Quick Game Comments: Packers at Bears 12/18/16

Defense

  1. Two third downs on the first drive, two blown plays by Nick Kwiatkowski as first he missed a sack on Aaron Rogers and then he gave up a catch to tight end Jared Cook on 3rd and 11. The Packers eventually scored a touchdown on the drive.I know he’s just a rookie and he needs time.  But you’ll forgive me if I say that I have my share of doubts about this guy.
  2. Aaron Rogers looked good moving in the pocket early in this game as he did a nice job of eluding the Bears pass rush. However, its worth noting that the Bears were getting pressure and it wasn’t always because they were blitzing.
  3. Also speaking of the pressure, Rogers didn’t do the Packer offensive line any favors. He held the ball an awful long time on some of his drop backs hoping (apparently) that someone would get open.  How much of that was Rogers and how much of that was the Bears defensive backs is debatable but I’m guessing it’s a combination.  When Rogers is at his best, he’s dropping back and getting rid of the ball quickly to a receiver somewhere.
  4. Aaron Rogers looked good moving in the pocket early in this game as he did a nice job of eluding the Bears pass rush. However, its worth noting that the Bears were getting pressure and it wasn’t always because they were blitzing.
  5. Also worth noting was how well scouted the Bears had the Packers. For instance, in the first quarter on third and two but the Bears apparently knew from the formation that a pass was coming and kept only 6 in the box.  And a pass it was.  It was like that all game.
  6. I’m impressed by Ty Montgomery as a running back. He’s really quite a patient runner for a wide receiver playing running back.  I like him and at the moment I’m thinking he’s the best running back on the roster including the injured players.
  7. The Bears initially did a nice job against the run. The defensive line got good penetration and the linebackers attacked the line of scrimmage.  I’ll give Montgomery and Christine Michael some credit for breaking tackles but some awful tackling on the part of the Bears led to some big runs that totally ruined the effort here.  As a result, the Packers had a big day on the ground.  Very frustrating to watch as a Bears fan.
  8. J. Wilson had a good game today with 3 tackles, 1 for loss, and a sack. You have to wonder if he’s on the Bears radar for the future.
  9. Pernell McPhee finally pulled a sack out this game as he had two and he also had two tackles for loss. He needed to start producing. 

    The­­­re’s no more guaranteed money on McPhee’s deal and he’s due a $200,000 roster bonus June 1 with a base salary of $6.95 million for 2017.  That’s a lot to pay for a guy who has shown a lot of potential but who has really only had limited success for the team.”It’s going to be serious, especially me,” McPhee said. “I am coming back. I have a chip (on my shoulder) bigger than, I don’t know what. This offseason, I am going hard. That is going to be my focus. Just going to make sure I give it all I have the rest of this season and then go this offseason and get my whole body right. It’s going to be a transformation.”

    Outside linebacker Lamarr Houston is on injured reserve and he is due $6 million in 2017.  He will likely be released after the season.  That could help McPhee as they likely don’t want to be down two pass rushers going into the offseason acquisition period.  They don’t’ exactly grow on trees.

  1. Many will point to the offense for coming back to make this a game. As far as I’m concerned, big kudos are to the defense are in order.  Their fortitude in the face of multiple turnovers from Barkley was admirable.

Offense

  1. In contrast to Aaron Rogers, I thought Matt Barkely’s accuracy and ball placement was off in the cold weather and I’d say it was a big factor in the interceptions that he overthrew to receivers.Barkley is a California boy and if he sticks with the team next year I think he may need to adjust to the brutal Chicago weather.
  2. It took a while but Matt Barkley finally connected with Alshon Jeffery with 6 catches for 89 yards and a touchdown in the fourth quarter.Jeffery never really established that connection with Brian Hoyer at any point. A good part of that was Hoyer’s tendency to go where the coverage dictated and, given that Jeffery was the best receiver on the field and frequently double covered, he was rarely the first option.

    Barkley seems to be cut from the same cloth but Jeffery found himself in some soft coverage with the Packers protecting a big lead and Barkley took advantage.

  3. Nice stiff arm from Josh Bellamy on Demarious Randall on the first Bears touchdown. I was impressed by the fact that he got in after taking a wide receiver screen behind the line of scrimmage more than 10 yards out.
  4. Dowell Loggains was frequently criticized for not running Jordan Howard enough last week with only 13 carries. Several weeks ago, the Packers held Howard to 22 rushing yards on a mere seven carries. He also didn’t have a catch. It was Howard’s least productive game since he took over as the starter in Week 4.Before the Packers went up 17, the Bears had only run the ball 11 times compared to 23 passes.  However, in fairness to Loggains the Bears were going nowhere on the ground for most of the game up to that point. They had about 4 yards per carry at that point and Howard had some nice runs but the truth is that the Packers stopped him cold at the line of scrimmage most of the time.

    The Bears won’t go far in that kind of weather without running the ball better.

Miscellaneous

  1. Kevin Burkhardt, John Lynch, and Pam Oliver were your announcers. Lynch isn’t the best color man in the league but he isn’t the worst.  At least he comments on the most relevant material given to him, missing very little.  But having said that, he didn’t teach me much and I found his relentlessly positive commentary when describing both teams to be irritating and he had a bad habit of describing missed penalties as “good plays” by the player who committed them.  Burkhardt was irritatingly overly enthusiastic as well and both.
  2. Special teams on both sides were fine. Josh Bellamy downed a punt at the one yard line on a nice play and that was the highlight for the Bears.
  3. The Bears had their share of drops but Aaron Rogers was absolutely victimized by his receiver’s inability to hold on to the ball. Jordy Nelson dropped a long gain in the first quarter and Devante Adams dropped not 1 but 2 touchdowns.  I actually laughed when Lynch called the Packer receivers “normally sure handed” when, in fact, they are normally anything but.  Having said that, this was ridiculous.For the Bears, Alshon Jeffery dropped a pass in the first quarter that may or may not have been a first down.  Cameron Meredith dropped a first down in the third quarter.  He was interfered with but he still should have had it. He also had a potentially big one in the fourth quarter with the Bears driving on their comeback. Bellamy dropped yet another pass, this time at the end of the third quarter.
  4. Killer holding penalty on Tracy Porter in the first quarter gave the Packers a first down when they were backed up in their own territory.
  5. Barkley threw an interception in the first half that I may have been a little underthrown. But he threw two more that were definitely overthrown in the cold.  Julius Peppers came around practically untouched past Charles Leno to cause a strip sack deep in Bears territory.  He also recovered the fumble.
  6. I thought the Bears put forth a good effort today and I saw a lot of good things, especially after they came back from the dead to score 17 points in the fourth quarter to make a game of it.  But no one can be surprised by this result.  When you give the ball away 4 times and you get no turnovers yourself, what do you expect?

Some Random NFL Thoughts as Week 11 of the Season Comes to a Close

I haven’t had a chance to post much other than game thoughts lately.  Things have been a bit hectic at work and though they show no signs of slowing down, I thought I’d try to get a post up on some NFL thoughts this week as Well 11 wraps up tonight.

      1. Jared Goff didn’t have a great game yesterday.  But that’s understandable.  He’s a rookie in his first start and yet he arguably out played Ryan Tannehill for most of the game yesterday against the Dolphins until a dramatic comeback in the last five minutes of the game stole it away from him..

        Notably Goff has a (perhaps natural at this stage) tendency to panic under pressure.  Whenever he even sensed that a blitz was coming he rushed the pass and it was usually inaccurate.  He’s going to have to settle down and learn to keep calm in those situations.

        I might add that Goff’s accuracy and ball placement were generally a disappointment this game.  In fairness he saw a fair bit of pressure from the Dolphins defensive front and he was throwing on the move quite a bit.  Though he’s certainly mobile, based upon what I saw, that is not his strength and he’s going to have to be given some time in the pocket if the Rams expect his to succeed.

        Many were surprised when Rams head coach Jeff Fisher decided to promote first overall draft pick, quarterback Jared Goff, to the starting lineup.  Reports were that reports that Goff wouldn’t play until the Rams were mathematically eliminated. They’re still alive at 4-5, and if Goff gives the offense a spark they could end up in the mix for a playoff berth.  But head coach Jeff Fisher has claimed that Goff is ready.

        “It’s was just Jared’s progress, and the progression week, after week, after week,” Fisher said. “Preparing to be a two, preparing to be a play away from going in. When he got the reps over the last three or four weeks, they were right, they were good, they were good decisions. So it was time.”

        That’s all nonsense, of course.  Goff struggled notably in the preseason and there’s hardly much reason to believe he’s gotten significantly better with no playing time since.

        The truth is that the Rams have little to lose at this point.  The offense had, in fact, done very little under former starter Case Keenum.   Keenum was not the reason the Rams have been so bad but he hasn’t helped. This season he’s completed 61 percent of his passes for 2,169 yards, with nine touchdowns and 11 interceptions. He was sacked 23 times and the Rams are 24th in the NFL in sacks allowed per pass play.

        Keenum’s interception percentage is 31st in the NFL and the Rams are 31st in the NFL in touchdowns per game. In fact, the Rams have not scored more than one TD in each of the past three games.

        Given that is the case, Fisher wisely figured that he might as well let the offense be just as bad while developing their quarterback of the future.  As they have in all of their previous games, they will still rely on their defense to win.

        The real question is whether the Rams even can develop Goff.  Jeff Fisher is a defensive head coach and his Assistant Head Coach/Offense, Rob Boras is a former offensive line/tight ends coach.  That means the person who has been primarily responsible for overseeing Goff’s development is quarterbacks coach Chris Weinke.  Weinke has all of two years of NFL coaching experience – 2015 and half of 2016 with the Rams.

        Goff is a wonderful talent.  But at least as important is who is bring him along.  The Rams have been a waste land for quarterback play since Kurt Warner left St. Louis in 2003. With Sam Bradford being its most recent and notable failure at the position.  You have to wonder if Goff is about to get lost in those bad lands as well.

      2. Speaking of the Dolphins, more and more I’m coming to appreciate the play of Kiko Alonzo.  He’s all over the field and he’s largely responsible for what has been an improved (though still flawed) run Dolphin defense.
      3. One more quick Dolphins-related thought.  I was a bit disappointed when Dolphins center Anthony Steen, who played well in place of starting center Mike Pouncey (hip) today, decided to criticize Alabama head coach Nick Saban last week.

        Steen told the Palm Beach Post that he now regrets waiting until the end of his senior season to have the shoulder surgery he needed, and he thinks Saban’s approach leaves Alabama players hurt.

        “If you can work through pain, you can go. But at ‘Bama, that was the problem,” Steen said. “A lot of things you went through and you shouldn’t have. You should have stayed off of it. That’s why a lot of guys from ‘Bama are hurt.”

        If Steen was actually hurt or had done permanent damage to his shoulder by playing, I agree would with him. But as far as I can tell he hasn’t. So I question whether Saban actually pushed him too far.

        Indeed, it may well be Steen’s toughness and willingness to play hurt was one of the reasons he has made it to the NFL.  One scout from the Bleacher Report before the 2014 NFL draft called Steen “Possibly the very definition of ‘toughness’ as it relates to OL scouting purposes.”  CBS Sports said, “Steen’s technical consistency, toughness and instincts are exactly what NFL teams look for in the ideal guard prospect.”  The statements are ironic given that the Dolphins chose highlight their 2016 draft class by trying to make them into something that they weren’t, characterizing them as “alpha personalities” despite zero independent evidence that scouts ever viewed them that way.  Steen appears to the kind of guy they should have been touting all along if that’s what they wanted.

        In any case, if you ask me Saban did Steen a favor.  He pushed him to play and, while doing so, highlighted what was perhaps his greatest strength.

      4. Greg Hardy is gone but hardly forgotten.

        Hardy infamously was arrest for domestic violence after assaulting an ex-girlfriend by grabbing her, throwing her into furniture, strangling her, and threatening to kill her.  Only the Dallas Cowboys and their win at all costs owner Jerry Jones dared to sign Hardy after he hit the street (One wonders what he told his granddaughter.  “Don’t go dating an NFL player, now darlin’.  Unless he can rush the passer.  Heh, heh, heh.”  [slaps her on the behind]).  However, after a miserable season with the Cowboys in which he under-performed and was a locker room distraction, even Jones let him go.  Hardy has been waiting for another team to sign him ever since.

        Good luck with that.  If he ever had a chance – and I doubt very much that he did – its got to be gone now after he was indicted on one count of felony possession of a controlled substance after a September 25 arrest. He allegedly had 0.7 grams of cocaine in his wallet, which police detected after pulling him over for turning without signaling.

        Hardy was and is a blight on the National Football League, a product of a win at all costs mentality that results in animals like this getting rich off of fans who are forced to root for them against their better judgement.  You honestly wonder under the circumstances how the league has the nerve to wear pink in October while keeping men like Hardy  employed.  Fortunately, we’ll almost certainly never have to deal with watching this particular hard case anymore.  Let’s hope that its extended more and more to others whose behavior calls for sanction rather than adulation.

      5. I find the Green Bay Packers to be like a train wreck.  I can’t look and yet I can’t look away.  Some pundits were predicting that the Packers would be among the all-time best this year with the return of a healthy Jordy Nelson, who was supposed to be the major missing cog in the Packer wheel that caused the apparently decline of Aaron Rogers stats last season.

        That hasn’t turned out to be the case.  Among their notable deficiencies this year has been their problems at running back.  The carousel of running backs in Green Bay this season has included Eddie Lacy, Knile Davis (acquired from Kansas City and released after two games), James Starks and Don Jackson (who was placed on injured reserve). Through it all, the most effective runners have been quarterback Aaron Rodgers (who’s averaging 6.3 yards per run and has three rushing touchdowns) and converted receiver Ty Montgomery (who was the team’s leading rusher in two different games this season).

        The latest hope at running back for the team is Christine Michael, who they picked up from waivers after the Seahawks surprised the league by releasing him.

        Michael had two different stints with the Seahawks, who drafted him in the second round in 2013 (one spot after the Packers picked Lacy at No. 61 overall). As recently as this summer, he had earned praise from his teammates who said he was a different player than he was the first time around.  Indeed, NFL pundits have marveled at Michael’s talent and production and it was thought that he was on his way to a fine season.

        At least publicly the Seahawks have only praise for Michael.  “He’s been busting his tail the whole time he’s been here,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll told reporters on Wednesday. “Everything we’ve said about him has been true and real, and he made a great comeback with us. He was the only guy there for a while, and we’re really grateful to the play that he gave us. He’s a good kid.”

        But privately things may be a little different.  Reports have indicated that Michael was too inconsistent for the Seahawks and that they couldn’t trust him to run within the offense.  He struggled to hit the right hole or trust the design of the play. Those are vital elements of any run game but particularly for the Seahawks. The running back is the conductor of the offensive line. His patience, the number of steps he takes, all those details help a run succeed or fail.

        Whether Michael will be better within the Green Bay offense is an open question.  But they are so desperate to find answers at the position, they may rather have a reasonably productive back who free lances than the answers that they currently have on the roster.  Such is the state of what was supposed to be a record breaking offense this year

      6. Of course, the other major problem is the play of Aaron Rogers, himself.  Rogers at his best drops back, hits the last step in that drop and fires the ball immediately to the open receiver.  But he hasn’t looked like that on a consistent basis for over a year now, preferring to hold the ball and play backyard football while trying to make a play.  Pundits have blamed the fact that his receivers can’t get open for the problem and the return of Nelson this year was supposed to solve it.

        For the first time in his career, perhaps ever, Rogers is taking significant criticism from former teammates and the press.  And he apparently hasn’t liked it much.  Even nice guy Tony Dungy has gotten into the act as both he and not so nice guy Rodney Harrison took off on Rogers on Thursday’s edition of Football Night in Carolina on NBC and NFL Network.  Dungy and Harrison particularly addressed Rodgers‘ recent habit of publicly criticizing teammates and/or coaches during post-game press conferences following losses.

        Dungy: “When you’re losing, you can’t make those kinds of comments. I remember my first year in Indianapolis when we lost a playoff game to the Jets 41-0. Mike Vanderjagt, our kicker, comes out after the game and says, ‘Tony Dungy doesn’t fire people up. He’s just an easy-going guy. We don’t need that.’ Well, that might have been true, but when you lose, it’s not the time to say that.”

        Harrison: “I’m going to say this as nice as possible — shut up and play football. Every time that you mention something in the media, it creates a sense of divide in that locker room. Everything that they think about – say it in-house, and don’t bring the media and everyone outside of that locker room into it.”

        Former Packer Jermichael Finley has also been among the latest to speak out with some particularly damaging comments.

        “Aaron Rodgers is so scared of what guys are going to say that he doesn’t say nothing at all,” Finley said. “He doesn’t get vocal. He goes into his little shell. He’s not a guy who hangs out with the fellas. He’s real self-centered.”

        Finley isn’t the first teammate (former or otherwise) to take his shots at Rogers.  Even when Rogers has apparently been playing well, other players have or are suspected to have done so and they haven’t lasted with the team.  Former Packer and Dolphin guard Daryn College was one such player who called out Rogers in a team meeting for not admitting that he was holding the ball too long when the offensive line was taking heat some years ago in 2009.  Current Bears guard Josh Sitton wasn’t known specifically for doing it but he was outspoken and he was known to have called out the coaching staff on at least one occasion last year.  It would certainly not be surprising if criticism of Rogers miserable play last year came with that

        Rogers isn’t just self-centered.  He appears to be sensitive to criticism.  If he continues to play like he is, he’d better get used to it because it won’t stop until he starts reading the defense, getting rid of the ball, playing within the offense and throwing more accurately.

      7. I know that it seems like it’s a long way away but the later we get in both the NFL and the college football season, the more it feels like NFL draft time.  Indeed, site are already starting to speculate about what teams will need what and none will be more prominent than those who will be desperate for quarterback help.  In that respect, I found this article on NFL.com to be quite interesting.  In the column, former NFL scout Daniel Jeremiah looks at six teams who he thinks will be targeting the quarterback position.  Most made sense – the Browns, 49ers, Bears and Cardinals.  However, a couple were, in my opinion, questionable.

        First off, the suggestion that the Jets will be looking to draft a quarterback and/or sign a veteran is popular right now and, I think, pretty suspect.  The Jets drafted Bryce Petty in the fourth round in 2015 and, though fourth rounders aren’t always slam dunk starters, I’m not sure they given up on him.

        But Petty isn’t the reason I find this opinion questionable.  You might argue about the Jets commitment to his future but there’s not denying that they are committed to 2016 draft pick Christian Hackenberg.  Like Jeremiah, I don’t think Hackenberg is the answer for them.  But the Jets have to believe otherwise.  To draft Hackenberg in the second round and then not commit to him as your future starter would be ludicrous.  They would be, and should be, a laughing stock.

        No, I can’t imagine the Jets not giving Hackenberg the starting next year.

        The other suspect team on the list was the Jaguars, who appeared to have an answer at the position with Blake Bortles.  Bortles started well as a rookie but has regressed this season.  His mechanics are a mess and during the bye week he even resorted to visiting QB guru Tom House, indicating that perhaps he wasn’t getting the help he needed from head coach Gus Bradley and his staff.

        Bradley may be gone after this season but Bortles isn’t going anywhere.  I have to believe that the Jaguars would rather spend the offseason trying to fix Bortles, who at least has showed potential for a couple years before regressing, than starting over by drafting a new quarterback.

      8. Before we jump too far ahead it should be mentioned that one or two of those teams listed above are going to go for a veteran replacement.  Especially if you are a team who thinks that can win now, as in Arizona or Denver (not listed), the possibility of adding Tony Romo is going to be tempting.

        In addition, another quarterback that Dolphins fans are pretty familiar with might be enticing for one of these teams.  Tyrod Taylor entered the weekend needing to show that he could be the future in Buffalo badly.  Time could be running out for Taylor in his quest to convince management to activate the next phase of his five-year, $90 million contract, which would cost them $27 million for next season alone if they decide to kick in the second year.

        Buffalo beat the Bengals on Sunday but they did it with only an average effort from Taylor who went 19 for 27, 166 yards and a passer rating of 70.9.  Hardly the stuff that characterizes a $90 million quarterback.

        The bet here is that Taylors talent and mobility leads someone to sign him in the hope that he will be the future.  We shall see if it comes true.

 

 

Quick Comments: Bears at Packers 10/20/16

Offense

  1. Brian Hoyer came out and looked at Alshon Jeffery three times in the first five plays.  It looked like the Packers plan was to get physical with him and the other receivers with tight man coverage.  It was effective early as it looked like the referees were going to let them play.  Hoyer eventually started spreading the ball around and things loosened up slightly.
  2. The Bears continued to try to pound the ball up the middle early on first down.  It wasn’t working and it was forcing them to throw on second and third.  It was pretty predictable.
  3. Hoyer overthrew Josh Bellamy who had a couple steps on the safety in the first quarter.  He overthrew him by a long way, reminiscent of a similar play against the Jaguars last week.  Missing big plays like that can’t keep happening.
  4. The offensive line struggled to block the run averaging 3.8 yards per carry.  Jordan Howard appeared to struggle more than Ka’Deem Carey once again.  Defensive lineman tackled Howard on 12 of his 14 carries in the last game not counting his touchdown.  The blocking for him hasn’t been good in particular.
  5. Eric Kush started in place of Josh Sitton.  He’s not very athletic and he struggled a bit, especially when called upon to block and the second level.  It’s a funny comment because Bears offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains chose to start him over Ted Larsen because of his athletic traits and mobility.  Sitton had started 81 consecutive games and 129-of-131 since becoming a starter for the Packers in 2009.  Long came out hurt in the second quarter and was replaced by Larsen, who got the last laugh as they had to play him anyway.
  6. Clay Matthews beat Charles Leno on the play that Hoyer got hurt in the second quarter.  In fairness, Leno had little chance as Matthews looped around to the inside.  Julius Peppers also beat Kyle Long on the play.  The pass protection had been decent to that point but it really started to slip late in the second quarter.  Things went south from there.
  7. Cody Whitehair had a rough game blocking the run last week.  He looked better tonight.
  8. Matt Barkley replaced Hoyer.  He saw some pressure and looked OK as he’s quite a bit more mobile than Hoyer.  He might look better in the future but he’s a third string quarterback and things are looking pretty bleak at the position right now.
  9. The Bears did not make it into the red zone all night.

Defense

  1. The Bears came out playing man coverage and rushing four with the occasional blitz.  Perhaps more than occasional.  It’s obvious that the Bears aren’t confident they can get pressure rushing four.  I suppose you pick your poison but it looked like coverage was working early in the first drive.
  2. Later in the second quarter they changed the plan and backed off the line of scrimmage and played a soft zone.  They also got a bit more pressure, especially when Aaron Rogers was holding the ball trying to make a play.  They let the Packers have the shallow throws underneath when they were in this defense, which Rogers gladly took, however.  After six games this season, Rodgers has an 88.4 passer rating — 10 touchdowns, four interceptions and 60.2-percent completions — with Jordy Nelson (who was hurt last year).

Rogers looked better this game when he was getting the ball out fast.  He generally looked reasonably accurate.

  1. Nevertheless, the strategy appeared to work.  The Bears successfully held the Packers out of the end zone for just 6 points in the first half.

    They mixed it up, back and forth man to zone from there.

  2. Nice play by Cre’Von LeBlanc to knock a touchdown pass away from Randall Cobb.  Looked like a pretty good throw.
  3. Ty Montgomery is a tough matchup.  He lines up either in the backfield or on the line of scrimmage and he’s a handful for even the safeties.  He looks like he’s particularly good catching the ball out of the backfield where he can get some space.  He also looks pretty big for 216 pounds and he runs with some power for a guy that size.
  4. Nevertheless the Bears did a good job of stopping the run in the first half, giving up only 2.7 yards per carry but the Packers ran the Bears over in the second half.  They finished with 4.5.
  5. The Bears looked well prepared to defend the misdirection play action pass where Rogers fakes a hand off and does a naked boot in the opposite direction.
  6. Pernell McPhee was added to the roster before the game.  He looked rusty.  It looked to me like they went with Leonard Floyd and Willie Young at linebacker most of the time.
  7. The Packers dominated the time of possession in the first quarter but finished the half with a field goal drive that made up some of the deficit.  Nevertheless, you got the distinct impression that the defense was going to wear down if the game continued in that vein.  It did and they did.  The time of possession finished at Bears: 20:24 Packers: 39:36.
  8. Leonard Floyd got some good pressure including a sack in the first half.  He combined with Willie Young to cause an Aaron Rogers fumble which was recovered by Floyd for a touchdown.
  9. Tracy Porter looked OK when he was out there but the other cornerbacks sometimes struggled as they committed a some damaging pass interference penalties in the first half.  It looked like they picked on LeBlanc quite a bit.  Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t.  I’d say De’Vante Bausby struggled the most, mostly with Devante Adams.

Miscellaneous

  1. Jim Nantz, Phil Simms, Tracy Wolfson were all their usual professional selves.  The only good thing about the networks putting the miserable Bears on in prime time over and over again is that they get the best of these guys.
  2. Bears special teams were pretty good.  Very good kick coverage.  Akeem Hicks blocked a meaningless field goal late in the game.  No complaints.
  3. Once again there were too many Bears penalties (10 penalties for 108 yards). Adrian Amos got called for a very obvious pass interference late in the second quarter for a huge penalty of 44 yards.  The Bears stopped the Packers at fourth and goal at the one but they started the next drive practically on their own goal line.
  4. Drops weren’t much of a factor which is unusual for the Packers.
  5. The Floyd fumble recovery was a big part of this game if only because it was the only way the Bears were ever going to score a touchdown.  Again, the Bears continue to protect the ball well.  Barkley threw two meaningless interceptions late in the fourth quarter.
  6. Thank you CBS for bringing back that John Madden Miller Light commercial right before half time.
  7. It was nice to see Leonard Floyd emerge tonight and Bears fans should hope that he continues to develop.  Whitehair also appeared to me to get back on track this week.

    I thought it was interesting that we may have seen a turning point in the Packers season tonight.  After the Bears recovered the fumble in the end zone, the Packer offense came alive.  Suddenly Rogers was dropping back and throwing the ball on time at the top of his drop like the quarterback we used to see in 2014.

    If it caries over into the rest of the season, they’ll look back at that moment as when they gritted their teeth, pulled it together and it all got better.

Report: Former Packer, Pro Bowl Guard Josh Sitton Visiting Bears

Well, that didn’t take long.  Josh Sitton wasn’t on the street 24 hours before reports surfaced that he was visiting the rival Bears.

This would be nice turnabout for the Bears, who have often released players such as defensive end Julius Peppers only to see the Packers burn the team by turning around and signing them quickly to reasonable contracts.

Most reports are assuming that Sitton would play left guard, moving rookie Cody Whitehair to center.  But Whitehair struggled in his only game at center during the preseason whereas he’s been solid at guard.  Sitton has worked out with the Packers at center in practice and he’s said that he would be comfortable playing the position if needed.  The Bears would be far better one the whole keeping Whitehair developing at guard and replacing Ted Larsen, who is really a backup quality lineman.

Fox’s Comments Regarding Jay Cutler Should Be a Comfort to Us All

Rich Campbell at the Chicago Tribune quotes head coach John Fox at the Combine on the performance of quarterback Jay Cutler last season:

“‘I saw way more about his mental toughness,’ Fox said. ‘I saw way more about how he can absorb an offense and execute it under pressure. I think that speaks volumes for how successful he was on third downs, which is a tough down for a quarterback in the NFL. But I was very, very pleased by what I saw and what we have to work with going forward.'”

I find these comments to be comforting because:

  1. I was also pleased with what Cutler showed, particularly during the Packers game on Thanksgiving.
  2. The comments indicate to me that Fox understands Cutler’s major problem – lack of mental toughness.

There’s always been a suspicion in my mind that because the Bears coaching staff wasn’t with Cutler during his first six years with the team, they won’t understand why trusting him should be an exercise in caution, even now. The fact that Fox’s first comment was regarding Cutler’s major past weakness indicates that he understands the quarterback better than I thought. He knows what to look for if Cutler stumbles and he will recognize it if he sees it.  And the odds are good that he’ll be ready to do something about it.

Will Matt Blanchard Get a Shot to be the Bears Quarterback of the Future?

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers yet another of your questions:

“When will Bears give backup quarterback Matt Blanchard a shot?”
“– Steve, Park Ridge”

“The Bears signed Blanchard to a reserve/future contract in January so he will be on the team’s 90-man roster when the offseason program kicks off in April. He performed pretty well in training camp and preseason for the Packers last summer but didn’t make the cut as they kept draft pick Brett Hundley from UCLA as their No. 3. This is Blanchard’s second go-round with the Bears and his first with the current leadership in place. We’ll see what kind of opportunity he gets. Things could change if the Bears elect to use one of their higher draft picks on a quarterback.”

I could definitely see the Bears giving Blanchard a chance at being their quarterback of the future. When Biggs says that Blanchard played “pretty well” with the Packers he understating it a bit. Packer head coach Mike McCarthy raved about him (via Tyler Dunne at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

“I’ll just tell you what I told him when I met him in April. I said, ‘Why the hell don’t you have a job?’ Just after watching his workout and watching film of his time at Carolina. I just think there’s a lot there to work with, as far as his physical talent. The young man’s a winner, and he’s in a good place.”

The Bears actually have two young back ups with some potential on the roster. The other is 6’1″ 219 pound David Fales. But at 6’3″, 225 lb, Blanchard has ideal size. He also has all of the best characteristics that Fales demonstrates in terms of smart play with better arm strength and athleticism.

As Biggs points out, if the Bears draft a quarterback high in the first three or four rounds of the 2016 NFL draft, the odds that either Blanchard or False ever get a shot at starting drop dramatically. But every indication is that the Bears believe in Jay Cutler. He will be only 33 years old when the 2016 season starts and I have grave doubts that the current administration is going to spend a high draft pick on the future at the position this year. If that’s the case, in my judgment Blanchard has a better chance of becoming a starting NFL quarterback than Fales does and, assuming that the current coaching staff evaluates him with an open mind, it’s entirely possible that he’ll get a shot.

Defensive Linemen on the Rise in 2016 NFL Draft. Offensive Linemen, Not So Much.

Reports from the Senior Bowl at nfl.com support previous indications that the defensive linemen are going to be a strength in this year’s NFL draft. Here’s a cross section of the comments from the first day of practice:

Mike Mayock

“We knew going in the deepest positional group was defensive tackle, and boy did that hold true. I thought Matt Ioannidis from Temple had a great day. I thought the kid from Louisiana Tech, Vernon Butler, had a phenomenal day. But the topper was Adolphus Washington from Ohio State. He was all over the field in one-on-one drills; he was too quick, too stout. He was great in team drills. I thought he put on a show.”

Lance Zierlein

“[Clemson DT D.J.] Reader‘s 340-pound frame was often too much for many of the linemen he faced on Tuesday. Keep an eye on this late addition because Reader could make himself some money this week.

“Louisville DT Sheldon Rankins showed off his ‘karate’ hands by defeating blockers with astounding quickness at times. While Rankins is undersized, his compact frame, outstanding balance, and next-level hand usage should make him one of the most consistent performers on the South squad this week.”

All this is great news for teams like the Bears who need defensive line help. It looks like they’re going to have a great selection to choose from.

But much of the rest of the league might not be too pleased. This dominant performance by the defensive tackles in these practices can’t speak well for the offensive linemen that are getting beat on a consistent basis. Judging by what I saw during the regular season, I’d be very surprised if less than three-quarters of the league is in need of offensive line help. That includes most of the playoff teams, as was graphically demonstrated by the beating that New England quarterback Tom Brady took on Sunday. In the NFC North, Minnesota, Detroit, Green Bay and Chicago all need help in one form or another along the offensive front.

The Bears might be able to find multiple defensive linemen in this draft. But the indications are growing that offensive linemen are going be at a premium.

Lessons in Green Bay Should Not Be Lost on Bears Fans

Wes Hodkiewicz of the Green Bay Press-Gazette interviews Green Bay head coach Mike McCarthy. He asks him about reversing his decision to give play calling duties to offensive coordinator Tom Clements during the 2015 season.

“Those are conversations that will start Wednesday. I’ll tell you I will be calling the plays from here on in. How we structure our staff that’s really what lies ahead.”

“What I was trying to accomplish [with the initial change] with being a balanced team, I felt that was accomplished with defense and special teams. Obviously, we didn’t get it done on offense. The structure was obviously a part of the failure on offense. That will be closely evaluated.”

“Without going into total details … [the offensive problem] wasn’t about Tom or Tom calling plays. Tom is a valued assistant coach and has been my whole time here. I fully anticipate him being back. We have a staff structure that’s under total evaluation.”

It’s been pointed out many times that the Packers were missing wide receiver Jordy Nelson and that was a big loss. But it’s now obvious that their difficulties on offense went way beyond that. Clements was another part of the problem. Otherwise McCarthy wouldn’t be continuing to call plays.

Offensive play calling is an art that I’m convinced some people possess and some don’t. Some of it has to do with planning but I think a lot of it is simply thinking fast on your feet and remembering to call the plays that you planned to go with. The guess here – and past experience with some of the more poor offensive coordinators the Bears have had bears it out – is that you get used to relying on the same plays over and over again over the course of a season.  They’re the ones you tend to call when you’ve only got a few seconds to make a decision. That makes you predictable.

But in this case the problem may go beyond play calling. Part of the purpose for giving up play calling duties, as McCarthy pointed out, was to get McCarthy out of the offensive room so that he could spend more time with the defense and special teams. That degraded the offensive performance, something that was obvious to everyone as the Packers made mistake after mistake on the field. The crisp execution that the Packers are known for disappeared and suddenly, for instance, receivers couldn’t get on the same page with quarterback Aaron Rogers.

This lesson shouldn’t be lost on Bears fans as they watch the team transition from Adam Gase to Dowell Loggains at the offensive coordinator spot. Even the best offenses in the NFL can fall apart if you don’t have the right guy running the unit.  Calling plays and getting everyone to perform as a unit where players are always where they are supposed to be are two of the biggest jobs that any offensive coach has. It’s a job that Clements couldn’t do. Let’s hope that Loggains does better or we’re going to see a Bears offense that performed in a commendably clean manner for most of the 2015 season regress.

The Bears Will Once Again Be Competing with the Packers to Draft the Same Players in 2016

Its not a surprise but Green Bay would like to move linebacker Clay Matthews back outside full time next year.

“In order to do that, the Packers might have to make it an offseason priority to acquire another starting-caliber inside linebacker. When general manager Ted Thompson did not address that position until the fourth round of last year’s draft, when he took Jake Ryan, it ensured Matthews would play mostly inside again.”

What all of this means is that the Bears, who arguably need two starters at the inside linebacker position, will be competing with the Packers for the same players. The Bears pick far higher in the draft order (11th) but they likely have their eye on one or two prospects, for instance, in the second round that the Packers will be considering with the 27th overall pick.

The situation reminds me of the 2010 draft when the Packers traded up in the third round to get ahead of the Bears to select safety Morgan Burnett. The Bears were left to select Major Wright four picks later. Burnett established himself as a starter with the Packers, and has just competed his sixth season with them. Wright is long gone along with the parade of other safeties the Bears selected in the Lovie Smith era.