The Bears came out with seven in the box but they were mixing it up well. Occasionally they were bring Major Write up and they did blitz on occasion.
It was fairly obvious that Steve Smith was a major focal point. Tim Jennings got the assignment and he did his best. But Smith isn’t Calvin Johnson and you aren’t going to be able to completely shut him down. At least it kept Jennings around the ball for another pick six at a crucial time.
I give the Bears credit in that in the first half they generally rushed Cam Newton and got pressure on him while, at the same time, doing it with discipline to limit his running. Like Smith, you aren’t ever going to shut this down completely.
I thought the Bears were shutting down the run well pretty well in the first quarter but it opened up in the second for Carolina. That’s because the Carolina receivers are were getting open. Cam Newton simply wasn’t looking at them enough at the time as far as I could tell as he concentrated a lot on Smith. He looked like he came out in the second half and made the adjustment.
We had read that Newton’s accuracy was suffering this year and the first half was no different. He was way off on some throws and started the game throwing behind everyone.
I noticed that Nate Collins got some playing time at nose guard. I can’t say his performance was notable in the first half.
I see that Greg Olson’s blocking hasn’t improved. He completely wiffed on Shea McClellin as he got a sack in the first half.
Not a particularly good game for Chris Conte. He looked like he was playing too much out of control. As pointed out by color man Daryl Johnston, was Chris Conte out of position on a long, long reception in the first half.
I thought the Bears ran a good mix of run/pass. Too bad they didn’t execute better in the first half.
Bears were really running well in the first half. They were mostly attacking the edges though their first half touchdown was up the middle.
On a related note, it looked to me like they ran a lot of double TE.
Talk about protection issues. They had them for most of the game. The offensive line really struggled this game. I thought Chilo Rachal was having a particularly hard time at left guard.
One of the first sacks came with an empty backfield. How you can do that with Forte running wild at the time?
The plan for Carolina was obviously to take away Brandon Marshall and all things considered they did limit him. As we all know would happen should that ever be the case, they covered the other receivers easily. Cutler frequently dropped back, took a look for the pass he was looking for, didn’t find it, then started moving but by then there was nowhere to go.
Once the Panthers realized their corners had the Bears wide receivers well in hand, they started to bring an extra guy up and blitzing. They definitely started keying on Forte.
Cutler didn’t show any obvious signs of his injured ribs being a problem.
It was nice to see Kellen Davis come alive with a good touchdown catch. It was also nice to see Cutler and the offense in general come through with it with the team down.
I thought this was kind of a nondescript performance from announcers Kenny Albert, Johnston, and Tony Siragusa. I thought maybe Johnston and Siragusa were picking on Newton a bit when he gave him a hard time for not jogging over to Lewis Murphy after he recovered his fumble in the endzone.
How did everyone like this exchange in the first half? “What’s going on down there, Tony? Everything’s good down here, Kenny.”
The Bears dropped balls all over the field. Matt Spaeth had a bad one at the end of the first half. Hester had a bad one in the third quarter that basically stalled a drive.
The referees are still carpeting Soldier Field with Bear penalty flags. They were putting themselves in a hole and letting Carolina off the hook with then continually.
I thought the Panthers were over doing it with the pooch kickoffs to keep Hester from running with the ball. They constantly gave the Bears great field position with Hester in a slump. A horrible punt gave the Bears the field position to drive and score their second touchdown. For the Bears, you know things are bad when Robbie Gould is missing 33 yard field goals.
Turnovers. For Carolina they giveth and they taketh away..
“[Tribune columnist David] Haugh argued that Angelo was done in by the lousy performance of backup quarterback Caleb Hanie, who was 0-4 in Cutler’s absence before he was relieved by Josh McCown. He submits that someone had to pay for the failures of Hanie when the Bears stumbled to an 8-8 finish and Angelo was chosen to be that guy over Lovie Smith. It’s a compelling argument.
I believe Angelo’s demise was draft-related. Team president Ted Phillips said, when he announced the move, that there was a talent deficiency on the roster and the gap needed to be closed with division rivals Green Bay and Detroit.”
“That being said, Angelo’s fingerprints are all over this roster and many of the moves he made are still helping the team and will for seasons to come.”
This is all true but it neglects what I think was another major reason – perhaps the major reason – for Angelo’s departure. He was probably the worst general manager in the NFL when it came to administration. It all culminated in the personal embarrassment suffered by ownership over the failed trade with Baltimore in the 2011 NFL draft where Angelo stupidly told two people to do the same job and neither did it thinking the other one did.
There’s a reason why Bears president Philips is now unofficially taking on more of an hands on administrative role with the club. Bears ownership doesn’t want any more personal calls from fellow owners like the Raven’s Steve Biscotti asking them what they think they’re doing.
I was personally glad to read from Biggs that former center Olin Kreutz was at the last game. I always wondered if Kreutz might not make a good coach and I’m glad to see there isn’t an apparent rift with the organization that might prevent him from coming.
Dan Pompei at the Chicago Tribunenotes in his film review that both Brandon Marshall and Earl Bennett blocked well down field. Every good fundamental football team I’ve ever seen had this underrated characteristic.
“Cutler and Brandon Marshall completely outdueled Matthew Stafford and [Lions wide receiver Calvin] Johnson. Marshall finished with six receptions for 81 yards and a 7-yard touchdown reception to cap the game’s opening drive. Cutler completed 16 of 31 passes for 150 yards and was sacked five times but did not turn the ball over.”
You could argue that the difference in this game was Bears cornerback Charles Tillman. He shadowed Johnson all over the field. On the other hand the Lions already poor secondary was depleted and they had no one to cover Marshall.
“Not only did the Bears have cornerback Charles Tillman shadow Johnson with Pro Bowl persistence, but Smith tweaked his nickel personnel by adding a package in which Kelvin Hayden replaced D.J. Moore.
The rationale: In certain offensive formations, the Lions lined up Johnson in the slot — a mismatch for Moore. Instead of having Moore play cornerback, where his smallish size invited mismatch opportunities, the Bears used the 6-foot, 195-pound Hayden on the perimeter against the Lions’ smaller receivers.
“‘The different packages made (Stafford) kind of confused, kind of rattled,’ cornerback Tim Jennings said. “We wanted to mix it up.'”
“Why couldn’t the Bears get some type of return of a low draft pick for Chris Williams considering the shortage of quality linemen to even be backups? If he was not valuable enough to bring a draft choice then there may be others out there who may be an option for the Bears? It needs to be one way or the other. — Ross Scanio, Wheaton
“It’s hard to find a trade partner for a backup offensive lineman who is under contract only through the end of the year. If Williams had another year on his deal, my bet is the Bears would have been able to trade him for a late round draft pick. There clearly was interest in him, judging by the fact that he visited multiple teams and signed with the Rams for more than the NFL minimum. If the Bears thought there was an offensive tackle available better than Williams or Jonathan Scott, who is the player who replaced Williams, they would have signed him.
“Dan, I recall reading that if the Bears let Chris Williams walk after the end of the season they would be rewarded a compensatory selection. Is that correct? Is it worth losing a draft pick by releasing Williams now? — Tim L, San Antonio, Texas
“It is possible that if the Bears retained Williams until the end of the season and then he signed with another team, the Bears would have been awarded a compensatory selection in the 2014 draft, not the 2013 draft. Compensatory selections are determined by a complicated formula that encompasses not only the player or players lost, but also the players the team signs who were unrestricted free agents. Best case scenario is the Bears would have received a 2014 sixth round pick for Williams. More likely is it would have been a seventh rounder, but they might not have been awarded anything if they sign some premium free agents. Given the chance for a compensatory pick and the fact that Williams can play four positions on the line, I thought it would have made more sense to release another player.”
“Has the ghost of Frank Omiyale somehow seeped into Gabe Carimi‘s body? This is two weeks in a row with multiple penalties and sub-par play. If it happens again against Carolina, he has to be replaced by Jonathan Scott, right? — Bob Van Horne, Waco, Texas
Carimi is not going to be replaced anytime soon. Nor should he be. Remember, he was a first-round draft pick that this coaching staff has invested in. He’s going to be on a much longer leash than, say, Chris Spencer was. He also is one of the most talented linemen on the team. But he is basically still a rookie. We should expect some inconsistencies while he learns and grows. He has shown some good things too. Carimi does have to pick it up though.”
Its worth adding that I don’t think Carimi’s knee is completely heeled. His problems aren’t of a recent nature. He hasn’t looked right all year. Basically, I think he’s being left alone at right tackle in part because the team knows they are developing him to be a healthy, experienced lineman with experience next year.
“One pro scouting director said from a coverage perspective, opponents have focused on taking away receiver Steve Smith, who has yet to score a touchdown. They are pressing Smith at the line, rolling coverage toward him and forcing Newton to go through his progressions.
“This is a defensive advantage in two ways. Other than tight end Greg Olsen, the Panthers don’t have any receiving options about whom defenses are very concerned. And Newton has not developed the patience and vision to find alternative targets consistently when Smith is covered.”
“Defensive fronts have adjusted to Newton’s sometimes spectacular running ability too.
“Scouts say defensive coordinators are having linemen two-gapping more and they are not trying to get upfield as much. They also are sometimes assigning a linebacker to “spy” Newton.
“Defensive coordinators aren’t trying to force him into making a mistake as much as they are encouraging him to run into the teeth of a disciplined, well populated and prepared front.”
Just one quick note on this. There’s been a lot of talk about who Cam Newton should be compared to lately because former NFL quarterback Warren Moon thinks Newton is too often being compared to black quarterbacks. Too bad because I’m going to do it anyway.
Last year when the Bears played the Panthers it wasn’t Newton’s mobility and athleticism that surprised me. It was his size and strength. Defensive linemen were hitting him in the pocket and literally bouncing off. The last guy I got to see play on a regular basis who could do that was Dante Culpepper. He was built like a linebacker and extremely tough to bring down. Here’s hoping the Bears do a better job on Newton this time around.
“Last year in the Bears’ wild 34-29 victory, that plan included having Jennings, while often not in strictly man-to-man coverage, lining up frequently over Smith. While not exactly divulging what he and defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli have in the works for Sunday, Smith did say, ‘It should be a lot of fun watching them.'”
“‘We kind of mix up a whole lot of coverages,’ Jennings said. ‘It’s not so matching one-on-ones or anything like that. It’s we want to give him different looks.
“’You’ve got to be able to compete with him, just kind of slow him down at the line of scrimmage and disrupt the timing between him and the quarterback.'”
Its fairly obvious to me, especially in light of the comments from Pompei’s article above this one, that the Bears are going to concentrate hard on Smith this time around. As well they should. This is what I said last year immediately after the game and I still think I was right:
“For some reason I don’t understand the Bears were giving Steve Smith no apparent extra attention. Its fairly obvious that Cam Newton depends heavily on him. I had flash backs to Wes Welker last year.”
I’d better not have that “Welker feeling” again or its going to have been a long afternoon for the Bears.
In any case it will, indeed, be a lot of fun to watch.
“‘It’s such a tough deal, but I also believe God doesn’t give anybody more than they can handle,’ Smith said. ‘What makes a person isn’t necessarily what he’s made of or what he goes through. It’s also the people around him.
“‘As teammates, what we try to do is help him in whatever shape or form. I can’t imagine going through some of the things that he’s going through and then going through them alone.'”
The Dolphins and the Jets renew their annual soap opera this week. Benjamin Hoffman at The New York Timesputs it in perspective:
“The Dolphins and the Jets have engaged in one of those adorable rivalries where they fight like school children, unaware that their squabbles are seen as largely irrelevant by others around them.”
As color man Jon Gruden was quick to point out, the Bears came out playing lots of cover two, almost certainly to try to limit wide receiver Calvin Johnson.
Everyone, including Gruden, knew that the Lions were in a situation where they had to run. And they did.
The Bears did a good job of stopping the run. This was due in part to stout defensive line play, good reaction by the linebackers and some alert play calling by defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli as he snuck a safety into the box and/or had him crashing the run when they read running play.
The Bears also had a bout or two of blitzing. I think it was as much to keep the Lions off balance as anything but it worked.
I can’t say that the defensive line got consistent pressure on quarterback Matthew Stafford though they had their moments.
Stafford was not particularly accurate and, in fact, I think he got worse as the game wore on. He was overthrowing the deep ball in particular.
As he said he was going to do during the bye week, offensive coordinator Mike Tice came out determined to run the football and maintain balance in the offense.
The Lions were also sneaking a safety into box on occasion. They played the run all the way on many occasions which made me think that the play action pass should haver worked better than it did.
It was a bit of a rough game for the tight ends but Kyle Adams made a good block as a full back on the long Forte run that set up the touchdown in the first half.
Nice job of rolling out Jay Cutler on the first half touchdown pass. It seems its said every week but the Bears really need to do that more.
Jay Cutler was a bit inconsistent in the first half. A lot of the problems connecting had more to do with dropped passes but I thought he had a particular problem throwing accurately to Devin Hester. He doesn’t seem to have an issue with the larger Brandon Marshall, who he knows can fight for the ball. But I wonder if he isn’t being extra careful to try to throw the ball where it can’t be intercepted when he’s throwing to Hester. In fairness Cutler connected with Hester more in the fourth quarter.
Two time outs early in the game? What was going on?
Once again I note that Jay Cutler did a lot of serious damage with his legs.
I thought there were some serious breakdowns in pass protection. Lance Lewis had having a tough game, for example, with a false start penalty and with giving up the Ndamukong Suh sack in the first half. Gabe Carimi had yet another rough night.
Matt Forte was once again really running well. He has great patience and vision.
I really like the way Mike Tice started calling some misdirection plays to try to use the Lions aggressiveness against them. Really good thinking there.
Some bad Lions tackling out there.
I know a lot of people don’t like Gruden but I usually do. He had what I would call an unspectacular night tonight but he did point out early and often that the Lions needed to have success running the ball and that was really part of the story for the offensively. He also made a good point early about the Bears using “creative chip protection”. Mike Tirico was solid.
It was a really sloppy game with the dropped passes on both sides. The Bears tight ends had a rough night with both Matt Spaeth and Kellen Davis dropping balls. Matt Forte and Devin Hester had a drops as well. But the Lions are the ones who really hurt themselves with drops by Johnson and Nate Burleson at critical times.
It was also a sloppy half for penalties. Gabe Carimi got caught holding twice. Lance Lewis had a false start. Chilo Rachel got an unsportsman-like conduct penalty. Not good.
The Bears had some good special teams and spent a good part of the first quarter enjoying good field position. Of course the defensive stops had something ot do with that as well. On the other hand they had a blocked field goal and and frequent penalties. Detroit’s special teams continued to have their share of problems as the best play Stefan Logan made all night was when he let a kickoff sail out of bounds over his head rather than trying to catch it.
Terrible, awful, damaging turnovers by Detroit as they had two critical fumbles, one on the goal line.
First of all, hats off to the Bears defense who once again did an outstanding job. They were disciplined. They were patient. They tackled well. They continue to be the strength of the team.
Having said that, the last time I wrote one of these I got taken to task for being too negative. Well, the heck with you all because I’m going to do it again.
I’m sorry but this game felt to me like more of a contest to see who could waste more offensive opportunities. The Bears were constantly given the ball, constantly driving down the field and constantly settling for field goal after field goal as they shot themselves in the foot with drops and dumb penalties. But fortunately for them, the Lions are the kings at doing this as they literally fumbled away this game. They continue to compete with the Eagles to see who can waste the most talent.
I laughed out loud when I read Sean Jensen ‘s interpretation of this comment from Brian Urlacher for the Chicago Sun-Times:
“It’s getting cold outside and it’s been a long time since the Bears played a game, but the most discussed knee in Halas Hall should be just fine come Monday night against the Detroit Lions.
“‘It’s the same either way,’ said linebacker Brian Urlacher, who continues to work his way back after spraining the medial collateral and posterior cruciate ligaments in his left knee in the regular-season finale last year.”
“The biggest thing is that they tackle. And they tackle in space. Not tackle in a box. You have to tackle in space. And that takes great athleticism. You eliminate a lot of big plays by tackling in space. We’re very, very fortunate to have players of that caliber.”
“A primary focus for Webb this season has been improving his footwork, specifically his second step with his outside left foot. He had a tendency a year ago to step in the bucket and that created a more direct path to quarterback Jay Cutler. That led to hits, hurries, sacks and times when Webb simply had to lunge and grab. It’s something offensive line coach Tim Holt consistently is drilling into Webb.
“‘You get yourself in trouble when you turn at the line of scrimmage and give that defensive end a short corner to get to your guy,’ Webb said. ‘It’s a conscious effort when you’re tired, a conscious effort all the time.'”
“With all the talk about Henry Melton getting a contract extension, why is there no talk about one for the best player on the other side of the line, Lance Louis? Louis has been the most dependable, consistent offensive lineman this season by far and should be a cornerstone for the future. Agree? — Danny Jones, Iowa City, Iowa
“Good point Danny. Just because we have not heard any talk about extending Louis’ contract does not mean there hasn’t been any talk behind closed doors. And even if the Bears have not spoken with Louis’ agents about an extension, that does not mean they won’t prioritize re-signing him before he hits the open market. The thing about Louis is he is a developing, emerging player. So it might make sense for all parties to wait until after the season to best gauge his value to the team. But he clearly is not a player the Bears should allow to leave. They can’t afford to let a good offensive lineman walk after spending four years developing him.”
Bears running back Matt Forte makes a good point via Jensen:
“‘As you see in the last game when they played the Eagles, [the Lions] got constant penetration, and that kills the run game,’ Forte said. ‘So up front, we’re going to have to try to stop that. They do a lot of different run blitzes, so we’re going to have to do play-actions to try to calm that down.
“‘But it really just starts up front with not allowing penetration.'”
“Is there any chance the Bears will look at Minnesota to find ways to utilize Devin Hester the way the Vikings are using Percy Harvin or take some plays from Green Bay and their utilization of Randall Cobb? They all seem to have the same skill set but the Vikings and Green Bay seemed to have figured out how to use their dynamic players, and if they haven’t considered it can you please suggest they do so. Devin Hester taking direct snaps out of the backfield would be awesome. — Isaac Sykes, Woodbridge, Va.
“I’m sure the Bears have studied how the Vikings use Harvin and how the Packers use Cobb. These are three different players though. Harvin is much stronger and more difficult to tackle than Hester. Cobb has a better feel for the game than Hester. And Hester may be the fastest of the group. So you really can’t use Hester quite the way the Vikings use Harvin or the way the Packers use Cobb.”
“… If he is going up in the air and leaving the ground to make a catch, he’s going to have to pay for it. Guys have to rally to the ball and it’s not just one guy hitting him. … Put something on his mind that can distract him from catching the ball. Anything.”
“The splits of the wide receivers are a top priority when you break the huddle as a defensive back. Here, both Johnson (Z) and Nate Burleson (X) are aligning inside of the numbers with the ball at (or near) midfield. Studying the Lions offense, this should be an automatic alert to play for a vertical shot down the field.”
“‘Once the ball’s put down and it’s whistled ready for play, man, it’s another game, it’s a different game,’ Stafford said, downplaying any hatred between the teams. ‘The beauty of the NFL is every week is different, and you have to approach it that way.'”
Fortunately for the Bears the Lions never have. With a head coach like Jim Schwartz fueling the flames with fist pumps and emotional sideline demonstrations after wins like the one last week, the likelihood of a let down becomes considerably higher.
An already miserable Lions defensive backfield promises to be worse than usual as the Lions are down to three healthy corners for Monday Night’s matchup. Via Darin Gantt at profootballtalk.com.
An interesting point to look for today as the Jets play the Patriots. The Jets are concerned that officials are allowing the Patriots to substitute in their no huddle offense without allowing the defense time to do the same. By rule this is illegal. Via Mike Florio at profootballtalk.com
“Mike Nolan was known for running the 3-4 defense in Baltimore and before he was in Baltimore, he ran the over/under 4-3. He didn’t have that stout nose or the personnel to make it work in Atlanta so he switched to the wide “40” and lined (DEs Kroy) Biermann and (John) Abraham (and Ray Edwards) outside in a wide-seven (technique). If you look at their (defensive) tackles — (Jonathan) Babineaux, (Peria) Jerry and (Vance) Walker — none of them can play the nose. That is great coaching.”
I really don’t give a hoot about the Saints bounty scandal. But some people still do so… from Pompei, this time writing for the National Football Post:
“Everybody wins with the appointment of Paul Tagliabue to hear the appeals of the four players in the Saints’ bounty scandal. The Saints win because Tagliabue is not just an extension of Roger Goodell. And Goodell wins because he washes his hands of the mess while providing a credible arbiter.”
“There is a reason the Bears’ defense is as opportunistic as it is — when they snap the ball, count how many guys are looking at the ball. All 11 of them are keyed on it and ready to pounce. The linebackers are always zeroed in on it. They do a great job of pursuing. They don’t overcomplicate it.”
Former Apple CEO Steve Jobs used to have what has been called a “reality distortion field” that he seemed to generate around him. In a nut shell, Jobs used to try to solve problems by confronting them with pure faith – a belief that he and others could overcome difficulties by simply ignoring the fact that they were impossible. This was both a good and a bad thing but most believe it ultimately is what killed him.
“‘I’m always looking forward to a Monday night game, point blank,’ Hester said Friday. ‘Who knows how this game is going to fall this week, whether or not it will be Eric Weems‘ day to make plays, Brandon (Marshall), or myself, even Earl (Bennett).
“‘We don’t know how this game is going to swing, but we do know one guy is going to blow up this week. Whoever that might be, I pray they do good.'”
Hester’s comments are a continuation of those made in the preseason about opponents were going to have to pick their poison in deciding which wide receiver to cover on the field. I think pretty much everyone knew even then who they were going to pick. They remind me a great deal of comments made by former Bears quarterback Caleb Hanie. When Jay Cutler went down last season and Hanie had to start, Hanie rattled off a list of “strengths” that were, to say the least, not reality. They were, in fact, all of the weaknesses which observers had identified in him in his previous (but limited) playing time. It seemed to me that Hanie was trying to convince himself that these problems didn’t exist – as if simply by saying so, they would disappear.
Much to every Bear fan’s annoyance, they didn’t.
There is one receiver on the Bears that has shown me the ability to “blow up”. Its not Hester. It’s not Weems. Its not even the usually solid but unspectacular Bennett. Its Brandon Marshall. Until someone shows me otherwise, the rest of the unit as a whole is a liability. Simply believing that’s not true isn’t enough and no amount of words to the contrary are going to fix the problem.
Sean Jensen at the Chicago Sun-Times quotes a scout on offensive tackle Gabe Carimi for the Bears Extra section:
“He just doesn’t look strong enough. Maybe part of that is the injury. He plays like he’s a 34-year-old.”
I would agree that Carimi hasn’t looked right and he’s been struggling. I don’t think its his strength so much as his quickness. He looks to me like he’s having a hard time keeping up with speed rushes to the outside. Like the scout, I suspect that the knee injury from last year hasn’t fully healed.
Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times thinks Bears quarterback Jay Cutler should be calling his own plays. Offensive coordinator Mike Tice tried ot be patient as he answered the question:
“Asked why quarterbacks no longer call their own plays, Tice said, ‘Because they don’t sit in meetings on Monday and Tuesday night and put the game plan in.’ But without hesitating, he added, ‘We did have some no-huddle [against Jacksonville] where we gave Jay some really, really good chances to do ‘either/or,’ and I thought he did a great job with the no-huddle. It was the most extensive that we had. It was another drive that stalled when we had something going, but we’re going to do more of that. We like him managing the no-huddle.’”
Using the no huddle does, of course, make sense. But other than that, expecting modern quarterbacks in the heat of battle to call plays with longer term planning and goals in mind is too much to ask. Most Bear fans will remember that former Bears offensive coordinator John Shoop couldn’t even do it just while standing on the side lines.
Potash does make a good point that the way the play calling is handled now leads to delays.
“The complicated nature of play-calling in the NFL that prevents Cutler from calling his own plays also causes its own problems. Offensive coordinator Mike Tice, a first-year play-caller, relays his call to quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates, who gives the play to Cutler. If it gets there too late, it’s a problem. How many times have we seen an irritated Cutler walking back to the sideline after calling timeout because the play clock was running down?”
Passing plays through the quarterback coach made sense when Mike Martz was the coordinator because he spent his time in the booth. But with Tice on the sidelines, this makes less sense. My suggestion for cutting out the middle man would be cutting out Bates.
Dan Pompei at the Chicago Tribune suggests adjustments for the season after the bye. Here are a couple that I was in particular agreement with:
“I would not suggest that Brandon Marshall has been thrown to too frequently, because throwing to him has almost always been a good thing.
“But other Bears — [Devin] Hester, Earl Bennett and Matt Forte especially — are going to have to do more than they have as receivers at various points of the season.”
Good teams (like the Packers) are going to find ways to take Marshall away. That’s when the other guys have to get open against single coverage.
“Up until last week, the Bears relied heavily on Cover-2. They broke out a little bit against the Jaguars in an attempt to get eight men in the box.
“For their defense to be all it can be, it will have to be able to play more than Cover-2. It will have to be able to keep offenses off balance by blitzing, mixing in man-to-man, single high, quarters and man free.
“Whether the Bears can be more diverse will depend on how cornerbacks Charles Tillman, Tim Jennings and D.J. Moore and safeties Major Wright and Chris Conte hold up when given assignments that may be a bit out of their comfort zone.”
This is critical. Every team in the league knows the cover two beaters. Bear fans have seen them so often we dream them in our sleep. It works well against bad teams (or good teams playing badly) because they fail to execute. Against a good team on its game, though, its not going to fly. Not only do the Bears need to diversify their coverages in those situations but they have to do a good job of disguising them as well.
“The Lions, over their last 16 games (not counting pre-season, or exhibition, as it used to be called) are a 6-10 team. Is that an accurate predictor of this season? Can it be worse or will they get better?–Stephen, Windsor, Ontario
“I really expected them to be better, honestly. They have a great young quarterback and maybe the best receiver in football. Their defense should be awesome, certainly not 26th in points allowed. Certainly I didn’t see the rise of the Vikings, either, so that explains one loss – but to lose to the Titans, who are struggling, too?
“It’s not going to get any easier with the Eagles this week in Philadelphia and then the Bears in Chicago. And they still have both games against the Packers, who will be equally desperate, Houston and Atlanta. Unless the defense starts producing some turnovers – they have zero interceptions – I don’t see how things improve much against a very tough schedule.”
Of course the Lions beat the Eagles so that’s step one. Watching that game last weekend was a slow form of torture, especially in the first half. You would be hard pressed to find two sloppier teams. The Eagles were constantly bitten by negative plays and turnovers. The Lions consistently failed to take advantage as they were constantly killing themselves with penalties and undisciplined play. Both teams are an incredible waste of talent.
The lack of discipline on the part of the Lions was particularly evident along the defensive line. They got a lot of pressure on Michael Vick and they look like they are every bit as good as they were last year if not better. But they were rushing the passer like a blind dog in a meat house with many personal fouls and offsides penalties.
Having said that, beware the Lions in the fourth quarter. They woke up and starting moving the ball literally right when the quarter began as if they were just edging up to the starting line before that. Quarterback Matthew Stafford, who was inconsistent despite being under very little pressure all afternoon, suddenly woke up and started finding wide receiver Calvin Johnson underneath. The next week against the Bears could be very interesting, particularly if the Lions somehow manage to clean up their act for such an important divisional game.
“There are two primary benefits to the Wide 9. One is it makes it difficult for offenses to run outside. But the real reason teams use it is it gives the defensive ends excellent angles to get to the quarterback.
“‘It puts the fear of God into the offensive tackles if you have guys like Jason Babin, Jared Allen, Tamba Hali, Cliff Avril, Kyle Vanden Bosch, Lawrence Jackson and Willie Young,” [Lions defensive coordinator Gunther] Cunningham told me. ‘All these guys were some of the top speed guys coming into the draft and when you align wide, the OTs have to double kick on pass protection to block the edge. The double kick went out a few years back and now everyone is straight line dropping in the pass, meaning the OTs are holding space to stop the three technique, so the DEs that are wide have a straight line to the 7 ½ yard spot for the QB’s five step drop.'”
“The knock on the Wide 9 is it can leave a defense vulnerable to the inside run. In order for the Wide 9 to work, a defense needs a solid Mike linebacker and a good strong safety, because those two players often are going to be responsible for the B, C and D gaps. That’s why the Lions went after Stephen Tulloch last year, and why the Eagles traded for DeMeco Ryans this year.”
“Can the officiating and broadcast crews keep up with Patriots when they play their accelerated no-huddle offense? If defenses are instructed to obstruct offense players after the whistle, will the refs call penalties?–Rufus T. Woodrow, New England
I’m sure the broadcast crews were struggling – there’s certainly no time to show replays – because I was struggling. I would look down to jot down a note about the previous play and I’d miss the next one. I can only imagine what the defenses must feel like. Good question about the defenses obstructing players to slow things down – I would guess the officials will keep a close eye on that. That’s not supposed to happen, but it certainly does. Also wonder, as the no-huddle spreads around the league, if you’ll see players faking injuries to stop the clock.”
“How would you list the N.F.L.’s top ten coaches?–Frankly32
“Do I really have to? This is a minefield. This is in no particular order, but here are a few: [Tom] Coughlin, [Bill] Belichick, both Harbaughs [John and Jim], [Mike] Tomlin, Sean Payton, Jeff Fisher, [Andy] Reid, Mike McCarthy, and then some mix of [Mike] Shanahan/Mike Smith/Gary Kubiak – Shanahan has had great success but that was a while ago and he hasn’t had a quarterback until now to be in the same league with Elway, and I want to see Atlanta and Houston make deep playoff runs before elevating Smith and/or Kubiak despite their recent regular-season success.”
I like Batista and she’s one of the reasons I read the Times. And she does say she doesn’t want to do it. But suggesting “some mix of Shanahan/Mike Smith/Gary Kubiak” over Lovie Smith?
“The Bears don’t have a more animated position coach on staff. Hoke is firm and firmer when with players on the field in training camp. He’s in the facemask of [cornerback Charles] Tillman, a 10-year veteran, the same way he is with an undrafted rookie free agent. It’s not always an approach that works in the NFL.
“‘That is the way I was raised in coaching,’ said Hoke, who worked in the college ranks for 19 years before joining the Texans’ staff in 2002. ‘I had a guy tell me one time, and I do believe it: ‘Encourage, correct, encourage.’ … When they come off and I am in their ear, sometimes it’s correction and sometimes it’s encouragement. It’s always in that vein, though.'”
Head coach Lovie Smith is smart enough to know that you need coaches who are both calm and fiery on your staff so that there’s a good mix of the two attitudes for those players who require some of each. He’s not the fiery type unless he’s really angry – in which case it has a much bigger impact when he shows it. But he hires coaches like Hoke and receivers coach Darryl Drake to balance the staff.
“Bears rookie defensive end Shea McClellin panicked when he was handed a $38,091 bill from Mastro’s Steakhouse on Tuesday night.
“‘I saw it, and I was like, ‘I don’t know how I’m going to pay for this.’ I don’t think my debit card can go that high,’ McClellin said.”
“Fortunately for McClellin, the veteran defensive linemen pulled a prank on him, recruiting the restaurant to doctor the bill.
“Still, Rookie Night is a longtime tradition for the Bears’ defensive line, and the first-round pick had to foot the tab. While he wouldn’t provide an exact amount, McClellin nodded when asked if the bill was more than $10,000.”
So he panicked at $38,000 but thought more $10,000 was OK?
“Wootton said his quick first move was due to reading Bradley, not picking up the snap count.
“‘I felt the tackle leaning a little bit,’ he said. ‘So I kind of figured it would be on one.'”
The guess here is that you can thank defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli for teaching Wootton to pay attention to that kind of detail.
Former Bears safety Mike Brown is long gone from the Bears. But his influence still lingers. From Rick Morrissey at the Chicago Sun-Times:
“Tillman’s interception was his own; the weaving interception return he gives to former Bears safety Mike Brown.
“‘I know he’s not playing with us, but I learned a great deal from him, the way he scored and set up the blocks,’ he said. ‘That was the only person I thought about as I was running: ‘That’s what he would have done. It worked! Snap! I scored!””
There was all kinds of happiness amongst Bear fans Monday – as well there should be. But Steve Rosenbloom at the Chicago Tribune definitely has a point when he talks about the first half of the Jaguars game:
“Here’s the deal: A good team will make you pay for such early erratic play.
“You can’t always depend on a second-half rally, even if you’re a streak shooter.
“You won’t always get two defensive touchdowns, even if that’s the norm the last two games.
“I have noticed that J’Marcus Webb plays much better against powerful rushers vs. speed rushers. He was unable to stop the Packers’ Clay Mathews at all, but plays very well against the Cowboys’ D’Marcus Ware. I personally think Ware is the better player but, Matthews the worse match up. I was wondering if your analysis of his performance says the same? — Randall D.; Kalamazoo, Mich.
“Webb is in the NFL because of his size, not his quickness. He stands 6-7. He ran a 5.28 40-yard dash before coming into the league. He has size 22 feet. He is not going to be able to match up well with smaller, quicker defensive ends who can get underneath his pads. But he is difficult to move, and he can engulf defenders. So I agree with you, the Bears are better off with Webb against a power rusher than speed rusher any day.”
Despite the fact that he didn’t do too poorly, apparently at least one fan is still not satisfied with the Bears left tackle this week. From profootballmock.com:
“Chicago Bears OT J’Marcus Webb has recently been prone to unfortunate false starts, reports Webb’s longtime girlfriend Angela Baker.”
This isn’t particularly good news for the Bears. Via Biggs
“Jahvid Best could make his 2012 debut when the Bears play next. The Detroit Lions running back has been on the physically unable to perform list but will be eligible to return to practice Oct. 15 and could potentially be in action Oct. 22 when the Lions come to Soldier Field on “Monday Night Football.” Best last played on Oct. 16, 2011 when he suffered a concussion against the San Francisco 49ers. Best, who reportedly will undergo tests this week, rushed for a career-high 163 yards and one touchdown (an 88-yarder) against the Bears in Week 5 last season.”
“That’s the number of quarterback hits the Giants totaled against Cleveland’s Brandon Weeden, another alarming performance from a defensive line that is supposed to be loaded, with stars like Justin Tuck, Jason Pierre-Paul and Osi Umenyiora. Asked if he was concerned about the pass rush, Tuck was blunt, saying, ‘Yes, I am.'”
If the Browns game against the Giants is typical, Trent Richardson is going to be a beast in this league. He looks to me like he’s well on his way to being what Cedric Benson should have been with the Bears.
“What irked [Packers head coach Mike] McCarthy the most after the Packers’ second loss in the final seconds in three weeks was their inability to hang onto the football – on offense and defense.”
I have a lot of respect for the Packers – it would be hard not to after they went 15-1 last season and basically blew the Bears out of the water already this season. But game after game, last year and this year, they have had a bad habit of dropping far too many passes. You had to wonder when it was going to start biting them in the rear. Apparently it has.
“The future of coach Lovie Smith and quarterback Jay Cutler with the Bears will be at the top of the list. Smith was the bigger issue Wednesday, with Emery quashing a radio report that he is negotiating a contract extension for his coach. But the Cutler situation could be much more dicey, a bigger test of Emery’s ability to excel in his self-acknowledged role ‘as an evaluator and manager of people.’
“The decision will come down to this: With Cutler’s great arm and ability to make throws that even Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers can’t make, does he have what it takes to lead a team to a championship — or even just win one?”
No it won’t. You aren’t going to find many perfect QBs in the NFL. Let Jay Cutler go and you are back trying to win with the Rex Grossman‘s and Matt Cassel‘s of the world. Emery is smart enough to know that.
I did think this statistic from the article was interesting, though:
“Numbers can be as blinding as they are revealing. Cutler is second in the NFL in fourth-quarter passer rating this season (118.4), which indicates that he’s at his best when it counts. But Cutler also has a perfect 158.3 passer rating when the Bears are ahead by 10 points or more and a 58.4 rating when they’re not. That indicates he is at his best when the wind is at his back.”
The last is, of course, the most telling statistic. Cutler’s never going to be the kind of QB that is going to lead a team out of a hole. He’s going to take problems and make them worse just as he’s going to take the team when things are going well and make it better. It will always be up to the defense to make plays first and get things going in a positive direction.
But back to my point. No one has been more critical of Cutler’s lack of maturity and leadership skill than I have. But he’s who the Bears have and, as is the case with any player, its up to them to take advantage of his skills and work around his flaws. Leadership skills or not, they’ll work hard to re-sign him for whatever it takes. Don’t doubt it for a second.
The Bears came out mixing it up defensively. It appears that the plan was to press the line of scrimmage with the occasional blitz to confuse quarterback Blaine Gabbert and contain running back Maurice Jones-Drew. They didn’t showing much respect for the Jaguar receivers and to an extent it burned them.
The Bears allowed a lot of third down conversions and had a tough time getting off the field a lot more than usual, especially in the first half.
I didn’t see much of Henry Melton and the defensive tackles taking advantage of the Jaguars offensive line, including guard Eben Britton (who was actually benched at half time last week).
On a related note, Gabbert had far, far too much time to throw the ball. The Bears started to get a little pressure (not much) at the end of the first half but by then Gabbert was settled in and he stood in the pocket pretty well. Things went better in this respect for the Bears in the second half.
Despite getting a lot of time, Gabbert isn’t the most accurate quarterback. I thought more of those balls should have been spot on. Gabbert’s pocket was clean on the interception by Charles Tillman in the third quarter. It was so far off target, I actually find myself wondering if it was a miscommunication with the wide receiver. It wouldn’t be surprising. There seemed to me to be a lot of it going on out there.
Pro Bowl-type year or not, the Jaguars came out and attacked Tim Jennings, primarily with Justin Blackmon. Presumably it was because of the height mismatch. In any case, Blackmon got the best of it as Jennings had a tough time keeping up with him.
I thought Nick Roach showed up today with some good plays.
The Bears come out running and they did it well. Jacksonville tried to stop it with seven in the box and they couldn’t. The run really helped open up the passing game.
Jacksonville obviously was paying a great deal of attention to last week’s game tape. They weren’t going to let the Bears get away with that slant pass to Brandon Marshall that was so successful and they took away the middle of the field in coverage in the first half.
The Bears responded by targeting Alson Jeffery and Marshall on the outside.
In the second half, the Jaguars came out committed to stopping the run. The Bears immediately started going to Marshall over the middle again, presumably to take advantage of the linebackers moving up. Jeffery’s route that resulted in the second Bears touchdown was over the middle into the empty space left by the linebackers as they all three collapsed towards the line of scrimmage.
The Bears offensive line generally did a good job out there. The run blocking was outstanding. The interior of the line was really blowing the Jaguar defensive tackles off the line of scrimmage.
The Jaguars did not start the game tackling well. Bears were bouncing off defenders all over. They eventually tightened it up.
The last Bears drive before the half was a disgrace. The communication between Jay Cuter and the receivers was poor with at least two miscues. Then they took a time out with the clock stopped. Sloppy…
Cutler wasn’t bad exactly but he was not particularly sharp for most of this game. He had his moments, especially in the second half, but there were a lot of balls that could have been thrown better. On the other hand, again particularly in the second half, he did a nice job with his mobility of avoiding the pass rush and extending plays.
On a related note, Cutler made a few good plays with his legs this game. They were particularly well timed.
The Bears looked like they decided to get Kellen Davis involved early and he was doing well. Then they abandoned him later in the half and never got back to him. I’m not sure why.
I was disappointed when the word came down that Earl Bennett was once again inactive, almost certainly due to his injured hand. At this point you have to question the well-paid Bennett’s ability to stay on the field.
I really like Kenny Albert, Daryl Johnston and Tony Siragusa. It’s probably because, like Siragusa, I have a habit of watching the line of scrimmage but he frequently says things right as I’m thinking them.
Give credit to both teams this game. Drops were at a minimum. In fact, it was generally quite the opposite. For example, Devin Hester made a great catch as he laid out for a long pass in the fourth quarter. this was a good game for the receivers on both sides.
Penalties killed the Bears, especially in the first half. They were constantly stalling drives. Gabe Carimi’s two false starts in a row near the goal line in the second half were inexcusable.
Special teams were unremarkable on both ends.
As usual, turnovers played a big part in this game. In particular, the Tillman pick six in the third quarter was a huge, game turning play. Corey Wootton once again showed up and caused a fumble.
The Bears did not appear to me to wear down in the heat. In fact, it appeared to me to be the opposite. The Jaguars defense looked tired in the fourth quarter.
Possibly on a related note, I question the Jaguars decision to make their home uniforms black. The color absorbs heat and I don’t think it helps them to have to wear it.
Gotta say that I really like the way Jacksonville does cheerleaders.
Its October 7. What’s the deal with all of the Halloween specials already?
Kudos to the Bears fans who showed up to the game. You could hear them clearly on television.
The Jaguars really came out and played (for them) relatively well today. Not so much on offense but on defense, they were extremely patient and really made the Bears earn every yard until the appeared to wear down. The Bears, on the other hand, really didn’t come out and play well. The game on their end was relatively sloppy and the lesson to me is that, no matter what anyone says about avoiding “trap games”, its really tough to do it in action. The Bears got bitten by it today. Fortunately they played better in the second half against a definitively inferior team and it didn’t result in a loss.
This article from ESPN.com‘s Pat Yasinskas is really about Carolina quarterback Cam Newton. But the whole time I read it, I couldn’t stop thinking about Bears quarterback Jay Cutler.
Its hard not to contrast Cutler’s reaction to his incident on the sidelines with offensive coordinator Mike Tice (total denial) last Monday night with Tice’s. Via Sean Jensen at the Chicago Sun-Times:
“Asked if he was surprised that Cutler walked away, Tice laughed and said, ‘He probably had enough of me telling him why the play didn’t work.
“‘I get enough of me sometimes, too. I can talk a little bit, as you guys know. The heat of the battle, it’s tough. A lot of things happen on the sideline. A lot of things happen over the course of a game. I was really angry about the fact that we didn’t make that third-and-one. I was in his ear from the time he came off the field to the time he went over and put his helmet down. At a certain point, probably enough’s enough.'”
“Smith rightfully gets top billing as the Bears’ coach, but Tice is the rock star on the staff. And not because he’s Mr. Entertainment or Vince Lombardi, but because he sees the same game we do.”
I thought Jensen, who had a lot of experience covering Tice with the Vikings, had an interesting take on the incident:
“Cutler seems resistant to his reality, but he needs to begin to accept it.
“There wasn’t a hint of frustration or anger from Tice on Wednesday as he heaped praise on Cutler.
“‘Jay and I are good,’ Tice said. ‘I really admire his play the other night. I really admire how he’s prepared himself right now. I really admire how he’s bought in.’
“But Tice isn’t anyone’s pushover. So as their relationship moves forward, Cutler had better treat him with respect.”
Dan Pompei at the Chicago Tribuneasks a question that most Cutler apologists will parrot:
“Romo carried himself like the pro he is. But he didn’t win.
Anything else you want to know?”
Yeah. Why is it too much to ask that Cutler do both?
In any case, Rick Morrissey at the Chicago Sun-Timesprovides some perspective for the average fan who is stuck personally disliking arguably his team’s most talented player:
“At some point — now would be good — we’re going to have to give up on the idea that Cutler can be rehabilitated. Personality transplants are not on the medical horizon. The name is Jay, not Joy, Cutler.”
In other words, “Yeah, he’s a punk. But he’s out punk. Like it or not, that’s the way it is.
That’s fine. As long as everyone also recognizes on some level that its also wrong.
In that respect, I was actually getting ready to write a full post on the Cutler situation and the total denial of most fans I know about the situation when Steve Rosenbloom at the Chicago Tribune said virtually everything I wanted to say. So I’ll just link to his article and let you watch the video and say it all goes double for me:
Many people will look at the final score of the Cowboys game and conclude that the offense was a dominant force. But Devin Hester got it right when he made this comment. Via Jensen:
“‘To me, this was a defensive victory,’ he said. ‘When you come up with five turnovers and 14 points, you pretty much won the game. They had an amazing night.'”
This team has that personality trait and it probably will for a long time. Its the defense that leads them and everything else follows on that. If they don’t make big plays first, they won’t happen on offense. Don’t look for it to be the other way around. They don’t have that kind of character. Haugh does a good job of making that point in his column here.
“‘The way that offensive line is blocking, it’s making it easy for me,’ Cutler said. ‘That was the best rhythm we have had offensively, in and out of the huddle, all year. We’ve just got to take that momentum and keep it rolling.'”
I did my best to concentrate on the offensive line during the game and my impression was that it wasn’t that simple. They got a lot of help and most of the time, Cutler was getting the ball out quickly to Brandon Marshall over the middle. When the tackles were one-on-one, most of the time one or the other struggled. But they did just enough to allow Cutler to get the ball off and occasionally they really did well.
By the way, its getting almost no notice but right guard Lance Lewis is a Pro Bowler. He’s been outstanding. Left guard Chilo Rachal and center Roberto Garza also had solid games with no noticeable gaffs as far as I could tell.
Besides being on the road and on short rest, the Bears also will have to adjust to the Jacksonville heat Sunday. The predicted high is 90 degrees.
The Bears have not played in a game with a kickoff temperature above 76 degrees since Oct. 10, 2010, when they beat the Carolina Panthers 23-6 in Charlotte.
The Bears got off to a fast start in that game — 17 points and 280 all-purpose yards (21.5 yards per play) in the first quarter — but petered out. In the final three quarters, they scored six points and had 168 all-purpose yards (2.9 per play).
“The Bears said they wanted more consistency this season from defensive tackle Henry Melton, who acknowledged that was a goal. At the quarter post of the season, it’s fair to say Melton is delivering. He sacked Tony Romo in the first quarter and has four for the season, just the way he wanted to begin a contract season. He also forced the play on Lance Briggs‘ 74-yard interception return in the third quarter. Teams pay for sacks, and Melton knows it. Could the franchise tag enter the discussion?”
As a serious Melton doubter before the season began, I can say that his play thus far has been a wonderful surprise. He’s been taking favorable match ups inside and capitalizing on them.
Its also hard to under estimate the importance of Lance Briggs to the defense. And yet I somehow always manage to do it. Fortunately Biggs doesn’t share that fault.
I’m not too thrilled seeing Julius Peppers have to sit out a half nor is it good to see Earl Bennettinactive due to injury. The Bears are going to need both of these guys. From McClure.
“[Bears defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli had another wrinkle for the Cowboys too. The Bears lined up in a 3-4 defense twice, with Shea McClellin playing stand-up linebacker. Both times, he dropped and covered running back DeMarco Murray.”
This is unfortunate when you are a fan of a team in need of a left tackle. But its also hardly surprising. From Biggs:
“Some have already suggested the 2013 draft could be solid for offensive linemen, so I asked the national scout that exact question.
“‘Within the first two rounds,’ he said. ‘There are some big-time guards and some good tackles but not premier tackles. There are not premier lefts out there right now unless I have missed out on some juniors. Now, there are some big-time guards and some really good right tackles out there.
“‘There could be two to maybe three guards go in the first round, which is pretty out of the norm because usually it is just one. Usually those are back-end first-round guys if they are at that good. There are some good right tackles and there are a couple juniors out there that could be overdrafted (if they forego their senior season) but are there any Joe Thomases out there? Heck no. There is not. Numbers-wise on the offensive line, maybe the first two, two-and-a-half rounds might be strong. After that, it kind of falls off.'”
“One thing that could help is the Bears will face a 4-3 defense after playing three 3-4 fronts in four weeks.
“‘It’s a total technique change across the board, so it’s going to be a little edgy at times and not as clean as it could be when you’re playing against an over front or a team you work on every day,’ Tice said.
“‘If we played against a 3-4 team every day in practice we’d be a little better against it, but each game I felt we got a little bit better.'”
“A year after rushing for 2,000 yards, the Bears have yet to find their groove on the ground. Matt Forte hasn’t been fully healthy. The offensive line has been revamped. Don’t forget all of the new passing toys that arrived too. Offensive coordinator Mike Tice made a concerted effort in training camp to make sure the passing game was installed and operating efficiently. An inordinate amount of time was spent throwing the football in Bourbonnais. That meant less attention to the ground attack, but that should change this week against the Jaguars, who enter 30th in the NFL against the run.”
In fairness, the passing game seems to me to be much harder to coordinate (as the Cowboys can attest). Personally, I’d rather see the Bears spending and inordinate amount of time throwing the ball in camp. As a fan, its not easy to see your team get beat. But when you are watching on a Monday night with 24 hours with no sleep, seeing them beat themselves by running the wrong routes would be agony.
Vaughn McClure at the Chicago Tribune talks about the brewing feud between ESPN‘s Steven A. Smith and Marshall:
“‘I’m saying if you have old incidents dating from Oct. 31, 2004, to March 11, 2012 — if you have eight years of a track record of transgressions, I need to see more than a few months of a transformation,’ Smith said.
“Marshall apparently responded to Smith’s rant with this tweet: “Yellow journalism is a type of journalism that presents little or no legitimate well-researched news to sell papers or create controversy.”
This is what worries me about Marshall. Suggest something critical about his past that is nothing more than the truth and he calls it “yellow journalism”. I can’t help but think that, no matter what he says or how it looks on the outside, he’s still in denial.
Fred Mitchell at the Chicago Tribune quotes Cutler on how teams are trying to handle the Bears passing attack.
“‘I think week by week, teams are going to try to take ‘B’ [Marshall] away and make those other guys make plays,’ Cutler said Wednesday at Halas Hall. ‘I think that’s going to be the philosophy behind that.
“They’re going to bet that defensively they can cover those other guys and not let ‘B’ beat them. That’s what we’re seeing a lot of. But we have a lot of belief in our guys — Kellen (Davis) and Alshon (Jeffery) and (Devin Hester) and Matt Forte … all those guys we believe can make plays.””
I’m glad Cutler believes in them. Because other than Forte, I surely don’t. Like the Bears opponents, I’ll believe it when I see it.
“With Matt Forte starting to get pretty worn down, would he still demand a good price on the trade market? Trading him would leave the Bears with a solid player in Michael Bush and then the option to take a guy like Marcus Lattimore in the draft. — Joe Devine, Saskatoon, Canada
“I don’t know why the Bears would want to get rid of a player they just signed and a player who clearly helps them win games. But to answer your question, I think the Bears could get something of value in return for Forte. They probably couldn’t make a killing because he is soon to be 27-years old and he has some miles on him. The days of receiving five players and eight draft picks (including three first rounders), as the Cowboys did for Herschel Walker, are over. It’s unusual to see a star running back traded anymore. The Seahawks got Marshawn Lynch for fourth and fifth round picks two years ago, but he wasn’t in Forte’s class at the time of the trade. The Redskins gave up Champ Bailey and a second round pick for Clinton Portis in 2004, but Portis was younger than Forte at the time, and he had been more productive. So what could Forte bring in a trade? I would say if they found the right partner, the Bears probably could get a good starter at another position or a second round draft pick.”
I’m always of the opinion that the fans are under-estimated by people associated with the NFL. I’m a fan of the fans and I think they often see more than the professionals who are too close to what’s going on to see the forest for the trees. But questions like this about Forte seem to pop up in columns every week and I’ll never understand why anyone would want to trade Forte. Forte said during the offseason he thought he was being disrespected by the Bears organization during a contract dispute. But in my view its nothing compared to the disrespect of some fans who see to think the Bears would be better off without him. He’s not appreciated like he should be and that’s a shame.
“I just don’t understand why the Bears don’t at least try Gabe Carimi at LT. OK his ceiling maybe isn’t as high as J’Marcus Webb‘s, but he does not have the low downside either. Carimi went up against a lot better competition in college too and always performed well. Why not put him there and let him deal with those great pass rushing DEs. I have to believe he would perform better then what Webb has showed. Plus doesn’t Mike Tice say he is the best OL they have? If that is the case why isn’t your best OL playing the most important position on the line? — Peter, Wausau, Wis.
“If the Bears move Carimi to left tackle and he is just an average left tackle, which many suspect would be the case, you might have an average left tackle and a below average right tackle. Does that make them better? Carimi can be an above average right tackle. You don’t want to create one problem by solving another. I don’t recall Tice saying Carimi is the best offensive lineman on the team, but Tice clearly is high on Carimi. And even if a player is the best lineman on the team does not mean he could play any position.”
Many of us wondered what happened with Al Afalava, a promising young safety for the Bears who had a good rookie year in 2009 but was cut in 2010. Now we know. From McClure:
“Now, Afalava plays special teams for the Titans, and he regrets how things unfolded with the Bears.
“‘I learned that being on the sideline ain’t going to get you a job in the NFL,’ Afalava said Thursday. ‘I didn’t come in prepared my second year.
“‘Before my second year, I went home to Hawaii and put on weight that I wasn’t supposed to. I was close to 240 pounds after playing as rookie at 212. I was just living the life back home. Hawaii has good food.'”
Looks like the Bears defense will get a shot against yet another bad offensive line. The odds are good that, like the Cowboys, their best chance to beat the Bears will be to run the ball. From Pompei.
You can couple that with this grim assessment of the Jaguars defense at the quarter pole mark from Ryan O’Halloran at the Florida Times-Union:
“The Jaguars can’t stop the run to force a third-and-long, and when they do, don’t have the pass rush to pressure the quarterback.
“So what are the Jaguars options? They rushed six or more players five times against the Bengals, who blocked it up with extra protection.
“The element of surprise — more zone blitzes, corners and safeties coming off the edges, etc. — should be next up.”
“Although the Jaguars remain 30th in rush defense for the second straight week, linebacker Paul Posluszny sees improvement. The Bengals rushed for 138 yards, but 48 came on a fake punt.
“‘Early on [the struggles] were a huge surprise,’ Posluszny said. ‘Each week, we’re getting better and better. Last week, we were successful and the fake punt skews the number. We’re tackling better and we’re more disciplined. We started out rough and now we’re making that ground up.’
“Not counting the fake punt, the Jaguars allowed only one rush of longer than 12 yards to Cincinnati.”
It’s apparently not all bad for the offensive line, as well. Also from O’Halloran:
“Along with center Brad Meester, left tackle Eugene Monroe is the only Jaguars offensive starter to play every snap this year. He’s been consistent in pass protection and occasionally dominant. Monroe has one penalty (a false start) and controlled Minnesota’s Jared Allen in Week 1.
“Helping Monroe’s performance is who he hasn’t faced. Houston moved J.J. Watt from right end to left end to go against reserve right tackle Guy Whimper and Indianapolis moved pass rusher Robert Mathis around so he wouldn’t get a steady diet of Monroe.”
I think you can count on Lovie Smith and Rod Marinelli to do the same with Peppers.
One match up to look at will be left guard Eben Britton against the Bears defensive tackles. Britton was benched at half time last game. From O’Halloran:
“‘He’s very prideful,’ [Jaguars head coach Mike] Mularkey said. ‘He came in here with a great attitude. A lot of guys would have sulked, but he didn’t do that. He works hard all the time, but you could tell it’s important to him. With another week, he’ll probably be better health-wise.'”
“One bright spot for the Jaguars is that Blaine Gabbert hasn’t been horrible under pressure. He’s middle of the pack with a 62.9 Accuracy Percentage when pressured and has yet to throw an interception. However, he takes a sack on 21.8% of those plays, the 10th-highest rate in the NFL.”
Maney continues with this interesting tid bit to look for:
“Gabbert will likely target slot corner DJ Moore, who’s given up 18 catches on 24 targets this season, two of them going for scores. Of 108 passes this season, Gabbert has thrown just eight longer than 20 yards in the air and 17 at intermediate distance (between 10 and 20 yards). Of those 25 passes over 10 yards in the air, just three have gone to the left side of the field and he didn’t attempt a single pass there against the Bengals. In fact, on passes beyond the line of scrimmage, he’s thrown just 18% to the left side of the field, compared to roughly 32% to the right and 50% to the middle of the field. He’ll want to throw left more often and stay away from the right side against the Bears, where [cornerback Tim] Jennings spends an overwhelming majority of snaps.”
Who will cover Marshall seems to be a major question in Jacksonville this week. As it should be. My advise is that whoever it is should get significant help. Form Gene Frenette at the Florida Times-Union.
I got a lot of flack about a game comment I put up last week. I said that I thought Tony Romo‘s accuracy and touch are impressive. Bears fans thought that a QB who threw five interceptions shouldn’t be getting those kinds of compliments. So I was glad to see Andy Benoit at The New York Timescome to Romo’s defense as well and do it in a much more thorough way than I could:
“So what about the five interceptions? Three, maybe four of them weren’t Romo’s fault. On the first pick, Dez Bryant ran the wrong route. On the second pick, Kevin Ogletree had a perfectly thrown ball bounce off his chest. The third pick probably should have been ruled a fumble, because the ball squeezed out of Romo’s hands after he was corralled by Henry Melton. Romo tried to escape the pocket on that play, but Melton had spectacular closing speed. Nevertheless, Melton shouldn’t have been able to break down Dallas’s protection so quickly. The fourth interception may have been Romo’s fault, though the intended receiver, Miles Austin, ran a very poor route, failing to cross the face of cornerback D.J. Moore.
I might add that, bad decision though it might have been, this pass was a laser beam that was right on target. Benoit continues:
As for the fifth interception….that was Romo’s fault, but in a lot of ways, it was his most impressive play of the night. The Cowboys were trailing by 24 late. Their only chance at a win was via a sports version of a miracle. So Romo went for it and threw into coverage. How many quarterbacks in that situation would have checked down to avoid risking a five-turnover game? Romo showed selflessness and character on that play. He showed those same traits in the postgame interviews, too, when he protected his teammates and accepted the unwarranted blame for his team’s sloppy showing.
This isn’t to say that Romo shouldn’t be scrutinized. He has played extremely well this season but hasn’t gotten much help from his supporting cast. It’s fair to point out, though, that receivers who play with Tom Brady and Peyton Manning never seem to get way off their quarterback’s page. You don’t see Brady’s targets drop passes in bunches. So why are Romo’s teammates so inconsistent at times?
There isn’t a single right answer to this question. But this is the question sportswriters should be exploring. It’s not as easy or fun as exploring why “Tony Romo stinks,” but it’s a lot smarter and fairer.”
Ben Stockwell at Pro Football Focus more or less tells it like it is as he reviews the Cowboys-Bears game film:
“At this point Cowboy fans, coaches and players must simply be tearing their hair out. In spite of consistency in personnel at key positions, the hallmark of this offense continues to be miscommunications and disconnects between players. At some point you have to wonder when this will be picked up on as a recurring problem to the extent that it costs someone their job.”
I’ve got to figure that if things keep going like this, there will be changes at the end of the year in Dallas.
Dan Pompei, this time writing for The National Football Post, highlights the new trend in the NFL – the “rat race offense”.
The Bears aren’t the only ones with an aging defense. And the one in Pittsburgh may not be aging as gracefully as Steelers coach Mike Tomlinfaces some tough choices. From Alex Marvez at FOX Sports:
“‘It is a natural evolution of this business,’ Tomlin told FOXSports.com when the subject was broached after Wednesday’s practice. ‘Any of us that are in (the NFL) have to accept it on one level or another whether it’s coaches or players. That’s the mentality I have regarding it.'”
“‘We’re not trying to strike a balance (with age). We’re going with the guys who are capable of playing. We’ve got some veteran guys who are still good players. As long as they remain that, they’ll continue to play. We’ve got some young guys with some promise who are working. When they’re good enough to play, they’ll be in there.'”
“As he trudges through the snow on his way to the Champaign County YMCA, where he would stay that night for $2, his shoes fall apart.
“‘I’ll never forget that feeling where the sole comes off your shoe, snow seeps in, your socks gets full of that cold, wet moisture,” he said. “But it was the greatest thing that happened to me. It gave me perspective. Those are the life-defining moments. They hard-wire you. When you meet challenges in life later on, you say, ‘This is nothing.'”
The Cowboys came out running as expected. The game plan was to run, take the short pass and be patient. The Bears played their typical bend but don’t break. They mixed coverages but for the most part they tried to keep it all in front of them.
Give Bears defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli credit. He called a pretty good game. He had eight in the box to sto the run when the Cowboys were getting ready to do it and blitzed at appropriate times. The execution wasn’t alwasy on but he put them in the right positions.
One of the questions going into the game was who was going to cover Cowboys tight end Jason Witten. Turns out it was the safeties with occasional linebacker halp. He got a lot of attention.
Kevin Ogletree has some jittery moves. Actually all of the OCwboys receivers did. There was some bad tacking out there on the Bears ed and the combination accounted for a fair number of extra yards after the catch.
The Cowboys found Miles Austin matched up on D.J. Moore in the second quarter. It was capped with Austin catching a touchdown pass near the end of the half. Its probably no coincidence that Kelvin Hayden got more time in the second half. Its also worth noting that Moore got a little revenge with a critical interception in the fourth quarter that pretty much spelled the end of the Cowboys hopes.
The Bears pass rushers didn’t do a good job keeping Tony Romo in the pocket.
Romo really has a nice touch on the ball. He’s super accurate. You have to like that.
I heard all week about how hard a time Doug Free was having at right tackle for the Cowboys. Generally speaking he sure looked like he did the job to me.
Henry Melton had yet another good game. The Romo fumble that he caused which led to a Lance Briggs touchdown was critical. He also had a sack.
The Bears also called their game pretty much as expected. Lots of running the ball. They took their shots down field but with little success.
The Cowboys played seven in the box against them for most of the game on first down. As color man Jon Gurden pointed out, they played a lot of man under just as Green Bay did against the Bears. They did blitz when it was appropriate but I wouldn’t have called the defense especially aggressive.
Jay Cutler didn’t have a particularly good game. His accuracy wasn’t awful but he was a bit off more often than he should have been.
Its a broken record but the offensive tackles both had problems whenever they were asked to block one on one. Webb has my sympathies in that he had DeMarcus War on his side but you still have to handle him the majority of the time at least and he really had a hard time. Gabe Carimi on the other side was having trouble with the speed rush to the outside.
The Bears recognized that Hester was in single coverage and they were trying to get him the ball but he was having a tough time shaking Morris Claiborne. Finally they got him in the end zone in the third quarter on a nice route.
About 5 minutes left in the first half. It was first and fifteen. Cutler completed a 12 yard pass to Marshall. Lovie Smith took a five yards penalty and first and ten rather than second and what looked like a short three to me. I’m not too sure about that decision.
About 4 minutes left in the half and Cutler gets up off the bench and walks away just after Mike Tice follows him and sits down talking to him. I don’t see how even the most staunch Cutler apologist can defend that.
The Bears had good success with a little slant pattern to Marshall early in the game. They stuck to putting him in the slot to create mismatches and he took short little routes over the middle for a lot of yardage. Marshall also didn’t see the bracket coverage he’s seen against other teams, either. It added up to a big game.
Mike Tirico is solid but Jon Gruden really is good at television. Strip away the corny Clint Eastwood references and he gives immediate, insightful looks into what’s going on during the game. I really enjoyed the broadcast.
The Cowboys receivers didn’t have a great game. Too many drops. Too many catches that should have been made that weren’t. Especially Dez Bryant. Kellen Davis had another miscue as he had a drop for the Bears.
Penalties weren’t too prevalent on either end but the Bears seemed to do a better job of overcoming their penalties. They handled first and fifteen reasonably well.
I thought both special teams units were solid. The Cowboys new punter, Chris Jones, had a good game and put the Bears in some bad field position.
The number of turnovers didn’t tell the whole story. There was one weird series where Major Wright picked off a tipped ball by Ogletree, then Cutler gave it back with a fumble as he held the ball too long, then the Bears got it right back when Melton forced the Romo fumble. It all made for a pretty sloppy exchange. All in all, the Cowboys turnovers were more damaging. As the Bears scored two touchdowns directly off of two of them.
This one was as much poor play on the part of the Cowboys as it was good play on the part of the Bears. In fact, the best thing you can say about the Bear offense is that they didn’t give the game away (though there were a few good plays here and there in critical spots). The Cowboy’s offense, however, was a different story. Critical turnovers, drops, blown coverages and stupid penalties gave the Bears opportunity after opportunity and they made the plays. If Dez Bryant just just his job, the Cowboys are probably in this game. As it was, the Bears just played solid football and came away with a no frills win.