- Dan Pompei at the Chicago Tribune on wide receiver Alshon Jeffery:
“Alshon Jeffery hurt the Bears as much as he helped them. A savvy route runner would not have been on the ground on that first-quarter play in which [quarterback Jay] Cutler was picked off.
“Then in the third quarter he dropped what should have been a 39-yard touchdown pass.
“But his second-quarter touchdown catch was very nice. He swam past Josh Robinson to free himself and made an over-the-shoulder catch that a lot of receivers struggle with. In the fourth quarter he pulled in a back-shoulder throw for 30 yards with Robinson all over him.”
Jeffery looks like a guy with a bright future in the league. As Pompei implies, he’s going to have to learn to be more consistent. He’s also going to have to stay out of the training room. But, like most wide receivers in particular, I think we can look forward to him being better his second year. This looks to me like a win for general manager Phil Emery.
- Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune points out the need for offensive linemen but defends (a little) Emery with this comment:
“Drafting a playmaking tight end would be the best option, but the Bears’ needs on offense surely will begin with the line. It’s probably best the team passed on John Carlson in free agency last spring. He signed a $25 million, five-year contract with the Vikings and has been a bust.”
Its probably worth noting at this point that guard David DeCastro, who I really, deep down thought the Bears should have drafted, spent a good portion of his first season injured. So you could argue that Emery dodged a couple bullets.
- Biggs quotes offensive line coach Tim Holt on whether Gabe Carimi might be permanently moved to right guard.
“‘No, no, no, no,’ he said. ‘We’re just trying to win games right now and put the best five out there. That’s way too far in the future. The big thing to for him is he didn’t have an offseason coming off the (knee) surgery. He’s going to be living in the weight room. He’s going to get bigger and do more leg work and all that stuff. Whatever position he is going to be at, he’s going to have to get more lower-body work.’”
- Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times notes that defensive end Shea McClellin left the game with a knee problem. One of the knocks on McClellin was that he had a smaller body type that would wear down late in the season. Similar to when he missed a game due to concussion a couple weeks ago, few people noticed that McClellin was gone.
- I thought this postgame comment from Biggs was curious:
“What has to be bothersome for [head coach Lovie] Smith is his defense could not prevail despite an anemic effort from the Vikings’ Christian Ponder, as bad a starting quarterback as there is in the league. But Ponder managed to pull off an elaborate engagement proposal to his girlfriend during the week with Christmas lights and then beat the once-vaunted Bears defense despite completing only 11 of 17 passes for 91 yards. “
I’m not any kind of a Christian Ponder fan by any means. Certainly statistically those aren’t numbers that jump out at you. And Ponder does have a reputation for making some bad decisions. But I saw very little of it in this game. There weren’t many errant passes, either. To my eye, Ponder isn’t exactly surrounded by great talent at wide receiver or on the offensive line. It looks to me like the Vikings habit of trying to combine heavy reliance on the running game with penalties and undisciplined play is really more the problem than anything else. But whatever problems the Vikings offense had Sunday, Ponder wasn’t one of the big ones. He won’t win you many games. But when he plays like he did this week, he won’t lose you many either.
- Biggs quotes special teams coach Kevin O’Dea on how he fixed Adam Podlesh‘s mechanics:
“‘We just changed one thing,’ O’Dea said. ‘When you deal with punting there are a lot of moving parts so the simpler you can keep it, the better. All we did was just change where his eyes focus to and aligned it better with where his leg and his hip are. That’s all we did. I am talking about the drop. So, we just put the drop back in line with where he can use maximum power. Now, he can use his leg in his swing to get maximum power into the ball.
“‘It’s his eyes as he drops the ball. We have a specific spot what he’s looking at for him. And everyone is different. It’s just like golf. Everybody has a little bit different sequence and where their swing is and how they line up and where their hips are and everything. So, all we did was study where his hips are, where his eyes are. Now, we just moved it a little bit. And right now it seemed to get him back in line. Now, he’s getting back in rhythm. Hopefully, it stays that way.’”
- Steve Rosenbloom at the Chicago Tribune provides this measured response to the Bears loss Sunday.
“Lovie Smith has to go.
“If I’m Phil Emery, I wouldn’t have let him on the plane home after that 21-14 disaster in Minnesota.”
Rick Morrissey at the Chicago Sun-Times adds his two cents:
“Since George Halas retired for good, every Bears coach who has been fired failed in his last opportunity to beat the Packers. No pressure, Lovie.”
It is, of course, the time of year for this kind of speculation but this year it feels a lot more serious than usual. Mike Mulligan at the Chicago Tribune makes the case that its best for everyone if the Bears can keep Smith as head coach:
“Smith is miles away the most qualified person for the job he holds. Does anybody believe the Bears would get in a bidding war for Jon Gruden, rumored to be on the way back, or be interested in coaxing Bill Cowher out of retirement?”
No. But I didn’t think they’d sign Julius Peppers, either. And I didn’t think they’d fire Jerry Angelo.
There’s only one thing I’ll say about this. I don’t think Smith is a bad head coach. The could – and just might – do a lot worse particularly if there isn’t a definite plan and swift action on hiring a new one byt Emery (or Bears president Ted Phillips depending on who you think will actually do it).
But Simth has been here a long time and it doesn’t look to me like they’re going to get back to another Super Bowl with him at the helm. Too often it looks to me like the Bears are being out schemed in games. Smith is a master at handling players – arguably the biggest part of his job. And I don’t think they’ve stopped listening to him. But And there’s no denying that once the season is over, the Bears will have likely have faded very badly down the stretch two years in a row. And its now evident that X’s and O’s aren’t Smith’s strong point, nor is it the strong point of the coaches he’s hired.
There is one other factor here. Smith is a defensive coach in an offensive league. It may be time to get someone in here who can coach offense and, more importantly, who can judge talent on that side of the ball. It’s hard to watch the juggling act that’s taking place on the offensive line without thinking that something isn’t right about how things are being handled there. It’s the kind of misjudgment that we’ve seen all too often with coaches and players under Smith.
I acknowledge all of Mulligan’s points as being valid. But at some point you have to draw a line and take a chance or you’ll never get better. No guts, no glory. We may be at that point.
- I’ve been assuming that if the Bears went 9-7, there would still be a chance that they’d make the playoffs. But Biggs points out that there’s a good chance that the Bears wouldn’t get in even at 10-6.
- Some of the Chicago Tribune staff are apparently inspired by Jay Cutler‘s twitch:
- Potash comments on the current state of the Packers:
“The Packers (9-4) have won seven of their last eight games. The Bears (8-5) have lost four of their last five. Further complicating matters is the fact that while the Bears are losing players, the Packers are gaining them.
“In many ways, this has been a disastrous year for the Packers.
“There have been enough injuries to justify opening their own green and gold hospital. Thirteen starters have missed 66 games with injuries, and 10 players are on injured reserve.
“They are down to their third-string right tackle, their third-string running back and their third-string inside linebacker.
“There were two games that were all but in the win column before strange occurrences turned them into losses.
“And there have been a couple of butt whippings, the kind the Mike McCarthy Packers have not been accustomed to.
“And where has this left the Packers as the NFL season barrels down the stretch?
“More dangerous, and maybe better, than ever. Adversity has toughened this team.”
“The Packers were down 14-0 Sunday to the Lions, and against all odds, reason, disease, pestilence and God’s will, they somehow came back to win.
“That’s apparently what it takes to overcome a two-touchdown deficit.
“We know this because the Bears trailed the Vikings 14-0 and treated it like an ascent of Mount Everest in sandals and swimwear.”
Good teams who deserve to be in the playoffs finish strong. Those that don’t, don’t.
- Potash continues on the Packers injury status::
“Cornerback Charles Woodson (broken collarbone), guard T.J. Lang (ankle) and linebacker Clay Matthews (hamstring) could return this week. Wide receiver Jordy Nelson (hamstring) is less likely to play.”
- Pompei writes a pretty good column covering what teams have been doing to the Packers. It should be familiar to Bears fans:
“Although the Bears have failed repeatedly to hold down the Packers, the rest of the league believes the Bears know how to do it.
“So this season, almost every Packers opponent has borrowed the Cover-2 pages from the Bears’ playbook. It might not be Star Wars defense exactly in terms of complexity, but it has resulted in the deflections and interceptions of numerous Packers missiles.
“‘Our offense is not as flashy as last year,’ Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers told the Tribune. ‘It’s tough especially when teams are going to play you very soft the majority of the game, which we’ve seen this year. It has been 80 percent split safety.”
“The best way to get a defense out of a two-safety high look is to gash them with the running game. The Packers struggled to do that early, starting three running backs and failing to reach 110 rushing yards in eight of their first 10 games.
“But as the temperatures have dipped, their running game has warmed up. In their last two games they have run for 152 and 140 yards respectively.”
- Pompei, writing for The National Football Post, explains the Pistol offense that is becoming a trend around the league:
“In the Pistol, the quarterback lines up about four yards behind center, or three yards closer than he would in shotgun. If one back is in the game, he lines up directly behind the quarterback instead of next to him. This is an advantage for the running game because the back can go left or right easily.
“The beauty of the Pistol, as the Redskins and Robert Griffin are showing, is you can combine a spread passing game with a power run game.”
“‘You have to contain it, you can’t let it get on the edge,’ the NFC coach said. ‘You have to make the quarterback cut back inside to pursuit. If he pitches it, you have to get outside and contain. If they want to run an inside zone, fine, that’s where the core of the defense is. Defensive backs have to be disciplined, throw off timing, jam, reroute, and not allow the receivers to get a good release.’”
- Hmmmm. I get a lot of differing view points on Cam Newton. Some think he’s a changed man from his college days. Some think he’s a sore loser. But when the other players are actually trying to hurt you at the Pro Bowl… Yes, this might be the worst thing I’ve heard since he was drafted. Via Mike Freeman at CBS Sports.
- Its “Opposite Day” for the quarterbacks on Facebook. Via nflmock.com
- This seemed like such a simple question. From The Sports Pickle.
- And this looks like it would make a wonderful holiday gift but I don’t think Matt Schaub would likely appreciate the gesture. Also from profootballmock.com:
One Final Thought
Before the Vikings game I commented that, with 4 games left against decent to very good teams, the Bears were going to have to win on drive and want-to. With that in mind, Haugh describes this exchange with Smith after the Bears loss to the Vikings Sunday:
“‘That opening drive really put us on our heels, and we never really recovered,’ Smith said.
“I asked Smith why the Bears never recovered, what with 56 minutes left in an NFL game after [Vikings runningback Adrian]Peterson‘s touchdown.
“‘You tell me,’ Smith snapped. ‘How do you answer a question like that? If I knew that, we would have done a little bit more about it.’”
I can tell Smith why.