penalty, then give up a touchdown on the same play. What a great way to start a game. If you’re a Panther.

      I understand and have accepted that the special teams on this team isn’t going to help very often. But can’t they at least find a way to not kill them? Is that really too high of a bar to set?

      It’s hard to believe that Joe DeCamillis was actually made an assistant head coach to allow him to come to Chicago.

      I like Santonio Holmes’s attitude. He looks like a winner at punt returner.

    3. Kelvin Benjamin had a rough game and he was the only receiver on the field that I thought had an egregious number of drops.

    4. There were a lot of penalties out there on both sides. The Bears can’t afford this if they are going to try to work their way down the field by feeding Matt Forte.

    5. The interception in first quarter could have been a killer already 7 points down. I really wish Cutler would think more about throwing those away. Fortunately the Panthers gave the ball right back.

      Hard to believe that the Panthers came in with a reputation for not turning over the ball. This was undoubtedly a big part of the reason why they were favored and it was a big part of the reason I was wary of this game. But with three fumbles in the first half, they didn’t do much to live up to that reputation. They led to two touchdowns for the Bears (which would have been 17 points except for a Robbie Gould miss on an easy field goal).

      Jay Cutler giveth and Jay Cutler taketh away with the fourth quarter interception that led to the game tying field goal. But it was the Matt Forte fumble that was the killer.

    6. The Bears had this game in hand in the first half as Carolina did everything they could to give them the game. But they handed it back in the fourth quarter with devastating turnovers and that was the difference.

      It’s disappointing that the last comment about this game matches the last comment I had after the first game of the year so closely. This team shoots itself in the foot too often. They’ve decided to be a ball control offense that works its way gradually down the field and that’s not a bad thing – if you can execute. But they continue to shoot themselves in the foot with penalties and turnovers. This is what bad teams look like. It’s not a good sign that we’re still seeing it after game five.

    Posted in Carolina Panthers, Chicago Bears, Game Comments | Leave a comment

    Is It Simply “Fundamentals and Technique” or Something Deeper?

    Hub Arkush at chicagofootball.com asks some good quesions after the Bears loss to the Packers Sunday:

    “‘I think that, fundamentally, we’ve got to be better,’ Trestman said. ‘We had some missed assignments back there, we had some guys where they shouldn’t have been, that was No. 1.

    “‘I think, particularly because we played so much zone (Sunday), that we’ve got some cleaning up to do with our coverages. We didn’t play as well as we can play and it starts with fundamentals and technique.’

    “But is it ‘fundamentals and technique,’ or is it talent, and why don’t veteran players know their assignments four games into the season?”

    Though Arkush seems to believe its talent I really don’t think that’s the problem. Or at least not the larger problem. Even without Jeremiah Ratliff and Jared Allen I thought the younger players on the defense would show up better than they did against the Packers. Perhaps more time for development is needed at defensive tackle and once they’re playing better it will elevate the rest of the group.

    But that’s no excuse for everyone else and its the second part of Arkush’s question that particularly bugs me. I’ve been a defender of defensive coordinator Mel Tucker but these intermittent poor efforts from the defense are starting to add up. I’m starting to wonder if he’s the guy to get all of these guys on the same page and perfroming as a unit week to week. I was willing to cut him some slack last year but I’m running out of patience. And I’m willing to be that feeling extends into places that are a lot more official.

    Posted in Chicago Bears | Leave a comment

    Game Comments: Packers at Bears 9/28/14

    Offense

    1. The Bears came out ready to establish the run. The Packers knew it and keyed on Forte but stayed with a standard seven in the box. So the Bears were able to get it going.

    2. They also came out as in previous weeks, emphasizing the short passing game, probably because Brandon Marshall and maybe Alshon Jeffery still aren’t healthy. Fortunately they came out executing well so it worked, too. The passes got longer as the game went on.

    3. The way the first touchdown went I would have sworn Marshall pushed off on the cornerback. Replays showed he didn’t touch him. The drive took over half of the first quarter.

    4. Both Forte and Ka’Deem Carey ran really well today. Both played to their strength, slipping through cracks in the line. Carey didn’t seem to see the field as much in the second half.

    5. Despite their early success on the ground its hard not to notice that the Bears are still occasionally struggling to run in short yardage situations. In fairness they did convert a third and short midway through the second quarter that led to a touchdown.

    6. I don’t know what the deal was with Jay Cutler and his inability to hold on to the ball today. Put some stick’em on it or something.

    7. Kudos to Martellus Bennett for once again stepping up to have a real good game.

    8. Kudos to the offensive line as well. The Packers brought the house on occasion on the blitz and the line generally picked it up pretty well.

    9. Its been said before but every once in a while I think its worth while to point out how good the Bears blocking downfield by the receivers is. That’s a sign of a well coached unit.

    10. The Packers are tackling noticeably better than they were lat year.

    Defense

    1. It was extremely disappointing not to have Jared Allen in this game. After three weeks of mobile quarterbacks I thought he might break out against a Aaron Rogers, who can still run but is decidedly less mobile than what the Bears have seen.

    2. The Packers came out ready to play and the Bears didn’t. On the first drive there was one pass to Jordy Nelson where he was matched up with Jonathan Bostic. Bostic looked like he was in slow motion. The Packers first score took less than two and a half minutes. It didn’t seem to take even that long.

    3. Nelson did pretty much whatever he wanted today. Hell, they all did pretty much what they wanted today.

    4. Part of the problem was that the Bears were playing a lot of zone defense. They struggled in the preseason with it and it didn’t look any different today as Rogers quickly picked it apart. I really don’t know what the Bears were thinking. Apparently they thought they could play defense like the Lions did. They can’t.

    5. The much maligned Packers offensive line did a good job in pass protection today. Aaron Rogers frequently had way too much time (which is why the Bears aren’t the Lions).

    6. That line didn’t do as well blocking the run, however, as the Bears did a decent job there.

    7. I see what the critics mean about Eddie Lacy. He’s not running well. He hesitates and doesn’t hit the hole like he should.

    Miscellaneous

    1. Kevin Burkhardt and Pam Oliver were fine but I was underwhelmed by John Lynch as a color man. It was a bad sign early in the game when Lynch insisted that a hands to the face call on the Packers should have been called on Jordan Mills. I’m not sure which Packer it was on but I can tell you that Mills didn’t do too much wrong.

      Lynch’s analysis didn’t extend much beyond “That was good” and “That was bad”. He didn’t teach me much today.

    2. An onside kick? Really? Like the defense didn’t have enough trouble on its hands? Come on, man, that wasn’t necessary.

      Willie Young blocked a field goal in the fourth quarter. It was the first really good thing I can remember the special teams doing all year.

    3. There weren’t a lot of obvious drops in this game. But I thought there were a lot of difficult but arguably catchable balls that hit the turf. Randall Cobb dropped a touchdown that hurt the Packers temporarily until Nelson caught one on the next play. It was that kind of day.

    4. In fairness to Lynch in my comment above, there were a number of questionable calls out there. The illegal hands to the face early in the game (which I didn’t see) set the Bears up for a field goal. D.J. Williams got a very damaging (and very stupid) unnecessary roughness call early in the second quarter that kept the Packers on the field after they were stopped them on third down. The drive ended in a touchdown. The veterans continue to let the team down by making boneheaded mistakes in this area.

      The Packers also had a holding call bring back a touchdown and turn it into a field goal in the third quarter.

      A holding call on Bostic on a field goal attempt gave the Packers a first down. That turned into a touchdown.

    5. Boy did that pick by Clay Matthews in the third quarter hurt. The way the Bears were moving the ball that was arguably a 14 point play as the Packers turned it into a touchdown.

      Jeffery did his best to give away a fumble near the end of the third quarter. It went out of bounds. That was right before Sam Shields’ interception that turned this into a route.

    6. I was extremely disappointed that the Bears didn’t score at the end of the first half. The one thing you don’t do in that situation is let the clock run out.

    7. This was an extremely frustrating game to watch as the Packers marched over the Bears defense every time they got the ball. It says something when they give up a field goal and you consider it to be a major victory, not just once but all day. The game looked poorly planned, they didn’t execute and nothing was working out there. There was no pass pressure. They were a step slow all over the field either because they are slow or they were unprepared to play. Either way, it was pretty embarrassing.

      I thought the offense played reasonably well but the one thing you simply cannot do when your defense is flailing helplessly on its back like a turtle in the sun is turn the ball over. Not only does it take badly needed points off the board on a day when you were executing very well but it gives the other team points on top of it.

      The Bears have to play better. I think they have the talent. Even on defense. But they can’t overcome turnovers and penalties against good team.

      There’s nothing profound or insightful about it. It’s just the truth. They have to play better.

    Posted in Chicago Bears, Game Comments, Green Bay Packers | 1 Comment

    Just How Far Can Coaching Take You? And Other Points of View.

    Bears

    • Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times quotes safety Ryan Mundy on the Bears excellent red zone defense last Sunday:

      “‘It doesn’t have to get to that point. I was kind of saying that to our defense throughout the first half [against the Jets]. We would let them get into the red zone and hold them to a field goal, which is great. But it doesn’t have to get to that point. We can start making those plays earlier in the [possession] — get the field-position game going and keep points off the board.'”

      The quote isn’t as significant as Mundy saying it. I’ve been wondering who, if anyone, was going to emerge as a leader on the defense with linebacker Lance Briggs still acting like a child at age 34. Mundy might be the guy.

    • Hub Arkush at chicagofootball.com quotes defensive coordinator Mel Tucker:

      “I asked Tucker if Lamarr Houston has had the impact he’d hoped on the run game and he replied ‘We talked about it today. We need to find a way to make more plays in the game. We need to find a way to get better in practice this week. We have to. It’s a cliché. But if you don’t get better week-in and week – out, you’ve got a big problem because it’s so competitive out there and the margins are so slim and so that’s our focus right now with Lamarr and anyone.'”

      Translation: “No.”

    • Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers your questions:

      “What are the chances Brian de la Puente keeps the starting center job after Roberto Garza is healthy? — @TomOMalley23 from Twitter

      “De la Puente has played well when you consider the communication needed up front and the fact that the Bears have played two road games against good defenses and held up relatively well. I’d suspect Garza will reclaim his starting job when he is healthy. The Bears certainly have not run the ball effectively the last two weeks and there are no indications at this point the team wants to replace Garza.”

      This is the second week in a row I’ve seen this question as it appeared twice last week (once in the Tribune and once in the Sun-Times). Is there something I’m missing? Has Garza been that bad? True, the Bears haven’t missed a beat in pass protection but it isn’t like they’re running over people out there.

    • Here’s a question to Biggs that I liked better:

      “When the Bears set before a play, on a large number of plays the left guard would reach over to the center and tap him on the shoulder as an apparent signal to snap the ball. Last year he used to point his arm forward for a one-count. Clearly this is legal somehow, but why is the movement not considered a false start? — Chris R., Midlothian, Ill., from email

      “Left guard Michael Ola reaches over and taps center Brian de la Puente (as Matt Slauson and Roberto Garza did before they were injured) in the shotgun to let him know quarterback Jay Cutler is ready for the snap. This is not a false start because the left guard is not simulating the start of the play. Here is the NFL’s rule for a false start – Rule 7, Section 4, Article 2:

      “‘It is a False Start if the ball has been placed ready for play, and, prior to the snap, an offensive player who has assumed a set position charges or moves in such a way as to simulate the start of a play, or if an offensive player who is in motion makes a sudden movement toward the line of scrimmage. Any quick abrupt movement by a single offensive player, or by several offensive players in unison, which simulates the start of the snap, is a false start.'”

      Perhaps a better question would be “Why does the guard have to tell the center that the quarterback is ready? Can’t he look for himself?”

    • David Just at the Chicago Sun-Times asks why the Bears are falling in the national rankings after back to back road wins on national television. I think the comments from Yahoo! Sports probably gives a good indication:

      “Their best player on Monday night was the opposing quarterback.”

      The national press doesn’t believe in the Bears because their victories are perceived as being more a result of bad play by their opponents than good play on their part. For once the national press might not be wrong.

    • Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times reads my mind as he predicts the result of the Bears-Packers matchup:

      “Packers 27-23

      “Though the Bears are improving, it seems like injuries are starting to catch up to them — Brandon Marshall’s ankle could be particularly problematic for an offense that has been good but not great so far. Bears caught a lot of breaks vs. the Jets. They’ll have to play much better to beat Aaron Rodgers.”

      It’s not that I don’t give them credit. After all, you still have to catch the interception is its thrown to you. But the Packers don’t generally throw games away like the 49ers and the Jets did. Even though they lost last week against the Lions they still won the turnover battle. The Bears simply have to play better if they want to win this game.

    • Many interesting things about this match up have been emphasized over the course of the week but the thing that sticks out most to me are the injury reports for the Bears and Packers.

      The Bears have declared four starters out: Garza, Slaughson, Shea McClellin and Jeremiah Ratliff. They have also declared special teams stalwart Sherrick McManus out.

      Who is out for the Packers? Nobody.

      The Bears are going to have to suck it up and overcome some adversity this week.

    One Final Thought

    Adam L. Jahns at the Chicago Sun-Times quotes Bears quarterbacks coach Matt Cavanaugh on coaching accuracy:

    “[Aaron] Rodgers’ precision might receive rave reviews, but Cavanaugh doesn’t buy into the premise of natural accuracy. Rather, he said, it’s a familiarity with an offensive scheme and receivers and incessant work on fundamentals.

    “‘‘I don’t know if anybody is just naturally accurate,’’ Cavanaugh said. ‘‘There’s a lot of work [involved]. There are guys who may not have been naturally accurate but learn how to be accurate. You make yourself drill.’’

    “For strong-armed quarterbacks such as Cutler, who are prone to throw off their back feet, drill work is everything. And it’s relentless work under Cavanaugh and coach Marc Trestman. It’s an every-practice process.

    “It’s all about muscle memory.

    “‘‘When the ball is snapped, all those fundamentals are really the last thing you think about,’’ Cavanaugh said. ‘‘But if you’re drilling it right, then there’s a lot of guys who can be accurate.’’”

    It’s an interesting thought. And obviously one that comes from a coach’s point of view. In my experience, coaches tend to look for raw talent like arm strength in the draft because they feel like they can coach accuracy and other refinements into the player later. It doesn’t always work out that way.

    I think Cutler has, indeed, been more accurate this year and I’ve no doubt Cavanaugh and Trestman are a big part of that. But he still throws off of his back foot when he’s under pressure. At this point I don’t think he’ll ever get in enough drill work to completely overcome the tendency.

    Posted in Chicago Bears, Green Bay Packers, Points of View | Leave a comment

    Why Not Both? And Other Points of View

    Bears

    • There won’t be any Game Comments for the Jets contest tonight. I’ll have the game on tape but its unlikely that I’ll have time to watch it before tomorrow afternoon. Looking forward to seeing what you all have to say.

    • Mike Mulligan at the Chicago Tribune on why Bears head coach Marc Trestman shares the blame for the team’s special teams woes:

      “Legend has it when Norv Turner came to the Cowboys as offensive coordinator under Jimmy Johnson in 1991, he was told a couple of games into the season that special teams would be a priority that week. Turner would get three wide receivers active, but one of them had to be the return guy.

      “Trestman hasn’t put those kind of restraints on his offense. With injuries to Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall going into the 49ers game, the Bears had five wide receivers on the active roster and another inactive.”

      I’m not entirely sure how fair this criticism is. Trestman had no way of knowing whether Marshall or Jeffery were going to last the game or, if they did, whether they’d actually be healthy enough to be of any use. Trestman could have easily been stuck with what amounted to two active wide receivers.

      Having said that, Mulligan is right in that the Bears probably haven’t prioritized special teams. The lack of depth that was exposed last year on the defensive side of the ball has undoubtedly made them skittish about coming up short on the non-special teams units on game day and, again in fairness, they’ve needed that depth as player after player has gone down to injury. The roster is a mess and its natural enough that special teams would be the unit to suffer the most.

    • I almost never pay much of any attention to anything former Bears head coach Mike Ditka has to say. But I have to admit he had more guts than I did.

    • Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers your questions:

      “I know Roberto Garza is a leader on the O-line, but Brian de la Puente looks to be a better player. Any chance he keeps the job for good? — @petemeyer5 from Twitter

      “The Bears handed the ball off to running back Matt Forte 12 times and he gained 21 yards Sunday night at San Francisco. That is not the production the team is seeking in the running game. That’s not on de la Puente and I’m not saying with Garza in there it would have been dramatically different. The Bears did hold up well in pass protection against a 49ers front that was missing Aldon Smith and rarely blitzed. I think the expectation is Garza returns to the lineup when he is healthy.”

      I think Biggs doesn’t want to just come out and say it but de la Puente has had well-documented issues with his run blocking. Those issues cropped up after current Bears offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer left de la Puente’s former team, the New Orleans Saints. It’s possible that reuniting with Kromer has solved them but, like Biggs, I wouldn’t want to bet on it.

      The Bears running game has been pretty miserable through two games. I haven’t concentrated on de la Puente’s play and I certainly wouldn’t want to even say that it contributed to the problem. But it’s fair to at least wonder if it won’t be that much better with Garza back in the lineup.

    • What can the Bears expect from the Jets? On offense it will be a heavy ground attack, of course. On defense We’re going to see exactly what you’d expect from a son of former Bears defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan. Adam L. Jahns at the Chicago Sun-Times quotes offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer:

      “This defense has brought more zero blitzes in the first two games than we saw all last year — zero blitzing meaning it’s one-on-one in coverage behind the blitz that they’re bringing. Every receiver just has one guy.”

      Given the Jets strength against the run, I think we can expect a large dose of the short passing game again. That means a lot will ride on the Bears ability to execute on offense without shooting themselves in the foot. If they don’t play better in this game than they did in the first two, this is probably a loss.

    • Jahns also points out that the Jets Geno Smith has some of the worst statistics of any quarterback in the league when he’s pressured which makes me wonder if the Bears may blitz more.

    • Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times makes the case that quarterback Jay Cutler is better in hurry up situations:

      “The theory is that the finicky Cutler is an easily distracted quarterback who thrives when the show is mostly his. The more options he has, the more voices he hears, the more time he has, the worse he gets.

      “As it is, the hurry-up offense seems to make a big difference. Since 2009 — when Cutler joined the Bears — Cutler is fifth among NFL quarterbacks with a 90.6 passer rating in the last two minutes of a half or a game.

      “And of the quarterbacks in the top five, Cutler is the only one whose rating improves in those hurry-up situations. “

      I think it’s likely that we’re going to see Cutler more and more in no huddle situations. It’s evident to me that the coaches aren’t just blowing smoke about Cutler having a better handle on the offense this year. He seems to be more vocal at the line of scrimmage and has an even better command of the unit. I’d expect that, if they don’t already, that the coaches will have the confidence to hand him the reins more very soon.

    One Final Thought

    David Haugh at the Chicago Tribune evaluates the state of the Bears ahead of tonight’s game against the Jets:

    “If the Bears were a novel, they would be a mystery. If they were an election poll, an overwhelming majority of Chicagoans would click ‘Undecided.’ If forced to interpret what the Bears have proved so far this season, it would be little other than they are like so many NFL teams in the salary-cap era; capable of winning or losing every week regardless of the opponent depending on how they protect the football and create turnovers.

    “A cynic would label that a mediocre football team. An optimist would call that a playoff contender.”

    A realist would call them both.

    Posted in Chicago Bears, New York Jets, Points of View | 2 Comments