Hub Arkush at chicagofootball.com after the Bears loss to the Packers Sunday:
Though Arkush seems to believe its talent I really don’t think that’s the problem. Or at least not the larger problem. Even without Jeremiah Ratliff and Jared Allen I thought the younger players on the defense would show up better than they did against the Packers. Perhaps more time for development is needed at defensive tackle and once they’re playing better it will elevate the rest of the group.
But that’s no excuse for everyone else and its the second part of Arkush’s question that particularly bugs me. I’ve been a defender of defensive coordinator Mel Tucker but these intermittent poor efforts from the defense are starting to add up. I’m starting to wonder if he’s the guy to get all of these guys on the same page and perfroming as a unit week to week. I was willing to cut him some slack last year but I’m running out of patience. And I’m willing to be that feeling extends into places that are a lot more official.
- Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times quotes safety Ryan Mundy on the Bears excellent red zone defense last Sunday:
“‘It doesn’t have to get to that point. I was kind of saying that to our defense throughout the first half [against the Jets]. We would let them get into the red zone and hold them to a field goal, which is great. But it doesn’t have to get to that point. We can start making those plays earlier in the [possession] — get the field-position game going and keep points off the board.'”
The quote isn’t as significant as Mundy saying it. I’ve been wondering who, if anyone, was going to emerge as a leader on the defense with linebacker Lance Briggs still acting like a child at age 34. Mundy might be the guy.
- Hub Arkush at chicagofootball.com quotes defensive coordinator Mel Tucker:
- Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers your questions:
“What are the chances Brian de la Puente keeps the starting center job after Roberto Garza is healthy? — @TomOMalley23 from Twitter
“De la Puente has played well when you consider the communication needed up front and the fact that the Bears have played two road games against good defenses and held up relatively well. I’d suspect Garza will reclaim his starting job when he is healthy. The Bears certainly have not run the ball effectively the last two weeks and there are no indications at this point the team wants to replace Garza.”
This is the second week in a row I’ve seen this question as it appeared twice last week (once in the Tribune and once in the Sun-Times). Is there something I’m missing? Has Garza been that bad? True, the Bears haven’t missed a beat in pass protection but it isn’t like they’re running over people out there.
- Here’s a question to Biggs that I liked better:
“When the Bears set before a play, on a large number of plays the left guard would reach over to the center and tap him on the shoulder as an apparent signal to snap the ball. Last year he used to point his arm forward for a one-count. Clearly this is legal somehow, but why is the movement not considered a false start? — Chris R., Midlothian, Ill., from email
“Left guard Michael Ola reaches over and taps center Brian de la Puente (as Matt Slauson and Roberto Garza did before they were injured) in the shotgun to let him know quarterback Jay Cutler is ready for the snap. This is not a false start because the left guard is not simulating the start of the play. Here is the NFL’s rule for a false start – Rule 7, Section 4, Article 2:
“‘It is a False Start if the ball has been placed ready for play, and, prior to the snap, an offensive player who has assumed a set position charges or moves in such a way as to simulate the start of a play, or if an offensive player who is in motion makes a sudden movement toward the line of scrimmage. Any quick abrupt movement by a single offensive player, or by several offensive players in unison, which simulates the start of the snap, is a false start.'”
Perhaps a better question would be “Why does the guard have to tell the center that the quarterback is ready? Can’t he look for himself?”
- David Just at the Chicago Sun-Times asks why the Bears are falling in the national rankings after back to back road wins on national television. I think the comments from Yahoo! Sports probably gives a good indication:
“Their best player on Monday night was the opposing quarterback.”
The national press doesn’t believe in the Bears because their victories are perceived as being more a result of bad play by their opponents than good play on their part. For once the national press might not be wrong.
- Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times reads my mind as he predicts the result of the Bears-Packers matchup:
“Though the Bears are improving, it seems like injuries are starting to catch up to them — Brandon Marshall’s ankle could be particularly problematic for an offense that has been good but not great so far. Bears caught a lot of breaks vs. the Jets. They’ll have to play much better to beat Aaron Rodgers.”
It’s not that I don’t give them credit. After all, you still have to catch the interception is its thrown to you. But the Packers don’t generally throw games away like the 49ers and the Jets did. Even though they lost last week against the Lions they still won the turnover battle. The Bears simply have to play better if they want to win this game.
- Many interesting things about this match up have been emphasized over the course of the week but the thing that sticks out most to me are the injury reports for the Bears and Packers.
The Bears have declared four starters out: Garza, Slaughson, Shea McClellin and Jeremiah Ratliff. They have also declared special teams stalwart Sherrick McManus out.
Who is out for the Packers? Nobody.
The Bears are going to have to suck it up and overcome some adversity this week.
One Final Thought
Adam L. Jahns at the Chicago Sun-Times quotes Bears quarterbacks coach Matt Cavanaugh on coaching accuracy:
“[Aaron] Rodgers’ precision might receive rave reviews, but Cavanaugh doesn’t buy into the premise of natural accuracy. Rather, he said, it’s a familiarity with an offensive scheme and receivers and incessant work on fundamentals.
“‘‘I don’t know if anybody is just naturally accurate,’’ Cavanaugh said. ‘‘There’s a lot of work [involved]. There are guys who may not have been naturally accurate but learn how to be accurate. You make yourself drill.’’
“For strong-armed quarterbacks such as Cutler, who are prone to throw off their back feet, drill work is everything. And it’s relentless work under Cavanaugh and coach Marc Trestman. It’s an every-practice process.
“It’s all about muscle memory.
“‘‘When the ball is snapped, all those fundamentals are really the last thing you think about,’’ Cavanaugh said. ‘‘But if you’re drilling it right, then there’s a lot of guys who can be accurate.’’”
It’s an interesting thought. And obviously one that comes from a coach’s point of view. In my experience, coaches tend to look for raw talent like arm strength in the draft because they feel like they can coach accuracy and other refinements into the player later. It doesn’t always work out that way.
I think Cutler has, indeed, been more accurate this year and I’ve no doubt Cavanaugh and Trestman are a big part of that. But he still throws off of his back foot when he’s under pressure. At this point I don’t think he’ll ever get in enough drill work to completely overcome the tendency.
There won’t be any Game Comments for the Jets contest tonight. I’ll have the game on tape but its unlikely that I’ll have time to watch it before tomorrow afternoon. Looking forward to seeing what you all have to say.
Mike Mulligan at the Chicago Tribune on why Bears head coach Marc Trestman shares the blame for the team’s special teams woes:
“Legend has it when Norv Turner came to the Cowboys as offensive coordinator under Jimmy Johnson in 1991, he was told a couple of games into the season that special teams would be a priority that week. Turner would get three wide receivers active, but one of them had to be the return guy.
“Trestman hasn’t put those kind of restraints on his offense. With injuries to Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall going into the 49ers game, the Bears had five wide receivers on the active roster and another inactive.”
I’m not entirely sure how fair this criticism is. Trestman had no way of knowing whether Marshall or Jeffery were going to last the game or, if they did, whether they’d actually be healthy enough to be of any use. Trestman could have easily been stuck with what amounted to two active wide receivers.
Having said that, Mulligan is right in that the Bears probably haven’t prioritized special teams. The lack of depth that was exposed last year on the defensive side of the ball has undoubtedly made them skittish about coming up short on the non-special teams units on game day and, again in fairness, they’ve needed that depth as player after player has gone down to injury. The roster is a mess and its natural enough that special teams would be the unit to suffer the most.
I almost never pay much of any attention to anything former Bears head coach Mike Ditka has to say. But I have to admit he had more guts than I did.
Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers your questions:
“I know Roberto Garza is a leader on the O-line, but Brian de la Puente looks to be a better player. Any chance he keeps the job for good? — @petemeyer5 from Twitter
“The Bears handed the ball off to running back Matt Forte 12 times and he gained 21 yards Sunday night at San Francisco. That is not the production the team is seeking in the running game. That’s not on de la Puente and I’m not saying with Garza in there it would have been dramatically different. The Bears did hold up well in pass protection against a 49ers front that was missing Aldon Smith and rarely blitzed. I think the expectation is Garza returns to the lineup when he is healthy.”
I think Biggs doesn’t want to just come out and say it but de la Puente has had well-documented issues with his run blocking. Those issues cropped up after current Bears offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer left de la Puente’s former team, the New Orleans Saints. It’s possible that reuniting with Kromer has solved them but, like Biggs, I wouldn’t want to bet on it.
The Bears running game has been pretty miserable through two games. I haven’t concentrated on de la Puente’s play and I certainly wouldn’t want to even say that it contributed to the problem. But it’s fair to at least wonder if it won’t be that much better with Garza back in the lineup.
What can the Bears expect from the Jets? On offense it will be a heavy ground attack, of course. On defense We’re going to see exactly what you’d expect from a son of former Bears defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan. Adam L. Jahns at the Chicago Sun-Times quotes offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer:
“This defense has brought more zero blitzes in the first two games than we saw all last year — zero blitzing meaning it’s one-on-one in coverage behind the blitz that they’re bringing. Every receiver just has one guy.”
Given the Jets strength against the run, I think we can expect a large dose of the short passing game again. That means a lot will ride on the Bears ability to execute on offense without shooting themselves in the foot. If they don’t play better in this game than they did in the first two, this is probably a loss.
Jahns also points out that the Jets Geno Smith has some of the worst statistics of any quarterback in the league when he’s pressured which makes me wonder if the Bears may blitz more.
Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times makes the case that quarterback Jay Cutler is better in hurry up situations:
“The theory is that the finicky Cutler is an easily distracted quarterback who thrives when the show is mostly his. The more options he has, the more voices he hears, the more time he has, the worse he gets.
“As it is, the hurry-up offense seems to make a big difference. Since 2009 — when Cutler joined the Bears — Cutler is fifth among NFL quarterbacks with a 90.6 passer rating in the last two minutes of a half or a game.
“And of the quarterbacks in the top five, Cutler is the only one whose rating improves in those hurry-up situations. “
I think it’s likely that we’re going to see Cutler more and more in no huddle situations. It’s evident to me that the coaches aren’t just blowing smoke about Cutler having a better handle on the offense this year. He seems to be more vocal at the line of scrimmage and has an even better command of the unit. I’d expect that, if they don’t already, that the coaches will have the confidence to hand him the reins more very soon.
One Final Thought
David Haugh at the Chicago Tribune evaluates the state of the Bears ahead of tonight’s game against the Jets:
“If the Bears were a novel, they would be a mystery. If they were an election poll, an overwhelming majority of Chicagoans would click ‘Undecided.’ If forced to interpret what the Bears have proved so far this season, it would be little other than they are like so many NFL teams in the salary-cap era; capable of winning or losing every week regardless of the opponent depending on how they protect the football and create turnovers.
“A cynic would label that a mediocre football team. An optimist would call that a playoff contender.”
A realist would call them both.
- Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune points out that rookie Brock Vereen played 16 snaps as a nickel back last Sunday after cornerback Charles Tillman was lost to injury. I’d no idea that Vereen, normally a safety, was spending any time at this position and I’m reasonably sure he didn’t play there during the season. I was wondering if this wasn’t a new “secret” grouping that the Bears had in mind to show off Vereen’s versatility. But apparently not as Vereen addressed the issue after the game:
“‘Before I went out there I was able to get five, maybe seven minutes with Coach (Jon) Hoke and some of the vets and they prepped me with everything,’ Vereen said. ‘They were the only reason I was comfortable out there. Coach Hoke went over everything in a matter of maybe five minutes. That is what comes on the job and that is what you have got to do. It was fun.’
“Imagine that. The entire work of week delivered in five minutes. In seriousness, it was a real issue. The Bears needed someone in the nickel. Two plays after Tillman was injured, the defense remained in the base package on third-and-11 with three linebackers and Colin Kaepernick hit Stevie Johnson for a 20-yard gain.”
- Biggs also points out that the 49ers only rushed five men twice all game. I think this is, or at least once was, a reasonable plan for Cutler. You could imagine a team planning too drop everyone into coverage and waiting for him to make a mistake.
- Biggs also mentions that tight end Matthew Mulligan missed some blocks. Mulligan hasn’t been performing well and you have to wonder if the Bears aren’t eventually going to have to bring back tackle Ebon Britton as an extra lineman.
- Biggs quotes Brandon Marshall after the game as he addresses the play of rookie Kyle Fuller:
“Going back to my rookie year, (former Broncos outside linebacker) Elvis Dumervil came to me after one of our training camp practices and said, ‘Man, Champ Bailey is in there watching you in one-on-ones,’ because I beat him pretty bad. He was basically studying, and for Kyle Fuller I had to do that this training camp. I had to go in there in the Weber Center and just watch what he was doing because he surprised us. I told him it’s not about starting, it’s not about making the Pro Bowl; for him, he needs to have Hall of Fame on his brain because that kid can play.”
Biggs also quotes a scout that he talked to before the third preseason game agains the Browns, who drafted cornerback Justin Gilbert ninth overall:
“‘The Bears got the better cornerback,’ the scout said. ‘The Gilbert kid is more athletic but the Bears got a better football player. This Fuller kid is a football player and he’ll show it.'”
Marshall has been known to exaggerate on occasion but its hard to argue after the last game that Fuller can, indeed, play. Let’s hope he can do it consistently.
- Biggs also addresses the slew of penalty flags thrown during the game:
“‘That’s something the NFL is going to have to correct,’ 49ers linebacker Ahmad Brooks said. ‘They called about 16 or 17 penalties on us today (actually 18) and I think they called 11 (16) on them. That’s way too many penalties for a football game.'”
Maybe. But an awful lot of those penalties looked deserved to me. I think the Bears and the 49ers both have to take some personal responsibility and clean it up. That was an ugly game and the first half in particular really seemed to drag on way too long.
- After an outstanding game the week before against the Saints, Falcons wide receiver Devin Hester had one catch for two yards Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals. Via Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times.
- Also from Potash, former Bear and current Buffalo Bills cornerback Corey Graham had 10 tackles and three pass breakups against the Dolphins. Graham also had a good game against the Bears the week before.
One Final Thought
Rick Morrissey at the Chicago Sun-Times asks which are the true Bears, the team from week one or from week two?
I’m afraid that the answer is easy: it’s both. Truth be told the two weeks really weren’t that different. The Bears made plenty of mistakes and committed way too many penalties both weeks. They did make some nice plays to get more turnovers on defense against the 49ers but had Frank Gore‘s 54 yard touchdown run stood, the story might have been a lot different Monday, both about the game in general and about the run defense in particular.
The difference is that the 49ers simply gave the Bears a great deal of help last week and the Bills didn’t the week before. What’s the same is that the Bears had best clean it up and continue to get better week-to-week. Because as much as I enjoyed the comeback, I haven’t seen what I consider to be a playoff-worthy performance yet.
Rich Campbell at the Chicago Tribune reads my mind on the problems that the Bears have had defending the run:
“Dating to last season, we’ve heard coach Marc Trestman, defensive coordinator Mel Tucker and various players refer to problems stopping the run as ‘correctable.’ Yet those familiar issues—missed run fits, overlapped run fits, poor tackling—surfaced against the Bills.”
I have, for the most part, stood by Tucker. But the time is coming when these issues do indeed become corrected or I, and probably Trestman with me, am going to have to conclude that he can’t correct them. Far too often what Tucker appears to be teaching apparently isn’t being translated on to the field. Ultimately that’s where its at when it comes to coaching.
Campbell thinks that the Bears may use Matt Forte to run the ball more this Sunday:
“The 49ers, this weekend’s opponent, surrendered 118 yards on 22 carries in Week 1 to Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray.
“‘The Cowboys did a nice job (on a) variety of runs,’ Bears offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer said. ‘They ran outside zone plays. They ran an abundance of formations. They changed the formation, they motioned, they shifted, and the outside zone was good for them in that game. DeMarco Murray made some guys miss … and made some plays on his own.'”
Hub Arkush at the Chicago Sun-Times sees eye-to-eye with me on the Bears game Sunday:
“The Bears don’t match up well with the Niners on either side of the ball and they have the extra challenge of the high San Fran will be on opening their new stadium. This one hurts a bit as the Bears get whipped.”
This is an awful matchup for the Bears at their most vulnerable time. They’re facing exactly the kind of powerful defense with a lot of strength up front that gave them trouble last year. They probably wouldn’t have beaten the 49ers even with Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall. Without them this is going to be hard to watch.
Former Bears and current WSCR radio host Patrick Mannelly on what it feels like to be behind the mic after a Bears loss. Via Dan Wiederer at the Chicago Tribune
“‘I really want to experience a win from this side,’ Mannelly said. ‘Because then I want to get on the show and hear from everybody how great the Bears are and how they beat a Super Bowl favorite and how Jay’s the greatest quarterback ever.
“‘That’s what I can’t wait for.'”
Mannelly might be waiting a while for that. The calls come after the losses, not after the wins in the same way that the networks never broadcast good news. Its human nature. I don’t understand it but it is.
But thinking that the fans aren’t happy because there aren’t as many calls would be a mistake. Many if not most fans watch the game, win or lose, because they’re football fans. But they still want to see them win. Hopefully Mannelly will realize that they’re pleased. Just not as vocal.
Kromer on the difference in the offense without Jeffery and Marshall. From Campbell:
“‘Obviously, there are times when you feel like an Alshon Jeffery or Brandon Marshall is a mismatch against certain people, and so you’re moving them around to try to get them the ball. When they’re not in there, you may be just calling more plays in general to beat coverages or defenses, as opposed to having a primary receiver that you’re trying to get it to.'”
Not exactly quarterback Jay Cutler‘s strength. He’s got quite a challenge ahead of him.
Rick Telander isn’t always my cup of tea and I frequently do no more than scan his columns. But some times he just nails it.
Ditto Steve Rosenbloom.
One Final Thought
Wiederer quotes linebacker Lance Briggs:
“While the veteran linebacker said the outside criticism ‘doesn’t bother me at all,’ he does have added motivation. ‘This week,’ he declared, ‘is about proving people wrong.'”
No one would love to see that more than I would. If this team has any shot at all of beating the 49ers, they’re going to need him. That and a lot of help from the 49ers, themselves.
- Patrick Finley at the Chicago Sun-Times quotes Bears linebacker Lance Briggs:
“Asked on his Comcast television show about a radio report he was out partying until 4 a.m. Saturday, linebacker Lance Briggs said that ‘what I do on my off time is my business — it’s my business.'”
That’s not a denial.
- Adam L. Jahns and Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times make some good points in this video:
One thing. If you are depending upon quarterback Jay Cutler to “lead you to victory”, your trust is misplaced. I think its now well established that he might perform well but he won’t lead. If the Bears are paying him to do that then they’re fools.
- Hub Arkush at the Chicago Sun-Times gave what I thought were some fair grades after reviewing the tape of last week’s game:
“The linebackers earned a C-minus. Jon Bostic was the best of the bunch against the run. It was particularly interesting to see how many times Shea McClellin arrived at the pile in time to look down at it just after the whistle blew.”
Briggs and D. J. Williams weren’t mentioned…
One Final Thought
Potash asks Bears head coach Marc Trestman if the Bears will ever just run up the middle more on 3rd and one:
“‘You look at the third-and-one reel that we looked at during the course of the season and teams do throw the football in those situations.’
“That they do. But the numbers show that nobody does it as much as the Bears. On average, NFL teams rushed 66.7 percent of the time on third-and-one in the 2013 season. The Bears rushed 46.2 percent of the time. But whether the Bears run or pass on third-and-one — or third-and-short for that matter — one thing remains the same. They need to get better at it.”
The Bears are a finesse team. They’re never going to have the fire power up front to just out muscle people because that’s just not what they’re designed to do. That’s what makes the 49ers such a terrible match up for them this week. Its OK if you, as a finesse team, have answers for teams that do out muscle everyone. Unfortunately the Bears don’t and it frequently shows. It did last week. It will this week.
- Adam L. Jahns at the Chicago Sun-Times didn’t exactly come out and say it. But the messages was clear in the headline: “Bears’ defensive miscues felt like a mistake to the heart“:
“It was running back Fred Jackson’s 38-yard run to the Bears’ 1 in overtime that proved to be the final dagger of the disappointing day.”
That and the failure of the offense to do anything with the ball when they had it in overtime.
The coaching staff spent much of the offseason talking about how the team had to get tougher and show some “saltiness”. What they were talking about were winning games like this. Obviously the message didn’t get through.
- Given that the city is two-thirds Cub fans, I suppose it shouldn’t be surprising that 80% of you have already given up on postseason hopes for the Bears according to a Chicago Tribune pole. The players aren’t the only ones who need to get tough in this town.
One Final Thought
Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune reviews the film from Sunday:
“Cutler never should have thrown for Holmes on first down [on the series in over time] because Nickell Robey had him covered closely one-on-one deep down the left sideline. Alshon Jeffery, who was out with a hamstring pull, might have been able to make a circus catch if he were running the route. But it was low percentage with Holmes and a departure from what the Bears talked about all offseason — checking the ball down when a play isn’t there.”
One of Cutler’s many problems is that he feels so much like he has to make a play in situations like this that he forces the ball where he shouldn’t, resulting in big plays for the other team. As Rick Morrissey at the Chicago Sun-Times put it:
“He’s 31. He isn’t changing, folks. You’re stuck with him, all of him — the powerful throws, the mind-blowing interceptions. Enjoy.”
But that’s not really the worst thing that you can say about Biggs’s comment. What’s really bad is what it says about Cutler’s main limitation, that he only seems capable of throwing to big receivers who can, as he put it, “go up and get it”. He treated Holmes like Jeffery all game on Sunday rather than adjusting his thinking based upon Holmes’s abilities . That’s not new (Devin Hester gained 99 yards on five receptions Sunday). But the fact that it persists leads you to believe that Cutler, now in his thirties, will never learn to do anything else.
I like the Bears situation at the number three and four wide receiver spots better than most of the media. But they aren’t ever going to fit in to Alshon Jeffery’s role. The Bears are in serious, serious trouble if either Jeffery or Brandon Marshall lose any significant time this year – or ever as long as Cutler is the quarterback. You could argue that more than any other single factor, with the possible exception of the turnovers, Jeffery’s absence led to the loss on Sunday.