Revealing Patriots Victory Over Green Bay Helps the Bears

Dan Pompei at the Chicago Tribune answers your questions:

“Hi Dan. Did you see Rodney Harrison‘s take on playing Tom Brady? He said the only way they got to Tom in practice was to play tight press coverage and make him throw it into tight spaces. If the Bears somehow make the Super Bowl and face the Pats, are they capable of this type of gameplan? I’m just looking for some hope after this backhand from reality. Vinny Diemelo, Chicago

“I did see Rodney Harrison say that on profootballtalk.com. Interesting take. And certainly, it would be worth trying. But I’d be dubious about the chances of it succeeding for a couple of reasons. The Bears don’t have the type of cornerbacks who match up well playing tight press coverage against the Patriots’ smaller, quicker receivers. And with the way Brady is playing now, I’m not sure any kind of defense would slow him down much. The only way to stop him is to put him on his back, and that’s not easy to do either.”

I didn’t see Harrison say this but I’m not surprised.  I think the only way to prevent the Patriots from using their personnel groupings to generate unfavorable match ups is to play man-to-man.

I also agree with Pompei that the Bears don’t have the defensive backs to do it.  But for those who watched or reviewed last night’s game, you will note that the Packers do have the type of players that match up will with the Patriots and they gave them a good, competitive game despite a plethora of injuries this year.

Its good for the Bears that the Patriots won.  If they take care of business tonight, they can clinch the division.  But don’t make the mistake of believing that the Pats are a freight train headed toward a Super Bowl.  There’s still a lot of football to be played and the right kind of team can and maybe will beat them.

Points of View, December 19, 2010

Bears

  • Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune reports that Charles Tillman returned to practice Friday.  Tillman had an awful game last week ad he needs to bounce back with a good performance against the Vikings.
  • Biggs also points out that the Bears have among the fewest drops in the league.  This is a very under-rated stat in my opinion.  After penalties and sacks, dropped balls do more to eliminate big plays and put teams in third and long than any other factor.
  • Vaughn McClure at the Tribune reports that Brett Favre has been ruled out for Monday nights’ game against the Vikings.  Joe Webb will officially start.  No surprise.
  • Former NFL safety Matt Bowen reviews some classic cover-two for the Tribune.  Its tough to play defensive back in this scheme, especially safety.  Here’s hoping the Bears do a better job of playing it than they have the last couple weeks when they’ve given up some big plays.

Elsewhere

  • Aaron Rogers failed to receive medical clearance and will not be starting against the Patriots today.  That’s good news because Flynn is much less likely to beat them (the Bears clinch the division if the Packers lose and they win).  But more importantly it was undoubtedly the right thing to do for a player who sustained his second concussion of the season.  Here’s hoping Jay Cutler avoids a similar incident.
  • McClure also has this quote from Bryant McKinney on his poor performance against Julius Peppers last season:

“Nobody talked about the injuries I had in that game,” McKinnie said. “I had an ankle injury and I had plantar fasciitis. I couldn’t plant with my left ankle. I didn’t make a big deal about it. I just went out there and played. You catch me healthy and it’s a different story.”

I sympathize but no one is going to accept that as an excuse.  Few players remain totally healthy through out an NFL season.

  • Mike Kaszuba and Steve Brandt at the Minneapolis Star Tribune report that the Vikings are trying to make hay out of the collapse of the roof at the Metrodome.  They are trying to use it as evidence that a new stadium is in order.  But the political situation is complicated and with a six billion dollar state deficit looming, not everyone is buying in:

“‘A lot of people want things,’ said Sen. David Hann, R-Eden Prairie, an incoming assistant Senate majority leader. He said the Metrodome’s roof collapse ‘doesn’t elevate this to a crisis.'”

I disagree.  Its fairly clear that there are real safety concerns when you have a building in Minnesota that can’t handle snow.

The Vikings really should be playing Monday nights’ game in Los Angeles so they can get a feel for the place.  They may be seeing a lot of it in the near future.

One Final Thought

McClure also provided a somewhat humorous look at what its like to be shoveling at TCF Bank Stadium in Minnesota for the Tribune:

“‘You work for the Chicago Tribune? Man, I’m from Chicago,’ says [fellow shoveler, Keith] Ward, 47, who is in between jobs and came to suburban Minneapolis four months ago to spend time with his daughter.

“‘Hey, do me a favor? If Jay Cutler plays Monday, tell him that I said stop being so scared in the pocket and release it. … Get rid of it.’

“Memo to self: Don’t tell Cutler anything, because you know how he’ll react.”

Yes.  Indeed, based upon what we see on the field, one wonders if he sometimes doesn’t react the same way when offensive coordinator Mike Martz tries to tell him similar things.

Dez Clark Disappearing From Bears Landscape

Dan Pompei at the Chicago Tribune enumerates the reasons: why tight end Dez Clark has been inactive so often lately.  This one caught my eye:

    “The Bears have three tight ends with distinct roles. [Greg] Olsen is the route runner.  [Kellen] Davis is the short yardage guy. And Brandon Manumaleuna is the pass protector/run blocker from both the tight end and fullback positions.”

    I see the point and in combination with the others mentioned in the article is does draw a good picture of the current situation.

    But having said that, I would argue that Clark is far and away the most versatile of the three being competent in all of these aspects of the job.  Put him on the field and you never know what he’s going to be doing.  I’m going to guess that offensive coordinator Mike Martz doesn’t think that “competent” is good enough to make him dangerous in any one aspect.  But Clark does create mismatches.

    Looks Like Tomorrow WIll Be a Snow Day for the Bears

    Larry Mayer at chicagobears.com answers you questions:

      “The thing that surprised me the most about Sunday’s game was that the Bears and Patriots looked like they were playing under different field conditions. The Bears looked like they were playing in the snow while the Patriots looked like they had a dry field. Can you explain that?  –Jim, Seattle, Washington

      “Everyone talks about “Bear weather,” and while the Bears have had a lot of success in cold and windy conditions, they really aren’t accustomed to playing in the snow. I’ve covered them since 1992 and watched them long before that, and I don’t remember a “snow game” at Soldier Field like the one Sunday since the 1979 finale against the St. Louis Cardinals. The only recent “snow game” on the road that I recall was a 2005 loss to the Steelers in Pittsburgh. On the other hand, the Patriots have played extremely well in snow games, most notably a 59-0 rout of the Tennessee Titans last season. I’m not making excuses—the Bears got dominated in all phases and likely would have lost to the Patriots wherever the game was played—but the above information may explain a little why New England seemed more at home in the conditions.”

      Though I agree with this statement, Mayer didn’t answer the question.  The Patriots looked like they had much better traction.  What did they do differently?  I guess we may never know.

      On a related note Neil Hayes at the Chicago Sun-Times reports that the Bears are practicing at Northwestern to “simulate conditions”.  Here’s hoping that they left some snow on the ground.  There’s an 80% chance of it falling tomorrow in the area with a 60% chance of it being there at game time.

      The Real Question: Can Joe Webb Throw?

      Vikings rookie starter Joe Webb was full of apparent confidence when asked by Sean Jensen at the Chicago Sun-Times about Bears defensive end Julius Peppers:

      “When I asked him whether he ever has seen a defensive lineman as fast Julius Peppers, Webb said: “No, but has he seen anybody move like me from the quarterback position?”

      Now that you mention it, probably yes, he has.  But the point is well taken.  The Bears task Monday will be halt the Vikings ground attack and they’ll likely do everything they need to stop that first.

      Assuming the Bears are prepared to do that, the real question is whether Webb can make things happen with his arm.  Given that he’s a raw rookie who the Vikings drafted as a wide receiver until Brad Childress decided to mold another lump of untapped potential into Tarvaris Jackson, I’d say that’s unlikely.  But you never know.

      Do the Bears Still Have the Advantage in Cold Weather?

      Neil Hayes at the Chicago Sun-Times answers your questions:

      “Q: Playing Monday’s game in the land of Harry Potter colors (maroon and gold), which team do you think would be a better cold weather team, the Slytherins or the Gryffindors? — Seedy Backslash.”

      “A: Great question. I would’ve said the Bears until they played Sunday’s game against the Patriots as if they had rather been under an electric blanket. Obviously, the Vikings are a dome team. You would like to think the Bears would have the advantage in temperatures that are expected to be as low as minus-18. We’ll have to wait and see if that’s the case.”

      They’re going to have the advantage. The Bears’ problems last week were with the slick, snow-covered surface, not with the cold.  With any luck there won’t be any snow during the game, itself, and the surface at the University of Minnesota will be more clear of it.

      But even if its not, the Vikings have nothing to play for in freezing temperatures.  I can’t believe once they get out into it that an of them will want to be there.  The Bears just need to minimize distractions from the task at hand.  If they quit worrying about the state of the field and concentrate on the game, they should have the advantage.

      Points of View, December 16, 2010

      Bears

      • Sean Jensen at the Chicago Sun-Times wrote one of his nice human interest pieces on an unlikely friendship has helped defensive tackle Tommie Harris through adversity this season.
      • Apparently they are selling naming rights for statistics now.  Jensen points out the Bears rank dead last in something called the “New York Life Protection Index”, which measures a team’s ability to protect the passer.
      • Mike Mulligan, also at the Sun-Times, points to the incredible good heath that the Bears have enjoyed as a huge factor in their success.  I can only agree.
      • Perhaps I’m a bit biased but seems a shame that Lance Briggs‘ outstanding season is being reward by being only third in the an voting at outside linebacker.
      • Patrick Mannelly gets some well deserved dap.

      Elsewhere

      “The owners need to find a way to get the labor situation resolved fast. If it’s not done sooner, I don’t know that Bill Cowher or Jon Gruden will find jobs. You’re talking about some of the best football coaches in the National Football League. They clearly want back in and are good for the game, but there is not a place for them, not with the uncertainty. They are not coming cheap. … You know what suffers — it’s the product on the field.”

      I made the point some time ago that the owners could be firing head coaches early in an attempt to give the interim guys a good shot at earning the job.  It cold be much cheaper than paying two coaching staffs not to work during a lockout.  Its what I’d do in this situation and I don’t consider it to be a good sign that teams are possibly resorting to this.  It means they really aren’t sure a deal will get done.

      • Mike Klis at The Denver Post throws out Jim Fassel‘s name as a possible successor to Josh McDaniels as Broncos head coach (via Mike Florio at profootballtalk.com).  I never understood why Fassel can’t find another job in the NFL.  He led the Giants to a Super Bowl and is known as a good offensive mind.  He might be a good fit in Denver.
      • Dan Steinberg at the Washington Post reports (via Florio) that Donovan McNabb was booed as he attended a Wizards home game.  Rumors have been rampant that the Redskins are thinking of starting Rex Grossman and I guess the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.  As much as I like Grossman and am rooting for him, I really don’t think Washington fans know what they’re likely in for if that happens.

      One Final Thought

      I will be away on a business trip today, through Saturday so there will be few if any posts until Sunday morning.    Have a good time in the malls. –Tom Shannon

      Weather Will Now Be a Factor For the Monday Night Game Against the Vikings

      The Bears will now be playing at TCF Bank Stadium at the University of Minnesota Monday night.  This is an outdoor stadium.  For those who might be wondering, snow continues to fall in the area and the long range forecast indicates that this will continue through Sunday night.  Temperatures for the game will be 15-20 degrees.  The wind chill, of course, could be much worse than that.

      This should be just one more factor among many that will favor the Bears.  The Vikings aren’t the Patriots.  They’re a dome team with nothing to play for and there is a distinct possibility that they will turtle up in this kind of weather.

      Can One Game Derail a Season?

      Matt Bowen at the Chicago Tribune writes about recovering from a bad loss like that the Bears endured on Sunday:

      “I have never been a believer that one game can derail a season. Get through training camp, the first three months of the season and then fold after a bad loss in December? It shouldn’t happen, but it can if the proper adjustments aren’t made and these corrections stemming from Sunday aren’t treated with importance.”

      I don’t have much doubt that this is true, particularly coming from an ex-NFL player.  But there is a danger here.

      Certainly as long as you see the film and you recognize that you made mistakes, you know that you can correct them.

      But what if you are D.J. Moore or Tim Jennings, who were both tabbed with covering Wes Welker one-on-one and got ruined?  What do these guys do when they get totally out classed not because of poor technique but because the other guy was just better?  What if you are their teammates and you are thinking the same thing?  What if you look at the tape and you think, “Man, our coaches got thoroughly played.  And they’ll never be good enough to keep up with these guys”?

      Everyone from the front office down to the average fan knows that there’s only so much you can do to compensate for a lack of ability.  That’s how you get a loss of confidence.  That’s how one game can derail a season.

      I’m not saying this is going to happen.  But if enough players saw these kind of things enough on tape, the Bears are going to have a long remaining three games.

      It’s all about confidence.  It’s all about improvement.  Perhaps most importantly, its all about faith.  Faith in your coaches.  Faith in your teammates.  Faith in yourself.  Here’s hoping this team has enough of it.

      Points of View, December 14, 2010

      Bears

      “Branch explained what was discussed.

      “‘It was good conversation.'”

      “‘He said he was about to clean me off,’ Branch said of Wright. ‘Guys are always talking. But, like I told him, I’ve been playing a lot of football. I have a lot of football under my belt for me to just run a route and not think that you’re going to be there.

      As a general rule, my experience is that its the quiet guys who get the job done.  That certainly appeared to be the case Sunday.

      • Much is being made of Wright’s failure to get over the top and cover Branch deep on the last play of the first half, which resulted in a touchdown.  But as Brad Biggs and Matt Bowen at the Chicago Tribune point out, let’s not forget that Charles Tillman also failed to divert Branch and allowed him to release to the outside, something that simply can’t be allowed in those situations.

      “Did (the poor technique by both players) cost the Bears the game? No. They were trailing 26-0 before the touchdown. But it was indicative of how poorly prepared the Bears were and how they suffered major breakdowns in technique for the second week in a row.”

      Tillman’s error didn’t really matter because Wright was so late.  But even if he hadn’t been its very possible the Patriots would have scored anyway.  Tillman had a terrible game.

      “While Tom Brady had the kind of game that only further cemented his MVP and Hall of Fame credentials, this game magnified an even bigger difference between the Patriots and the rest of the NFL — they block better.”

      They certainly do and the difference between the teams was noticeable not just on the offensive line but all over the field.

      Elsewhere

      Mike Florio at profootballtalk.com comments upon Tarvaris Jackson’s performance at quarterback for the Vikings last night:

      The Vikings had rookie Joe Webb at quarterback for part of the fourth quarter Monday night.    They may as well get Webb some practice, because he’s the only Vikings quarterback on the roster that’s likely to be back next year.

      Both Jackson and Webb were former head coach and all around genius Brad Childress’s projects.  The Vikings are already reportedly considering moving Webb moved back to wide receiver, the position for which he was drafted.

      Brett Favre may well be put on injured reserve and the unsettled quarterback position bodes well for the Bears, who play the Vikings this week.

      One Final Thought

      Though I sympathize with their plight, I wasn’t too thrilled with Jets defensive end Shaun Ellis’ reaction to Rex Ryan’s comments after they lost to the Dolphins 10-6 (via Mark Cannizzaro of the New York Post):

      “’According to Rex we played [bleepy].  He said we weren’t good enough. I guess we needed a shutout. I guess that’s what he was talking about.”

      Yes, that’s exactly what he was talking about.  You’re supposed to win and lose as a team.  If that means you throw a shutout then you throw a shut out.

      Good team members point the finger at themselves first.