Defensive Line Clearly Disappointing. Reasons Not So Plain.

The Chicago Tribune‘s Dan Pompei gave out some good grades this week.  But like the rest of us he didn’t have much good to say about the defensive line:

“Grade: 2 [of 10]

“The D-line was almost as bad as the O-line was good. With the exception of one 13-play, fourth-quarter series in which the Bears hit [quarterback Mark) Sanchez four times, they didn’t lay a finger on the Jets quarterback.

“There seemed to be some issues with footing and the Jets were picking up the Bears’ stunts well, but it went beyond that. Julius Peppers didn’t have much more of an impact on the game than Marcus Harrison, who was inactive.

On a related note, this quote from Peppers via Vaughn McClure, also at the Tribune, after the game caught my eye:

“We tried to run stunts, we tried to run games on them, and they did a good job of picking them up.  It was similar to the New England game. When you play against good offensive lines, those games don’t work as well. You have to do different things and adjust. And we didn’t adjust.”

First this sounded to me like a bit of an excuse for lack of performance.  Peppers makes that line go and sometimes he has to do it one-on-one (or more).

Second, some criticism of the coaching staff might be implied here.  I’m not sure what more Peppers thought needed to be done.  The Bears mixed in the blitz.  They didn’t do it as frequently as they might have but I can hardly blame them.  When they did do it they weren’t getting to Sanchez.

Whatever was meant, if Peppers wants more creativity out there I hope he’s letting the coaching staff know what he has in mind.  Based upon what we’ve been reading about Rod Marinelli and “creative control” it sounds like they’ll listen.  As long as he’s pointing to himself first when he’s assigning blame for lack of performance.

Toeaina and Mannelly Extended. Manning Not Likely to Be.

Sean Jensen reports for the Chicago Sun-Times that the Bears have extended the contracts of Matt Toeaina and Patrick Mannelly giving us three more years to struggle spelling Toeaina’s name .  (Its actually not that hard.  Just use every vowel in the alphabet in random order until it looks right.)

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune points out that the Bears have quite a list of players who could be next including Olin Kreutz, Anthony Adams, Danieal Manning and Brad Maynard:

“Signing Toeaina before starting nose tackle Anthony Adams was an interesting move. One source said the team has tried to sign Adams and safety Danieal Manning to extensions, but the Bears have asked all parties in contract talks to be silent, and with the team heading to the playoffs, it’s taboo for players to talk personal finances in the locker room.

“Early money for Toeaina is another indication veteran Tommie Harris, who has started the last three games, could be on his way out. He’s owed a $2.5 million roster bonus June 1.

Adams hesitation might be justified.  He’s an under rated player might command as much or more than the Bears are offering on the open market.  He’s 30 and this might be his last change to cash in.

Manning is a different story.  He’s a reasonably good kick returner and someone might pay him to do that.  But the odds are that the offer won’t be more than the Bears.  Manning has had a solid season but his history indicates that he’s prone to mistakes.  For instance, he bit on a short route last Sunday leading to a Jets touchdown.

Manning has an inflated idea of what he’s worth that was demonstrated when decided to stay away from offseason workouts in an effort to get more money from the Bears.  He was unhappy with the offers he got as a restricted free agent.  My guess is that Manning’s destined to be very disappointed this year as well.

Playoff Bye Weeks: Good, Bad, and Ugly

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune writes about the significance of having a first round bye, something the Bears can obtain through an Eagles loss tonight or a defeat of the Green Bay Packers on Sunday:

“Statistics show the bye hasn’t meant as much in recent years. Since the NFL expanded the playoffs to 12 teams in 1990, 59 of the 80 teams with a bye (73.8 percent) have reached the conference championship game. But in the last seven years, only 16 of 28 (57.1 percent) with a bye have played for the conference title.”

But that doesn’t mean that the bye can’t be important:

“‘I’d look at it as another chance for us to take another big step when you get a little bit of time off this time of the season,’ coach Lovie Smith said Monday. ‘That’s why the bye is so important. Injuries play such a big part in a team’s success right now.

“‘We have most of our guys healthy, and there’s a reason for that. But we hope we’re in that position of having to deal with having a few days off.'”

The only thing in the article that I really disagree with is this statement:

“Some suggest a team can lose its edge with an extra week off, but that’s more a loser’s lament than anything else.”

I think that recent Bear history can be seen as backing me up.  Biggs points out that the BEars lost their games after the by in both 2001 and 2005.  But its the 2001 game that really sticks with me.  The Bears lost an ugly game to an Eagles team that came in and just plain smashed them in the mouth.  The Bears came out flat and never recovered.

I think with the current coaching staff that the Bears can avoid this pitfall.  As Neil Hayes at the Chicago Sun-Times points out this morning, you could make a case that they are one of the major the strengths of the team.  They’re very experienced and very good at what they do.  Indeed, they are perhaps the main reason why the bye could be a great thing for the Bears.  With that, Biggs provides the bottom line:

The last time the Bears had a week off, the final week of October after consecutive home losses to the Seahawks and Redskins, they used it as a launching point for a five-game winning streak. Their only loss since was the Dec. 12 beatdown from the Patriots.

My conclusion is the same that most players and coaches come to.  That the bye is a good thing on balance and it might be an especially good thing for the Bears.  But a team certainly can lose its edge following a bye week in the playoffs.  That doesn’t mean you don’t want one and that doesn’t mean the Bears shouldn’t try their level best to obtain one.  But if they do, they need to take steps to prevent this from happening.

Vikings Sports Figure of the Year and Other News


“ex-Bears player who came up big Sunday? Nathan Vasher made some plays for the Lions in their upset win at Miami. Don’t look now, but Detroit is slowly turning the corner to becoming competitive and the Lions’ upset of the Packers earlier this month looms huge in preparations for this coming Sunday.”

The NFC North could be a monster division next year with the Bears, Packers and Lions.  The Packers aren’t going to be this hurt again and the Bears aren’t going to be this healthy.  I don’t know what’s wrong with the Vikings defensive line but there’s still a lot of talent there even if tackle Pat Williams does retire.  A new head coach could step in there with any kind of a decent quarterback and win a lot of games.  The division will be very competitive.

“If the Packers defeat the Bears to reach the postseason, they could wind up as the No. 6 seed. That scenario could push the Bears to the No. 3 seed, meaning they would have a rematch at Soldier Field the following weekend.”

I have to be honest.  The Packers are just about the last team I’d like to see the Bears play in the playoffs.  They match up better with almost any other NFC team likely to make it.

‘‘’We’re a halftime team,’ receiver Devin Hester said. ‘We go in and fix everything that needs to be fixed and come out and make sure we’re successful with it.’”

“I don’t want to diminish what Chicago accomplished because they made some plays, but that wasn’t our best.  We’ve got to get back. There’s no excuses. We’ve got to get back.”


    • The east coast blizzard that postponed the Eagles-Vikings matchup and kept the Jets in Chicago overnight Sunday has raised a lot of concerns about the Northeast Super Bowl awarded to New Jersey for 2014.  From The New York TimesGeorge Vecsey.

    This really sounds to me like much ado about nothing.  Snow is common and if necessary they’ll play in that.  But it would take a pretty rare event to shutdown a Super Bowl or even cause major problems playing and attending the game.

    • The Pioneer Press Sports Figure of the Years?  The 12th man.  Specifically the one in last years playoff loss against New Orleans:

    “So it makes complete sense to make The 12th Man the Pioneer Press’ Sports Figure of the Year, even if this is our first recipient to go nameless. True, (Naufahu) Tahi put the Vikings over the limit, but The 12th Man represents everyone involved in the fiasco, all those who made it possible and turned it into a moment every bit as infamous as The Knee and Hail Mary and the Love Boat in franchise lore. Maybe more.”

    “It set up a year of great expectation and, too often, greater disappointment.”

    “Minnesota was never the same.

    “The state or the team.”

    • Tim Tebow may have inserted himself into the Broncos future but not necessarily because of his on field performance.  As pointed out by Judy Battista at The New York Times there were only 5700 no shows for a meaningless game against the Texans Sunday.

    One Final Thought

      Vikings cornerback Asher Allen in repines the the Pioneer Press’ question:  “Which was the best Christmas present you received as a kid?”:

        “”I never got a Christmas present. Never. We don’t celebrate Christmas. We do Christmas throughout the whole year. Every day is Christmas. As long as you get up, every day is Christmas.”