“It was one of two major broadcasting changes decided at the Arizona Biltmore on Monday. The league announced that the Bills-Jaguars Week 7 game, to be played in London, will be broadcast over an as-yet-unnamed digital site and not on the league’s Sunday Ticket. The two home markets — Jacksonville and Buffalo — will still get the game on their home televisions.
“The move could be the first step toward a new digital strategy for the league.”
We can only hope.
Like most American, one of the few reasons I still have cable television is for live sports. In my case, that really means the NFL. I’m pretty sure I’m not alone when I say that I would gladly pay a reasonable fee – hopefully less than the “Sunday Ticket” package – to be able to watch the games online. It would be a risky proposition and there’s considerable doubt about whether the revenues would cover what they would lose in the value of network television rights. But my gut feeling is that it would work.
Rich Campbell at the Chicago Tribunecomments on the offensive production in Thursday’s preseason game:
“How the offensive production correlated to line play Thursday supports the argument that the line’s collective health last season was perhaps the most under-appreciated factor in the offense’s success. All five linemen started all 16 games. Their continuity fostered cohesion and sharpness as the season progressed.”
It also underscores a concern that has carried over from last year as well. The line’s lack of physical play was underscored by the poor job the Bears did running the ball Friday. It was one of the reasons why I was looking for changes up front, albeit minor ones. Instead, general manager Phil Emery opted to bet that the line would become more physical as the players grew together under Bears head coach Marc Trestman and offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer in their second year. Here’s hoping they were right. But you’ll forgive me if I have my doubts.
Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribunedoesn’t like my suggestion that Ryan Mundy might be paired with Adrian Wilson at safety:
“Wilson and Mundy would leave the Bears without a true free safety and that is a key position for defenses against the proliferation of three-, four- and even five-wide packages. It’s also the position you want to think about when trying to cover the athletic tight ends across the league. That is why this pairing seems like a long shot to me. [Chris] Conte absolutely has a chance or he wouldn’t still be around. Let’s see how plays when he gets in preseason games.”
“Jaguars cornerback Mike Harris’ roughing-the-passer penalty late in the game even infuriated Bears defensive end Jared Allen.
“‘If that is, I’m hosed,’ Allen said. ‘Because I’m going to get about 20 of those this year. At some point, in my opinion, you got to look at what’s better for the game. Are all these flags on the field better for the pace of the game? Is it a better fan experience? I don’t think so.'”
Allen has a point. I thought the call on Harris was particularly bad. I saw no contact with the quarterback’s helmet and the hit definitely wasn’t late.
Night games always feel long and Thursday night’s game was particularly bad with all of those penalties. If this carries over into the season, we aren’t going to be sleeping much.
“…Patrick O’Donnell appeared to lock up the punting competition with a clearly superior performance to Tress Way.”
O’Donnell clearly has the edge as a draft pick and it’s up to Way to show that he’s definitively better. But setting that aside, I can’t say I’ve seen much difference between the two.
Scott Krinch at CSNChicago.comgives the Bears defense some credit for bending but not breaking in the red zone. He has a point. Many a Lovie Smith defense operated the same way, giving up a lot of yards but holding teams to field goals time after time.
I was a little surprised by this assessment from Michael C. Wright at ESPN.com:
“The Bears want to remain patient with Shea McClellin as he transitions to linebacker, but his play against the Jaguars seemed just about on par with his shoddy showing last week. McClellin did stuff the run once early on but continues to struggle at shedding blocks and making tackles in space.”
I thought McClellin and, really, all of the linebackers looked better Thursday night. McClellin read plays and attacked the line of scrimmage and was frequently blitzed. I had no problem with him.
Dan Wiederer at the Chicago Tribune makes the case that Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortlesmay be a player to keep an eye on. Bortles surprised me Thursday night. He’s much more accurate that I thought he was.
“The Bears that got [former head coach] Lovie Smith fired won 10 games. Would fans – and the organization – view anything less in 2013 as a disappointment? Would missing the playoffs again be more acceptable if noticeable offensive strides are made under Trestman, but a defense facing turnover at certain spots (while generating fewer turnovers) can’t match what it did this year? That would’ve been difficult even if Smith, Rod Marinelli, and that staff remained intact. “
My own answer is “No, it would not be a disappointment if the Bears took a step back” and not because I expect less out of the defense. The truth is the Bears didn’t beat anyone who I thought was really good when they played them. Certainly they showed themselves to be definitively inferior when they played the top teams in the league, including Green Bay, San Francisco and, to an extent, Seattle. A good part of that was and is lack of talent and I don’t consider a quick turnaround to be likely.
Bottom line, it all depends on the circumstances. A lesser record with definitive progress where the Bears play better against the better teams in the league would be more acceptable than a soft 10-6 where its evident that the team was never going to progress into the top echelon of the league.
Here’s a little positivity from an Audible in Pro Football Weekly:
“Marc Trestman is a natural for [general manager] Phil Emery. Phil will appreciate guys who are really intelligent, organized and prepared and very careful with what they say — that is Trestman. He already has a relationship with Jay Cutler. There are a lot of positives about the hire.”
“[Rich] Gannon’s first two Oakland seasons with Trestman were the two most accurate of his career. His two with Trestman in Minnesota were decidedly pedestrian despite having Anthony Carter and Cris Carter as his receivers.
“[Steve] Young’s two seasons with Trestman were very good but neither were as good as the 1994 season before Trestman or 1997 after Trestman. Bernie Kosar had a Pro Bowl 1987 with Cleveland but 1988 was right about Kosar’s career averages for passer rating, completion percentage, etc. as he lost some time to injuries.”
Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune thinks Michigan quarterback turned wide receiver/punt returner Denard Robinsonis an intriguing prospect:
“With offenses becoming more dynamic, it’s all about finding ways to utilize athletic players in space, and that’s what makes Robinson intriguing. Take a player with his skill set and turn him loose.”
“The Bears are keeping Tucker off limits to the media at the Senior Bowl, but word is he will keep the status quo with virtually all facets of the defense. Even though Tucker has experience in both a three- and four-man fronts, he is not expected to make any radical changes in Chicago.
“In fact, a source said he even is retaining Lovie Smith’s terminology, meaning he will have to adjust more than his players.”
There’s a lot of good information in this article. It recommended reading.
As many Bears fans will testify, Carolina quarterback Cam Newton isn’t the only guy who deserves the criticism leveled at him in this Audible from Pro Football Weekly:
“(San Francisco QB) Colin Kaepernick can run faster than any quarterback in the league. He is faster than RG3 [Robert Griffin III] running the ball down the field, and he is a whole lot stronger and more physical. He can take a hit and pop back up. I really liked him when he was coming out. He is a leader. That was the difference between him and Cam Newton. Cam is a frontrunner who is good when things are good. When it’s (bad), he’s part of the reason and will make it worse.”
There are probably a whole lot of Bear fans out there who will agree with this Audible as well:
“You know what I don’t get. There are a lot of smart people around this league. I’m surprised they have not figured it out yet. If you want to have success, why not go get a guy who has done it already and is willing to do what it takes. Why not pay a guy like (Falcons GM) Thomas Dimitroff or (Niners GM) Trent Baalke a little extra money to be your president. It’s happened with a lot of coaches — Mike Holmgren and Bill Parcells. Teams will pay these head coaches $6 (million) or $7 million. Why not go pluck the guys who have done the best job stacking rosters and building the culture in the locker room and finding the right talent? They have proven they can run the ship. You can put a plan in place to delegate authority on the other side of the building. If you can find the right coach and find the right quarterback, you have a chance every year. If I’m an owner looking for someone to run my franchise, I’m looking for the guy who has proven he can fill those roles with the right people. That’s the key to this whole thing.”
“Matt Ryan did not get any further with Tony Gonzalez, Julio Jones and Roddy White than Jay Cutler did with Earl Bennett, Devin Hester and Johnny Knox. When you are guilty of an interception and unforced fumble within 20 minutes of a Super Bowl, it’s not about ‘weapons;’ it’s about the plays you make or don’t make when it matters…”
I’ve been as critical as anyone can be of Lions head coach Jim Schwartz. But I totally agree with him here as he argues against changing his defensive scheme. The Lions defense could have done better, no doubt, but the wide 9 alignment they the problem. This fascination with the 3-4 defense by fans and media puzzles me, especially in a situation like this one where more discipline and better play within the existing scheme is so obviously what’s needed. Via Michael David Smith at profootballtalk.com.
Let’s just say that the NFL Coaches Association might a problem with NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith. Florio quotes NFLCA executive director David Cornwellas he apparently goes on the rampage in response to some implied criticism from Smith:
“‘DeMaurice Smith is the best thing that has happened to NFL owners since they became NFL owners,’ Cornwell said in a statement provided to PFT.
“‘De controlled both the NFLPA and the NFL Coaches Association from 2009 to 2012. During this period, De threw 3 generations of NFL players under the bus in exchange for a photo op with Roger Goodell and Robert Kraft; threw the Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys under the bus to conceal from NFL players the truth about the declining salary cap; and, De threw NFL coaches under the bus when he: (1) sat silently as NFL teams unilaterally changed coaches’ retirement benefits; (2) filed an unauthorized legal brief under the NFLCA’s name during the NFL lockout; (3) kicked the NFLCA out of the NFLPA’s offices for challenging the filing of the brief, and he rolled the bus over NFL coaches when he snatched $308,000 in coaches’ dues money and sued the NFLCA because NFL coaches understandably want competent representation.
“‘I intend to address all of the issues that confront all NFL coaches and clean up the mess that De left behind. While I do, perhaps De will answer these questions: When you controlled the NFLCA, did you fight for uniform retirement and health benefits that will follow NFL coaches from team-to-team? Why does the salary cap continue to decline while League revenues and team values continue to increase? If you stand by the CBA that you negotiated, why do you shift money from other player benefits to the salary cap to create the illusion that the salary cap is flat or slightly rising?'”
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick takes finding unknown players and maximizing their talent to a whole new level. From The Onion.
Not many scouting services have released lists of team needs yet this year but as they roll out over the next month or two the bet here is that, if anything, there will be more teams on that list of line needy teams not less. With that in mind, Pompei takes a look at the likely first and second round offensive tackles here. Mullin adds this encouraging thought:
“The Bears added a highly regarded Central Michigan lineman in the 2007 draft but it was defensive end Dan Bazuin, not Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Staley, who went to the 49ers three picks before the Bears chose Greg Olsen. The Bears, coming off a Super Bowl appearance with an offensive line four-fifths free agents, picked Bazuin 62nd overall before Marshal Yanda went to Baltimore 86th and tackle Jermon Bushrod went to New Orleans 125th.”
“[S]econd-guessing is easy, and Jerry Angelo conceded that finding offensive linemen was not a strength of his regime. If anything, the bigger point is that the likes of Yanda and Bushrod, both Pro Bowl selections, were taken in mid rounds of drafts.”
“‘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 Baldingeron 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.'”
“‘(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 Sanzenbacherhas 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.”
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 Birkettexplains:
“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.”
“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.”
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.
Chicago Tribune columnists Steve Rosenbloom and Fred Mitchell and sports editor Mike Kellams“talk postgame” with former NFL safety Matt Bowen after the Bears’ loss to the 49ers with .
I loved the comment that Bowen made above when asked if [head coach Lovie]Smith would just skip the film review of a rough game coming on a short week. He said he had one coach who did that and he didn’t last long in the league, going right back to college (where he belonged).
“Their problem is that they are a well-coached team that loses big games because they get outcoached. And you know what’s coming next: Smith’s steady hand will right the ship. If [quarterback Jay] Cutler returns, the Bears will bounce back against the Vikings, Seahawks, Arizona Cardinals and Detroit Lions. But eventually the Bears are likely to run into Mike McCarthy and Dom Capers, Jim Harbaugh or Tom Coughlin. And the big question will be more clear than ever: Are Smith, [offensive coordinator Mike] Tice and [defensive coordinator Rod] Marinelli up to the challenge?”
“How is it that Jacksonville Jaguars backup Chad Henne can come off the bench after not having taken a single snap in practice and — with the lowest-ranked offense in the NFL — torch the Houston Texans for 354 yards, four touchdowns and a 133.8 passer rating?”
The reason is that, like the 49ers, the Texans got up for the Bears game. In fact, you could argue that the 49ers tied the Rams last week because they were actually looking past them to this game.
This leads to some great team performances in prime time. But it also leads to some ups and downs over the course of a season that are going to give you some bad games against teams you should beat. To Lovie Smith’s credit, the Bears avaid these kinds of uneven performances by never getting too high or too low. Unfortunately, it also leads to games like the one Monday night where one team is sky high and the other isn’t.
I couldn’t help but smile at this passage from Rick Telander‘s column in the Chicago Sun-Times:
“I think it was early in the second quarter of the Bears’ loss to the San Francisco 49ers on Monday night that I started watching the Bears’ offensive line.
“No one ever watches an offensive line. It’s like watching bowling balls getting racked or pigs feeding.”
Dan Pompei at the Chicago Tribune came through with his best film review of the season. Lots of things I saw. Lots of extra insight into the things I didn’t. This quote doesn’t sound like much but its something I think we’re going to see more and more of:
“This was a game in which the Bears needed [tight end] Matt Spaeth‘s blocking, but he got on the field for only nine offensive snaps. [Offensive tackle] Jonathan Scott played six snaps as a tight end, however.”
This is a terrible blow. Via Sean Jensen at the Chicago Sun-Times.
“The ultimate blame on offense winds up at the feet of Bears coach Lovie Smith, who is a defensive specialist. But he is responsible for all units, not just the defense. If the offense perpetually lacks vitality and creativity, it’s his job to make the moves to create.”
I’m really starting to wonder if Smith doesn’t need to take more of a personal hand in the offense. It seems to me like a guy who can coax defensive players into the proper mindset to make plays so consistently should have more to contribute to an offense with players who so often fail to do that.
“Jay Cutler is not as good as he was a year ago. His mechanics are really bad this year. There was a reason he clashed with Mike Martz — he pushes his quarterbacks hard. You know Cutler does not like anyone riding him. That’s why they didn’t get along. … He doesn’t have tight ends who can play. They can’t pass protect well, and he’s getting beat like a drum. That’s part of it, too.”
“One issue with upgrading over Caleb Hanie as the backup quarterback is the bar was set low. Jason Campbell has experience and is well-regarded, but some believe athletic backup quarterbacks help because when plays break down, they can make plays with their legs. With the issues the Bears have on the offensive line, that makes even more sense. Jay Cutler has made plenty of plays with his legs this season, which has really aided the offense in some games. Campbell isn’t quite as nimble.”
That’s really not fair. You take Campbell out of that game and put Jay Cutler in and you know what you’ve got? The Green Bay game in week two. Different man, same pressure burying them with nowhere to escape to and no time to do it.
In fairness, Biggs does seem to acknowledge this on some level:
“Given the ugly games Jay Cutler has had in prime time, it’s not a bad thing he missed this messy affair. The presence of Cutler alone would not have shifted the balance. Cutler threw a career-high five interceptions the last time the Bears played in San Francisco in a brutal Thursday night loss. Had he played in this game, it likely would have led to more criticism of him from national commentators. Now pundits can pick on Campbell and Smith’s overrun defense instead.”
“If the previous two games have proved anything, it’s that the first half of the schedule was packed with cupcakes. [General manager Phil] Emery has been out on the road scouting in advance of a big predraft meeting next month. He probably didn’t need to see this wreck to know offensive linemen, plural, must be a priority even over a backup quarterback.”
“Don’t be surprised if McCown finishes the season with the team, and not just because there will be elevated concerns about Cutler’s availability once he is medically cleared to return. Some within the organization wanted McCown to stick at the outset of the season but it would not have been a practical decision with three veteran quarterbacks on the 53-man roster. Now that he’s back, it could be a seven-week job for him.
“The coaches like McCown and believe he’s a positive influence in the quarterback room. In a short period of time, he developed a good relationship with Cutler and likes working with the starter.”
“Chris Spencer, who started the first two games there, will replace Chilo Rachal, who started the last eight. Rachal had a brutal performance against his former team, the 49ers, giving up one sack and a hurry and getting flagged for two holding penalties. On Wednesday afternoon, the Bears announced that Rachal left the team for “personal reasons” and was put on the reserve/left-squad list.
“According to a league source, the 49ers knew how to “get in his head,” prompting Rachal’s poor performance. The source added that Rachal, in general, is emotional and needs constant positive reinforcement.”
“The topic came up when McClellin was drafted 19th overall and he said he missed one practice after a concussion at Boise State in 2010 and had a minor one the year before. McClellin changed the style of helmet he uses in 2011. There’s no reason to believe this will be a lingering issue for him, but caution is a good idea.”
True enough. But I’m concerned and no one is likely to forget that this was an issue that, it could be argued, should have affected the status of this draft choice. Jerry Angelo certainly took his fiair share of criticism about drafting a guard with a bad back in Chris Williams. You coud argue that a history of concussions should have been even more of a red flag.
D.J. Moore is going to have a hard time getting out of Smith’s dog house with statements like this one to Adam L. Jahns at the Chicago Sun-Times:
“‘From what [coach Lovie Smith] told me, it was performance-related,’ Moore said. ‘I don’t know. Whatever they tell me to do, I’ll do, and go to work every day, try as hard I can and hopefully get back out there soon.’”
For the record, the correct answer is “It was performance-related” not “they told me its performance-related.” I confess that I don’t know enough to understand exactly what the problem is. But I can say for certain that if Smith believes his performance is sub-par, then it almost certainly was and I can guarantee he’s been told more than once exactly what he’s doing wrong. He won’t get better until he accepts coaching and does what he’s told and he certainly won’t be playing as much as he should until that happens.
Somewhat to my surprise, Pompei’s early pick is for the Vikings to beat the Bears this week 23-20. If it was at Minnesota, I’d agree. But I think the Bears offensive line will have an easier time handling Jared Allen at home. The Bears need to bounce back and win this game. Perhaps I’m overestimating their intestinal fortitude but I’m leaning their way this week.
“Minnesota has improved about as much as any team from where they were last year. Having a quarterback (Christian Ponder) being able to play for a year helped them a lot and getting the running back (Adrian Peterson) helped them more than anything. Anytime you have Percy Harvin and Peterson on the roster, you’ve got a chance.”
“The Vikings will devote significant attention to receiver Brandon Marshall — as they did with Larry Fitzgerald in Week 7. They’ll also ask the defensive line to create pressure without needing blitz help.”
The Vikings ate the Cardinals alive with seven sacks.
The Vikings are handling their personnel along the offensive line in something of an unusual way. Again via Wiedierer:
“Brandon Fusco will make his 11th consecutive start at guard but will again share time with Geoff Schwartz. Meanwhile, at safety, Jamarca Sanford will remain starting alongside Harrison Smith but will also cede playing time in spurts to Mistral Raymond.
The rotation at guard began in Week 6. Fusco has been OK at times but hesitant at others, leaving an opening for Schwartz to step in.”
Rotations at guard aren’t the norm in the NFL where continuity on the line is highly valued.
Given how unlikely it is that a really good quality left tackle will fall to the Bears (again), one of these guys might be taken first in the next draft instead. From Pompei, this time writing for The National Football Post.
“‘I don’t believe in that soft schedule, tough schedule crap,’ running back Matt Forte said. ‘It’s the NFL. Everybody is good.
“‘We didn’t expect it to go like that. We didn’t play well across the board. Nobody. You saw the game. We haven’t done anything really. We have to get better at a lot of stuff as an offense. We haven’t proved anything.'”
This is, of course, exactly what you’d expect him to say. But that doesn’t change the reality. Biggs explains in a commentary which to my mind is absolutely spot on:
“It’s not a scheme issue. What the Bears have is a talent deficiency and this is a deep-rooted problem that goes back to the early years of Jerry Angelo’s administration. I’ve written time and time again how the Bears ignored the offensive line in the draft and therefore had no young players in the system. When Angelo made an effort to get one in 2008, he went bust with Chris Williams, now an ex-Bear. This isn’t a new problem and those who want to cast blame on offensive coordinator Mike Tice need to take a long look at the man who bears ultimate responsibility for the offense: Lovie Smith. But ultimately, what the Bears have here is a personnel issue on the offensive line, one that can be a surprise to positively no one, new general manager Phil Emery included. There is no quick solution and that is the answer no one wants to accept. “
The Bears weren’t at their best Monday. But teams that play really badly usually show obvious signs of it that any fan can recognize. Dropped passes, an excessive number of penalties, a lot of turnovers. The Bears had some penalties and a couple turnovers. But none of it was anywhere near what I’d call excessive.
The truth is that the Bears looked exactly like they did for the first nine games of the season. They just got beat by a well-motivated group with more talent that played well – i.e. by a better team. That’s all there is to it.
“It’s not like we were playing against the 31st-ranked defense or anything. It’s a tremendous football team on that side.”
True that. There’s no shame in losing to the Texans. They’re a good football team that played like a good football team. I thought the Bears generally played reasonably well. Yes, there were too many turnovers and that drives me crazy. But for once that’s not what lost the game. The Bears actually played better than expected in a lot of areas (eg. the offensive line).
When you are playing good competition, in this case better competition, you aren’t going to win them all.
“Despite solid protection, Campbell threw to his ‘check-down’ receiver too soon at times. For instance, when he threw to tight end Matt Spaeth for a one-yard loss late in the fourth quarter, [Brandon] Marshall had gotten open after a defender slipped.”
Question. Would you rather have Campbell checking down or having Cutler throw two or three interceptions inot coverage? Apparently Pompei had the same question in midn when he wrote this:
“On the final drive, when the Bears had nothing to lose, Campbell kept checking down. The situation justified risk taking, and it would have been better to go down with an interception than a series of short passes.”
I lean in Pompei’s direction on this. Still, its debatable. A completion underneath also gives a receiver a chance to make a play with his feet.
“There can be no bigger indictment of the Bears offense. The squib kicks looked like a national taunt, and the embarrassment might not stop until opponents get burned.”
“Altogether, the Bears offense started nine drives beyond their 35-yard line. Nine, do you hear me?”
“Here’s how those nine possessions ended: fumble, fumble, interception, field goal, interception, punt, field goal, missed field goal and downs. Drive home safely.”
I wasn’t really upset about the hit of Tim Dobbins on Jay Cutler until I read this quote from Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune :
“‘You want to try to aim for the hip, you get the legs, the body goes down with them,’ Dobbins said. ‘But with him, he was trying to deliver the ball so I really tried to hit him up high so I can mess up the throw as well.'”
Players are told repeatedly that they have to lower their target. Dobbins admitted knowing that. He admitted purposely aiming high instead.
“Linebacker Brian Urlacher caught heat from some fans when he congratulated Houston Texans safety Danieal Manning after an interception.
“Urlacher wasn’t too thrilled that anyone would question him for doing that.
“‘That was a nice play. I could give a crap about what people think on the street,’ Urlacher said on ESPN radio. ‘Get mad at me all you want.
“‘He’s my friend. I wish he wouldn’t have caught it, but he did, so nice play to you.'”
Sometimes I really worry about people. This really goes beyond being friends. As Urlacher said, you don’t have to be happy about it but I don’t know why its such a bad thing for an athlete to show a little sportsmanship every once in a while.
Manning obviously believes he’s been vindicated. He hasn’t. The Bears had a plethora of strong safeties. He has the talent to play free safety and the Bears deperately needed him there. His lack of discipline wouldn’t allow him to deliver.
No matter how well he plays for the Texans, there’s no getting around the fact that he let the Bears down.
And kicker Robbie Gould opens his mouth once again and crap comes out. He had this ot say about the Soldier Field turf Sunday via Jahns:
“I have a year left on my contract. I hope to stay a Bear. And those will be situations that I’m going to take into [consideration]. I don’t know if I want to deal with that as I get older as a kicker.”
Want to cry about the turf? Fine. Join the club. Want to threaten to leave because of it and think everyone is going to run around in a panic and change the situation just because of you? See ya’ later, buddy.
“Brian Urlacher looked like he had a keg of beer on his back when he returned that interception (against Tennessee). The Bears might be the luckiest team I have ever seen on tape. There is a skill to popping the ball out, but only one guy is doing it. Is Charles Tillman‘s contract up? He is a machine. It’s amazing what he is doing this year. I’ve never seen it before.”
“It could get interesting when special-teams standout Blake Costanzo, who rarely goes a game without mixing it up with somebody on the other team, faces his former 49ers teammates Monday night. Costanzo, who leads the Bears with 10 special-teams tackles, was second on the 49ers last year with 17.”
“Nose tackle Isaac Sopoaga struggled, getting blocked twice by tight end Lance Kendricks. Kendricks flat-backed him the first time and then buckled him the second time on Steven Jackson’s second-quarter 7-yard touchdown run. Sopoaga also got moved out by center Rob Turner on another 5-yard run by Jackson. Maybe the 49ers are not as good against the run as last year because Sopoaga isn’t as stout.”
“When the Rams were running wild in the first quarter, inside linebackers Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman were also getting blocked, particularly Willis.”
“[A] 19-yarder was the only pass [QB Alex] Smith threw that traveled more than 10 yards in the air.”
“Smith was blitzed six times. He was sacked once, forced to run once (which ended with the Jo-Lonn Dunbar hit) and he also completed 3 of 4 passes for 45 yards and a touchdown against the other blitzes.”
“Adrian Peterson erupted in the fourth quarter. He was the beneficiary of some fantastic blocking. His 61-yard touchdown may have been the best display of well-executed run blocking this season. RT Phil Loadholt did a great job blocking down on Ndamukong Suh; C John Sullivan landed a block cleanly at the second level on MLB Stephen Tulloch; and RG Brandon Fusco (who struggled with sustaining power throughout the game) did a great job in his short-area pull. Peterson is, by far, the game’s most explosive runner to and through the hole.”
“I think Andy Reid is done. I don’t know how he can even want to go forward with what he is dealing with right now. His offensive line is the worst in football, hands down, not even close. And he loved Juan Castillo. I don’t care what anyone says — I don’t think it was his decision to let him go. The move was dictated from above. I understand the reason for it, but Juan wasn’t the problem. It’s the quarterback’s turnovers in the red zone.”
“(Jacksonville QB Blaine Gabbert) does not like to get hit. He does not step up in the pocket. He throws with a wide base. You can watch a quarterback’s footwork and tell whether he is accurate or not. The good quarterbacks shift their weight like a pitcher. Gabbert throws flat-footed with a wide base — you can’t be accurate that way. The best thing he did this year was cut his hair, but he still plays (scared).”
“Smith noted that rookie receiver Alshon Jeffery might return for the Monday night game against the San Francisco 49ers.
‘[He’s] making a lot of progress,’ Smith said. ‘I don’t know for sure on him, but we can use all guys now.'”
I’ll say it straight out. I’ve heard fans make excuse after excuse for this team’s failure to perform against good competition and that’s fine. Everyone has their opinion and they are welcome to it. It isn’t like I’ve never been wrong.
The team has its share of problems – every team in the NFL does. For instance, the offensive line play has improved almost every week but you can still expect problems on the road in places like Detroit and Minnesota. But I’m telling you now, the root of the offensive problem – the one that isn’t going away and is going to be there game after game – lies in the fact that they have only one receiver who can consistently get open against man coverage and that’s Brandon Marshall. If Alshon Jeffery comes back and can’t do it, the Bears are going nowhere in the playoffs – assuming they make the playoffs. And yes, I think it’s that serious. That’s a lot to put on the shoulders of a rookie. But that’s how I see it.
“The Bears don’t have a more animated position coach on staff. Hoke is firm and firmer when with players on the field in training camp. He’s in the facemask of [cornerback Charles] Tillman, a 10-year veteran, the same way he is with an undrafted rookie free agent. It’s not always an approach that works in the NFL.
“‘That is the way I was raised in coaching,’ said Hoke, who worked in the college ranks for 19 years before joining the Texans’ staff in 2002. ‘I had a guy tell me one time, and I do believe it: ‘Encourage, correct, encourage.’ … When they come off and I am in their ear, sometimes it’s correction and sometimes it’s encouragement. It’s always in that vein, though.'”
Head coach Lovie Smith is smart enough to know that you need coaches who are both calm and fiery on your staff so that there’s a good mix of the two attitudes for those players who require some of each. He’s not the fiery type unless he’s really angry – in which case it has a much bigger impact when he shows it. But he hires coaches like Hoke and receivers coach Darryl Drake to balance the staff.
“Bears rookie defensive end Shea McClellin panicked when he was handed a $38,091 bill from Mastro’s Steakhouse on Tuesday night.
“‘I saw it, and I was like, ‘I don’t know how I’m going to pay for this.’ I don’t think my debit card can go that high,’ McClellin said.”
“Fortunately for McClellin, the veteran defensive linemen pulled a prank on him, recruiting the restaurant to doctor the bill.
“Still, Rookie Night is a longtime tradition for the Bears’ defensive line, and the first-round pick had to foot the tab. While he wouldn’t provide an exact amount, McClellin nodded when asked if the bill was more than $10,000.”
So he panicked at $38,000 but thought more $10,000 was OK?
“Wootton said his quick first move was due to reading Bradley, not picking up the snap count.
“‘I felt the tackle leaning a little bit,’ he said. ‘So I kind of figured it would be on one.'”
The guess here is that you can thank defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli for teaching Wootton to pay attention to that kind of detail.
Former Bears safety Mike Brown is long gone from the Bears. But his influence still lingers. From Rick Morrissey at the Chicago Sun-Times:
“Tillman’s interception was his own; the weaving interception return he gives to former Bears safety Mike Brown.
“‘I know he’s not playing with us, but I learned a great deal from him, the way he scored and set up the blocks,’ he said. ‘That was the only person I thought about as I was running: ‘That’s what he would have done. It worked! Snap! I scored!””
There was all kinds of happiness amongst Bear fans Monday – as well there should be. But Steve Rosenbloom at the Chicago Tribune definitely has a point when he talks about the first half of the Jaguars game:
“Here’s the deal: A good team will make you pay for such early erratic play.
“You can’t always depend on a second-half rally, even if you’re a streak shooter.
“You won’t always get two defensive touchdowns, even if that’s the norm the last two games.
“I have noticed that J’Marcus Webb plays much better against powerful rushers vs. speed rushers. He was unable to stop the Packers’ Clay Mathews at all, but plays very well against the Cowboys’ D’Marcus Ware. I personally think Ware is the better player but, Matthews the worse match up. I was wondering if your analysis of his performance says the same? — Randall D.; Kalamazoo, Mich.
“Webb is in the NFL because of his size, not his quickness. He stands 6-7. He ran a 5.28 40-yard dash before coming into the league. He has size 22 feet. He is not going to be able to match up well with smaller, quicker defensive ends who can get underneath his pads. But he is difficult to move, and he can engulf defenders. So I agree with you, the Bears are better off with Webb against a power rusher than speed rusher any day.”
Despite the fact that he didn’t do too poorly, apparently at least one fan is still not satisfied with the Bears left tackle this week. From profootballmock.com:
“Chicago Bears OT J’Marcus Webb has recently been prone to unfortunate false starts, reports Webb’s longtime girlfriend Angela Baker.”
This isn’t particularly good news for the Bears. Via Biggs
“Jahvid Best could make his 2012 debut when the Bears play next. The Detroit Lions running back has been on the physically unable to perform list but will be eligible to return to practice Oct. 15 and could potentially be in action Oct. 22 when the Lions come to Soldier Field on “Monday Night Football.” Best last played on Oct. 16, 2011 when he suffered a concussion against the San Francisco 49ers. Best, who reportedly will undergo tests this week, rushed for a career-high 163 yards and one touchdown (an 88-yarder) against the Bears in Week 5 last season.”
“That’s the number of quarterback hits the Giants totaled against Cleveland’s Brandon Weeden, another alarming performance from a defensive line that is supposed to be loaded, with stars like Justin Tuck, Jason Pierre-Paul and Osi Umenyiora. Asked if he was concerned about the pass rush, Tuck was blunt, saying, ‘Yes, I am.'”
If the Browns game against the Giants is typical, Trent Richardson is going to be a beast in this league. He looks to me like he’s well on his way to being what Cedric Benson should have been with the Bears.
“What irked [Packers head coach Mike] McCarthy the most after the Packers’ second loss in the final seconds in three weeks was their inability to hang onto the football – on offense and defense.”
I have a lot of respect for the Packers – it would be hard not to after they went 15-1 last season and basically blew the Bears out of the water already this season. But game after game, last year and this year, they have had a bad habit of dropping far too many passes. You had to wonder when it was going to start biting them in the rear. Apparently it has.
“The future of coach Lovie Smith and quarterback Jay Cutler with the Bears will be at the top of the list. Smith was the bigger issue Wednesday, with Emery quashing a radio report that he is negotiating a contract extension for his coach. But the Cutler situation could be much more dicey, a bigger test of Emery’s ability to excel in his self-acknowledged role ‘as an evaluator and manager of people.’
“The decision will come down to this: With Cutler’s great arm and ability to make throws that even Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers can’t make, does he have what it takes to lead a team to a championship — or even just win one?”
No it won’t. You aren’t going to find many perfect QBs in the NFL. Let Jay Cutler go and you are back trying to win with the Rex Grossman‘s and Matt Cassel‘s of the world. Emery is smart enough to know that.
I did think this statistic from the article was interesting, though:
“Numbers can be as blinding as they are revealing. Cutler is second in the NFL in fourth-quarter passer rating this season (118.4), which indicates that he’s at his best when it counts. But Cutler also has a perfect 158.3 passer rating when the Bears are ahead by 10 points or more and a 58.4 rating when they’re not. That indicates he is at his best when the wind is at his back.”
The last is, of course, the most telling statistic. Cutler’s never going to be the kind of QB that is going to lead a team out of a hole. He’s going to take problems and make them worse just as he’s going to take the team when things are going well and make it better. It will always be up to the defense to make plays first and get things going in a positive direction.
But back to my point. No one has been more critical of Cutler’s lack of maturity and leadership skill than I have. But he’s who the Bears have and, as is the case with any player, its up to them to take advantage of his skills and work around his flaws. Leadership skills or not, they’ll work hard to re-sign him for whatever it takes. Don’t doubt it for a second.
The Bears came out mixing it up defensively. It appears that the plan was to press the line of scrimmage with the occasional blitz to confuse quarterback Blaine Gabbert and contain running back Maurice Jones-Drew. They didn’t showing much respect for the Jaguar receivers and to an extent it burned them.
The Bears allowed a lot of third down conversions and had a tough time getting off the field a lot more than usual, especially in the first half.
I didn’t see much of Henry Melton and the defensive tackles taking advantage of the Jaguars offensive line, including guard Eben Britton (who was actually benched at half time last week).
On a related note, Gabbert had far, far too much time to throw the ball. The Bears started to get a little pressure (not much) at the end of the first half but by then Gabbert was settled in and he stood in the pocket pretty well. Things went better in this respect for the Bears in the second half.
Despite getting a lot of time, Gabbert isn’t the most accurate quarterback. I thought more of those balls should have been spot on. Gabbert’s pocket was clean on the interception by Charles Tillman in the third quarter. It was so far off target, I actually find myself wondering if it was a miscommunication with the wide receiver. It wouldn’t be surprising. There seemed to me to be a lot of it going on out there.
Pro Bowl-type year or not, the Jaguars came out and attacked Tim Jennings, primarily with Justin Blackmon. Presumably it was because of the height mismatch. In any case, Blackmon got the best of it as Jennings had a tough time keeping up with him.
I thought Nick Roach showed up today with some good plays.
The Bears come out running and they did it well. Jacksonville tried to stop it with seven in the box and they couldn’t. The run really helped open up the passing game.
Jacksonville obviously was paying a great deal of attention to last week’s game tape. They weren’t going to let the Bears get away with that slant pass to Brandon Marshall that was so successful and they took away the middle of the field in coverage in the first half.
The Bears responded by targeting Alson Jeffery and Marshall on the outside.
In the second half, the Jaguars came out committed to stopping the run. The Bears immediately started going to Marshall over the middle again, presumably to take advantage of the linebackers moving up. Jeffery’s route that resulted in the second Bears touchdown was over the middle into the empty space left by the linebackers as they all three collapsed towards the line of scrimmage.
The Bears offensive line generally did a good job out there. The run blocking was outstanding. The interior of the line was really blowing the Jaguar defensive tackles off the line of scrimmage.
The Jaguars did not start the game tackling well. Bears were bouncing off defenders all over. They eventually tightened it up.
The last Bears drive before the half was a disgrace. The communication between Jay Cuter and the receivers was poor with at least two miscues. Then they took a time out with the clock stopped. Sloppy…
Cutler wasn’t bad exactly but he was not particularly sharp for most of this game. He had his moments, especially in the second half, but there were a lot of balls that could have been thrown better. On the other hand, again particularly in the second half, he did a nice job with his mobility of avoiding the pass rush and extending plays.
On a related note, Cutler made a few good plays with his legs this game. They were particularly well timed.
The Bears looked like they decided to get Kellen Davis involved early and he was doing well. Then they abandoned him later in the half and never got back to him. I’m not sure why.
I was disappointed when the word came down that Earl Bennett was once again inactive, almost certainly due to his injured hand. At this point you have to question the well-paid Bennett’s ability to stay on the field.
I really like Kenny Albert, Daryl Johnston and Tony Siragusa. It’s probably because, like Siragusa, I have a habit of watching the line of scrimmage but he frequently says things right as I’m thinking them.
Give credit to both teams this game. Drops were at a minimum. In fact, it was generally quite the opposite. For example, Devin Hester made a great catch as he laid out for a long pass in the fourth quarter. this was a good game for the receivers on both sides.
Penalties killed the Bears, especially in the first half. They were constantly stalling drives. Gabe Carimi’s two false starts in a row near the goal line in the second half were inexcusable.
Special teams were unremarkable on both ends.
As usual, turnovers played a big part in this game. In particular, the Tillman pick six in the third quarter was a huge, game turning play. Corey Wootton once again showed up and caused a fumble.
The Bears did not appear to me to wear down in the heat. In fact, it appeared to me to be the opposite. The Jaguars defense looked tired in the fourth quarter.
Possibly on a related note, I question the Jaguars decision to make their home uniforms black. The color absorbs heat and I don’t think it helps them to have to wear it.
Gotta say that I really like the way Jacksonville does cheerleaders.
Its October 7. What’s the deal with all of the Halloween specials already?
Kudos to the Bears fans who showed up to the game. You could hear them clearly on television.
The Jaguars really came out and played (for them) relatively well today. Not so much on offense but on defense, they were extremely patient and really made the Bears earn every yard until the appeared to wear down. The Bears, on the other hand, really didn’t come out and play well. The game on their end was relatively sloppy and the lesson to me is that, no matter what anyone says about avoiding “trap games”, its really tough to do it in action. The Bears got bitten by it today. Fortunately they played better in the second half against a definitively inferior team and it didn’t result in a loss.
This article from ESPN.com‘s Pat Yasinskas is really about Carolina quarterback Cam Newton. But the whole time I read it, I couldn’t stop thinking about Bears quarterback Jay Cutler.
Its hard not to contrast Cutler’s reaction to his incident on the sidelines with offensive coordinator Mike Tice (total denial) last Monday night with Tice’s. Via Sean Jensen at the Chicago Sun-Times:
“Asked if he was surprised that Cutler walked away, Tice laughed and said, ‘He probably had enough of me telling him why the play didn’t work.
“‘I get enough of me sometimes, too. I can talk a little bit, as you guys know. The heat of the battle, it’s tough. A lot of things happen on the sideline. A lot of things happen over the course of a game. I was really angry about the fact that we didn’t make that third-and-one. I was in his ear from the time he came off the field to the time he went over and put his helmet down. At a certain point, probably enough’s enough.'”
“Smith rightfully gets top billing as the Bears’ coach, but Tice is the rock star on the staff. And not because he’s Mr. Entertainment or Vince Lombardi, but because he sees the same game we do.”
I thought Jensen, who had a lot of experience covering Tice with the Vikings, had an interesting take on the incident:
“Cutler seems resistant to his reality, but he needs to begin to accept it.
“There wasn’t a hint of frustration or anger from Tice on Wednesday as he heaped praise on Cutler.
“‘Jay and I are good,’ Tice said. ‘I really admire his play the other night. I really admire how he’s prepared himself right now. I really admire how he’s bought in.’
“But Tice isn’t anyone’s pushover. So as their relationship moves forward, Cutler had better treat him with respect.”
Dan Pompei at the Chicago Tribuneasks a question that most Cutler apologists will parrot:
“Romo carried himself like the pro he is. But he didn’t win.
Anything else you want to know?”
Yeah. Why is it too much to ask that Cutler do both?
In any case, Rick Morrissey at the Chicago Sun-Timesprovides some perspective for the average fan who is stuck personally disliking arguably his team’s most talented player:
“At some point — now would be good — we’re going to have to give up on the idea that Cutler can be rehabilitated. Personality transplants are not on the medical horizon. The name is Jay, not Joy, Cutler.”
In other words, “Yeah, he’s a punk. But he’s out punk. Like it or not, that’s the way it is.
That’s fine. As long as everyone also recognizes on some level that its also wrong.
In that respect, I was actually getting ready to write a full post on the Cutler situation and the total denial of most fans I know about the situation when Steve Rosenbloom at the Chicago Tribune said virtually everything I wanted to say. So I’ll just link to his article and let you watch the video and say it all goes double for me:
Many people will look at the final score of the Cowboys game and conclude that the offense was a dominant force. But Devin Hester got it right when he made this comment. Via Jensen:
“‘To me, this was a defensive victory,’ he said. ‘When you come up with five turnovers and 14 points, you pretty much won the game. They had an amazing night.'”
This team has that personality trait and it probably will for a long time. Its the defense that leads them and everything else follows on that. If they don’t make big plays first, they won’t happen on offense. Don’t look for it to be the other way around. They don’t have that kind of character. Haugh does a good job of making that point in his column here.
“‘The way that offensive line is blocking, it’s making it easy for me,’ Cutler said. ‘That was the best rhythm we have had offensively, in and out of the huddle, all year. We’ve just got to take that momentum and keep it rolling.'”
I did my best to concentrate on the offensive line during the game and my impression was that it wasn’t that simple. They got a lot of help and most of the time, Cutler was getting the ball out quickly to Brandon Marshall over the middle. When the tackles were one-on-one, most of the time one or the other struggled. But they did just enough to allow Cutler to get the ball off and occasionally they really did well.
By the way, its getting almost no notice but right guard Lance Lewis is a Pro Bowler. He’s been outstanding. Left guard Chilo Rachal and center Roberto Garza also had solid games with no noticeable gaffs as far as I could tell.
Besides being on the road and on short rest, the Bears also will have to adjust to the Jacksonville heat Sunday. The predicted high is 90 degrees.
The Bears have not played in a game with a kickoff temperature above 76 degrees since Oct. 10, 2010, when they beat the Carolina Panthers 23-6 in Charlotte.
The Bears got off to a fast start in that game — 17 points and 280 all-purpose yards (21.5 yards per play) in the first quarter — but petered out. In the final three quarters, they scored six points and had 168 all-purpose yards (2.9 per play).
“The Bears said they wanted more consistency this season from defensive tackle Henry Melton, who acknowledged that was a goal. At the quarter post of the season, it’s fair to say Melton is delivering. He sacked Tony Romo in the first quarter and has four for the season, just the way he wanted to begin a contract season. He also forced the play on Lance Briggs‘ 74-yard interception return in the third quarter. Teams pay for sacks, and Melton knows it. Could the franchise tag enter the discussion?”
As a serious Melton doubter before the season began, I can say that his play thus far has been a wonderful surprise. He’s been taking favorable match ups inside and capitalizing on them.
Its also hard to under estimate the importance of Lance Briggs to the defense. And yet I somehow always manage to do it. Fortunately Biggs doesn’t share that fault.
I’m not too thrilled seeing Julius Peppers have to sit out a half nor is it good to see Earl Bennettinactive due to injury. The Bears are going to need both of these guys. From McClure.
“[Bears defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli had another wrinkle for the Cowboys too. The Bears lined up in a 3-4 defense twice, with Shea McClellin playing stand-up linebacker. Both times, he dropped and covered running back DeMarco Murray.”
This is unfortunate when you are a fan of a team in need of a left tackle. But its also hardly surprising. From Biggs:
“Some have already suggested the 2013 draft could be solid for offensive linemen, so I asked the national scout that exact question.
“‘Within the first two rounds,’ he said. ‘There are some big-time guards and some good tackles but not premier tackles. There are not premier lefts out there right now unless I have missed out on some juniors. Now, there are some big-time guards and some really good right tackles out there.
“‘There could be two to maybe three guards go in the first round, which is pretty out of the norm because usually it is just one. Usually those are back-end first-round guys if they are at that good. There are some good right tackles and there are a couple juniors out there that could be overdrafted (if they forego their senior season) but are there any Joe Thomases out there? Heck no. There is not. Numbers-wise on the offensive line, maybe the first two, two-and-a-half rounds might be strong. After that, it kind of falls off.'”
“One thing that could help is the Bears will face a 4-3 defense after playing three 3-4 fronts in four weeks.
“‘It’s a total technique change across the board, so it’s going to be a little edgy at times and not as clean as it could be when you’re playing against an over front or a team you work on every day,’ Tice said.
“‘If we played against a 3-4 team every day in practice we’d be a little better against it, but each game I felt we got a little bit better.'”
“A year after rushing for 2,000 yards, the Bears have yet to find their groove on the ground. Matt Forte hasn’t been fully healthy. The offensive line has been revamped. Don’t forget all of the new passing toys that arrived too. Offensive coordinator Mike Tice made a concerted effort in training camp to make sure the passing game was installed and operating efficiently. An inordinate amount of time was spent throwing the football in Bourbonnais. That meant less attention to the ground attack, but that should change this week against the Jaguars, who enter 30th in the NFL against the run.”
In fairness, the passing game seems to me to be much harder to coordinate (as the Cowboys can attest). Personally, I’d rather see the Bears spending and inordinate amount of time throwing the ball in camp. As a fan, its not easy to see your team get beat. But when you are watching on a Monday night with 24 hours with no sleep, seeing them beat themselves by running the wrong routes would be agony.
Vaughn McClure at the Chicago Tribune talks about the brewing feud between ESPN‘s Steven A. Smith and Marshall:
“‘I’m saying if you have old incidents dating from Oct. 31, 2004, to March 11, 2012 — if you have eight years of a track record of transgressions, I need to see more than a few months of a transformation,’ Smith said.
“Marshall apparently responded to Smith’s rant with this tweet: “Yellow journalism is a type of journalism that presents little or no legitimate well-researched news to sell papers or create controversy.”
This is what worries me about Marshall. Suggest something critical about his past that is nothing more than the truth and he calls it “yellow journalism”. I can’t help but think that, no matter what he says or how it looks on the outside, he’s still in denial.
Fred Mitchell at the Chicago Tribune quotes Cutler on how teams are trying to handle the Bears passing attack.
“‘I think week by week, teams are going to try to take ‘B’ [Marshall] away and make those other guys make plays,’ Cutler said Wednesday at Halas Hall. ‘I think that’s going to be the philosophy behind that.
“They’re going to bet that defensively they can cover those other guys and not let ‘B’ beat them. That’s what we’re seeing a lot of. But we have a lot of belief in our guys — Kellen (Davis) and Alshon (Jeffery) and (Devin Hester) and Matt Forte … all those guys we believe can make plays.””
I’m glad Cutler believes in them. Because other than Forte, I surely don’t. Like the Bears opponents, I’ll believe it when I see it.
“With Matt Forte starting to get pretty worn down, would he still demand a good price on the trade market? Trading him would leave the Bears with a solid player in Michael Bush and then the option to take a guy like Marcus Lattimore in the draft. — Joe Devine, Saskatoon, Canada
“I don’t know why the Bears would want to get rid of a player they just signed and a player who clearly helps them win games. But to answer your question, I think the Bears could get something of value in return for Forte. They probably couldn’t make a killing because he is soon to be 27-years old and he has some miles on him. The days of receiving five players and eight draft picks (including three first rounders), as the Cowboys did for Herschel Walker, are over. It’s unusual to see a star running back traded anymore. The Seahawks got Marshawn Lynch for fourth and fifth round picks two years ago, but he wasn’t in Forte’s class at the time of the trade. The Redskins gave up Champ Bailey and a second round pick for Clinton Portis in 2004, but Portis was younger than Forte at the time, and he had been more productive. So what could Forte bring in a trade? I would say if they found the right partner, the Bears probably could get a good starter at another position or a second round draft pick.”
I’m always of the opinion that the fans are under-estimated by people associated with the NFL. I’m a fan of the fans and I think they often see more than the professionals who are too close to what’s going on to see the forest for the trees. But questions like this about Forte seem to pop up in columns every week and I’ll never understand why anyone would want to trade Forte. Forte said during the offseason he thought he was being disrespected by the Bears organization during a contract dispute. But in my view its nothing compared to the disrespect of some fans who see to think the Bears would be better off without him. He’s not appreciated like he should be and that’s a shame.
“I just don’t understand why the Bears don’t at least try Gabe Carimi at LT. OK his ceiling maybe isn’t as high as J’Marcus Webb‘s, but he does not have the low downside either. Carimi went up against a lot better competition in college too and always performed well. Why not put him there and let him deal with those great pass rushing DEs. I have to believe he would perform better then what Webb has showed. Plus doesn’t Mike Tice say he is the best OL they have? If that is the case why isn’t your best OL playing the most important position on the line? — Peter, Wausau, Wis.
“If the Bears move Carimi to left tackle and he is just an average left tackle, which many suspect would be the case, you might have an average left tackle and a below average right tackle. Does that make them better? Carimi can be an above average right tackle. You don’t want to create one problem by solving another. I don’t recall Tice saying Carimi is the best offensive lineman on the team, but Tice clearly is high on Carimi. And even if a player is the best lineman on the team does not mean he could play any position.”
Many of us wondered what happened with Al Afalava, a promising young safety for the Bears who had a good rookie year in 2009 but was cut in 2010. Now we know. From McClure:
“Now, Afalava plays special teams for the Titans, and he regrets how things unfolded with the Bears.
“‘I learned that being on the sideline ain’t going to get you a job in the NFL,’ Afalava said Thursday. ‘I didn’t come in prepared my second year.
“‘Before my second year, I went home to Hawaii and put on weight that I wasn’t supposed to. I was close to 240 pounds after playing as rookie at 212. I was just living the life back home. Hawaii has good food.'”
Looks like the Bears defense will get a shot against yet another bad offensive line. The odds are good that, like the Cowboys, their best chance to beat the Bears will be to run the ball. From Pompei.
You can couple that with this grim assessment of the Jaguars defense at the quarter pole mark from Ryan O’Halloran at the Florida Times-Union:
“The Jaguars can’t stop the run to force a third-and-long, and when they do, don’t have the pass rush to pressure the quarterback.
“So what are the Jaguars options? They rushed six or more players five times against the Bengals, who blocked it up with extra protection.
“The element of surprise — more zone blitzes, corners and safeties coming off the edges, etc. — should be next up.”
“Although the Jaguars remain 30th in rush defense for the second straight week, linebacker Paul Posluszny sees improvement. The Bengals rushed for 138 yards, but 48 came on a fake punt.
“‘Early on [the struggles] were a huge surprise,’ Posluszny said. ‘Each week, we’re getting better and better. Last week, we were successful and the fake punt skews the number. We’re tackling better and we’re more disciplined. We started out rough and now we’re making that ground up.’
“Not counting the fake punt, the Jaguars allowed only one rush of longer than 12 yards to Cincinnati.”
It’s apparently not all bad for the offensive line, as well. Also from O’Halloran:
“Along with center Brad Meester, left tackle Eugene Monroe is the only Jaguars offensive starter to play every snap this year. He’s been consistent in pass protection and occasionally dominant. Monroe has one penalty (a false start) and controlled Minnesota’s Jared Allen in Week 1.
“Helping Monroe’s performance is who he hasn’t faced. Houston moved J.J. Watt from right end to left end to go against reserve right tackle Guy Whimper and Indianapolis moved pass rusher Robert Mathis around so he wouldn’t get a steady diet of Monroe.”
I think you can count on Lovie Smith and Rod Marinelli to do the same with Peppers.
One match up to look at will be left guard Eben Britton against the Bears defensive tackles. Britton was benched at half time last game. From O’Halloran:
“‘He’s very prideful,’ [Jaguars head coach Mike] Mularkey said. ‘He came in here with a great attitude. A lot of guys would have sulked, but he didn’t do that. He works hard all the time, but you could tell it’s important to him. With another week, he’ll probably be better health-wise.'”
“One bright spot for the Jaguars is that Blaine Gabbert hasn’t been horrible under pressure. He’s middle of the pack with a 62.9 Accuracy Percentage when pressured and has yet to throw an interception. However, he takes a sack on 21.8% of those plays, the 10th-highest rate in the NFL.”
Maney continues with this interesting tid bit to look for:
“Gabbert will likely target slot corner DJ Moore, who’s given up 18 catches on 24 targets this season, two of them going for scores. Of 108 passes this season, Gabbert has thrown just eight longer than 20 yards in the air and 17 at intermediate distance (between 10 and 20 yards). Of those 25 passes over 10 yards in the air, just three have gone to the left side of the field and he didn’t attempt a single pass there against the Bengals. In fact, on passes beyond the line of scrimmage, he’s thrown just 18% to the left side of the field, compared to roughly 32% to the right and 50% to the middle of the field. He’ll want to throw left more often and stay away from the right side against the Bears, where [cornerback Tim] Jennings spends an overwhelming majority of snaps.”
Who will cover Marshall seems to be a major question in Jacksonville this week. As it should be. My advise is that whoever it is should get significant help. Form Gene Frenette at the Florida Times-Union.
I got a lot of flack about a game comment I put up last week. I said that I thought Tony Romo‘s accuracy and touch are impressive. Bears fans thought that a QB who threw five interceptions shouldn’t be getting those kinds of compliments. So I was glad to see Andy Benoit at The New York Timescome to Romo’s defense as well and do it in a much more thorough way than I could:
“So what about the five interceptions? Three, maybe four of them weren’t Romo’s fault. On the first pick, Dez Bryant ran the wrong route. On the second pick, Kevin Ogletree had a perfectly thrown ball bounce off his chest. The third pick probably should have been ruled a fumble, because the ball squeezed out of Romo’s hands after he was corralled by Henry Melton. Romo tried to escape the pocket on that play, but Melton had spectacular closing speed. Nevertheless, Melton shouldn’t have been able to break down Dallas’s protection so quickly. The fourth interception may have been Romo’s fault, though the intended receiver, Miles Austin, ran a very poor route, failing to cross the face of cornerback D.J. Moore.
I might add that, bad decision though it might have been, this pass was a laser beam that was right on target. Benoit continues:
As for the fifth interception….that was Romo’s fault, but in a lot of ways, it was his most impressive play of the night. The Cowboys were trailing by 24 late. Their only chance at a win was via a sports version of a miracle. So Romo went for it and threw into coverage. How many quarterbacks in that situation would have checked down to avoid risking a five-turnover game? Romo showed selflessness and character on that play. He showed those same traits in the postgame interviews, too, when he protected his teammates and accepted the unwarranted blame for his team’s sloppy showing.
This isn’t to say that Romo shouldn’t be scrutinized. He has played extremely well this season but hasn’t gotten much help from his supporting cast. It’s fair to point out, though, that receivers who play with Tom Brady and Peyton Manning never seem to get way off their quarterback’s page. You don’t see Brady’s targets drop passes in bunches. So why are Romo’s teammates so inconsistent at times?
There isn’t a single right answer to this question. But this is the question sportswriters should be exploring. It’s not as easy or fun as exploring why “Tony Romo stinks,” but it’s a lot smarter and fairer.”
Ben Stockwell at Pro Football Focus more or less tells it like it is as he reviews the Cowboys-Bears game film:
“At this point Cowboy fans, coaches and players must simply be tearing their hair out. In spite of consistency in personnel at key positions, the hallmark of this offense continues to be miscommunications and disconnects between players. At some point you have to wonder when this will be picked up on as a recurring problem to the extent that it costs someone their job.”
I’ve got to figure that if things keep going like this, there will be changes at the end of the year in Dallas.
Dan Pompei, this time writing for The National Football Post, highlights the new trend in the NFL – the “rat race offense”.
The Bears aren’t the only ones with an aging defense. And the one in Pittsburgh may not be aging as gracefully as Steelers coach Mike Tomlinfaces some tough choices. From Alex Marvez at FOX Sports:
“‘It is a natural evolution of this business,’ Tomlin told FOXSports.com when the subject was broached after Wednesday’s practice. ‘Any of us that are in (the NFL) have to accept it on one level or another whether it’s coaches or players. That’s the mentality I have regarding it.'”
“‘We’re not trying to strike a balance (with age). We’re going with the guys who are capable of playing. We’ve got some veteran guys who are still good players. As long as they remain that, they’ll continue to play. We’ve got some young guys with some promise who are working. When they’re good enough to play, they’ll be in there.'”
“As he trudges through the snow on his way to the Champaign County YMCA, where he would stay that night for $2, his shoes fall apart.
“‘I’ll never forget that feeling where the sole comes off your shoe, snow seeps in, your socks gets full of that cold, wet moisture,” he said. “But it was the greatest thing that happened to me. It gave me perspective. Those are the life-defining moments. They hard-wire you. When you meet challenges in life later on, you say, ‘This is nothing.'”
“The Bears piped in crowd noise at practice this week, something they have done in the past. Typically, teams only prepare for loud environments when they go on the road. But obviously the Bears feel the Soldier Field crowd doesn’t create ideal offensive working conditions.”
Dan McNeil at the Chicago Tribune thinks Brian Urlacher might be within sight of the end. It’s way past time time to start taking a serious look at improving the depth at linebacker. He also thinks the Bears will go 9-7 and miss the playoffs. I generally agree primarily because of this point:
“Julius Peppers had an uneventful summer, save the plantar fasciitis from which he has been hobbled. Peppers had 101/2 sacks last year and it wasn’t enough because the Bears weren’t steeped in pass rush threats.
“They still aren’t. Israel Idonije is back. So are Corey Wootton, Henry Melton, Stephen Paea, Matt Toeaina and Amobi Okoye, who was re-signed as the Bears cut Bucs castoff Brian Price, the early-in-camp media darling. First-rounder Shea McClellin is what most of us thought he would be on draft night — a project.”
Skill position players are great. You need them and the Bears are definitely improved on offense with the addition of Brandon Marshall. But football is still played at the line of scrimmage.
On a related note, Biggs takes a shot at people like me who think the Bears should have built the offensive line in the offseason:
Those who protested that the Bears needed to add playmakers for [quarterback Jay] Cutler cannot call into question the team’s inability to upgrade the offensive line simultaneously. It was one or the other, and the front office finally answered pleas Cutler had been making since shortly after he arrived.
That’s fair enough though I still maintain that the real problem was that there really wasn’t anyone to add that would have helped. They need a left tackle. Those don’t grow on trees and there was reasonable doubt about whether drafting Riley Reiff would have given you one.
“Since leaving the Bears a cone of silence has descended around former GM Jerry Angelo. As far as I know, Angelo hasn’t uttered a word about his dismissal and he’s given no interviews. Have I missed anything? Does anyone know what Angelo’s thoughts were? Or has he totally fallen off the radar? Bob J., Camarillo, Calif.
“I think it would be safe to assume Angelo has chosen to take the high road. What was it your mother told you to say if you had nothing good to say? You haven’t missed anything, Bob. By the way, with all due respect to Phil Emery, who I think has done an outstanding job, it’s interesting that either 20 or 21 of the 22 Bears starters on opening day will be Angelo acquisitions. That is a credit both to Angelo and Emery, who has been wise enough and secure enough to acknowledge the existing talent on the team. Not all new GMs are so open-minded. The only certain Emery acquisition to start will be Brandon Marshall. Evan Rodriguez also is a possibility.”
Its also worth noting that the one way to ensure that you never get a job as a GM again is to trash your former team. One one is going to hire you only to wait until its their turn when they have to let you go, too.
Vaughn McClure at the Chicago Tribune says that Devin Hester will be returning kicks today. It looks like Dave Toub is trying to throw opponents off balance by giving them a look at two different running styles, similar to what a team might do with to different running backs:
“Toub previously explained how Weems’ straightforward style can be more beneficial, but it’s hard to argue
with Hester’s elusiveness.”
I thought at the time it was kind of odd that the Bears released Matt Blanchard before the last preseason game rather than afterwards. But it makes sense in light of this comment from Potash
Blanchard, the rookie quarterback from Lake Zurich High School and Division II Wisconsin-Whitewater, was cut before last week’s final preseason game. The Bears knew they wanted him on their practice squad but apparently didn’t want him to put anything on tape that might interest another team.
Potash goes on to say that the Bears almost lost him to the Dolphins as it was.
Former Bear Tyler Cluttscompares and contrastsMatt Forte and Texan’s running back Arian Foster. From the Tribune:
“Asked to compare Foster to Forte, Clutts told Houston reporters, “Just seeing Arian Foster on film and being around him these last couple of days, they are very similar because they can both do a lot, they both run hard.
“‘Matt Forte is a little more shifty, he’s not really going to put his head down as much as Foster is, which is something you really like to see. You like to see your running back really kind of put his head down and fight for those yards.'”
If you want to know why head coach Lovie Smith is so close mouthed about injuries, comments from Amobe Okoye about rookie Tampa Bay head coach Greg Schiano demonstrate one good reason why talking about them can only get a coach in trouble. Okoye was released by the Bucs before signing with the Bears in part because he missed much of camp recovering from knee surgery. From McClure:
“‘It didn’t reflect his statement about T.B.A., and it shocked me when I heard that,’ Okoye said. ‘He said the same thing to me during the exit meeting. I reminded him about how I never missed a practice due to my right knee since I’ve been in the NFL. So how is that a history?
“‘I feel like, don’t try to put stuff out there that can mess up my livelihood. I thank him for the opportunity to be a Buc. I just wish the things he said could have been rephrased.'”
Former Bear defensive tackle Anthony Adamscontinues to explain why not having a job in the NFL isn’t that big of a deal:
The Sports Pickleasks “How the Rest of the Nation Perceives Your Favorite NFL Team’s Fans”:
“Chicago Bears: Exactly like everyone on the Da Bears sketch, but dumber and fatter.”
“‘I’m in a good place,’ [Maurice Jone-Drew] said. ‘I did something I felt was right, and I’m always going to feel right. I’m not going to feel wrong for what I did it at all. And that’s why I can come back and not have a negative attitude. I think if you regret things, you’re going to come back salty, be a distraction, things like that.
“‘I don’t feel that way ’cause what I did was right. No one can tell me it was wrong. Not one person here can tell me what I did was wrong.'”
Jones-Drew went back on his word and let his teammates down by holding out of training camp. Thank heavens he’s not a Bear.
The Sports Pickleasks, “Which of last year’s non-playoff teams has the best chance to win the Super Bowl?” Here’s my choice:
“Jets – teams with a bad quarterback rarely win a Super Bowl. But TWO bad quarterbacks? No one has tried that before.”
And here are some helpful flash cards for those replacement referees today:
“’I didn’t go to school to learn too much, to be honest with you,’ Moore replied when asked which school was better for an education. ‘Once I got to school and got good, I was like, ‘Man, this is for the birds. It’s time to leave.””
“Asked if he was being overly honest about college athletics, Moore then said, ‘Well, I mean, I’m smarter than some of the kids that went to Florida State or those types of schools, now. Some kids get in school with a point-nothing (GPA). They didn’t even go to high school.'”