- I’m not too sure about this comment from Bears offensive coordinator Mike Tice on the return of wide receiver Alshon Jeffery to the lineup. Via Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times:
“So that really helps us because when they try to key on Brandon [Marshall], we really have two go-to guys on the field at the same time.”
Jeffery is a step above the other receivers, no doubt. But he’s hardly a “go-to guy” (yet).
- On a related not, Sean Jensen at the Chicago Sun-Times points out that, whether its being done on purpose or not, the “Randy Ratio” is back.
- Adam L. Jahns at the Chicago Sun-Times quote defensive end Corey Wootton on what the Bears defensive linemen have been concentrating on this week:
“We’re going back to the fundamentals — what we were doing earlier in the season. We just have to do that to be successful.”
That sounds like a pretty good idea and not just for the defensive linemen. Part of the problem last week was that the Seahawks are a good team that played reasonably well. But the Bears didn’t help with some serious fundamental breakdowns in things like gap discipline. They play their best when they’re playing fundamentally sound.
- Breaking news from Sun-Times columnist Rick Morrissey:
“Whether or not Brian Urlacher returns from a hamstring injury this year, he’ll be a Bear next season. That comes from highly placed sources inside my head.”
- Neil Hayes at the Chicago Sun-Times made this curious comment about the aging Urlacher:
“It’s not so much his straight-line speed that has suffered since injuring his knee in last year’s season finale. He proved he could still run when he chased down Golden Tate from behind after Tate’s 49-yard gain in the second quarter of Sunday’s game. It’s brakes that he lacks. He struggles to plant his feet and re-direct himself. It has looked like he has been playing on ice all season.
“Never before in a season have we seen Urlacher overrun plays he used to make routinely.”
Whether Urlacher has lost some quickness is a debatable issue. But, like most of the players in Lovie Smith‘s aggressive cover two defense, Urlacher has been over running plays on occasion his entire career.
- Dan Pompei at the Chicago Tribune on why nickelback D.J. Moore has been riding the pine.
“Moore has excellent ball awareness and ball skills for a corner. But I think coaches were disappointed in the fact that he was not playing more physically. [Kelvin] Hayden is a bigger, stronger defender and better tackler.”
Moore will likely start this week with Hayden replacing the injured Tim Jennings in the lineup.
- Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune is dead on with this comment:
“The idea has been thrown out there that the Bears could seek retribution on Vikings defensive end Jared Allen for the illegal hit that ended the season of right guard Lance Louis, who suffered a torn ACL in the teams’ first meeting. But it’s football and not a street fight. The Bears’ line needs to be concerned about blocking Allen, who whipped left tackle J’Marcus Webb for 3-1/2 sacks in the meeting at Minnesota last season, not taking him out. The second they divert their attention from blocking Allen will be the moment he turns the corner and zeros in on quarterback Jay Cutler, still not a month removed from a concussion.”
- Another interesting comment from Biggs in regards to today’s game:
“Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder became engaged this week after he proposed to ESPN personality Samantha Steele with an elaborate setup in which he spelled ‘Marry Me’ using Christmas lights. Sound like a second-year player with his mind fully on the game? Not really. Ponder doesn’t have a lot of help on the outside and that problem is made worse with the absence of Percy Harvin. He possesses a deer-in-the-headlights look too often in the pocket and struggles making plays downfield. At least things are going swimmingly for him off the field.”
- Pompei gives a scout’s report on Viking safety Harrison Smith: “Opponents should use play action and try to take advantage of Smith’s aggressiveness to get receivers open in the middle of the field.”
- Matt Bowen at the Chicago Tribune points out that with Brian Urlacher out and with Adrian Peterson likely to be the Vikings main threat, its a perfect situation to use plays like this one to attack middle linebacker Nick Roach with tight end Kyle Rudolph. I’d expect a lot of this at crucial times.
- One of the things that head coach Lovie Smith‘s Bears teams are noted for is consistency. They usually beat the teams they should beat because, like their head coach, they never get too high or too low. Most of us consider this to be a good thing. However, its hard not to see that teams who do get up for the Bears usually end up winning because the Bears have not been mentally prepared to rise to the challenge. With that in mind, Judy Batista at the New York Times answers a fan question about the inconsistency of the Giants under head coach Tom Coughlin:
“I don’t think the Giants’ problems are ones of effort – they don’t quit, do they? – I think they are one of execution. Nine penalties is not because they are not trying, it’s because they are sloppy and perhaps not focused enough. The Giants have undoubtedly had a recent history of going up and down. I don’t have any idea how they would be with another coach, but ask yourself this: Would you exchange Tom Coughlin’s results with the Giants for anybody else’s? I’d take the inconsistency in the regular season in exchange for getting on a roll late in the season and into the playoffs any day.”
So would I. I guess the question is, would Bears general president Ted Phillips?
- Toni Monkovic at The New York Times debates whether the gun control comments from Bob Costas at halftime of the Cowboys-Eagles game was appropriate. The quickest way to get me to change the channel for any sports show, radio or television, is to start talking politics, race or religion. But even I would have to admit that the appropriateness if this topic is debatable given Jovan Belcher‘s murder-suicide.
- Stuart Miller, again at The New York Times addresses the issue of replacing more injured players on the roster, particularly with the new concussion rules. It appears to me like the idea of a developmental league may be gaining a little steam.
- In the wake of Johnny Manzel‘s Hiesman award, The Sports Pickle asks where past winners are now:
“2011: Robert Griffin, III, QB, Baylor
RG3 is the greatest young quarterback ever.
“2010: Cam Newton, QB, Auburn
“Cam Newton works as a professional quarterback in the NFL and is the former greatest young quarterback ever.”
One Final Thought
Here’s another curious comment, this time from David Haugh at the Chicago Tribune:
“If the Ravens can go 4-2 without Ray Lewis, then the Bears should finish 3-1 without Urlacher against a favorable schedule.”
“Favorable”? You’ve got to be kidding. Yes, Arizona is a game the Bears should win but two dome games against a decent team in Minnesota and a team with more talent, if less discipline, in Detroit? And the Packers who have both talent and discipline?
I know everyone wants the Bears to be a sure playoff team but let’s cut them a break and be realistic. That’s a darned tough schedule and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see the Bears go 1-3 during that stretch with or without Urlacher.
Having said that, Potash takes the opposite approach and addresses the doomsday scenario with the Bears losing all four of their final games. He says they can still make the playoffs at 8-8. I consider both that and the possibility that they Bears will actually lose all of those games to be highly unlikely. I’ll be very surprised if they lose to Arizona and, though the other games are tough, they do have a reasonable chance to surprise me and pull them out. It isn’t like the Vikings and Lions aren’t perfectly capable of playing poorly enough to lose.
I think this quote from wide receiver Brandon Marshall pretty much bottom lines the situation via Haugh:
“Championship teams start to separate themselves in the month of December. Right now it’s about character, want-to and passion and who wants to get it done.”
I don’t think the Bears have the talent to get to 10-6 and a certain playoff berth. But the difference between winning and losing in the NFL isn’t that big and I definitely do believe that they can overcome that deficiency by simply playing better than thier opponents. We’re about to find out what this team is made of.