Game Comments: Cardinals at Bears 9/20/15


  1. The Bears once again, had trouble getting pressure on the quarterback. Palmer took a few hits but generally speaking he looked comfortable in the pocket. This has become a major issue. Palmer was very accurate and looked good.
  2. Other than that, I thought the Bears defensive line held their own at the line of scrimmage today. Rushing yards were hard to come by as Arizona only had 30 at half. They ran the ball better after that with the Bears down by a ton of points. The outside linebackers and defensive ends began having a very hard time setting the edge in the second half.
  3. The Cardinals finally took advantage of Adrian Amos at safety as he struggled in coverage. This is something that many were surprised that the Packers didn’t do last week.
  4. In truth the entire Bears defensive backfield was exposed this game. The Cardinals have a lot of speed at wide receiver and the Bears struggled to keep up. Notably, Kyle Fuller struggled again. This was the major difference in the game.
  5. Boy, Jared Allen looks uncomfortable in coverage. I keep waiting for someone to take advantage of him by sending the running back out into patterns more.
  6. Bryce Callahan, not Terrance Mitchell, replaced Demontre Hurst as the sixth defensive back in the dime package. Mitchell should be a better cover corner in single coverage on the outside and playing the dime corner may not be his strength. Mitchell saw time at corner late in the game as the Bears are apparently searching for answers there.
  7. Brandon Dunn held his own today after being promoted from the practice squad. He wasn’t getting a lot of penetration but he occupied his blockers and wasn’t getting blown off the line of scrimmage.
  8. It was interesting to see Jared Allen getting his hands up for a tip and an interception just before half. You have to wonder if he wasn’t watching the Cardinals do it from the sideline before making the adjustment himself. The Bears got a field goal off of it.
  9. How deos Shea McClellin end up trying to cover Larry Fitzgerald on a Cardinals touchdown early in the third quarter? That may have been a broken coverage on the flea flicker but it was just one example of some of the puzzling coverage mismatches in this game.


  1. Bears came out playing a lot of double tight end, something which made a lot of sense given that injured wide receiver Alshon Jeffery was inactive with an injury. They used both Zack Miller and Martellus Bennett split out wide (along with Matt Forte) instead and did so reasonably effectively.
  2. The Bears did a good job of mixing it up and executing both on the run and the pass this game against a very good Arizona defense.
  3. More than usual, this game was going to be about the line of scrimmage offensively with the Bears trying to run the ball against a tough Arizona defensive front. The Bears held their own but the Cardinals are so fast to the ball that the Bears had a tough time of it. There was too much penetration against the run but Cutler got some nice protection. The protection for Clausen was less impressive as the Cardinals knew that the Bears had to throw from behind. Kyle Long held his own this week but he still gave up a sack in the fourth quarter.
  4. Speaking of the Cardinals being fast to the ball, I was surprised that the Bears didn’t do a better job of taking advantage of their aggression. They were clearly ready to defend the screen pass but some counter runs and reverses might have worked well.
  5. Having said that, the Bears game plan was not without misdirection. Interesting use of the read option by the Bears as Cutler faked the handoff to Jeremy Langford in the first quarter and took the ball himself to the outside for a first down. One of the many very clever and new ways that the Bears took advantage of Cutler’s mobility. I wouldn’t mind seeing more of that.
  6. Nice job by Cutler finding Josh Bellamy on the broken coverage for the first Bears touchdown.
  7. Cutler looked much, much better now that the Packers left town. He was much more accurate with some very strong throws. Unfortunately, the interception before half time on a poor throw behind Martellus Bennett marred the effort. Cutler was injured as he landed on his shoulder trying to make the tackle on what turned out to be a pick six. The Bears said that it was a hamstring injury.
  8. The Bears did a good job of giving Langford more carries this game. Not that I like seeing Forte on the sideline but the rest is good for him.
  9. It was interesting to watch the Arizona Cardinals adjust as the game goes on. They were having trouble getting to the quarterback so they simply started counting in their heads and then jumping and putting their hands up to bat passes down. It was very effective.
  10. Jimmy Clausen looked hesitant and had trouble getting rid of the ball. HIs accuracy was poor. The situation wasn’t helped by the fact that the Bears went down by so many points that the whole stadium knew that they had to pass. Clausen looked like a back up who was unprepared after being throw into the game and asked to do his job.


  1. Thom Brennaman was the consumate professional play-by-play man, as usual. I like Charles Davis when he’s doing the draft but I like him a lot less as a color man. He’s not as good as many of the best when it comes to pointing out the technical details of the game to the viewer. I’d call him adequate. Tony Siragusa was practically useless on the sideline.
  2. Things got off to a rough start on special teams once again for the return game as David Johnson returned the opening kickoff 108 yards for a touchdown. There was a horrible line drie kickoff after the Bears first touchdown. Robbie Gould has been struggling with those. Other than that, I’d say it was a nondescript performance.
  3. Both sides once again had too many penalties, especially of the pre-snap kind. Teh Cardinals committed 8 penalties for 58 yards while the Bears committed 14 for 170 which tied a franchise record. The Bears’ numbers were inflated by a couple of very long pass interference penalties as the game was tightly called in the defensive backfield. There was an inexcusable 12 men on the field penalty against the Bears in the second half. Vlad Ducasse was once again a particular problem with a false start and a holding penalty. I feel compelled to remind everyone that there’s a reason why the Bears were so hesitant to move Long to right tackle.
  4. Drops were not a problem on either side.
  5. Turnovers killed both teams today. Jay Cutler threw a pick six right before half Then the Cardinals followed up with a fumble and an interception, each resulting in only 6 Bears points. The Bears had to take better advantage of those opportunities. Jimmy Clausen picked up where Cutler left off, throwing a bad interception to Patrick Peterson, who had Marquess Wilson well covered.
  6. I’d like to thank Bruce Arians for using all of those timeouts before half to save time for a final drive, only to fumble the punt and give the Bears a field goal. I admire aggressiveness but your team better be of the type to take advantage of it or it can kill you.
  7. Once again, the Bears settled far too often for field goals in this game. They aren’t going to be able to continue to do that, especially with their defense being as bad as it is.
  8. How bad have things gotten when you find yourself desperately rooting for your team to keep the points given up under 50? And consider it to be a minor victory when they don’t.
  9. I can’t emphasize enough how bad the Bears defensive backfield is right now. The lack of pressure on the quarterback is exacerbating the problem. These sorts of games where the Bears give up huge numbers of points are going to be fairly common unless something is done. In the mean time, the team has to play nearly perfect football in every other way to make up for it. That means particularly that they can’t afford the turnovers or the penalties that we saw in this game.


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Jury Still Out on Bears Cornerbacks

Hub Arkush at answers your questions:

“From @chaparral276: Any changes coming in the Bears’ secondary?

“It’s hard to imagine Terrance Mitchell not getting a start at cornerback or at least as the nickel before too long.”

“[T]here is no point in going too far with Alan Ball, as the Bears should know in his eighth season exactly what they’ve got and Sunday vs. the Pack it wasn’t nearly enough.

Sherrick McManis also struggled vs. the Packers as the nickel after a great preseason so he had best turn it around soon.

“I’m guessing the Bears are hoping to look at Ball and McManis at least until they can get Tracy Porter’s hamstring healed and then he’ll get a good look, too, but again, after seven seasons I’m not sure how long that will take.

“I’m guessing Mitchell gets a start in one of those three cornerback spots by Week Five or Six.”

There’s a part of me that things that Hub’s bing a bit tough here. And there’s a part of me that doesn’t.

Terrance Mitchell Chicago (Daily Herald)

Terrance Mitchell Chicago (Daily Herald)


Hub sometimes becomes biased when it comes certain players and it causes him to see what he wants to see rather than what is. For instance, he saw a very good performance from quarterback Jay Cutler last week while many of the rest of us in Chicago saw an inaccurate mediocrity that had a passer rating less than 30.

I think something similar might be going on with Ball. He actually had good coverage the majority of the time last week. It’s just that Aaron Rogers was putting the ball in perfect spots. It was impossible to defend. I won’t defend McManis quite so strongly but he was up against Randal Cobb, after all. That’s not an excuse. Its just a fact.

On the other hand, there were no interceptions last week. That can’t continue. And there’s no getting around the fact that Bears lack speed in the defensive backfield.

And, finally, Mitchell is a young player that we’d all like to get a look at and see develop. Mitchell played in all four preseason games and flashed potential with nine tackles, an assist and two interceptions.  He was active against Green Bay but didn’t have a stat line.  He’s reasonably good sizes at 5’11” and 190 lb in the mold that this coaching staff likes.  And I’m reasonably sure the coaching staff would like to continue to get a better look at him, too.  Head coach John Fox had some nice things to say about Mitchell  after his Colts interception:

“That was a big-time play.  That’s a good catch whether you’re playing wideout or DB. But it was a very similar route to what we had earlier in the game. And he squeezed it pretty good and went up and made a great catch.”

Mitchell plays better when there isn’t a lot of traffic and communicating that needs to happen and it’s been speculated that he could be at his best on an island covering a receiver.  Those communications issues may need a little time to resolve themselves so week five or six might not be a bad estimate in that he may be deemed ready by then.

Bottom line, I’m not quite ready to toss away the Bears cornerbacks just, yet. Talk to me after the game today where the Bears play a team that, though still decidedly more talented than they are, isn’t quarterbacked by Rogers. If they look as below average as the Packers made them look, I might be more inclined to be more critical.

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Hurst Released, Dunn In for Sunday


Brandon Dunn (ESPN)

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune reports that the Bears have made a roster move on the eve of their match up with the Arizona Cardinals:

Hurst was signed by the Bears in the spring of 2013 as an undrafted free agent. He remained on the practice squad that year but made the 53 man roster in 2014. He was considered to be a young building block by the last coaching staff but his star had apparently fallen with the current group and he’s had a hard time finding his way on to the field with the starters. Nevertheless he’s been playing some special teams and I think we can expect him to be signed to the practice squad once he clears waivers.

Dunn was signed by the Chicago Bears in May of 2014 after going undrafted. He started on the team’s practice squad before being promoted to the active roster in November. He started on the team’s practice squad this year as well.

Ego Ferguson is questionable for the Bears on Sunday and this would appear to be a bad sign for his chances of playing. Dunn, who occasionally flashed in the preseason with five tackles and two assists, will likely fill Ferguson’s role in the defensive line rotation on Sunday.  The Bears spent most of the game against the Packers in the nickel formation but are likely to spend more time in the base 3-4 against the Cardinals.  That’s where Dunn will likely be counted upon to contribute.

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Plenty on the Line in Lions-Vikings Divisional Rivalry

Yahoo Sports

Yahoo Sports

Josh Katzenstein at the Detroit News emphasizes that the Lions have more to worry about than Adrian Peterson Sunday:

“The Lions faced wide receiver Mike Wallace last year as the speedster caught five passes for 51 yards and a touchdown with the Dolphins in Week 10. On Sunday, the Lions will see him on a new team, the Vikings, and despite limited film of him in Minnesota’s offense, they’re expecting the same deep threat.

“‘He’s been in this league a little while, and he can run,’ Lions coach Jim Caldwell said of the seven-year veteran. ‘He can create problems for you. That’s the one thing I think that we don’t underestimate is they got speed on the outside. They can run and they can give you some problems.'”

Wallace wasn’t well utilized in Miami largely because throwing deep isn’t quarterback Ryan Tannehill‘s forte. It really isn’t Minnesota quarterback Teddy Bridgewater‘s, either, but the Lions will be packing eight the box (at least) in an effort to stop Peterson and that should open things up for Bridgewater in a way things probably never did for Tannehill.

This Minnesota – Detroit game carries a lot of significance. Each of these teams lost last week and looked bad doing it, the Vikings to the 49ers on Monday night and the Lions after a poor second half performance against the Chargers. The loser will have started 0-2 and will be digging themselves out of a big hole.

But, even more than that, both of these teams are planning to go to the playoffs. Assuming the Packers are going, that only leaves one other divisional team to take a wild card spot with the other facing a serious uphill battle. We’ll have a much better idea of who the division’s breakout playoff team is likely to be after this week.

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Redskins Cut Blocking Inside Gregg Williams’ Head

Joe Lyons at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the Washington Redskins appear to have gotten into Rams defensive coordinator Gregg Williams‘ head:

“‘Cut me, cut me, cut me, cut me, cut me…’’

“An original song from Gregg Williams.

“It’s a catchy little tune from the Rams’ defensive coordinator and has been featured this week as the team’s defensive linemen prepare to face the Washington Redskins on Sunday at FedEx Field in Landover, Md.

“The Redskins are a team that likes to cut-block. In fact, right guard Brandon Scherff, a highly touted rookie from Iowa, used the cut-block against four-time All-Pro Ndamukong Suh and limited Miami’s standout defensive tackle to just two tackles in the Dolphins’ 17-10 road win last week.

“‘That’s the little song that goes off in my head when I see them on the ground,’’ Williams joked after practice Friday at Rams Park.”

You can understand why.

A couple things ran through my head as I watched the Redskins offensive line block the Miami defensive linemen last week.

  1. How effective the cut blocking was. Miami defensive players were all over the ground. Its very hard to tackle anyone from there.
  2. How much defensive linemen must hate it as an offensive lineman dives at them low like that. It really should be illegal. But its not.

In any case, this is an issue that the Bears are going to have to deal with when the Redskins visit the Bears in December. Here’s hoping they’ll be prepared for it with a spring in their step and a song in their hearts.

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Tayo Fabuluje: A Huge Mass of Potential



Hub Arkush at answers your questions:

“From @MDayne: How much of a project is [TayoFabuluje? Any chance he contributes this year?”

“Originally I thought he’d need at least three years and might not crack the lineup until 2017. Now I’m thinking he will be ready to compete in training camp next season.

“Asking him to compete this year still feels like asking a lot.”

It does. But I’m far more high now on Fubuluje now than I was after the draft where he appeared to be a 6th rounder flyer that was unlikely to yield much. It says something about Fabuluje that he not only made the 53 man roster but that he seemed to be an option that the Bears were actually considering at right tackle in the preseason.

Fabuluje was well behind the more experienced Jordan Mills and second year man Charles Leno. But he appears to me to have far more potential than, either. At 6’6″, 342 lb he’s amazingly athletic for someone his size. I’ll be very much looking forward to seeing how he develops in the future be, it this year if he’s forced onto the field, or next year in camp competing to start.

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Sundays Can’t Be Blue Mondays

Patrick Finley at the Chicago Sun-Times asks 10 questions going into the Bears game against the Cardinals Sunday:

“5. Why do the Bears have a more strenuous Saturday practice than most?

“‘Really, it’s just science behind it,’ coach John Fox said. ‘People used to shut it down on Saturdays. They’re saying now, getting a sweat or getting a lather on the day before you compete is actually a positive thing. It helps you sleep. It helps calm the nerves some.'”

I’m a huge believer in this even though I’m going to guess that at least some of the players don’t like it.

Most players undoubtedly want to rest as much as possible before a game and every time you hit the field, even if its just to work up a sweat, is an opportunity to get hurt.

Nevertheless, I’m quite sure this will result in better performance on Sunday and I wouldn’t be in the least surprised to see it catch on around the league. Anyone will tell you that Mondays stink. The reason most commonly given is that you are coming back to work after an enjoyable two day long vacation. And, hey, I admit that you need to rest.

But its more than that. Mondays are the days when we have to restart our engines. That takes time and, assuming you are like most people, you aren’t going to be working optimally for most of the day. The same thing undoubtedly goes for football players. Much better to keep that engine idling and ready to go right up until game time.


The Bears had a bad habit of coming out looking flat last year. And few things are more irritating than to hear a coach come out after the game to say that he “doesn’t understand it. They practiced really well this week.” Yeah, sure they did. But it didn’t carry over because all momentum was halted right before the game when it was needed the most. I don’t think that we’re going to be seeing this team come out unprepared to play mentally nearly as often this year.

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Cardinals Darren Fells Will Be Player to Keep and Eye on Sunday

The Cardinals have a great deal of speed at wide receiver with Larry Fitzgerald and John Brown. That’s going to be bad enough against a Bears defensive backfield that lacks overall speed. But Rich Campbell at the Chicago Tribune emphasizes another threat that the Bears defense will have to deal with:

“Cardinals tight end Darren Fells never played college football, but you wouldn’t know that from his Week 1 stat line: four catches for 82 yards and a touchdown.

“The 6-7, 281-pounder played basketball at California-Irvine and professionally in Belgium, Finland and Argentina. He spent the majority of 2013 on the Cardinals’ practice squad and since has developed into a threat.

“‘The biggest thing for a basketball player is: will he stick his face in the fan? Is he going to block anybody?’ coach Bruce Arians said. ‘Once he bought into how to block … he has become a really reliable player.'”

Darren-FellsFells will be a serious threat to a Bears linebacking corp that frequently looked lost in coverage last Sunday against the Packers. Bears fans will be looking for that to improve both this week and over the course of the season.

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Bears Offense Under Pressure from a Blitzing Cardinals Defense

Rich Campbell at the Chicago Tribune reviews a few keys to Sunday’s game against the Cardinals. One thing that you expect to get from them is a lot of blitzing:

“The Cardinals blitz about 40 percent of the time, running back Matt Forte said. That’s a relatively high rate. Their frequent stunts and picks up front will test an offensive line operating with Kyle Long in only his second game at right tackle.”

“‘How you get people out of doing that is picking up the blitz and hitting plays on them,’ Forte said. ‘We have to not be afraid of, ‘Oh, they’re going to blitz,’ but, ‘OK, if they blitz, we have to hit them where it hurts.””

Campbell emphasizes the adjustments that have to be made along the offensive line. But at least as important will be quarterback Jay Cutler‘s ability to read the blitz in concert with his receivers to burn the defense. Both Cutler and the receivers have struggled with this in the past and frequent miscommunications have occurred. In particular, Cutler has a bad habit of missing free blitzers coming off the edge, especially from his left. Performance in situations where the Cardinals bring more men than can be blocked will be a key to Cutler’s success.

This will be another opportunity for the Bears coaching staff to show themselves to be superior to others the Bears have had here over the past two decades. The players certainly looked better prepared last week than we’ve seen around here in a while, especially offensively. Whether they can take the next step against a dynamic defense like the Cardinals is going to be a good question. I look forward to finding the answer.

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Kansas City – Denver: What We Learned

Jan 5, 2013; Houston, TX, USA; General view of the NFL Wild Card logo on the field before a game between the Houston Texans and Cincinnati Bengals during the AFC Wild Card playoff game at Reliant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports ORG XMIT: USATSI-119966 ORIG FILE ID: 20130105_sal_ad1_152.JPG

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

  1. Peyton Manning‘s arm is shot.Yeah, I know. He threw a dramatic game-winning touchdown. And he also threw a number of other nice passes.  But he also threw quite a number of balloons, especially in the first half. When everything is perfect for Manning and he’s got his feet underneath him with a clean pocket, he’s fine. But he’s no longer the playmaker that can make up for other team deficiencies. Which brings me to the next point.
  2. The Broncos need to adjust to Manning’s obvious physical deficiencies. He’s still a smart, savvy quarterback who is one of the best in the business pre-snap. But he’s not going to be able to completely adjust to head coach Gary Kubiac‘s new offense by continually getting under center and running play action. At least not yet.  Manning was a different quarterback when Kubiac put him into the shotgun more often and/or when he was in the two minute offense. Suddenly Manning was reading the blitz and getting the ball out before the Chiefs could touch him. Kubiac is going to have to shelve some of his offense, at least temporarily, until Manning gets his feet back under him.
  3. The Chiefs have a pair of very good tight ends, at least one of which has come out of nowhere. Travis Kelce I’d at least heard about but James O’Shaughnessy was a complete surprise. Both of these guys are athletic and dangerous. It should be fun watching them this year.
  4. These are two of the best defenses in the NFL – we knew that going in. But, even given that, I’m very concerned about both of these offensive lines, especially Denver’s. The Broncos gave up three sacks and the Chief gave up four. Most significantly, Denver had only a paltry 60 yards rushing. That ‘aint good, folks.Denver did a lot of shuffling alone its offensive line in the offseason and its possible that they will gel as the season goes on. But for now, a bad offensive line combined with a physically limited Peyton Manning isn’t a good mix.
  5. On a related note, someone has to settle the Broncos down as they gave away so many personal foul penalties in the first half that all Kansas City had to do was collect them and, as former Chiefs coach Hank Stram put it, “matriculate” their way down the field. I appreciate physical play but you still have to make them earn it, boys.
  6. Also on a related note, is there any doubt that Denver defensive coordinator Wade Phillips is one of the best in the game? He does nothing but win everywhere he goes. He’s one of those guys who is simply born to be a coordinator instead of a head coach. He won a chess match last night against a great offensive mind.And that brings us to Andy Reid.  I’m beginning to wonder if Reid also isn’t simply a born coordinator. He certainly doesn’t appear to be a big game coach and some of the decisions he made from the sidelines last night were head scratchers. I appreciate aggressiveness but putting the game in the hands of Alex Smith by throwing the ball, especially right before half time, was bad news. Reid may have taken the Chiefs as far as they’ll ever get with him as the coach.
  7. Turnovers kill. Jamall Charles and Alex Smith. Protect football. ’nuff said.
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