On Avoiding the Ups and Downs and Other Points of View

Bears

“Coaching, or perhaps a front office NFL job, could be in McCown’s future. In fact, the Bears gave him some feelers when they released him in training camp. But for now, maybe for a few years even, the 33-year-old wants to play. And he wants to play in Chicago.”

“Marshall said the biggest difference between Cutler and Campbell is that Cutler ‘likes to run around a lot,’ while ‘Jason is more of a pocket guy.'”

That is true. But the one difference that became very apparent early in the third quarter of the Texan’s game was the fact that Campbell is much more of a “timing” quarterback. Where Cutler is more likely to hold the ball, look around, see who is open and deliver, recievers were getting the ball from Campbell immediately as they turned out of thier breaks last week.

In many ways, Campbell would have been the perfect quarterback for former Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz, who has made a living teaching quarterbacks to do this. As it is, the receivers need to adjust to the new style, something which they did well last week.

“The 49ers will lean on their Tank personnel (one wide receiver, two tight ends, two backs) to establish the run and set up their play-action passing game. Look for schemes that will target the Bears’ eight-man defensive fronts Monday night and test the eye discipline of the secondary.”

I couldn’t agree more. The Texans also successfully drew an eighth Bears defender up into the box by showing run personnel. They then frequently passed out of the formation hoping to get favorable matchups. I expect the 49ers to do the same thing, probably more effectively.

49ers

“‘He definitely has emphasized it, just based on how many times (the 49ers) run the ball. Especially coming off Houston last week. Houston was more of a stretch scheme. This week is more of a downhill, smash mouth football.'”

“Had Monday night’s opponent been a passing team, the Bears would have considered activating pass-rusher Cheta Ozougwu. But Amobi Okoye is 37 pounds heavier than Ozougwu and gives the Bears more flexibility against the run.”

  • In the wake of the news that 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh had to be treated for an irregular heart beat last week, Kevin Lynch at the San Franscisco Chronicle quotes former NFL head coach Brian Billick on the stress associated with the job:

“‘It will kill you,’ he said. ‘If not, it’s going to shorten your life.’

“However, trying to be less intense has it’s ramifications as well according to Billick.

“‘Part of the problem is, the longer you are in it, to keep your priorities right and hold off the devastating lows when you lose, also means you are keeping an even keel and not enjoying the wins as much as you should,’ he said. ‘You end up in that gray twilight of not enjoying the wins and not showing too much in defeat.'”

Elsewhere


“Head coaches do not necessarily need players to like them but do need their respect and trust. The coach has to have the players’ backs. Andy Reid, the coach, certainly does. However, Reid is also in the less friendly role of general manager, signing off on all roster and financial decisions regarding players.”

“This is the major flaw of the coach/general manager model. Although Bill Belichick has been able to achieve sustained success, he has done so with cold and impersonal detachment, often not even responding to player discontent about roles or contracts, further infuriating players and agents. Reid, although a flat-liner with the media, cares deeply about his relationship with his players.”


One Final Thought

Pompei, this time writing for The National Football Post points out that the NFL owners around the league seem to be taking a more heavy handed role in managing their franchises. I, also, have taken note of this and, like Pompei I think there may be a number of explanations for it. But if I were to pick the one biggest reason, I’d say it is encapulated in this statement:’

“Some of the aging owners such as [Bud] Adams [of the Titans] and Jerry Richardson of the Panthers, who fired his general manager midseason, may be less patient than ever.”

I think a lot of these owners are getting older and they want to win one more before they go. I have, in fact, sensed a certain degree of urgency from the Bears dating back to the Julius Peppers signing, which at the time I considered to be uncharacteristic. I love Virginia McCaskey and I hope she lives a long, long time. But the family must ba acutely aware that she isn’t getting younger.

New NFL Products Hit the Shelves Just in Time for the Christmas Shopping Season And Other Points of View

Bears

“[Tribune columnist David] Haugh argued that Angelo was done in by the lousy performance of backup quarterback Caleb Hanie, who was 0-4 in Cutler’s absence before he was relieved by Josh McCown. He submits that someone had to pay for the failures of Hanie when the Bears stumbled to an 8-8 finish and Angelo was chosen to be that guy over Lovie Smith. It’s a compelling argument.

I believe Angelo’s demise was draft-related. Team president Ted Phillips said, when he announced the move, that there was a talent deficiency on the roster and the gap needed to be closed with division rivals Green Bay and Detroit.”

“That being said, Angelo’s fingerprints are all over this roster and many of the moves he made are still helping the team and will for seasons to come.”

This is all true but it neglects what I think was another major reason – perhaps the major reason – for Angelo’s departure. He was probably the worst general manager in the NFL when it came to administration. It all culminated in the personal embarrassment suffered by ownership over the failed trade with Baltimore in the 2011 NFL draft where Angelo stupidly told two people to do the same job and neither did it thinking the other one did.

There’s a reason why Bears president Philips is now unofficially taking on more of an hands on administrative role with the club. Bears ownership doesn’t want any more personal calls from fellow owners like the Raven’s Steve Biscotti asking them what they think they’re doing.

  • I was personally glad to read from Biggs that former center Olin Kreutz was at the last game. I always wondered if Kreutz might not make a good coach and I’m glad to see there isn’t an apparent rift with the organization that might prevent him from coming.
  • Dan Pompei at the Chicago Tribune notes in his film review that both Brandon Marshall and Earl Bennett blocked well down field. Every good fundamental football team I’ve ever seen had this underrated characteristic.

“Cutler and Brandon Marshall completely outdueled Matthew Stafford and [Lions wide receiver Calvin] Johnson. Marshall finished with six receptions for 81 yards and a 7-yard touchdown reception to cap the game’s opening drive. Cutler completed 16 of 31 passes for 150 yards and was sacked five times but did not turn the ball over.”

You could argue that the difference in this game was Bears cornerback Charles Tillman. He shadowed Johnson all over the field. On the other hand the Lions already poor secondary was depleted and they had no one to cover Marshall.

“Not only did the Bears have cornerback Charles Tillman shadow Johnson with Pro Bowl persistence, but Smith tweaked his nickel personnel by adding a package in which Kelvin Hayden replaced D.J. Moore.

The rationale: In certain offensive formations, the Lions lined up Johnson in the slot — a mismatch for Moore. Instead of having Moore play cornerback, where his smallish size invited mismatch opportunities, the Bears used the 6-foot, 195-pound Hayden on the perimeter against the Lions’ smaller receivers.

“‘The different packages made (Stafford) kind of confused, kind of rattled,’ cornerback Tim Jennings said. “We wanted to mix it up.'”

“Why couldn’t the Bears get some type of return of a low draft pick for Chris Williams considering the shortage of quality linemen to even be backups? If he was not valuable enough to bring a draft choice then there may be others out there who may be an option for the Bears? It needs to be one way or the other. — Ross Scanio, Wheaton

“It’s hard to find a trade partner for a backup offensive lineman who is under contract only through the end of the year. If Williams had another year on his deal, my bet is the Bears would have been able to trade him for a late round draft pick. There clearly was interest in him, judging by the fact that he visited multiple teams and signed with the Rams for more than the NFL minimum. If the Bears thought there was an offensive tackle available better than Williams or Jonathan Scott, who is the player who replaced Williams, they would have signed him.

“Dan, I recall reading that if the Bears let Chris Williams walk after the end of the season they would be rewarded a compensatory selection. Is that correct? Is it worth losing a draft pick by releasing Williams now? — Tim L, San Antonio, Texas

“It is possible that if the Bears retained Williams until the end of the season and then he signed with another team, the Bears would have been awarded a compensatory selection in the 2014 draft, not the 2013 draft. Compensatory selections are determined by a complicated formula that encompasses not only the player or players lost, but also the players the team signs who were unrestricted free agents. Best case scenario is the Bears would have received a 2014 sixth round pick for Williams. More likely is it would have been a seventh rounder, but they might not have been awarded anything if they sign some premium free agents. Given the chance for a compensatory pick and the fact that Williams can play four positions on the line, I thought it would have made more sense to release another player.”

“Has the ghost of Frank Omiyale somehow seeped into Gabe Carimi‘s body? This is two weeks in a row with multiple penalties and sub-par play. If it happens again against Carolina, he has to be replaced by Jonathan Scott, right? — Bob Van Horne, Waco, Texas

Carimi is not going to be replaced anytime soon. Nor should he be. Remember, he was a first-round draft pick that this coaching staff has invested in. He’s going to be on a much longer leash than, say, Chris Spencer was. He also is one of the most talented linemen on the team. But he is basically still a rookie. We should expect some inconsistencies while he learns and grows. He has shown some good things too. Carimi does have to pick it up though.”

Its worth adding that I don’t think Carimi’s knee is completely heeled. His problems aren’t of a recent nature. He hasn’t looked right all year. Basically, I think he’s being left alone at right tackle in part because the team knows they are developing him to be a healthy, experienced lineman with experience next year.


Panthers

“One pro scouting director said from a coverage perspective, opponents have focused on taking away receiver Steve Smith, who has yet to score a touchdown. They are pressing Smith at the line, rolling coverage toward him and forcing Newton to go through his progressions.

“This is a defensive advantage in two ways. Other than tight end Greg Olsen, the Panthers don’t have any receiving options about whom defenses are very concerned. And Newton has not developed the patience and vision to find alternative targets consistently when Smith is covered.”

“Defensive fronts have adjusted to Newton’s sometimes spectacular running ability too.

“Scouts say defensive coordinators are having linemen two-gapping more and they are not trying to get upfield as much. They also are sometimes assigning a linebacker to “spy” Newton.

“Defensive coordinators aren’t trying to force him into making a mistake as much as they are encouraging him to run into the teeth of a disciplined, well populated and prepared front.”

Just one quick note on this. There’s been a lot of talk about who Cam Newton should be compared to lately because former NFL quarterback Warren Moon thinks Newton is too often being compared to black quarterbacks. Too bad because I’m going to do it anyway.

Last year when the Bears played the Panthers it wasn’t Newton’s mobility and athleticism that surprised me. It was his size and strength. Defensive linemen were hitting him in the pocket and literally bouncing off. The last guy I got to see play on a regular basis who could do that was Dante Culpepper. He was built like a linebacker and extremely tough to bring down. Here’s hoping the Bears do a better job on Newton this time around.

“Last year in the Bears’ wild 34-29 victory, that plan included having Jennings, while often not in strictly man-to-man coverage, lining up frequently over Smith. While not exactly divulging what he and defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli have in the works for Sunday, Smith did say, ‘It should be a lot of fun watching them.'”

“‘We kind of mix up a whole lot of coverages,’ Jennings said. ‘It’s not so matching one-on-ones or anything like that. It’s we want to give him different looks.

“’You’ve got to be able to compete with him, just kind of slow him down at the line of scrimmage and disrupt the timing between him and the quarterback.'”

Its fairly obvious to me, especially in light of the comments from Pompei’s article above this one, that the Bears are going to concentrate hard on Smith this time around. As well they should. This is what I said last year immediately after the game and I still think I was right:

“For some reason I don’t understand the Bears were giving Steve Smith no apparent extra attention. Its fairly obvious that Cam Newton depends heavily on him. I had flash backs to Wes Welker last year.”

I’d better not have that “Welker feeling” again or its going to have been a long afternoon for the Bears.

In any case it will, indeed, be a lot of fun to watch.

“‘It’s such a tough deal, but I also believe God doesn’t give anybody more than they can handle,’ Smith said. ‘What makes a person isn’t necessarily what he’s made of or what he goes through. It’s also the people around him.

“‘As teammates, what we try to do is help him in whatever shape or form. I can’t imagine going through some of the things that he’s going through and then going through them alone.'”

Elsewhere

  • The Dolphins and the Jets renew their annual soap opera this week. Benjamin Hoffman at The New York Times puts it in perspective:

“The Dolphins and the Jets have engaged in one of those adorable rivalries where they fight like school children, unaware that their squabbles are seen as largely irrelevant by others around them.”


  • Sneaky. Also from ProFootballMock.com.

One Final Thought

Fred Mitchell at the Chicago Tribune writes about the sense of humor of offensive coordinator Mike Tice. But the quote that stands out is the one about this week’s game:

“‘We need to be 6-1. Have you looked at our schedule coming up? We need to be 6-1 and we need to take care of our business.’

“No joke.”

The Bears Show that Good Defense Is Not that Complicated and Other Points of View

Bears

  • I laughed out loud when I read Sean Jensen ‘s interpretation of this comment from Brian Urlacher for the Chicago Sun-Times:

“It’s getting cold outside and it’s been a long time since the Bears played a game, but the most discussed knee in Halas Hall should be just fine come Monday night against the Detroit Lions.

“‘It’s the same either way,’ said linebacker Brian Urlacher, who continues to work his way back ­after spraining the medial collateral and posterior cruciate ­ligaments in his left knee in the regular-season finale last year.”

  • Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times quotes Rod Marinelli on safeties Chris Conte and Major Wright:

“The biggest thing is that they tackle. And they tackle in space. Not tackle in a box. You have to tackle in space. And that takes great athleticism. You eliminate a lot of big plays by tackling in space. We’re very, very fortunate to have players of that caliber.”

“A primary focus for Webb this season has been improving his footwork, specifically his second step with his outside left foot. He had a tendency a year ago to step in the bucket and that created a more direct path to quarterback Jay Cutler. That led to hits, hurries, sacks and times when Webb simply had to lunge and grab. It’s something offensive line coach Tim Holt consistently is drilling into Webb.

“‘You get yourself in trouble when you turn at the line of scrimmage and give that defensive end a short corner to get to your guy,’ Webb said. ‘It’s a conscious effort when you’re tired, a conscious effort all the time.'”

“With all the talk about Henry Melton getting a contract extension, why is there no talk about one for the best player on the other side of the line, Lance Louis? Louis has been the most dependable, consistent offensive lineman this season by far and should be a cornerstone for the future. Agree? — Danny Jones, Iowa City, Iowa

“Good point Danny. Just because we have not heard any talk about extending Louis’ contract does not mean there hasn’t been any talk behind closed doors. And even if the Bears have not spoken with Louis’ agents about an extension, that does not mean they won’t prioritize re-signing him before he hits the open market. The thing about Louis is he is a developing, emerging player. So it might make sense for all parties to wait until after the season to best gauge his value to the team. But he clearly is not a player the Bears should allow to leave. They can’t afford to let a good offensive lineman walk after spending four years developing him.”

  • Bears running back Matt Forte makes a good point via Jensen:

“‘As you see in the last game when they played the Eagles, [the Lions] got constant penetration, and that kills the run game,’ Forte said. ‘So up front, we’re going to have to try to stop that. They do a lot of different run blitzes, so we’re going to have to do play-actions to try to calm that down.

“‘But it really just starts up front with not allowing penetration.'”

“Is there any chance the Bears will look at Minnesota to find ways to utilize Devin Hester the way the Vikings are using Percy Harvin or take some plays from Green Bay and their utilization of Randall Cobb? They all seem to have the same skill set but the Vikings and Green Bay seemed to have figured out how to use their dynamic players, and if they haven’t considered it can you please suggest they do so. Devin Hester taking direct snaps out of the backfield would be awesome. — Isaac Sykes, Woodbridge, Va.

“I’m sure the Bears have studied how the Vikings use Harvin and how the Packers use Cobb. These are three different players though. Harvin is much stronger and more difficult to tackle than Hester. Cobb has a better feel for the game than Hester. And Hester may be the fastest of the group. So you really can’t use Hester quite the way the Vikings use Harvin or the way the Packers use Cobb.”

  • I’m not entirely where this comment from Benjamin Hoffman‘s preview of the Bears-Lions matchup for The New York Times comes from but I thought it was worth noting.

“Chemistry is supposed to be vitally important in football. The Bears seem to prove that false each week. The team’s offense and defense appear to hate each other and yet the Bears keep winning.”

Lions

“… If he is going up in the air and leaving the ground to make a catch, he’s going to have to pay for it. Guys have to rally to the ball and it’s not just one guy hitting him. … Put something on his mind that can distract him from catching the ball. Anything.”

“The splits of the wide receivers are a top priority when you break the huddle as a defensive back. Here, both Johnson (Z) and Nate Burleson (X) are aligning inside of the numbers with the ball at (or near) midfield. Studying the Lions offense, this should be an automatic alert to play for a vertical shot down the field.”


“‘Once the ball’s put down and it’s whistled ready for play, man, it’s another game, it’s a different game,’ Stafford said, downplaying any hatred between the teams. ‘The beauty of the NFL is every week is different, and you have to approach it that way.'”

Fortunately for the Bears the Lions never have. With a head coach like Jim Schwartz fueling the flames with fist pumps and emotional sideline demonstrations after wins like the one last week, the likelihood of a let down becomes considerably higher.

  • An already miserable Lions defensive backfield promises to be worse than usual as the Lions are down to three healthy corners for Monday Night’s matchup. Via Darin Gantt at profootballtalk.com.

Elsewhere

  • An interesting point to look for today as the Jets play the Patriots. The Jets are concerned that officials are allowing the Patriots to substitute in their no huddle offense without allowing the defense time to do the same. By rule this is illegal. Via Mike Florio at profootballtalk.com
  • We have a good Audible from Pro Football Weekly:

Mike Nolan was known for running the 3-4 defense in Baltimore and before he was in Baltimore, he ran the over/under 4-3. He didn’t have that stout nose or the personnel to make it work in Atlanta so he switched to the wide “40” and lined (DEs Kroy) Biermann and (John) Abraham (and Ray Edwards) outside in a wide-seven (technique). If you look at their (defensive) tackles — (Jonathan) Babineaux, (Peria) Jerry and (Vance) Walker — none of them can play the nose. That is great coaching.”

  • I really don’t give a hoot about the Saints bounty scandal. But some people still do so… from Pompei, this time writing for the National Football Post:

“Everybody wins with the appointment of Paul Tagliabue to hear the appeals of the four players in the Saints’ bounty scandal. The Saints win because Tagliabue is not just an extension of Roger Goodell. And Goodell wins because he washes his hands of the mess while providing a credible arbiter.”

“There’s 4 total passengers on my flight n I just farted. That’s a quick game of ‘Who-Dunnit’, lets see if they catch me

“— Jared Odrick (@JaredOdrick98) October 19, 2012”

One Final Thought

And finally, we have one more revealing quote from Pro Football Weekly‘s Audibles section:

“There is a reason the Bears’ defense is as opportunistic as it is — when they snap the ball, count how many guys are looking at the ball. All 11 of them are keyed on it and ready to pounce. The linebackers are always zeroed in on it. They do a great job of pursuing. They don’t overcomplicate it.”

Gabe Carimi Is Not Quite Back Up to Snuff and Other Points of View

Bears

  • Sean Jensen at the Chicago Sun-Times quotes a scout on offensive tackle Gabe Carimi for the Bears Extra section:

“He just doesn’t look strong enough. Maybe part of that is the injury. He plays like he’s a 34-year-old.”

I would agree that Carimi hasn’t looked right and he’s been struggling. I don’t think its his strength so much as his quickness. He looks to me like he’s having a hard time keeping up with speed rushes to the outside. Like the scout, I suspect that the knee injury from last year hasn’t fully healed.

“Asked why quarterbacks no longer call their own plays, Tice said, ‘Because they don’t sit in meetings on Monday and Tuesday night and put the game plan in.’ But without hesitating, he added, ‘We did have some no-huddle [against Jacksonville] where we gave Jay some really, really good chances to do ‘either/or,’ and I thought he did a great job with the no-huddle. It was the most extensive that we had. It was another drive that stalled when we had something going, but we’re going to do more of that. We like him managing the no-huddle.’”

Using the no huddle does, of course, make sense. But other than that, expecting modern quarterbacks in the heat of battle to call plays with longer term planning and goals in mind is too much to ask. Most Bear fans will remember that former Bears offensive coordinator John Shoop couldn’t even do it just while standing on the side lines.

  • Potash does make a good point that the way the play calling is handled now leads to delays.

“The complicated nature of play-calling in the NFL that prevents Cutler from calling his own plays also causes its own problems. Offensive coordinator Mike Tice, a first-year play-caller, relays his call to quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates, who gives the play to Cutler. If it gets there too late, it’s a problem. How many times have we seen an irritated Cutler walking back to the sideline after calling timeout because the play clock was running down?”

Passing plays through the quarterback coach made sense when Mike Martz was the coordinator because he spent his time in the booth. But with Tice on the sidelines, this makes less sense. My suggestion for cutting out the middle man would be cutting out Bates.

  • Potash can’t let go of the idea that Shea McClellin belongs at linebacker.
  • Dan Pompei at the Chicago Tribune suggests adjustments for the season after the bye. Here are a couple that I was in particular agreement with:

“I would not suggest that Brandon Marshall has been thrown to too frequently, because throwing to him has almost always been a good thing.

“But other Bears — [Devin] Hester, Earl Bennett and Matt Forte especially — are going to have to do more than they have as receivers at various points of the season.”

Good teams (like the Packers) are going to find ways to take Marshall away. That’s when the other guys have to get open against single coverage.

“Up until last week, the Bears relied heavily on Cover-2. They broke out a little bit against the Jaguars in an attempt to get eight men in the box.

“For their defense to be all it can be, it will have to be able to play more than Cover-2. It will have to be able to keep offenses off balance by blitzing, mixing in man-to-man, single high, quarters and man free.

“Whether the Bears can be more diverse will depend on how cornerbacks Charles Tillman, Tim Jennings and D.J. Moore and safeties Major Wright and Chris Conte hold up when given assignments that may be a bit out of their comfort zone.”

This is critical. Every team in the league knows the cover two beaters. Bear fans have seen them so often we dream them in our sleep. It works well against bad teams (or good teams playing badly) because they fail to execute. Against a good team on its game, though, its not going to fly. Not only do the Bears need to diversify their coverages in those situations but they have to do a good job of disguising them as well.

Lions

“The Lions, over their last 16 games (not counting pre-season, or exhibition, as it used to be called) are a 6-10 team. Is that an accurate predictor of this season? Can it be worse or will they get better?–Stephen, Windsor, Ontario

“I really expected them to be better, honestly. They have a great young quarterback and maybe the best receiver in football. Their defense should be awesome, certainly not 26th in points allowed. Certainly I didn’t see the rise of the Vikings, either, so that explains one loss – but to lose to the Titans, who are struggling, too?

“It’s not going to get any easier with the Eagles this week in Philadelphia and then the Bears in Chicago. And they still have both games against the Packers, who will be equally desperate, Houston and Atlanta. Unless the defense starts producing some turnovers – they have zero interceptions – I don’t see how things improve much against a very tough schedule.”

  • Of course the Lions beat the Eagles so that’s step one. Watching that game last weekend was a slow form of torture, especially in the first half. You would be hard pressed to find two sloppier teams. The Eagles were constantly bitten by negative plays and turnovers. The Lions consistently failed to take advantage as they were constantly killing themselves with penalties and undisciplined play. Both teams are an incredible waste of talent.
  • The lack of discipline on the part of the Lions was particularly evident along the defensive line. They got a lot of pressure on Michael Vick and they look like they are every bit as good as they were last year if not better. But they were rushing the passer like a blind dog in a meat house with many personal fouls and offsides penalties.
  • Having said that, beware the Lions in the fourth quarter. They woke up and starting moving the ball literally right when the quarter began as if they were just edging up to the starting line before that. Quarterback Matthew Stafford, who was inconsistent despite being under very little pressure all afternoon, suddenly woke up and started finding wide receiver Calvin Johnson underneath. The next week against the Bears could be very interesting, particularly if the Lions somehow manage to clean up their act for such an important divisional game.
  • Pompei, this time writing for The National Football Post writes about the “Wide 9” defensive philosophy where the defensive ends in a 4-3 sceme line up far to the outside. The Lions play it and the Vikings dabble in it.

“There are two primary benefits to the Wide 9. One is it makes it difficult for offenses to run outside. But the real reason teams use it is it gives the defensive ends excellent angles to get to the quarterback.

“‘It puts the fear of God into the offensive tackles if you have guys like Jason Babin, Jared Allen, Tamba Hali, Cliff Avril, Kyle Vanden Bosch, Lawrence Jackson and Willie Young,” [Lions defensive coordinator Gunther] Cunningham told me. ‘All these guys were some of the top speed guys coming into the draft and when you align wide, the OTs have to double kick on pass protection to block the edge. The double kick went out a few years back and now everyone is straight line dropping in the pass, meaning the OTs are holding space to stop the three technique, so the DEs that are wide have a straight line to the 7 ½ yard spot for the QB’s five step drop.'”

“The knock on the Wide 9 is it can leave a defense vulnerable to the inside run. In order for the Wide 9 to work, a defense needs a solid Mike linebacker and a good strong safety, because those two players often are going to be responsible for the B, C and D gaps. That’s why the Lions went after Stephen Tulloch last year, and why the Eagles traded for DeMeco Ryans this year.”

Elsewhere

“Can the officiating and broadcast crews keep up with Patriots when they play their accelerated no-huddle offense? If defenses are instructed to obstruct offense players after the whistle, will the refs call penalties?–Rufus T. Woodrow, New England

A.
I’m sure the broadcast crews were struggling – there’s certainly no time to show replays – because I was struggling. I would look down to jot down a note about the previous play and I’d miss the next one. I can only imagine what the defenses must feel like. Good question about the defenses obstructing players to slow things down – I would guess the officials will keep a close eye on that. That’s not supposed to happen, but it certainly does. Also wonder, as the no-huddle spreads around the league, if you’ll see players faking injuries to stop the clock.”

“How would you list the N.F.L.’s top ten coaches?–Frankly32

“Do I really have to? This is a minefield. This is in no particular order, but here are a few: [Tom] Coughlin, [Bill] Belichick, both Harbaughs [John and Jim], [Mike] Tomlin, Sean Payton, Jeff Fisher, [Andy] Reid, Mike McCarthy, and then some mix of [Mike] Shanahan/Mike Smith/Gary Kubiak – Shanahan has had great success but that was a while ago and he hasn’t had a quarterback until now to be in the same league with Elway, and I want to see Atlanta and Houston make deep playoff runs before elevating Smith and/or Kubiak despite their recent regular-season success.”

I like Batista and she’s one of the reasons I read the Times. And she does say she doesn’t want to do it. But suggesting “some mix of Shanahan/Mike Smith/Gary Kubiak” over Lovie Smith?

One Final Thought

I realize that this is only high school football but it really is amazing.

It Appears that Bears-Cowboys Will Be “Who Can Run on Who” and Other Points of View

Bears

“‘As a receiver, you better want it,’ Drake said Saturday. ‘If you don’t want the ball, I don’t want you. If you don’t want the football, what good are you … what kind of competitor are you?'”

Having said that, I’d say maybe Hester will get the ball more when he gets open. And maybe he should catch the ball when he does get open:

“Hester was targeted in the end zone during last Sunday’s 23-6 victory over the Rams, but Hester and Cutler failed to connect.

“‘I thought it was a tough catch but one he has to make,’ Drake said.”

I agree. Thinking about all that “Who are they going to cover” and “pick you poison” talk from the wide receivers during training camp makes me sick. Like Cutler did before the Green Bay game, there are guy son this offense that seem to talk a lot but they don’t seem to be much good at backing it up. I thought that stuff about the great unit they were going to have was all just wind then and nothing that has happened since has changed my mind. Earl Bennett is always solid but other than Brandon Marshall, who is being double covered like a blanket, I don’t think there’s a single playmaker on the whole unit.

“‘Definitely, [Cowboys running back Demarco Murray is] a No. 1 running back,’ defensive end Corey Wootton said. ‘Every game we go into, especially with this team and DeMarco Murray, the way their line blocks, we definitely have to stop the run and force them to pass.'”

  • Matt Bowen at the Chicago Tribune seems to imply that the Cowboys will try to run the ball, then use play acton with max protect (as illustrated). If the Bears manage to stay in a cover two against that, (as he implies), they’ll be OK on defense.

Dallas

“I know Murray is fighting hard for his yards, but I’m worried that he’s getting hurt every play. He’s very slow to get up after almost every carry. Is he sandbagging (Ricky Williams used to take his time getting up as well) or do you think he’s actually getting his bell rung every play?

“Gosselin: Murray is a violent runner, much like his predecessor at Oklahoma Adrian Peterson. They seek out contact and try to deliver the blow rather than absorb it. That style is what makes Murray so effective — his physicality in the ground game. He’s not going to change his style…and you’re going to continue to hold your breath. It took forever for Jim Brown to get up after he was tackled. Yet he never missed any time and was as great a runner as this league has ever seen. Like Murray, he’ll expend his energy with the ball in his arm — not the walk back to the huddle.”

  • Jonathan Bales, also at the Dalas Morning News, does an extensive breakdown of what he sees as a big matchup this Monday – Brandon Carr Vs. Brandon Marshall:

“In Week 9 of the 2011 season, then-Dolphins receiver Brandon Marshall torched the Chiefs for eight receptions, 106 yards, and a touchdown. I re-watched every snap to see if Marshall was able to get the best of current Cowboys cornerback Brandon Carr. For the most part, Miami did an excellent job of keeping Marshall away from Carr, especially in passing situations. Of the Dolphins’ 47 offensive snaps, Marshall faced Carr on only 14 of them, almost always on first down.”

“Earlier this week, I showed you how Carr shut down Bucs receiver Vincent Jackson. Jackson ended up with just one reception, and none with Carr on him. This week, Marshall represents a tougher challenge for Carr. While the cornerback excels in press coverage, Marshall is so big and strong that sometimes it doesn’t even matter if you get your hands on him.”

The Cowboys have rookie first round draft pick Morris Claiborne on the other side.

“Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo has spent the past two games being used as a piñata by opposing defensive linemen and watching his favorite receiver, tight end Jason Witten, let a season’s worth of passes slip through his fingers.”

“Despite Romo’s 89.3 passer rating and 64.8 completion rate, the offense regularly plays from behind the chains because of 12 false-start penalties in three games.”

When you have Julius Peppers on the other side you get a lot of solo dance sets. Idonije has taken full advantage of that dropping 2.5 sacks on the Rams [Sam] Bradford last week. 6’6″ 275lbs with a huge wingspan the man has a bull rush and not a bad speed rush. He is good with his hands and has a good motor. Free has not recovered his old RT form at this point. One can make an argument that Free will improve as the guard play next to him gets better and this is true to a point. However he is having issues when 1 on 1 during passing downs and seems to be fighting some confidence issues. This is a solid test for him. It will be interesting to see if Dallas decides to put help on his side and leave Peppers 1 on 1 vs Tyron Smith. Think positive thoughts people. We need some good vibes here and so far this year, Free has struggled.”

Leaving Peppers one-on-one one with anyone is a major mistake. Free’s going to have to do the job for the Cowboys or there will be serious issues for them, mobile quarterback or not.

“The question Chicago is asking itself this week, do we cover Witten with a LB? PLEASE disrespect him this way. I want you to, no I double-dog-dare you to do this. Witten had a busted spleen people. He will be the Witten of old soon. Chicago needs to guess which week. Murray gets going in the running game that will free Witten up and this game is over.”

I’d be surprised if Vila doesn’t get his wish. They might get a little safety help but I’ll bet you its going to be mostly on the linebackers. I honestly can’t wait to see what happens.

Elsewhere

  • Josh Alper at profootballtalk.com says that Jets coach Rex Ryan was asked after their embarrassing 34-0 loss to the 49ers if he’d be making a change at quarterback:

“‘I don’t think that’s the answer. I think [Mark Sanchez is] the answer at quarterback,” Ryan said in comments from his postgame press conference distributed by the Jets. ‘I think Mark is the answer. Again, time will tell.'”

“We’ll save you the trouble. If Sanchez is the answer, what question could Ryan possibly be asking?”


One Final Thought

Why do I not find this to be funny? Oh, yeah. Its because I’m sober (currently). And responsible (relatively). Also from The Sports Pickle.

The Qualities of Leadership and Other Points of View

Bears

  • Despite the absence of running back Matt Forte I think you should expect the Bears to get off the bus running this week. The Rams apparently would agree. Jim Thomas at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch quotes linebacker James Laurinaitis:

“‘We have a lot of respect for their ability to run it,’ Laurinaitis said. ‘They’re going to come out running the ball. It’s fun to get back to kind of a normal offense this week. This first week (Detroit) it was a lot of spread-out throwing, and then last week (Washington) a lot of college stuff mixed in.'”

  • Here’s a surprise from Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune :

“Typically, teams that are rooted in the Cover-2 scheme like
the Bears do not invest heavily in cornerbacks, choosing to pour money
into the front seven. But one source said the Bears were involved with
Cortland Finnegan until talks went above $9 million per season.”

I’ve claimed for a while that the Bears need corners who can play at least adequate man coverage. Apparently they agree.

“(Bears rookie DE Shea) McClellin is a high-(sic) effort guy. He has short arms and lacks explosiveness. There is a ceiling for guys like that. He is going to be like the kid in Washington last year (Ryan Kerrigan). He’ll start off playing hot, and as the year goes by, he’ll wear down and go quiet. That’s what happened to Kerrigan last year. All of a sudden his body is not fresh and all that hustle does not get as much. (McClellin) does not have enough in his body. Hustle guys wear down.”

“‘We talked about putting players in position to make plays,’ said Tice, the Bears’ first-year offensive coordinator. ‘We’ve got to do a better job of that, and we will. At the same time, it’s very important that you win the individual battles, and we didn’t win enough of those.'”

Translation: “Now that the [feces] has hit the fan, after a summer of talking about how it was all going to be OK because I was going to compensate for it with my scheme, I finally have come to the realization that we actually need talent to work with on the offensive line. My apologies to Mike Martz.”

“Everybody says great things about Mike Tice and his great coaching of the offensive line. Since he was hired three seasons ago our offensive line has been anything but great. It seems to me he’s not all that. What gives? Gary M., North Highlands, Calif.

“Trust me when I tell you Tice is an outstanding offensive line tutor. He gets the best out of his blockers. Sometimes, the best he gets out of them isn’t good enough.”

“The Bears aren’t waiting for the light to come on and stay on with [left tackle J’Marcus] Webb. Offensive coordinator Mike Tice made that clear when he was asked if his confidence in Webb has waned.

“‘We have seven players who suit up every week and those seven players all get reps with the ones,” Tice said. “And we’re going to try to make sure and make the proper decision of the five guys we’re going to put in there who can protect our quarterback and help us run the ball.’

“Translated, newcomer Jonathan Scott has been getting some work at left tackle with the starters. He was signed Sept. 10 and missed nearly all of training camp with the Lions because of a knee injury. It’s not an ideal situation, but when is it on the Bears’ line?”

“Offensive line coach Tim Holt dissected the tape from the meltdown in Green Bay and came to one simple conclusion about why Webb’s play declined from Week 1.

“‘He just has to use his hands better,’ Holt said. ‘He let (Matthews) get into him a little bit. If he gets his hands on people, he wins.'”

I think the problem goes well beyond that by now. Webb knows to use his hands and I’m sure he’s been coached heavily to do so. That fact that he isn’t doing it indicates that the problem is mental. The physical tools are there and he’s intelligent I’m sure. But He obviously doesn’t have the concentration to play consistently against good opponents for a full three hours ball game.

The Bears have to find another answer. It might not be this year but they’re going to have to do it if they want to comete at the top of the NFL. Becasue Webb’s not going to cut it.

  “But [Webb’s] presence underlines a major problem for the Bears: When you
struggle with pass protection, it is difficult to rally from a deficit. The Bears
need to score early and often and play from a lead. [Bears quarterback Jay] Cutler is too careless with
the ball and the guys in front of him too shaky to pull off many comebacks.

“The Bears under coach Lovie Smith always have been front-runners, often
because they struggled at quarterback. Smith has a 51-10 record when
leading at halftime and a 13-42 mark when trailing. Since gunslinger Cutler’s
arrival they’re 19-4 and 5-18. Sounds like bad news for the Rams.”

“I am wondering if the answer to the Bears offensive line problem is to just ignore max protection and maybe do just the opposite. If they were in a max-attack-type offense I think Cutler would be able to find the open receiver and/or communicate with Brandon Marshall/Earl Bennett for hot reads. It seems too often when they only had two receivers in patterns Cutler was waiting too long for them to get open. Some of Cutler’s best games were when he has had options to throw to, he can slide or even jump up to get the ball out to the open man. What do you think? Grant M.

“I think what you suggest can be a part of the Bears offense, and it has been to a degree. But the Bears would not be able to make a living playing empty backfield with four or five wide receivers running routes. Part of the beauty of the Bears’ personnel and schemes is the offense is somewhat unpredictable. To beat a good defensive coordinator like Dom Capers, you need to be able to do a number of things well, and do them at times when he isn’t expecting you to do them. Playing the type of personnel groups and formations you suggest would make them highly predictable. It also would be a high risk approach. It would probably result in more big plays, but also more interceptions and more sacks.”

  • Sean Jensen at the Chicago Sun-Times is saying that the Rams have a “suspect offensive line”. But I watched them last week and they looked OK to me. Admittedly they were at home but still, Soldier Field isn’t like the Super Dome in New Orleans.
  • Much of this disapproval of Jay Cutler from the media is new. But not from Pompei as he’s been pretty critical from the beginning. He contiunes that here:

“I must be the minority here, but I didn’t mind at all that Jay Cutler bumped J’Marcus Webb on the sidelines. I want my team leader to be fired up and get in guy’s faces. What bothered me about Cutler is how he crumbled after that, throwing up prayers and seemingly not able to adjust to the Packers defense. This seems to be a bigger indictment of lack of leadership, would you agree? Rik, Chicago

“True leadership isn’t about what you say. It’s about what you do. Show me a quarterback who gets the ball in the end zone, overcomes big odds and steps up in the clutch and I’ll show you a leader.”

True enough. But I think if you want to be a really good leader, it goes beyond that. Many people defend Cutler’s actions by saying something to the effect of “Sometimes you have to kick a few butts to get things done.” But is that what the Bears needed as a team at that point?

I would contend that a true team leader would have seen a struggling offense and, instead of yelling “Do better!” would have gotten everyone together, settled them down and guided them by telling them what to do. Instead, Cutler showed his frustration and made things worse. Instead of acting the part of a calming influence, a leader who had things under control and had confidence that the team would come back and do better, Cutler showed his lack of confidence in his teammates and cranked up fears of failure even higher.

Most of the time “leadership” requires the ability to step outside of yourself and give the group what they need to succeed rather than selfishly thinking of your own. Cutler will never be a true leader, no matter how well he performs on the field, because he’ll always lack the ability to do that. He’s far too self-centered.

  • What is constantly a shock to me no matter how often I see it, is how savagely Cutler is attacked whenever possible, not by fans and media, but by his peers and ex-peers. In his article on how to motivate people and whether being tough is always the way to go about it, I think Phil Rosenthal at the Chicago Tribune provides an answer to the question by quoting Bob Sutton, a Stanford University professor and author of “The No (A-word) Rule” and “Good Boss, Bad Boss.”:

“‘If you (act like a jerk) you’ve got to be really competent,’ Sutton said. ‘If you consistently leave people feeling demeaned and de-energized, that’s the point where enemies are lying in wait.'”

Or, as Steve Rosenbloom at the Chicago Tribune succinctly put it as he compared Cutler to Douglas Neidermeyer in the movie Animal House:

“Neidermeyer’s epilog in the movie was ‘killed by his own troops in Vietnam.'”


Video from the Chicago Tribune.

“Cutler’s defenders will point out, accurately, that he has not benefited from
system stability, Pro Bowl wide receivers and consistent pass protection —
especially consistent pass protection.

“But he isn’t the only quarterback who needs to spend some time in the
whirlpool on Mondays.

“Since 2009, [Green Bay quarterback Aaron] Rodgers has been sacked six times more than Cutler in
regular-season games. Ben Roethlisberger has been sacked 11 more, and his
rate of one sack per 12.2 dropbacks is higher than Cutler’s rate of 12.4.

“That has not prevented Roethlisberger from making it to a Pro Bowl and a
Super Bowl in that time span.”

  • Sometimes I think its a shame that even after acquiring Jay Cutler, the Bears’ quarterback situation is still a national joke. But… might as well role with it. From Sports Views:


Elsewhere

  • There is apparently some concern about the performance of quarterback Matthew Stafford in Detroit so far this season. From Justin Rogers at mlive.com:

“Through two games, Stafford has thrown twice as many interceptions, four, as touchdowns, and there has been a general lack of accuracy on many of his throws, including some of his completions.”

“The whole idea is to get the defense moving laterally so the offensive linemen can throw cut blocks that drop big defensive linemen on their faces. Think Gilbert Brown in Super Bowl XXXII.”

“‘You have to be smart,’ [defensive line coach Mike] Trgovac said. ‘I faced this scheme several years in a row in Atlanta when I was at Carolina. They just look for that one guy to cut, that one weak link.

“‘That’s what we worked real hard on, make sure everybody stays in their gap. The more you fly off the ball the easier it is for them to cut you.'”

“One front office man said his team is fine with 5-10 corners as long as the player has long arms. Having long arms enable a cornerback to play taller than he is. ‘They can reach for balls downfield, reach for balls coming back and compete better for contested balls,’ [Seahawks general manager John] Schneider said.

“Long arms help a corner in press coverage too. It’s difficult for a short-armed corner to get a good jam and then turn and run because he has to get too close to the receiver.”

“If the Jets are trying to dispel the notion of a circus, they have a funny way of going about it.”

“That said, Sunday’s biggest headline from Foxboro was the ankle injury to Aaron Hernandez. The third-year tight end is out at least six weeks.”

“Take a look at this statistic from ESPN: “The Patriots used two tight ends on just 20 of 77 offensive plays (Sunday), averaging 3.0 yards per play with two tight ends on the field. The Patriots used two or more tight ends on all 66 plays in Week 1 against the Titans, averaging 5.9 yards per play. Since the start of the 2011 season, the Patriots lead the N.F.L. with 80.1 percent of their offensive plays (926 of 1149) involving at least two tight ends.”

“The Patriots can find a way to win without Hernandez, but it will require rewriting most of their playbook.”

Kellen Winslow can give the Patriots some of the things Aaron Hernandez gives them, but not all of the things. Front office men who have evaluated Winslow recently say he has lost some speed and can’t get downfield the way he used to, or the way Hernandez can. But Winslow still has the ability to separate in a short area, as Hernandez does. If his knee holds up, Winslow can give Bill Belichick another chess piece.”

“If any OL coach says he needs more contact to coach better, I call b.s. Offensive linemen can go out in shorts. It all starts with mental prep — knowing who to block — and technique and footwork. It’s so funny though — you get three OL coaches and you can hear three different reasons for why their line is struggling, and usually, only one of them is right.”

“Indy’s final drive [last week] provided a perfect snapshot for where their rookie quarterback [Andrew Luck] is.”

“What was most revealing on the drive was when [Adam] Vinatieri trotted on the field. There were still 12 seconds left. And his field-goal attempt was a 53-yarder. If it had been, say, Peyton Manning under center – or any star veteran quarterback – the Colts almost certainly would have ran one, maybe two more plays near the sidelines in hopes of getting Vinatieri a few yards closer. But with no timeouts left, Coach Chuck Pagano decided not to push his Luck. That’s fine, it worked out. But let’s all realize that the Colts seem to believe their young quarterback still has a long way to go.”

“Colts’ ‘Suck For Luck’ Strategy Enters Second Season”

  • As someone who doesn’t usually get as upset as he used to when the Bears lose, my first thought as I laughed at this video was “Who does this guy think he’s screaming at.” Then I looked at the number of hits and I realized that its about 20,000 people. Someone must like it.


Stephen A. Smith Thinking Son Is Finally Ready For The Sex Argument”

  • In light of the Buccaneers decision to maul the Giants as they were trying to run out the clock with a kneel down, The Sports Pickle gives us the NFL’s 25 most unwritten rules. This one was one of my favorites:

“5. Take as much HGH as you possibly can before the NFL starts testing for it.”

One Final Thought

I thought this point from the Friday Buzz feature at The National Football Post was interesting:

“If Jon Gruden comes back to the NFL as many suspect, there might not be a long line of established personnel men wanting to work with him. Gruden frustrated people he worked with. He sometimes would set up workouts with players without consulting the front office and operated independently. His negativity also wore on co-workers.”

I always thought Jon Gruden was one of the best head coaches the NFL has seen in recent years. This comment explains a lot about why he’s no longer coaching. One of the worst faults you can have as the leader of a large organization of people is failure to communicate. You leave people in the dark in terms of what’s going on and they resent it. Even when it’s things you don’t think everyone needs to know, leave co-workers in the dark and they begin to wonder what else of a more important nature you didn’t tell them.

Gruden undoubtedly was a control freak who was used to getting his own way as a head coach. He was king of his domain. But when he was put in a situation where input from a large group of front office people was required, he failed to make the proper adjustments. Even for a coach as talented as Gruden, that’s death.

 

A Dash of Optimism and Other Points of View

Bears

Its a funny world. I spent most of the offseason trying to talk the Bears down while the rest of Bears fandom was sky high over thier prospects this season. Now that they lost in embarrassing fashion in front of a national audience against the first quality opponent they played, thier biggest rival no less, I find myself with this deep-seated optimistic feeling. It’s absolutely sick but there it is.

So now that everyone has settled down, the first thing I’m going to do today is talk some people off the ledge by giving you three positive points from Thursday’s game.

  1. Our first ray of sunshine, as noted by Dan Pompei at the Chicago Tribune in his film review, was the play of the cornerbacks which I thought was outstanding.
  2. Our next point may not seem to be so positive but “Bear” with me as Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune quotes quarterback Jay Cutler on what the Packers did to beat the Bear offense:

“‘They played two-man 90 percent of the game, so we have to get other guys involved and get them out of it,’ Cutler said. ‘We never challenged them in that and they never had to get out of it, so it was an easy game for them.’

“What is the solution?”

You run the ball, that’s what you do. And it surely does seem to me like the Bears are very capable of that after two games. Both Matt Forte and Michael Bush gained good yardage Thursday night. And even without Forte, Bush looks very capable of carrying on to me. He’s much more nimble with better vision than I thought he was going to have going into the season.

Having said that, if you are going to base your offense on the run you have to play mistake free football. The Bears didn’t do that. Penalties, critical drops, turnovers. You can’t have that if you are going to work your way down the field on the ground. That’s where the Bears need to show improvement next week. And I’m confident they will.

  1. My last point is this one highlighted by Biggs:
  2. “Rush hour: Bears players will review game film Saturday at Halas Hall, and the defense should grade out fairly well, particularly the line that generated five sacks of Aaron Rodgers. First-round draft pick Shea McClellin had 1 1/2.”

    Getting a good four man rush is far and away the most important aspect of the Bears defensive scheme. Regular readers of this blog will know that I have had serious doubts about their ability to generate pressure outside of Julius Peppers. I’d like to see it in a few more games and against better offensive lines but I think we should all be feeling better about it now.

    I know everyone is depressed about the performance of the offense but long term, this really is an encouraging sign for the future this season. Indeed, I would argue that its probably more important than every single other isolated problem that you could name.

“‘You go through college and sometimes you develop bad habits just because you can get away with that in college,’ Wootton said. ‘But coming to this next level, your pad level has to be down. Your footwork and your hands have to be on point.

“‘Every now and then, pad level is definitely a concern for me. You just have to focus. That’s what Coach [Rod] (Marinelli) teaches us to work on every day in practice: pad level and take off.'”

 

“‘I just have to learn that when it’s close to the play being over like that, and you don’t hear the whistle, you just let off,'” Carimi said. ‘I wasn’t trying to be dirty or anything. I was just trying to finish my guy'”

What a lot of bunk. How disappointing is it that Carimi should come off the field and expect us to believe that he didn’t retaliate for a late shove, as the camera clearly showed. This is what I’ve come to call Ndamukong Suh syndrome. The tendency to believe that just because you feed a bunch of feces to the media and the fans, that they’ll swallow it. It came back to bite Suh with his no famous Thanksgiving day stomp and the explanation that it was an accident. Eventually its going to bite Carimi if he doesn’t lose it fast.

In fairness, Carimi apparently did have second thoughts because Biggs reports that he later owned up to the mistake.

  • Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times puts his finger on some major problems the Bears had Thursday. This one was the one that harmonized with my own feeling the most:

“What happened to the idea that if opponents take Brandon Marshall out of the game, it will open things up for the other receivers? Through three quarters, Marshall was targeted one time and had no receptions — yet Earl Bennett (1-10) and Alshon Jeffery (1-7) were the only other receivers to make a catch.”

“[Offensive coordinator Mike] Tice didn’t leave Webb alone with [Packers outside linebacker, Clay] Matthews too frequently after Matthews beat him one-on-one early. But help only goes so far. At some point, the linemen have to step up and make blocks on their own.

“What’s more, keeping extra players in compromises the offense. One of the reasons the passing game clicked so well against the Colts is the Bears often had four players running pass routes. When you have three, the quarterback’s options are limited, and all of them become easier to take away.”

I can only strongly agree with this. Tice made it sound so simple over the summer and people swallowed it hook line and sinker. But the number of people Tice has been holding in to help in protection has always made me very uneasy. It will be OK against the Indianapolises of the league. But its going to cripple the offense against good teams in adverse situations all year.

Biggs would seem to agree as he wrote this about the Bears upcoming schedule:

“It is alarming because the shift in the offensive philosophy was supposed to make the line better. Now, you have to wonder if against a defense with an elite pass rusher the Bears are going to be in for a rough ride. They host the St. Louis Rams at Soldier Field on Sept. 23 and then they are back in the prime-time spotlight at Dallas on ESPN’s ‘Monday Night Football’ on Oct. 1. Cowboys outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware is a more accomplished pass rusher than Matthews and Dallas utilizes a 3-4 scheme. Could the Bears be headed for another disaster there? You can’t discount the possibility.”

  • Biggs points out that Thursday night’s game drew a record 6.3 overnight rating for the NFL Network. This is why we’ll probably never see another Sunday noon Packers game. And I hate night games. And given the way the Bears seem to lay an egg against them in prime time so often, it makes me hate them even more.
  • Biggs asks former NFL quarterback Trent Green about the offense and how it fits Cutler:
  • “‘From what I have seen, this really fits Jay better,’ Green said. ‘[Former offensive coordinator Mike] Martz’s system is about timing. It’s about putting the ball in the spot. It’s about receivers being very defined in their routes, being right in the right spot. I don’t know if that necessarily meshed well with Jay. He is a little more backyard, drop back … he is not real disciplined in his drops. He likes to sit there – bounce, bounce – and then fire it in there.'”

    “’From what I have seen, Jay likes to see the receiver come open and he then fire it. He’s got a big enough arm, like a Daunte Culpepper, where he can do that.'”

  • Much has been said about Cutler since Thursday night but instead of focusing on his leadership skills, we should be more worried about this. From Dan McNeil at the Chicago Tribune.
  • “It has been easy to forget who Jay Cutler is. I’m guilty of it. Thursday’s Cutler catastrophe served as reminder that the pouty quarterback wilts when the lights are their brightest.”

    “The Bears have “MNF” dates with Dallas, Detroit and San Francisco. They host Houston in an NBC Sunday nighter in Week 10.”

  • But of course, we can’t leave Cutler alone without taking the obligatory shots fron The Sports Pickle:



“Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler treated all five of his linemen to $19 Casio wristwatches Thursday night after his teammates managed to get him through an entire game against the Packers without him getting killed.”

  • But I would say that this picture is more to the point:

Image via The Sports Pickle.

  • Here’s another bad sign. From Potash:
  • The game Sunday against the Rams (1-1) at Soldier Field might be a bigger challenge than expected after quarterback Sam Bradford led them to a 31-28 victory Sunday against the Washington Redskins. Bradford, whose passer rating dropped from 76.5 as a rookie in 2010 to 70.5 last season, has had back-to-back 100-plus games against the Lions (105.1) and Redskins (117.6).

    With the Rams missing starting center Scott Wells (broken foot) and starting left tackle Rodger Saffold (neck), Bradford was 26-for-35 for 310 yards, three touchdowns and one interception against the Redskins.

  • If only the Bears had read this before the game. From The Onion:



Elsewhere

  • What really astounds me in watching the Eagles play is the incredible amount of talent they have on that team and how carelessly they waste it with stupid play. They’re extremely lucky to be 2-0.
  • The Lions were better but not a lot better. They played a tough opponent in the 49ers and moved the ball well. But when they got into the red zone they stalled time after time. There was also some bad tackling out there. From what I saw their discipline on the field isn’t a lot better than it was last year.
  • The 49ers provided a blue print for beating the Lions defense. They handled their front four pretty well and attacked the edges and the defensive backs. Of course, the Bears will have to execute like the 49ers do. Not an easy task.
  • Speaking of the 49ers, I’ve got to agree with this sentiment. From Sports Views:



One Final Thought

From Ben Shpigel at The New York Times:

“‘Yes, I’ve watched it. And no, I couldn’t detach myself. Give me a couple more years.’

“MIKE PETTINE, the Jets’ defensive coordinator, when asked [before Sunday’s rematch] if it had been difficult watching film of the Jets’ last game in Pittsburgh, a 24-19 loss in the A.F.C. championship game in January, 2011.”

The Bears Are in a Good Position Heading into the Packer Game and Other Points of View

Bears

  • Sean Jensen at the Chicago Sun-Times points out that Aaron Rogers hasn’t been as successful against the Bears defense as other NFC North teams:

“Rodgers’ rating against the Detroit Lions and Minnesota Vikings is over 115. Against the Bears, it’s 102.9.”

How interesting is it that we’ve come to the point with Rogers where a 103 rating isn’t impressive?

“Last year, however, Rodgers seemed to solve something. He had eight touchdowns and one interception in a two-game sweep. Not a good trend for the Bears entering the teams’ meeting Thursday night at Lambeau Field.”

“‘They’ve played one game. They’ve played one real football game,’ McCarthy said. ‘They’ve showed very little in the preseason. So that’s really part of playing the first three or four games of the season.

“‘There’ll be some unscouted looks for sure; there’ll be some things that we haven’t seen the Bears do. I feel safe in saying that.”‘

  • Bear quarterback Jay Cutler seems prepared to take advantage of that. From Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times:

“When Cutler was asked — almost reflexively during Packer Week — about the need for the Bears to control the ball and win time of possession against Aaron Rodgers, his response was deafening to those who still have ‘We come off the bus running’ ringing in their ears: ‘We’re in the point-scoring business,’ Cutler said. ‘Time of possession isn’t really something that’s on our mind.'”

Lots of confidence after one game. We shall see.

  • Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune discusses one of the key things to watch Thurday night against the Packers. In the past they’ve stifled the Bears at the line of scrimmage with tight coverage. If Brandon Marshall can’t get off the line, no one can. Keep an eye on Alshon Jeffrey. If he doesn’t have trouble, either, the Bears may have solved the problem.
  • Rick Telander at the Chicago Sun-Times quotes Jay Cutler‘s response when asked if he throws to Marshall too often:

“‘If we’re nine out of 15 to him, I’ll take that,’ Cutler continued. ‘But 15 times a game? That’s not going to happen. It’s just not. There’s going to be teams that take him away and we’ll have to go to other guys, and we’ll have to run the ball.'”

“Here’s the thing, as fans, I think everyone complained about our ability to audible … if we’re going to have the ability to do that, the stadium has to be relatively quiet for everyone to hear and be on the same page,” Cutler said. “Some people I hear today are a little bit perturbed about the way I said it, but so be it. We need it to be relatively quiet in the end zone and I think real Bears fans will understand that.”

“Cutler will have no choice but to contend with crowd noise Thursday night as the Bears travel to Green Bay to take on the rival Packers. The more than 70,000 expected at Lambeau Field certainly won’t shut up when the Bears are on offense.”

“Bush scored on two one-yard runs and that is one more one-yard touchdown than Bears running backs produced all last season.”

  • From McClure we have this news which may turn out to be of significance at some point:

“The Bears altered their roster by adding veteran tackle Jonathan Scott, who started 28 games in previous stops with the Lions, Bills and Steelers. He was a fifth-round pick of the Lions in 2006.”

Scott was a left tackle with the Steelers.

“’He’s going to take a while to be up to full speed,’ Tice said last week. ‘The endurance in his leg is going to come with game time. We’re going to certainly be very careful if it appears that he’s getting tried. We have other guys who can spell him. But I’m anxious to see Carimi play. He came on real well at the end of preseason, really was run-blocking well. His pass protection has gotten better, so I’m excited to see how he matures.’

“We’ll see what Tice has to say later this week but Carimi likely passed the test.

“‘I think he was just worrying too much,’ Carimi said. ‘That is what he does. You always have to have a plan out there, right? I don’t think he meant it like I wasn’t ready or anything like that. Well, it sounded like it did.'”

I could be wrong but I really thought Carimi was a step slow Sunday. We’ll see how he does against the Packers.

“Were you surprised by the use and performance of the Bears TE Evan Rodriguez? @URlyle, from Twitter

“Yes I was. I thought he was a fancy-Dan receiver, not a gritty, tough guy blocker. He made real contributions as a fullback, and also played well on special teams. He is now listed as a fullback on the depth chart, but I think he’s going to end up being more than a fullback. It will be interesting to see how his role evolves.”

“It was a veteran move to bait [Indianapolis quarterback Andrew] Luck into a throw on the final interception covering one-time Bears practice squad wide receiver Kris Adams. Jennings let Adams go by him in Cover 2 with Major Wright lending help over the top. Just as Adams went by Jennings, Luck committed to him. When the ball was released, Jennings turned it on and recovered to make the play. It was a savvy move, one Luck will learn from.”

 

“Inside of the numbers, the Packers are creating a one-on-one matchup with Jones versus Urlacher. The safeties will read the quarterback and “overlap” on any throw to the middle of the field. However, with both Wright and Conte occupied by vertical concepts outside of the numbers, Urlacher has to match to Jones and defend the inside post. This is his play to make in a tough spot against speed at receiver.”

  • Pompei gives the scouting report on Cedric Benson:

“Benson has fumbled 12 times over the last two seasons, which is a big reason why he is a former Bengal. Opponents should go for the football from behind when he carries.”

Elsewhere

  • Adam Schefter at ESPN says that Packers wide receiver Greg Jennings is 50-50 to play Thursday.
  • Pompei is a 49ers believer. After watching them against the Packers, so am I. I had no idea they’d come back in and be that good this season. I’m guessing they can keep it up but injuries are alwasy the great equalizer when it comes to things like this.
  • The Sports Pickle asks “Which rookie quarterback will be out of the NFL first? My personal vote:

“Russell Wilson – he hit .228 in the Mariners minor league system, so he could become their cleanup hitter at any moment”

Breaking sports news video. MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL highlights and more.

Mike Vick is a coach killer. … Mark my words — this will be his last year in Philadelphia.”

  • Were the replacement referees really worse than the regular refs? A look inside the numbers might surprise you. From Chase Stuart at The New York Times.
  • Like betting on football games real time during the game? There’s an app for that. From Joshua Brustein at The New York Times:

“Live ScoreCaster, a free app that recently hit the iTunes store, simulates each N.F.L. and major college football game 50,000 times after each play, then predicts the likelihood that each team will win, projecting the final score in real time.”

Tim Tebow‘s 11 Rushing Yards Lead Jets To 48-28 Rout Of Bills”

One Final Thought

From the Audibles section of Pro Football Weekly:

“(Bears QB Jay) Cutler made the throws he needed to make after a slow start. Indy is just not good enough — they have a long ways to go. The Bears are in good position heading to Green Bay. The Packers are going to be worn out by San Francisco — that is a physically imposing team.”

We shall see.

 

Stuff Chicago Bears Fans Say and Other Points of View

Bears

  • A “positive” Steve Rosenbloom at the Chicago Tribune puts the Bears win yesterday in perspective:

“Sure, Mr. Negative might complain about the Bears’ getting only two field goals off four turnovers, and he should gripe about a lack of production on first down. Third down, too.

“On the other side of the ball, Mr. Negative could crab about some bad coverage of Reggie Wayne, and he would scream about an inconsistent pass rush and yelp about the defense getting shredded on 77- and 80-yard drives.

“Yeah, Mr. Negative could find things to carp about in a game against the league’s worst team last season that started a rookie quarterback. But it’s likely there will be time enough for that.

“Perhaps as soon as Thursday night in Green Bay.”

  • David Haugh at the Chicago Tribune relays a request from QB Jay Cutler to fans near the end zone:

“‘Please, please, please, let’s tone it down a little bit when we’re down on the 20,’ Cutler said. ‘You’re more than welcome to yell, scream, do whatever you want to do after the score. But, please, let’s quiet the stadium down and save it for after the score. Thank you.”‘

  • Dan Pompei at the Chicago Tribune thinks the Packers may try to cover Marshall with Charles Woodson on nickel downs.
  • Joe Cowley at the Chicago Sun-Times says that RB Matt Forte is not happy about being taken out in short yardage situations.

“‘It’s been happening my whole career here, so I don’t know,’ Forte said when asked about not finishing drives. ‘That’s the coordinator’s call.'”

It’s rare when the Bears have so many impact plays on defense — three sacks, four takeaways and four tackles for loss — and Urlacher isn’t in on any of them. When Colts quarterback Andrew Luck lauded the defense after the game, Urlacher got fourth billing — behind Lance Briggs, Julius Peppers and Henry Melton.

As well he should have been. Its not easy to just step in and start playing at game speed without any practice. Urlacher was rusty and probably will continue to be so for a while.

  • Potash and Sean Jensen at the Chicago Sun-Times quote Israel Idonije on the Bears moving their defensive ends around on third down:

“‘We didn’t want to give them the same look, and that’s important moving forward,’ Idonije said. ‘We were kind of locked into our plan, and when we changed it, it started to break things wide open for us. When we changed up, there were a couple of things we were really able to take advantage of. It’s a chess match.'”

OLB—Ernie Sims, Spencer Adkins. Sims might be better than he looked last year with the Colts. This is another thin position, which explains Adkins’ presence.

ILB—E.J. Henderson. He is 32-years old and has quite an injury history, but he played pretty well last year for the Vikings. He probably would have signed by now if he would have been willing to accept less money.

Players signed after opening weekend aren’t guaranteed a 17 week paycheck.

  • And as a bonus, I think we’ve heard a few of these before:

Elsewhere

  • The Redskins looked so bad when they played the Bears in the preseason. With or without the Saints coaches, for the Redskins to beat a team like that, the improvement must have been just short of miraculous. I’m sure Robert Griffin III was a big part of it but there must have been a lot of much better play from more than just him.
  • Despite all the talk about the Lions being more disciplined, I’ve got to think they were looking past the Rams to their Sunday night game with the San Francisco 49ers this week. They barely slipped by. Recall the infamous handshake after the 49ers matchup last season.
  • I notice that the Packers are using wide receiver Randall Cobb as a running back. I’ve got to figure that’s partly to compensate for the fact that new running back Cedric Benson is so poor catching the ball our of the backfield.
  • Doubt about the officials led to a lot of criticism Sunday, some of it fair but much of it really unfair. As FOX color man Troy Aikman explained, the lack of confidence led everyone to question every call and see what they wanted to see rather than what was.
  • The 49ers’ Aldon Smith is a monster. This is going to be a tough team to beat this year.
  • I love the way that that Jermichael Finley limped all over the field begging for a personal foul call from the officials after the 49ers’ Perrish Cox stepped on his foot then, all of the sudden was more than healthy enough to catch a touchdown pass on the next play. Finley got the call despite the fact that he initiated the confrontation.
  • My assumption is that having to do HBO’s Hard Knock would be a nightmare for any head coach, particularly a first time one like the Dolphin’s Joe Philbin. So I thought the perspective on it that he relayed to Pompei, this time writing for the National Football Post, was interesting.
  • I can’t help it. I love Bart Scott. Via Josh Alper at profootballtalk.com.
  • I’m going to guess that this article was written before Sunday Night’s game. From The Onion.

One Final Thought

Pompei apparently liked a new book with quotes from Tim Tebow:

“In Tebow Time: Insights on Winning form Football’s Rising Star, we get a good glimpse of what makes Tebow tick.”

Here is one of several interesting quotes he put in the article:

“My parents made sure I always understood that being good at something doesn’t make you better than anyone else. I can play football, but anyone I meet can do something better than me.”

On the other hand we have this from Toni Monkovic at The New York Times:

Scientific studies have suggested that if you shielded yourself from Tebow saturation coverage, you might have saved a 5-point drop in your IQ.

 

Taking the Crap Out and Other Points of View

Bears

  • Joe Cowley at the Chicago Sun-Times quotes wide receiver Brandon Marshall as he describes how Jay Cutler has improved as a quarterback since the days they were together with the Broncos:

‘‘Now, Jay knows how to manipulate defenses with snap count, body language and hand signals, so it’s exciting to see him work.’’

  • David Haugh at the Chicago Tribune gives his opinion on the competition at left tackle:

“The Bears preach patience with [J'Marcus] Webb. But I wonder if someone so consumed with being popular — the self-appointed head of “JWebb Nation,'' also posted a video of him ordering fast food — understands all it takes to become proven in the NFL. Those concerns made it all the more curious when Lovie Smith made it clear that Webb had won the job before the first exhibition game. Why not let a real competition play out?

“While Webb's ceiling might be higher than [Chris] Williams', it means nothing to a Bears team built to win now if the 24-year-old cannot figure out how to reach it sooner than later. I would lean toward starting Williams, a serious veteran whose best might not approach Webb's but whose worst should kill fewer drives too.”

Haugh has a point. Even worse, I would suggest that Webb, in his third year, has no future with the team at all if he hasn't lost most of his incosistency by now. The fact that he quickly managed to jump offsides in the first preseason game after, I'm sure, being beaten to death with criticism from Tice over such things all offseason, makes me very much wonder if there's any chance he has.

Jeff Otah and Chad Clifton probably aren't healthy enough. Marcus McNeill retired. Kareem McKenzie is out there, but is he really better than what the Bears have?”

  • On a related note, I want to thank Pompei for suggesting something I’ve been say ing for a long time. The fact that Mike Martz is gone is not necessarily going to mean the offensive line (or by extension the offense) is going to be better:

“'You have to protect your offensive line,' Bears coach Lovie Smith said. 'To me, very few tackles can handle a good defensive end one on one. So you have to protect them, there is no way around it. Especially on the road, in a dome, you have to give your linemen help. Giving them help can be running the football too. We have a plan.'

“'What few people remember is the Bears had a plan last year too. Despite Mike Martz's reputation, he gave the offensive line help in many circumstances.

“Despite that, the line was not good enough last year.”

“Special teams coordinator Dave Toub said in some cases on kickoffs, [Eric] Weems' straight-forward return style will benefit the Bears more than Hester's elusiveness.

“'With what we do, we do a lot of doubles teams, and we want to run right at the double team.'''

  • There is one thing that seems to be evident from the preseason games we've seen. From Pompei:

“Players [Cutler] is throwing to are capable of getting yards after the catch. Only five teams in the NFL had fewer yards after the catch last year than the Bears, according to STATS. That should not be the case this year.”

“The Redskins didn't have success covering Rodriguez with a linebacker (he beat Bryan Kehl for a 14-yard gain) or a safety (Jordan Bernstine struggled to stay with him on a 19-yard reception).”

  • Before you get too excited about the performance of the defensive linelast Saturday, the Redskins offensive line was missing three starters. From Mark Maske at the Washington Post.
  • Yeah, this sounds more like it. From The Onion.
  • And so does this via SportsViews:

Elsewhere

“From his first pass attempt at Soldier Field, Griffin had the look of an overwhelmed newcomer. Throughout a shaky 26-play performance, Griffin held the ball too long, absorbed unnecessary hits and failed in his first responsibility: Ball security.”

On one of the first plays from scrimmage he dropped back and his first read wasn’t there. No one was near him but he immediately started running. You’re going to get that for a while with this guy.

“Paul said he was encouraged by the in-game adjustments he was able to make. On the missed pass from Griffin, Paul said he was running full-speed and wasn’t able to turn all the way around to snag the pass that was slightly behind him. Later in the game, however, he was running the same route when Cousins threw to him, and his timing was better so he was able to turn fully and make the catch and then pick up yards after the catch.”

  • The Seattle Seahawks have apparently come to grips with what everyone in the NFC North already knewTarvaris Jackson can’t play quarterback. Jackson says he’s willing to take a pay cut to facilitate a trade but I’m not sure there’s anything else out there for him. Certainly nothing that’s going to improve his situation much over what it already is in Seattle.
  • Via Josh Alper at profootballtalk.com we have this quote that might as well also be about Brian Urlacher (assuming he makes it back for Week 1 of the season at all):

“Said Saints coach Joe Vitt of CB Patrick Robinson’s play in his return from a shoulder injury, 'Listen, I don’t care who you are or how many years you’ve played in the league, playing this game isn’t like riding a bike. You learn to ride a bike when you’re three years old. You can ride one when you’re 80 if you can get on it. You have to be fine-tuned to play this game at a high level. It’s a game of angles and timing. You have to be in sync. Patrick was a little rusty early in the game last night missing some tackles, but that’s why we play these games and that’s why we practice every day.'”

  • Think the Bears are the only ones with trouble at offensive tackle? Think again. From Zach Schonbrun at The New York Times:

“[Jets right tack Wayne] Hunter seemed like a pinwheel in the wind when he was matched against the Giants’ pressure.”

One Final Thought

Ugh. From The Sports Pickle: