Quick Game Comments: Bears at Colts

Offense

  1. The Bears came out running no huddle.  The Colts came out playing 6 in the box and daring the Bears to run, something which they generally struggled to do, especially in the first half.
  2. The problem is that the Bears simply could not win the line of scrimmage for a lot of this game.  The Colts dominated it in the first half and therefore were able to stop the run.  The Bears had 7.8 yards per carry at that point but take away the Jordan Howard 58 yard run and it was less than 3.  They finished with 6.6 ypc, again that’s 3.5 without the big run.
  3. Cameron Meredith (9 catches for 130 yards) really emerged this game.  He’s a big guy who was very capable of taking advantage of some terrible coverage that wasn’t by Vontae Davis.  He might be a target that will help a great deal in making up for the loss of Kevin White long-term.
  4. Alshon Jeffery  (5 catches for 77 yards) wasn’t much of a factor but the minute they got a matchup with Patrick Robinson instead of Davis, they went right to him for good yardage late in the third quarter.
  5. What was really surprising about this game is that I’m convinced that the Colts defense got worn down in the fourth quarter.  That’s quite a change for a team who is usually watching its own defense get worn to a nub.  It was very interesting because the difference in time of possession really wasn’t that great.  It was 28:20 – 24:36 Bears at the time of their go ahead touchdown with 7:00 left in the game.  I don’t know what that says about the Colt defense but it’s not good.
  6. Also not good if you are a Colts fan is the number of missed tackles all over the field this game.  They’ll be wanting to clean that up.  Along with a lot of their things.  Lots of things contributed as the Bears had over 500 yards of offense on the day.
  7. The Bears failure in the red zone despite all of that yardage was another deciding factor in this game.  They need to get better there.
  8. Brian Hoyer was not sacked.  Many are noting the improvement in the protection that Hoyer is getting over Jay Cutler.  The improvement was notable against the Cowboys in Week 3 and was very evident last week against the Lions.  However, its worth noting that Brian Hoyer also deserves a great deal of credit for this.  He gets the ball out fast, throwing with anticipation to receivers, making it very hard for pass rushers to get to him.  So credit the change in quarterback for this as well.
  9. Hoyer (33 of 43 for 397 yards) didn’t have a bad day but there were times when I thought his accuracy wasn’t there.  Receivers like Eddie Royal were going to the ground to get balls when they really shouldn’t have had to.
  10. Zack Miller (7 catches for 73 yards) has come alive with Hoyer’s ability to spread the ball around the field to different receivers.  Cutler seemed to have a hard time finding Miller when he was playing the first two games, targeting him just 7 times.  Hoyer targeted Miller 11 times in his first two games.  Miller had another good game today.
  11. I really thought Jordan Howard (16 carries, 118 yards) also had a good game as he made the most out of his runs as far as I could tell. He continues to show what he can do to give Bears fans some hope for the future.  Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune a good note about Howard in his comments after the Lions game last week.  Rookie running backs, who are neither used to the NFL grind nor the frequency of the games, have a habit of wearing down after they take a pounding over a few games. So far so good for Howard.

Defense

  1. Indianapolis also came out running no huddle.    The Bears were also daring the Colts to run, often staying light in the box and dropping 7 or 8 into coverage.  The Colts ran the ball with great success in the first half, averaging 7 yards per carry.  The Bears did a better job in the second half as that average dropped to 4.7.
  2. The reason was that the Bears were getting dominated at the line of scrimmage.  Not only were the Colts running all over the Bears but Andrew Luck, who had been under siege the first quarter of the season, was getting plenty of time in the first half.  In fairness, the Bears defense again did better getting pressure on him in the second half in part because they started rushing more than four on occasion.  Willie Young in particular was pretty effective again with three sacks.
  3. Luck is unbelievable.  Some of the throws that he makes are amazingly accurate.
  4. Allowing Luck to have forever to throw exposed the Bears secondary which was getting beat all over the field.  I understand that T.Y. Hilton is good.  But knowing that, how can you let him get that open, even in what was mostly zone coverage?  It was very frustrating to watch him make catch after catch.
  5. Also frustrating was watching Luck extend plays time after time.  He’s very mobile inside and outside the picket and that, combined with his size makes him very tough to bring down.
  6. One thing the Bears did do a good job of was keeping the Colts out of the end zone.  They managed to force Adam Vinetieri to kick field goals for most of the afternoon and that’s really what kept the Bears in the game.
  7. Jerrell Freeman had a reasonably good game with 7 tackles (5 solo) which has to be nice for him.

    How important was this game to the former Colt?  Well, according to him, no hard feelings for allowing the Bears to outbid them in free agency.

    “It’s a business; can’t take things personally”

    Of course, then this feature came out on Freeman in the Chicago Tribune on Saturday where he said this:

    “Every team I play, it’s ‘You could have had me.’ There are a lot of things I think of right before the game when I turn into something else that people don’t see.”

    So, yeah, I think it was important to him.

Miscellaneous

  1. I was shocked when Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, and Erin Andrews drew this game.  As bad as the Bears have been, to see them draw one of the best announcing teams in the NFL is an insult to the league and its fans.  All did an excellent job as usual.
  2. Special teams weren’t good.  Punt and kick coverage was particularly patchy.  The Bears allowed a good 35 yard return in the second quarter and allowed another 20 yard punt return early in the second half as well.  Connor Barth missed another field goal but appeared to luck out as T.J. Green stupidly ran into him.  Then he missed it again.  Compare to Adam Vinatieri, who is amazing, it wasn’t a good look.  Again.
  3. Drops weren’t a huge part of this game for the Bears but the Colts had a few big ones as usual.
  4. Penalties, on the other hand, were a huge factor.  Drive after Bear drive was killed by penalties as they committed 6 for 55 yards in the first half alone and finished with 10 for 80 yards.  Jordan Howard had  a very damaging facemask penalty on the Bears first drive that probably cost them 4 points as they settled for a field goal rather than scoring a touchdown.  A holding penalty on Long killed a first down early in the second quarter.  The Bears settled for a field goal.  Logan Paulsen also got caught holding and that killed a Bears touchdown. An illegal contact penalty gave the Colts a first down early in the second half.
  5. Turnovers weren’t a big factor until the end of the game as both teams did a reasonable job of protecting the football.  This was bad news for the Bears, who are under-manned and who I think are always going to need some help from the other side in winning a game.  Instead, Meredith fumbled the ball deep in Bears territory and helped the Colts to carry away a victory.
  6. The Colts’ season reached a crisis point last Sunday in London with a loss to the Jaguars that dropped them to 1-3. Afterward, players spoke openly about a need for greater professionalism and the Colts then cut Sio Moore and Antonio Cromartie.  Colts are a desperate team. Did they play like it?  Well, kind of.  There wasn’t a great deal of intensity and they still aren’t very talented but they did a very good job of limiting the mistakes that they made against the Jaguars last week.  They also protected Luck much, much better in the first half with some help by the Bears who rushed four for most of time.
  7. You understand that the Bears are a young team and that they will take time to develop.  Mistakes due to misplays we all can certainly understand.  But this game was different in that the Bears not only lost the turnover battle but, even worse, continually shot themselves in the foot over and over again with penalties.  That I don’t think fans should accept.  I expect to see better next week.

With an Interesting Twist, Jerrell Freeman Calls Out Coby Fleener

Well, say this for new Bears linebacker Jerrell Freeman. He’s not afraid to say what he thinks.

After hearing that fellow Colts free agent Coby Fleener called out some Indianapolis  players for quitting during a losing 2015 season, Freeman called out Fleener via text messages to Bob Kravitz of WTHR.com.

“Fleener, he didn’t have the [guts]. That shit pisses me off. And he must’ve been looking in the mirror when he did the interview.

“I despise guys like that,” Freeman added. “That’s what little girls do, talk about you when you’re not around. I’m a grown man. If I see something I don’t like, I’m going to go have a face-to-face convo with that player/players and we are going to get an understanding! I feel like I had a hand in building what’s over there [in Indianapolis], so he’s shitting on me, too. . . . That’s a bitch move.”

Personally, I agree and have no problem with Freeman calling Fleener out. And, of course, it’s nice that he’s remaining loyal to the Colts organization despite the fact that he chose to leave.

Having said that, I wonder if Freeman sees the irony in the fact that he chose to text Kravitz rather than simply say all of this to Fleener’s face.

Freeman could turn out to be a very interesting personality to follow with the Bears this season.

A Few Things to Watch For: Bears at Bengals

  1. The Bears were feeling pretty good about themselves after Saturday’s exhibition win over the Colts. But after they reportedly came out on the short end in two days of practice leading up to the game, I’m inclined to think that was as much because of the Colts under-performing as it was the Bears performing well. The Bengals, similar to the Colts, didn’t play well on Monday night against the Buccaneers and I would expect them to pick it up in the last exhibition game in which the starters will see any time. at minimum, I would expect them to tackle better. So once again, we are looking at a good test for the Bears to judge how close or, more likely, how far away they are from being truly competitive.
  2. This game should be about who steps up. The Bears are now officially looking for unknowns to emerge in the wake of injury to rookie WR Kevin White, a more minor, but lingering, injury to veteran Alshon Jeffery and a three game suspension to start the season doled out to defenive lineman Jeremiah Ratliff this week.  Jermon Bushrod may also be on the sidelines with a bad back and its unlikely that Eddie Royal will play with a hip injury as well.  .  This is an opportunity for younger players to make themselves known as potential building blocks for the future. Marquess Wilson will be getting a long look at wide receiver and 2014 third round draft pick Will Sutton will undoubtedly get a good long look as well. Sutton is an interesting story. He was drafted as a 3-technique tackle for the 4-3 and most thought he wouldn’t have a place with the Bears. But he is reportedly emerging as a decent nose tackle. Now is his time to show us. Second round draft pick Eddie Goldman will now likely become the starter at nose tackle. He won’t be coming from nowhere but Bears fans will be watching to see if he continues to progress with what will likely be even more playing time. Other guys to keep an eye on are Willie Young, Brandon Dunn and Cornelius Washington. Each could step up and fill a void on the line in some capacity.
  3. Competitions at OLB and safety continue. For now, Jared Allen appears to be holding on as a starter at the former with rookie Adrian Amos apparently still starting at the latter position. Both positions may still be in flux into the season.
  4. Charles Leno is trying to hold on to the right tackle position.  He’ll likely be doing that from the left side if Bushrod is out, giving us a good look at both him and Jordan Mills on the right.  The side-by-side comparison could be interesting.
  5. On a related note, with the wide receiver corp down to second and third string backups, it will be even more important for the Bears to be able to establish a running game once the season starts.  Keep an eye on this aspect of the game.  So far this preseason, I’d say the backups have run the ball well.  But the best I can say about the first unit is that they’ve held their own.  With or without Bushrod, with or without the wide receivers where a team like the Bengals might reasonably expect the Bears to run the ball out of necessity, if the running game stalls against the Bengals, it might spell bad things for the start of the regular season.  Injuries are never an excuse.  You either do or you don’t do.

Quick Game Comments: Bears at Colts 8/22/15

  1. The Bears looked pretty good in general through most of the first quarter but it was as much because of the sluggishness with which the Colts hit the field as it was because of the Bears’ play. Once the Colts got into the game in the second quarter, the Bears looked more like the team we saw last week against the Dolphins (i.e. a step slow all over the field). Still they were competitive against one of the better teams in the league, albeit in a preseason game. Baby steps…
  2. The competition at safety opposite Antrel Rolleremains an area of interest. The Bears started rookie Adrian Amos over Brock Vereen and he didn’t do anything that I saw to lose the job. Veteran Ryan Mundy was not in uniform, likely with a minor injury.
  3. The competition at outside linebacker also remains up in the air. Jared Allen was the starter and didn’t do anything of note. Lamarr Houston made his first appearance of the preseason and appeared to be solid if not spectacular. Willie Young had a sack. Sam Acho continues to perform the best of the competitors, causing a fumble with a sack against backups. You have to wonder if he’s eventually going to get a shot as a starter.
  4. Quarterback Jay Cutler was 8 of 9 for 69 yards and had a solid night but he probably should have been more accurate. The offensive communication problems with the receivers continues as tight end Dante Rosario failed to adjust his route to a blitz causing back up quarterback Jimmy Clausen to throw an interception.
  5. Charles Leno started at right tackle over Jordan Mills and had an up and down night. He missed a couple blocks and had a holding penalty but was more than solid at other times. He’s notably light on his feet. He got a lot of help from the tight end on that side.
  6. Bears special teams have been solid this preseason with both good kick returns and coverage. Marc Mariani looks particularly good.
  7. The taunting call on Kyle Fuller after he got burned by T.Y. Hilton wasn’t a good look.
  8. There were some bad missed tackles out there. The Bears will be working on that this week.
  9. It was facinating to watch new Bears outside linebacker Pernell McPhee. He had a sack early and the right tackle got constant help with a tight end on that side to chip McPhee after that. Its been a while since the bears have had a player that required that kind of attention.
  10. The offensive drive at the end of the first quarter was nice but the way it ended in the red zone with a sack and a penalty was all too reminiscent of last year.
  11. Some nice running from Jeremy Langford in the second half. He runs with good vision. He was helped by some awful tackling by the Colts.
  12. I don’t remember quarterback David Fales having such a big wind up. That release take about an hour to complete.

Preseason Game Two: A Few Things to Concentrate On

Bears-Indianapolis Game Preview

  1. There are a number of competitions for starting spots still up in the air on defense and none is more intense than the one at starting safety opposite Antrel Rolle. Brock Vereen started against the Dolphins last week ahead of Ryan Mundy and was a step slow all night. The Bears must really be averse to starting the veteran Mundy because instead of promoting him, they appear to be preparing to give rookie safety Adrian Amos a shot ahead of him. Bears fans will be watching closely to see how he does.
  2. The competition at outside linebacker opposite Pernell McPhee is still wide open. Sam Acho was with the No. 1 unit for much of the early camp. But Jared Allen started against the Dolphins. Then Acho gave a very good showing against the Miami backups last week — sack, tackle for loss, quarterback hit, interception, pass defensed. He may start this week and will bear watching against stiffer competition.
  3. The Bears defense was slow all over the field last week and Bears fans will be watching to see if their play recognition becomes faster and if the react with more of the quickness that they will need to be competitive this season.
  4. Offensively things appeared to be pretty well set until Charles Leno played with the starters at right tackle over Jordan Mills on Thursday.  There appears to be a genuine competition here that will be interesting.
  5. The communication of quarterback Jay Cutler with his receivers and his comfort with the new offense also bears watching.  Cutler had a costly miscommunication with Eddie Royal last week, reminiscent of what fans often saw last season from Cutler and his receivers.

Who Falls Off Farthest Without Their Quarterback?

Dan Hanzus at nfl.com answers your questions:

“I’ll look at it another way: Which one of last year’s playoff teams would instantly fall off a cliff if their star quarterback up and decided to join Jake Locker in the cornfields. My first thought was Andrew Luck, but that Matt Hasselbeck has some dad pluck. They’d probably go 7-9. There’s Tom Brady and the Patriots, of course, but knowing that team Jimmy Garoppolo would somehow make them better. The answer has to be the Cowboys, who are still voluntarily compensating Brandon Weeden. 12-4 to 4-12 would be in play.”

Hanzus forgot about the Packers who went 2-4-1 without Aaron Rogers in 2013. That translates to 4-5 wins over a 16 game season. For my money Rogers is the best quarterback in football and he single handedly elevates the Packers, a draft and develop team that will never have the elite talent all over the field that top teams like the Seattle Seahawks have.

The Underdog Hype Machine Revs Up and Other Points of View

Bears

    • John Mullin at CSNChicago.com points out an interesting fact I hadn’t read anywhere else:

      “The Bears also introduced a second practice to run simultaneously with the regular one, so that twice the number of players are getting live action running selected plays.

      “‘You saw two practices actually going on on two different fields,’ [head coach Marc] Trestman said, ‘so we get more reps, more opportunity to get guys on tape and give them a chance to perform and to run plays.'”

    • Speaking of CSNChicago.com, when I read the headline, “Brandon Marshall listed as No. 2 wide receiver in Madden 15″ I actually thought it meant he’d been listed behind fellow receiver Alshon Jeffery on the Bears roster. It turns out that Marshall was number two overall. I supposed that speaks well of Jeffery. From Paul Roumeliotis.
    • Adam L. Jahns at the Chicago Sun-Times for the benefit of those who haven’t been paying attention:

“One basic premise has emerged [about the new defensive scheme]: the linebackers will have the ­freedom to play instinctively. To do that, different techniques up front will be used more often.

“In the simplest terms, defensive tackles will be required to control blockers instead of always ­maintaining assigned single gaps.”

“A line featuring [Lamarr] Houston at tackle with [Jeremiah] Ratliff and [Willie] Young at end opposite [Jared] Allen has given the offense fits.”

  • Michael C. Wright at ESPN.com elaborates on the scheme changes up front:

    “Last year, the Bears employed [former Bears head coach] Lovie Smith’s system, which emphasized penetration along the defensive line. The players were used to simply shooting the gaps to stop the run on the way to the quarterback. That’s all changing in 2014. The coaching staff wants Chicago’s defensive linemen to be technicians with their hands so they can engage opposing offensive linemen, stack them at the line, shed, and run to the ball. In the previous scheme, Chicago’s defensive linemen simply didn’t know how to use their hands effectively. Many times when they penetrated, they overran the ball because more and more now, teams are employing zone schemes that allow backs to pick their holes instead of the old-school leads, counters, and powers. By becoming better at using their hands, the D-line can also keep opposing offensive linemen off the club’s rangy linebackers, which in turn allows them to run around and make plays. In fact, [defensive coordinator Mel] Tucker recently turned on film of Chicago’s defensive line during a meeting, and many of the players on the roster that were a part of last year’s team were shocked at how badly the group played. What Tucker pointed out, according to one player in that meeting, was that last year, the group didn’t know how to use its hands. The joke among defenders now is that if one of the team’s linebackers has scratches or paint from the opponent’s helmets on their own, the defensive line isn’t sufficiently doing its job to keep offensive linemen off the linebackers. The Bears are expecting higher tackle totals this year among the linebackers, and the defensive line will be largely responsible for that.”

  • From Patrick Finley at the Chicago Sun-Times:

    “For all the excitement surrounding [punter Pat] O’Donnell’s leg, the team’s two long snappers — 10-year Canadian Football League vet Chad Rempel and the unproven Brandon Hartson — struggled mightily on the first day in full pads.

    “Their snaps missed in all directions; one even sailed over a punter’s head.

    “If the snaps didn’t improve, ­[special teams coordinator Joe] DeCamillis hinted the team would look elsewhere, a tough task this early in training camp.”

    Fantastic.

  • As mentioned, the good news on special teams came from the punting, itself. From Rich Campbell at the Chicago Tribune:

    “O’Donnell, the sixth-round rookie, outperformed Tress Way during the team punting periods. O’Donnell’s distance, hang time and placement were superior overall.”

    “‘I’m learning that you can’t outkick your coverage,’ O’Donnell said. ‘In college, you can kind of get away with it. Definitely learning how to hit that 45-yard ball, fair catch, so it’s all net (yardage), and not getting that big return when you hit a 60-yard punt.'”

  • Also from Finley:

    “[Defensive coordinator Mel] Tucker said there was ‘no dropoff’ for defensive end Shea McClellin on his first day in pads.”

    Yes, well, not at defensive end, no.

  • Former NFL defensive back Matt Bowen on safety Adrian Wilson for the Chicago Tribune:

    “The former Pro Bowler understands leverage, he can play top down from his Cover-2 landmark and he knows how to practice like a pro in terms of alignment and responsibility in the secondary.

    “However, when watching Wilson, I didn’t see that extra gear — or burst — that allows safeties to get off the numbers in Cover-2 or transition versus the throw as an underneath defender in three-deep coverage.”

  • Dan Wiederer at the Chicago Tribune on Ratliff:

    “Tight end Martellus Bennett, who was a teammate of Ratliff’s in Dallas for four seasons, admires Ratliff’s intelligence and humility but loves that he also ‘plays angry and nasty.’

    “‘You want defensive lineman who don’t use knives and forks. They eat everything with their hands,’ Bennett said. ‘You want to find guys who are closer to being barbarians.'”

  • Mullin points out that quarterback Jay Cutler is taking second team snaps in camp this year:

    “Last year the Bears came to camp with just three quarterbacks — Cutler, Josh McCown, Matt Blanchard — in part because the plan was to give Cutler increased snaps in what was a new offense.”

    “This year, with four quarterbacks, the approach is still to acclimate him, this time to personnel. The Bears avoided significant injuries on offense other than those to Cutler, and a goal is to have comfort levels with more just the starters.”

    “‘He’s not only working with the 1’s,’ Trestman said, ‘but he’s working with the guys, not only Alshon and Brandon, Marquess [Wilson] but the other guys are in this competition to make this team at wide receiver.'”

  • Mullin also makes a good point about how performances camp are already demonstrating the improvement in the Bears depth on defense:
  • More concern about the linebacking corps on Sports Talk Live:

Elsewhere

    • When I heard that Colts owner Jim Irsay was handing out $100 bills to fans at the teams training camp, I thought it was weird. When I read the probable explanation from Mike Florio at profootballtalk.com, it actually got weirder.
    • Things sound a little rough for the Jets right now. From Josh Alper, also at profootballtalk.com.
    • There are signs that the NFL may finally be getting ready to act on Los Angeles. From Sam Farmer writing for the Chicago Tribune:

“This season, for the first time, the San Diego Chargers, Oakland Raiders and St. Louis Rams are all on year-to-year leases, possibly setting the stage for one or more of them to move. (NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and others have repeatedly ruled out the possibility of an expansion franchise, insisting that if L.A. gets a team it will be because of relocation.)

“Cowboys owner Jerry] Jones makes it sound as if the league is poised to act, but we’ve heard this kind of talk many, many times over the years. Neither the NFL nor L.A. has budged in this two-decade standoff.”

One Final Thought

Defensive tackle Nate Collin got most of the defensive underdog hype from the press yesterday after the first day of one-on-one padded drills in camp. But Bob LeGere at the Daily Herald chose to give defensive end Trevor Scott some love. Something tells me fans may want to pay attention to this one. He’s coming off of a torn ACL in 2010 and sometimes they take a while to come all the way back (as Collins, who tore his last year, is likely to find out). Sometimes you just have to wait for the right situation to manifest itself after that. The Bears might turn out to be that for Scott and they might have picked him up at the just right time.

The Issue of the 2013 Run Defense

Nathan Jahnke breaks down the team needs for the teams in the NFC North for Pro Football Focus. As he does so, he exposes these alarming facts about the Bears new linebacking corps:

“The problem is that [new strong side linebacker *JamesAnderson has not been great in run defense, and has in fact only been getting worse with a –6.7 PFF run defense rating in 2012, which was fifth-worst among 4–3 outside linebackers. Chances are [new middle linebacker D.J.Williams and [weakside linebacker LanceBriggs will play in the nickel defense, so Anderson’s main role will be stopping the run.”

“While [Williams] didn’t play much in 2012, in previous years he was consistently among the lowest rated run defenders in the league.”

We’re all aware that the Bears linebackers are an aging group. That alone justifies making the position a priority in the draft if possible. But when I start reading “weak against the run”, I get worried not about the future, but about 2013.

The cover two based scheme the Bears run is notorious for being weak against the run to begin with. Anyone who follows the Colts can tell you what it was like on occasion when Tony Dungy coached the team there. Defending the run was often their Achilles heal.

Lovie Smith and Rod Marinelli did an outstanding job of avoiding this problem while they were here. A lot of that was good recognition and good, tough down hill play from the linebackers whenever they saw a run develop. Its too early to tell but if past history is representative of future earnings, but with this current group of linebackers the Bears may have see a problem in this area in 2013.

Bears Need a Head Man Who Can Coach Quarterbacks and Other Points of View

Bears

  • Dan Pompei at the Chicago Tribune and I absolutely see eye-to-eye on his views on the new Bear head coach, whoever that may be:

“You can’t hire a head coach simply because he is a good play caller or quarterback coach. He has to be more than that. But it sure would be ideal if you could get a candidate who is a good play caller and quarterback coach with the ability to lead, administrate, communicate and sell. That’s what the Packers did when they hired Mike McCarthy. It’s what the Saints did when they hired Sean Payton. It’s what the Texans did when they hired Gary Kubiak. It’s what the 49ers did when they hired Jim Harbaugh. But many, many other teams have tried to go down the same path and found they coach they hired wasn’t everything they hoped he would be. Those coaches still get dirt under their nails doing work they did when they were assistants because nothing is more important than a productive quarterback. But they also delegate much of what they used to do to others.”

These are my thoughts exactly. Its not that people like Hub Arkush who are disappointed more defensive coordinators or coaches without a quarterback coaching background like Ken Whisenhunt haven’t been interviewed don’t have a point. They do. Your head coach has to be a leader above all.

But if possible the Bears need a coach who will permanently fix the quarterback position. I’m not just talking about Jay Cutler. That would be too short-sighted. I’m talking about developing future quarterbacks for years beyond that.

If you are counting on hiring an assistant coach like that, you are inevitably going to lose him to another team in search of a head coach. And finding one isn’t a trivial task as Lovie Smith could tell you. Doing it once would be hard. Doing it more than once would be much, much harder.

In my view the ideal model is the Ted Thompson-Mike McCarthy relationship in Green Bay. It’s not an ideal that would be easy to achieve. But I think you need to shoot for it or something similar. That means a head coach who can coach quarterbacks if at all possible.

  • Dan McNeil at the Chicago Tribune makes a fair point about the emotional upheaval surrounding the Bears head coaching search:

“If it’s fair to postpone the evaluation of a draft class for at least two seasons, it also is fair to be open-minded to a veteran assistant coach getting his first crack at serving as headmaster.

“A head coaching search, coupled with the roster overhaul Emery has in front of him, give me ample reasons to be patient with Emery. It would be silly to gnash teeth and wring hands over the virtual unknown who’s going to stand at the lectern answering questions about his new job sometime in the next couple of weeks.

“Somebody will, but it won’t be me. I wanted Jerry Angelo and Lovie Smith jettisoned long ago.

“I have nothing but time and patience for the Bears to keep evolving.”

  • Mike Florio at profootballtalk.com thinks Bruce Arians makes a lot of sense as the next Bears head coach:

“Arians makes plenty of sense for the Bears, given that they have a quarterback who is a bit of a handful in Jay Cutler. Arians has extensive experience dealing with a difficult quarterback. In Pittsburgh, Arians and Ben Roethlisberger didn’t simply coexist; they were close friends.

So when job No. 1 (or close to it) in Chicago is finding a coach who can work well with Cutler, Arians could be the right answer.”

Whether Cutler actually needs a friend as a coach is a legitimate question. But I tend to agree with Florio that Arians is a good candidate for the job.

  • Former NFL head coach Marv Levy makes a good point via Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times:

“‘The general manager of the Alouettes told me that when I went to Canada, I could have 12 men on the [field]. Then I found out the other teams could, too,’ Levy said with a chuckle. ‘The same things win. It isn’t the Wildcat offense or this or that. If you run, throw, block, tackle, catch and kick better than your opponent — the fundamentals.'”

I’m as guilty as anyone of concentrating too much on X’s and O’s and they are a factor. But I think everyone should always keep in mind that the major difference between winning and losing is good fundamental football and, I might point out, making sure the defese played good fundamental football may have been Lovie Smith‘s biggest strength. Let’s hope, whoever the new head coach is, that we don’t see a step back in that area.

  • Sean Jensen at the Chicago Sun-Times reports that Vikings coaches Mike Piefer and former Bears middle linebacker Mike Singletary will interview for the head coaching position.Pompei indicates that Singletary’s inclusion on the list may be at the suggestion of the McCaskey family which wouldn’t be a surprise.

David Haugh at the Chicago Tribune is off base with this assessment:

Singletary’s not a bad candidate. There was a time when I would have done hand springs to see the Bears interview an ex-player. He’s a bright guy and the odds are good he learned a great deal from his failures in San Francisco. Singletary’s got the same problem Dennison has. No experience coaching quarterbacks. But other than that he’s a fine candidate. Pompei put it best:

“‘I think he’s been ready for awhile,’ Kubiak told reporters on Monday. ‘I think Rick is a very smart guy. He’s selective. I’ve been called on him for about three years in a row now, but I think Rick knows what he wants to do with his life and if he’s going to take an opportunity to be a head coach, he’s going to be selective in what he does. He’s got a great background in the National Football League. He’s a 10-year defensive player in the National Football League. He’s been a special teams coach in the National Football League. He’s been an offensive line coach. He’s been an offensive coordinator. There’s nothing this guy hasn’t done.'”

Except be a quarterback coach. And that’s a problem in a quarterback-driven league.

  • Jensen passes along what Cutler said on his weekly radio show. I found Cutler’s phasing when asked about current Denver offensive coordinator and Bears head coaching candidate Mike McCoy interesting to say the least:

“I think we had two meetings together, and then [the Broncos] kicked me out… I liked Mike. Knows a lot about football, very flexible.”

As I remember Cutler wasn’t “kicked out”. He ran away and quit. Interesting how his mind works.

“The good thing is it’s easier to find blockers for a zone scheme than it is blockers for a man scheme because of supply and demand. There are way more teams that use a man scheme. There also is this to consider: NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has made it clear the league is thinking about making chop blocks on running plays illegal. The backside chop is a staple of zone blocking teams, and could affect their running games significantly.”

  • Pompei runs through the long list of players whose fate at least partly depends on who the new head coach is. The most intriguing will be Brian Urlacher. It used to be that cutting Urlacher would be a problem with the fans. But given that Urlacher felt the need to express his true feelings by trashing them in the media late in the season (without an apology), that shouldn’t be a problem now. Hopefully they’ll do what they think is best without making the mistake of thinking this is still a consideration.

“Coming off his first Pro Bowl nod, how good do you think Henry Melton can be ultimately? Better than Tommie Harris before his injuries? Can he be the best defensive tackle in the NFL? Also, he has to be our No 1 priority when it comes to re-signing our own players, right? — Charles Laughton, New London, Conn.

“The thing about Henry Melton that is unusual is he still has considerable room for growth at the age of 26 and four years into his NFL career. So I would expect him to keep getting better. I’m not sure he’ll ever be better than, say, Ndamukong Suh, who is in another league talent wise. But he should remain among the best defensive tackles in the league. As for the comparison to Harris, he was a special, special player before his injuries. It is possible Melton can be that kind of player. Considering he was a fourth round selection, Melton may have been Jerry Angelo‘s best draft pick.”

Melton is good but he will almost certainly never be Tommie Harris. The Bears will never miss Melton the way they missed Harris after he was injured. The defense was never the same after he went down.

  • Biggs points out that special teams coordinator Dave Toub is in demand as he interviews for the same poisiton with the Panthers and Chiefs. That’s fine but, as Biggs points out, Toub is under contract here and I’d say he’s going nowhere unless the new head coach doesn’t want him – and I’m thinking there’s a fair chance that he will.

Elsewhere

  • According to Sam Farmer at the Los Angeles Tribune Saturday’s game against the Packers is being seen as a referendum on 49ers head coach Jm Harbaugh‘s decision to replace quarterback Alex Smith with Colin Kaepernick earlier in the season:

“Harbaugh chose the path of greater resistance, and in the process bumped up the stakes.

“‘If it all blows up on Saturday, that will take a lot of goodwill out of the bank,’ [former 49ers quarerback Steve] Young said. ‘Now, that doesn’t change much. I mean, [Harbaugh] is still going to be around, still going to be a great coach. But it’s a high-risk situation.'”

  • Pompei has the Packers ranked second in his power rankings. I like the Packers but that’s awfully high for a team with a suspect defense. The Packers are going to have to continue to play the kind of good fundamental ball I saw last week against the Vikings before I’ll believe. I think Pompei is right on the button with the first ranked Broncos and, like Pompei, I like the Seahawks a lot better than most people seem to.
  • The schematic Xs and Os that former NFL safety Matt Bowen writes up for the Chicago Tribune are always interesting but I thought this article breaking down the Packers offensive options against the 49ers pressure was particularly good.
  • This Audible from Pro Football Weekly has the ring of truth:

Jon Gruden wants full control. It’s the same as Bill Cowher and Joe Gibbs and Bill Parcells and any established coach worth his salt who is considering coming back. The problem is — there are not a lot of GMs that want to concede that authority. Why do you think Mike Holmgren is backing down and saying he’ll be happy to just coach?”

“A priest administered last rites. Following kidney removal surgery, his football coach told him he would never play again. He was lucky to be alive. He responded by petitioning the school to be allowed to suit up. The player’s name? Mike Shanahan.”

  • Pitty the girlfriends, NFL fans.

One Final Thought

My mother of all people sent me this joke. A little to close to the truth over the last year if you ask me…

The coach had put together the perfect team for the Chicago Bears. The only thing that was missing was a good quarterback. He had scouted all the colleges and even the Canadian and European Leagues, but he couldn’t find a ringer who could ensure a Super Bowl win.

Then one night while watching CNN he saw a war-zone scene in Afghanistan. In one corner of the background, he spotted a young Afghan Muslim soldier with a truly incredible arm. He threw a hand-grenade straight into a 15th story window 100 yards away.

KABOOM!

He threw another hand-grenade 75 yards away, right into a chimney.

KA-BLOOEY!

Then he threw another at a passing car going 90 mph.

BULLS-EYE!

“I’ve got to get this guy!” Coach said to himself. “He has the perfect arm!”

So, he brings him to the States, teaches him the great game of football and the Bears go on to win the Super Bowl.

The young Afghan is hailed as the great hero of football, and when the coach asks him what he wants, all the young man wants is to call his mother.

“Mom,” he says into the phone, “I just won the Super Bowl!”

“I don’t want to talk to you, says the old Muslim woman.”You are not my son!”

“I don’t think you understand, Mother,” the young man pleads. “I’ve won the greatest sporting event in the world. I’m here among thousands of adoring fans.”

“No! Let me tell you!” his mother retorts. “At this very moment, there are gunshots all around us. The neighborhood is a pile of rubble. Your two brothers were beaten within an inch of their lives last week, and I have to keep your sister in the house so she doesn’t get raped!” The old lady pauses, and then tearfully says,

“I will never forgive you for making us move to Chicago!!!!”

 

There’s Something to Be Said for Consistency And Other Points of View

Bears

“‘We go back and forth. If we’re moving along, he gives me some ideas,’ [Bears quarterback Jay] Cutler said. ‘If I like it, I like it, and if I don’t, I change it a little bit before the (play) clock stops. It’s a back-and-forth type of thing.'”

I’m sure I won’t be the first one to suggest that the Bears run the two minute drill more. It might be tough to do it in the noisy environment of Ford Field in Detroit, however.

  • Long time NFL analyst Brian Baldinger on Cutler via Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune:

“The fact is whether J’Marcus [Webb] plays well or (Gabe) Carimi plays well or (Roberto) Garza is good, whatever it is, (Jay) Cutler doesn’t trust the line. That’s the worst part.

“‘Jay’s mechanics are horrible because he doesn’t trust they are going to hold up. So, he is already scrambling and running and the ball is all over the place and his mechanics just go to hell.'”

“Jay Cutler went deep (20+ in the air) nine times in the game, four to the right, five to the left. He was 0-for-5 to his left and 3-for-4 to his right.”

“‘(General manager Phil Emery) has got his work cut out for him. There was a guy in Philly, (former Eagles offensive line coach Juan Castillo). Juan always had a free-agent center. For 12 years, he never had a drafted center. He just developed them and they were all good players. You gotta work them. I mean work them like dogs. I just don’t think you have to go spend a bunch of first-round draft picks to fix it. But I do think you gotta have a work ethic. They have to be the hardest-working guys on the team. They can never have a free second during practice, every day. You’ve just got to drill them all day long. That’s what offensive linemen need.'”

  • Biggs alertly gives [runningback Matt] Forte credit not just for running well on Sunday but for blocking well, too.

“Forte’s latest injury adds to the pressure on quarterback Jay Cutler, who had another rocky game but did protect the ball. Cutler completed only one of his first 11 passes and was locked on to Brandon Marshall too often. He threw high and wide and took a sack from Calais Campbell when there was ample time to get rid of the ball. Quarterbacks lead the way in the postseason, and Cutler will have to be on the mark next week against the Lions, who can put points on the board.”

“Yeah, before today. I was feeling really good before the game today. We were running the ball well. You can’t really try to expect injuries or avoid them when you’re out there playing. You never know where everybody is coming from. Sometimes when you’re in a pile, people fall down, land on you, and stuff like that.”

Forte hasn’t looked the same. He’s been good this year because he’s still generally got good vision but he does lack burst.

  • Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times reports that wide receiver Dan Sanzenbacher has been cut. The midget receiver had a chance to play in former offensive coordinator Mike Martz‘s offense but there’s no room for him in the current offense which requires less timing and relies more wide receivers getting open and making a play on their own.

“The Bears’ 7-1 start was fueled by big defensive plays; they had seven return touchdowns in the first eight games, a wild pace no one believed they could maintain. When the takeaways dried up, the losses piled up. Zack Bowman recovered a fumble for a touchdown Sunday and Charles Tillman returned an interception for a score to give the Bears an edge when the offense was stumbling. That’s a difficult way to maintain sustained success, especially against top offenses.”

  • Biggs indicates that the blocked field goal in the fourth quarter against the Cardinals might have been the fault of Kellen Davis. If [head coach Lovie] Smith gets fired, its the evaluation of talent typified by Davis’ contract extension and the idea that the Bears offensive line was going to be good enough as it is that will be a major part of what did him in.
  • On a related note, Mike Mulligan, also at the Chicago Tribune, reviews some of the more puzzling roster moves the Bears have made. A lot of this I blame on player evaluation by the coaching staff. Not all of these can be solved by this suggestion but one thing for certain: Emery is going to realize that player evaluations have to be made based upon what he sees on film and not by the coaches or the coaches are going to have to go. There’s no way guys like Davis get signed to big deals if that’s the case.
  • A lot more went on during that idiotic Cardinals fake field goal attempt than I thought. From Dan Pompei at the Chicago Tribune:

“The Bears read the Cardinals’ fake field goal attempt well. [Charles] Tillman slowed down Jay Feely and Amobi Okoye chased him down, while J.T. Thomas dropped into coverage to take away intended receiver Jim Dray.”

Lions

  • It would seem that Bears offensive coordinator Mike Tice isn’t the only one who is under fire during this Christmas season. Lions offensive coordinator Scott Linehan is under Anthony Kuehn‘s microscope at the Detroit Free Press, perhaps with even more justification.
  • How bad are the Lions problems in the red zone? Detroit Free Press columnist Dave Birkett explains:

“When Calvin Johnson broke Jerry Rice‘s single-season receiving record Saturday, he just missed out on another somewhat dubious mark.

“Johnson’s 225 yards tied Bernie Casey for the second most in NFL history without a touchdown, according to ESPN. Former Jacksonville Jaguars receiver Keenan McCardell set the record of 232 yards receiving without a score in 1996.”

Elsewhere

Tiger Woods has never won a major from behind. He is a great closer when he has the lead going into the fourth day. There are four rounds in golf. There are four quarters in football. When (Packers QB) Aaron Rodgers goes into the fourth quarter with a lead, there is a high percentage he is going to win. The odds go down a lot when he is behind. When you compare him to other great QBs, that inability stands out to me. I don’t know the specific stats — it’s just from watching him through the years. He’s just not a great fourth-quarter, come-from-behind quarterback. I don’t think he has figured out how to close out a game.”

“Take a look at some of the quarterbacks in this league who cannot bring the team together — that’s always been Joe Flacco’s problem. He’s incapable. That was his problem in college, too — it’s part of the reason he transferred. He couldn’t win the respect of the team. Flacco can’t do it, so the Ravens have to rely on Ed Reed and Ray Lewis to lead it. That’s not to say he cannot win, but when you’re talking about him as your franchise, that is a big discussion point to me.”

  • And here’s another Audible that should have the ring of truth with Bears fans:

“I don’t think (Texans QB) Matt Schaub is good enough of a leader to win a Super Bowl. It’s just one of those traits that you need to have — it’s missing. When the chips are down and you need to rally the team, is he the guy you want in the saddle?”

Bill Belichick had Peyton Manning mixed up for a few years when (Manning) was in Indianapolis. Once Peyton figured out how they were attacking him, he took control of that series. … (The Broncos) are a dangerous team right now.”

  • Jonathan Bales at The New York Times explains one of the keys to the success of the Raven’s offense:

“On Sunday, the Giants were defeated by a Ravens team that simply seemed more prepared. As they’ve done all year, the Ravens capitalized on the similarity between their running game and play-action passing attack; Baltimore does an outstanding job of making the bulk of their plays resemble one another. Whereas many teams seem to have a distinct run-pass dichotomy that’s relatively easy for defenses to decipher, the Ravens’ playbook is littered with runs that look like passes, and vice versa.”


 

One Final Thought

David Haugh at the Chicago Tribune gives a bit of a scathing evaluation of the Bears in their victory over the Cardinals. I’ve been as tough as anyone on the Bears, as exemplified by my post earlier this morning, and I won’t say that Haugh is entirely wrong. But in thinking about this game as well as the other wins that the Bears have accumulated, I think its both fair and important to make sure to give credit where credit is due. Yes, the Bears are only winning the games you are supposed to win. But very few of even the best teams in the NFL have done that this year. They’ve been amazingly consistent and that’s to their credit.