Can I Hear an Amen? And Other Points of View

Bears

  • Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times reviews comments from some of the Packers that have angered Brandon Marshall:

“What did [Charles] Woodson and [Tramon] Williams say that riled Marshall? Woodson tweaked Jay Cutler in a post-game interview, telling ESPN’s Rachel Nichols ‘it’s the same old Jay’ after the Packers held Cutler to 126 passing yards and a 28.2 passer rating in the Packers’ 23-10 victor on Sept. 13 at Lambeau Field.

“But it was Woodson’s comments on The Jim Rome Show that apparently irked Marshall.

“‘They do have some big receivers over there, but they’re not fast receivers,’ Woodson told Rome. ‘There’s no Calvin Johnson on that team that’s going to stretch a defense. Yeah, there are some big guys, physical guys and they like to push and pull and grab and get behind guys, but we weren’t going to let that happen, so it worked in our favor.’

“The ‘they like to push and pull and grab’ part seems to be the source of Marshall’s ire. ‘I want [Woodson] out there because of some of the things that they say,’ Marshall said. ‘I take it personal when someone takes jabs at the way I approach the game or my career. I’m excited to see him out there at full speed.'”

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune tells us essentially what Woodson meant by “we weren’t going to let that happen”:

“The Packers bracketed Marshall with a lot of two-man coverage, meaning the cornerback had man coverage underneath with safety help over the top. That support allows the cornerback to sit on routes. Marshall couldn’t get open and quarterback Jay Cutler held the ball too long waiting for him to break open, ultimately allowing the four-man rush to get to him repeatedly. The Bears entered the game hoping they would get a dose of press man coverage — the kind of physical action Marshall covets — and it didn’t happen.”

“As illogical as it sounds, the Bears offense is actually less potent this season with Brandon Marshall than it was a year ago without him. The bottom line is points, and the Bears are averaging 23.7 per game after scoring 22.1 a year ago. When you factor in eight return touchdowns this season, the offense is short of the pace from 2011 even with a bona fide No. 1 receiver. The upshot of this is the roster is more flawed than anyone expected when the team raced out to a 7-1 start. And as much as he would like to, Marshall cannot do it alone.”

Its not at all illogical. The runnings game has been absent and Mike Martz was a better, more experienced offensive coordinator.

James Brown was in for about 40 plays at LG against the Vikings. How did he grade out? Barring a free agency move or a high pick at guard in the draft are we seeing the future at LG? — Vic Fiebig, Springfield, VA

“Brown played OK for his first extended exposure. Nothing great. Nothing terrible. We don’t have anywhere near enough evidence to say if he will be a permanent starter in the near future. From the looks of it now, the Bears will be shopping for a veteran guard who can step in and play the position next season while Brown develops. But it will be interesting to see how he plays for the rest of the season, assuming he does play.”

“With the production Michael Bush has had along with the struggles [Matt] Forte is having does a Matt Forte trade make sense in the off season? What do you think we could get in return for the running back? — Joe Devine, Edmonton, Canada

“My impression is Forte is worth more to the Bears than he would be in a trade, but I could be wrong. Teams don’t want to pay much for older running backs. Forte just turned 27. He has not been as productive as he was in 2011, and he is the 17th leading rusher in the NFL. What could you get for him? Probably a third round pick. Maybe a second. Maybe not. But he is an all-around back who can help the Bears offense as a runner, receiver and pass protector. Players like him are not easy to find. I would not be looking to trade him, and I don’t think the Bears will be either.”

The lack of respect that Forte gets from fans constantly amazes me. He’s not having his greatest season but when I watch him catch and run with such nice vision and compare him in my mind to other running backs around the league, I just can’t understand why fans are so anxious to trade him. He’s one of only three or four Bears players that good teams like the Packers can look at with envy. I agree with Pompei. You don’t trade assets like Forte.

 

“The Bears look like they are running scared now. Lovie Smith treats Brian Urlacher like Rex Ryan treats Darrelle Revis. When the Jets lost Revis for the year, Rex basically said, ‘We are done. We suck.’ Look at the records in Chicago when Urlacher is not playing. The defense cannot line up or stop anyone. It’s a disaster. … I’m surprised Nick Roach is still on the team. I always thought he was a backup. I’m shocked he has stayed healthy (all year).”

 

  • Most of us are used to thinking about the blow to the offense and defense but Potash highlights the problem special teams coordinator Dave Toub has on special teams due to injuries.
  • Pompei says to expect Olindo Mare‘s kickoffs to be a bit shorter than Robbie Gould‘s and that Smith likely won’t have as much confidence in his on longer field goals.

“Recently the contracts and job security of Lovie Smith and offensive coordinator Mike Tice have come under scrutiny. But the other guy on the staff with reason to worry might be longtime strength and conditioning coach Rusty Jones. The Bears don’t seem very strong or well-conditioned. Their offensive linemen hardly impose their will on anybody. Their roster has sustained so many injuries through 13 games that Lovie Smith was forced to cancel practice Wednesday because he didn’t have enough healthy bodies.”

“You look at the last game we played, and I hate to go back to the last game, a couple plays here and there. It’s not like we were just playing terrible football. We’re going to tighten up a few things, which we’re doing, which is our routine, and we’re going to win a few football games and everything will be OK.”

Indeed, they weren’t playing terrible football. Many of us would feel better if they had. The truth is they aren’t much better than the Vikings (or the Lions). Add the effect of a dome on the offensive line and the penalties that come with that and its the difference between winning and losing against an opponent that doesn’t play badly enough to blow it.

 

Packers

“Three-four defenses like the Packers use have been a problem for the Bears this year, in part because they are different. Three of the Bears’ five losses have come against teams that play 3-4s, and the Bears have averaged 7.6 points per game in those losses.

“Bears offensive coordinator Mike Tice explains.

“‘Most of the teams we play are ‘over’ teams, so it’s one gap, one gap, one gap,’ he said. ‘You spend the whole offseason and training camp working against an over front that is a penetrating, slanting, quick front. Now you play a two gap team, it’s different. It’s a whole different technique.’

“Against a three-man front, blockers have to figure how long to stay on the down lineman before releasing and seeking out the defender at the next level. There are different combination blocks to be concerned with.”

Elsewhere

“The Ravens got a steal with Corey Graham. He is now starting for the Ravens as a cornerback. He was brought in to be a special-teams phenom, and he has turned out to be a find for them on defense with all the injuries they have had at the position.”

“I hear the name of (Chiefs pro personnel director) Ray Farmer and I like him. He’s a great guy, but no one wants anything to do with the Kansas City Chiefs right now. … I know how they run it. It’s way too mechanical. They want robots in the front office, not evaluators. It’s important to have a system and to make scouting a science as much as you can, but this business is about having a gut feel and calling it like you see it. I don’t want a robot scouting for me.”

“OK, so what’s next, Joe Vitt putting a bounty on Gregg Williams?”

  • The ideal gift for the Eagles fan. From profootballmock.com:

 

One Final Thought

This comment from Biggs has the ring of truth:

“Speculation only mounts when it comes to the future of coach Lovie Smith, who is signed through 2013. The bottom line: The Bears have eight wins with three games to go, giving them a decent chance of finishing with 10 victories and a playoff berth. As disconcerting as it might be for some fans, 10 wins and a playoff berth — no matter how long it lasts —probably would ensure Smith’s future with the team. You don’t see many NFL teams launch a coach after double-digit wins and a postseason appearance. Jim Schwartz would love to be in Smith’s spot right now.”

I’m not thrilled with the way the players are responding to Smith right now and the way they came out in the first quarter last week gave me pause. If they continued to do that, I’m thinking the Bears won’t get those 10 wins. But if Smith does get them and makes the playoffs, that means the team will have responded to him and won at least one game I didn’t think they would. His job should be safe.

I know a lot of fans want to launch Smith. But the issue is overblown. Whether you think he’s a good head coach or not, the team’s primary problem is still lack of talent. As long as they’re moving to address that, they’ll be going in the right direction.

Having said all that I’ll wrap up with what might be the most important point as Pompei answers another question:

“If da Bears lose this game to Green Bay, will the search for a new head coach start? — @WCW4Life12, from Twitter

“No, it would be too early. You have to let the season play out. But I’ll say this. General managers and owners all over the NFL need to be prepared in the event that they decide to make a change. Dec. 31 is too late to start doing homework on available coaches.”

Amen, brother.

A Final Word on the Tragedy in Kansas City and Other Points of View

Bears

  • Dan Pompei at the Chicago Tribune believes that Lovie Smith made the right call by going for it on fourth and inches in the first quarter Sunday because an NFL team should be able to gain half a yard in that situation. Too bad the game is about what you can do not what you should be able to do.

“After gaining just 14 yards on eight carries in the first half [Sunday], Matt Forte gained 52 yards on 13 carries in the second half to finish with 66 yards on 21 carries. But he also caught three passes for 30 yards, including a 12-yard touchdown when he lined up wide on third-and-four in the third quarter.

“Why can’t the Bears do that more often? Coming into the game, Forte had 27 catches for 184 yards, 47 of them on a screen pass against the Titans.”

Former Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz seemed to use Forte much more effectively in the passing game than current coordinator Mike Tice does. The touchdown reception was nice to see. We should see more of it.

“I’m surprised the Bears have not tried (ORT Gabe) Carimi at left tackle. That’s what he played at Wisconsin. Chris Williams looked better than Carimi at right tackle, and Williams had to be bailed out from playing on the outside. He couldn’t get it done at tackle or guard.”

I like this feature and I tend to respect the opinions of scouts. But this is one of the dumber comments I ever heard. There’s no way Carimi’s going to play left tackle on a bum knee. Maybe next year. I doubt it but at least it won’t be a dumb comment at that point.

  • Adam L. Jahns at the Chicago Sun-Times lauds Carimi’s play Sunday. To my eye Carimi did a pretty good job of pass blocking but that big, tall frame of his really isn’t made for run blocking at guard. I didn’t watch every play but I think it really hurt the Bears running game.
  • Craig Steltz says via Jahns that he knew he might be playing Sunday with Chris Conte having the flu. That may be so bt he sure looked rusty. FOX highlighted two striaght plays where he apparenlty left a Seattle tight end wide open in the endzone.

“(Bears DE Corey) Wootton has been a surprise this year. He is having by far his best year in terms of creating sacks and pressures. (Having your team use) a first-round pick on a player at your position can have that effect.”

“And if the team does miss the playoffs, where does that leave coach Lovie Smith? The suspicion is that Smith’s future isn’t tied to Urlacher’s, but that Urlacher’s future certainly is tied to Smith’s. The player is out of contract at year’s end and the Bears plan to assess the situation then.”

  • You can put this Audible into the “truth hurts” category:

“There are some bad football teams right now with good records. I’d put Baltimore and Chicago in that category. Losing to Charlie Batch at home is not a good sign. … I didn’t think Russell Wilson was going to be as good as he has been. He is the biggest reason the Seahawks beat the Bears. I was too hard on him coming out of college. The kid is a good player.”

I wouldn’t say the Bears are a bad football team. But I think even some of the hard core fans now realize that they aren’t as good as thier record. With the Packers and two dome games coming up, I think that will become even more apparent shortly.

  • Vaughn McClure at the Chicago Tribune notes the punter Adam Podlesh is doing a much better job after the Bears sent a warning shot across his bow by bringing in a few punters for workouts two weeks ago.
  • Jack Betcha at The National Football Post goes through the signs that your team is going nowhere. The Bears were doing well until he threw in this comment in almost an offhand way at the end:

“I also believe that teams that have 5 year droughts of not drafting O-lineman in the first three rounds are setting them self up for failure.”

“This is a tough time. This is the time where it’s easy to point fingers at people. The one thing about this organization, this team, this coaching staff, the players, we are going to come together through adversity. Through training camp and OTAs, little things that happen, I’ve been able to witness that. So that’s the promising thing for this moment right now. Very disappointed, but not discouraged.”

Give both Marshall and quraterback Jay Cutler credit. These are tough, competitive guys with reputations for being disruptive. But things aren’t going well out there right now and they are the ones trying to lead the team out of it. Kudos.

    • Jahns reviews the Bears defensive struggles with the read option play Sunday. I’m no expert. I didn’t even know what to call it in my game comments. But I can tell you that I watch college defenses stop this play pretty much every Saturday. I’m surprised it turned out to be such a challenge. Apparently the Seahawks were, too, because it took them four quarters to finally convince themselves that they could consistently run it.

Steve Rosenbloom comes to a similar conclusion:

“So, to recap, the Bears weren’t ready for [Seatlle quarterback Russell] Wilson’s read-option, didn’t adjust successfully during the game, and still couldn’t figure it out a day later. Indeed, there’s a great chance that we’ll come back to this game and its fallout as the time the Bears decided they needed a coach who can resolve at least one of those things.”

Pesonally, I’ve always thought that Smith was a good head coach who was working on limited talent. But there’s no getting around the fact that he has failed to attract the kind of offensive coaching talent that’s necessary to win in the NFL. If the team doesn’t make the playoffs this year, Smith might not survive it. And its not just panic talk to say they definitely might not make the playoffs. I think they’ll win at Arizona. But they’re probably going to have to surprise me by winning in one of those domes, Detroit or Minnesota, to make it in.

Many die hard Bears fans will try to blame injuries if the team collapses. Don’t. Neither the defense nor the offense was playing well against good teams even before the injuries. It isn’t entirely Smith’s fault – as I said above, aging talent is still the major issue. But I’ve walked away from more than one game this season thinking that they lost in part because they got definitely out coached. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see Smith pay the price.

      • Anyone actually own one of these? Yes, they actually sell them. Via profootballmock.com:


Vikings

“Watching how Adrian Peterson has worked his butt off to get back to where he is — gutting it out at the beginning of the year to get to the bye week. He’s the best story in football. It’s always been an attitude with him. It’s a mentality. He’s unrelenting. It is a nightmare for defenses to account for. … (QB Christian) Ponder has hit the wall. There’s no consistency week to week.”

Elsewhere

“I’ve heard talk about (Eagles GM) Howie Roseman already meeting with (Oregon head coach) Chip Kelly. Obviously, there are no rules preventing a GM from talking to a college coach during a (school) visit. I think San Diego would be a better fit for Kelly, myself. The run-and-shoot (scheme) worked at first back in the 1990s, and the Lions drafted Andre Ware and were plucking players to run it. NFL staffs were pulling out all the stops to figure out how to stop it, and once they did, it fell hard and hasn’t worked since. If you want the blueprint for how to stop Kelly in the NFL, watch the Stanford game. I guarantee you NFL coaches are calling up (Stanford head coach David) Shaw and saying, ‘Send me that tape.’ With Oregon’s running game trickling to the NFL, (NFL coaches) need to snuff it out.”

      • But I’m not too sure about this one:

“(Patriots offensive coordinator) Josh McDaniels is going to be a hot ticket (on the coaching circuit). He’s been a head coach before — did he have too much authority? I don’t know. … He believes in his system. The offense has been humming.”

The guess here is that McDaniels doesn’t get another shot at a head coaching job until he shows that he can do it somewhere other that New England. Too much authority or not he made a mess of things in Denver.

“The problem with Mark Sanchez ­— I always thought it was more mental than physical. Playing quarterback is hard in this league. You need to put in the time to prepare. It has always been about more than the game to him — using his celebrity status to his advantage. … You usually only get one chance to bring in a head coach and one swing at selecting a quarterback. (The Jets) traded up for Sanchez and it didn’t work. (Eric) Mangini didn’t turn out too well. Say what you will about Rex (Ryan) — I think he is refreshingly honest — I don’t know how much time he has left.”

Sanchez might have lost his job to third string quarterback Greg McElroy on Sunday.

Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum:

One Final Thought

Mike Florio at ProFootballTalk.com comments on this quote from Brady Quinn following the tragic murder-suicide by Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher:

“‘The one thing people can hopefully try to take away, I guess, is the relationships they have with people,’ Quinn told reporters after the game. ‘I know when it happened, I was sitting and, in my head, thinking what I could have done differently. When you ask someone how they are doing, do you really mean it? When you answer someone back how you are doing, are you really telling the truth?

“‘We live in a society of social networks, with Twitter pages and Facebook, and that’s fine, but we have contact with our work associates, our family, our friends, and it seems like half the time we are more preoccupied with our phone and other things going on instead of the actual relationships that we have right in front of us. Hopefully, people can learn from this and try to actually help if someone is battling something deeper on the inside than what they are revealing on a day-to-day basis.’

“These are words that we should all study, and heed. I’ll be printing them out, keeping a copy on my desk, and reminding my son of Quinn’s thoughts whenever I can.

“It’s impossible to know whether greater sensitivity by those around Jovan Belcher could have prevented Saturday’s events. Chances are it wouldn’t have mattered. But the lesson is that we should all be more attentive to the people whose lives are intertwined with ours, through our families or our friends or our places of work. We enter and exit this world alone, but we are in between those moments part of a broad and complex fabric that both provides us with support and commands it from us.

“Let’s remember that the next time — and every time — we’re more worried about interacting with someone who isn’t in the room than someone who is.”

“It’s Not Scheme Issue” and Other Points of View

Bears

  • 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.”

According to Vaughn McClure at the Chicago Tribune Rachal “became extremely upset upon learning of his demotion” and walked out. He has five days to return.

“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.

Vikings

  • Somewhat to my surprise, Pompei’s 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.”

“‘[In the past] he’d always look to hit the home run,’ Frazier said. ‘And sometimes that would create negative plays. Now he’s truer to his reads.'”

“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.

Elsewhere

 

“If I’m a very old woman who struggles to get around, and Carolina Panther coach Ron Rivera and his players offer to lead me across the street, I decline.

“The Panthers would do great getting her off the curb and past the stripe in the middle of the road.

“But 5 feet from the other side, they’d fall or get nervous or forget the woman was there.

“As light turned to dark, she’d be alone in traffic, dodging SUVs, vans and the occasional city bus.

“The Panthers can’t finish. They failed again to finish Sunday. They needed leadership and inspiration and they needed to adjust. They did not.”

  • Breaking news for The Onion: “Andy Reid Cuts Several Players From Mustache.”




 

One Final Thought

Neil Hayes at the Chicago Sun-Times is as off-base in blamming offensive coordinator Mike Tice for the Bears problems as everyone was when they were blaming Mike Martz. Similarly, runningback Matt Forte refuses to admit what is evident to any disinterested observer. Via Biggs:

“‘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.

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.

Everything Rides on the Effectiveness of Alshon Jeffery and Other Points of View And Other Points of View

Bears

“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.

“Forte said offensive coordinator Mike Tice is still trying to figure out how to use his assorted weapons.

“‘Once we figure that out,’ Forte said, ‘I think we’ll be OK.'”

It’s Week 11, boys. If you haven’t figured it all out yet, you probably ain’t going to do it.

“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.

He should have been suspended.

“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.”

49ers

“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.”

Elsewhere

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).”

One Final Thought

Jensen quotes head coach Lovie Smith on injured wide receiver Alshon Jeffery:

“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.

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.

Of Jay Cutler and Cam Newton. And Other Points of View.

Bears

  • 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 Tribune asks 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-Times provides 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 Bennett inactive due to injury. The Bears are going to need both of these guys. From McClure.
  • Pompei noticed something in his film study last week that I’d like to see more of:

“[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.'”

Jacksonville

  • 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.

Elsewhere

  • 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 Times come 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 Tomlin faces 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.'”

  • Michael Vick swears this one’s just for sparring. From Mike Florio at profootballtalk.com.
  • The Sports Pickle asks “Which NFL quarterback should be benched?” My answer:

Mark Sanchez — he needs to be benched so he can clear his head and be ready to start again when Tim Tebow gets benched.”

One Final Thought

“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.'”

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.

 

Preseason Games Are about “Toughness of Mind” and Other Points of View

Bears

  • Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune quotes defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli on the value of tonight’s preseason opener:

“’I love practice, but you look at this to get all the things you’re teaching and to see if the habits are starting to become developed,’ defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli said. ‘You find out about conditioning and you find out the toughness of mind. Some of these guys can crack and some won’t crack; they’ll just keep playing. Sometimes you look for that — that toughness of mind.’”

“Keep an eye on the tight end in [offensive coordinator] Mike Tice‘s offense. The Bears have shown a lot of Ace personnel (two wide receivers, two tight ends, one back) in camp and that leads to options in the passing game. With the tight ends involved, you can create some matchups in the middle of the field, use boot action and target soft spots in zone coverage.”

This is true but only if you show that you can run the ball with the double tight end.  If not, they’ll treat the smaller tight end like a wide receiver and play nickel.  Unless the tight end is very good, he’ll lose that match up.  It might not be evident tonight as teams put individual players in difficult positions just to see what they can do.  But eventually its going to be a factor.

‘‘’I thought one guy would separate himself and jump out there, but that didn’t really happen,’ Tice said after Monday’s practice.”

This was never a legitimate competition anyway.  I’m guessing Chris Williams lost this job the minute Webb showed up to camp in shape.  Biggs at the Chicago Tribune appears to agree:

“Tice and [head coach Lovie] Smith both professed faith in Webb during the offseason. Webb is more of a prototypical left tackle but he was far too inconsistent in 2011 to enter camp as the unquestioned starter. Williams’ presence, in the final year of his contract, should push him.

“If the Bears didn’t pull Webb from the position last season, why are they going to replace him now?”

Williams had only one practice with the starters at left tackle before the decision was made.  Tice has way too much pride in his pet project to give up so easily.  Webb is going to be in there until he loses his mind one too many times and Cutler gets hurt again.

“Clearly, Tice was sending a message to Webb. It looked like he sent one to Williams, too, when Williams was removed from the order he had been working in practice after an exchange with Tice. Tice declined to comment after practice.”

“At least one NFL team is curious if the Bears will part ways with Williams before the season begins based on an inquiry from a personnel man.”

“The 6-foot-3, 320-pound Louis, who played basketball in high school and lined up at tight end in college, is accustomed to walking on his toes. But to master the craft successfully, he knows he has to get used to playing with his feet on the ground.

“To compensate, Louis has made a conscious effort to modify his everyday steps during training camp at Olivet Nazarene University.

“’I try to walk more flat-footed now,’ he said. ‘Offensive linemen play with flat feet, so I have to work on it really hard.’”

  • Sean Jensen at the Chicago Sun-Times gets Bears backup quarterback Jason Campbell to open up about the Raiders trade for Carson Palmer last season after his collar bone injury:

“‘It was hard to swallow,’ Campbell said. ‘After the whole trade, [Raiders head coach Hu Jackson] told me, ‘I just want to win, and I want to win now.’

“I was like, ‘Dang. In this game, there’s really no patience.’”

“Tice has removed all seven-step drops from the passing game. Everything the Bears do now will be on three-and five-step timing. That means Cutler will have to improve his diagnostic skills, in the pocket and especially at the line of scrimmage. An underrated athlete blessed with arguably the league’s strongest arm, Cutler, though no dummy, has never had to rely heavily on his mental aptitude. Martz’s system may have been complex, but because it was so rigid and rule-oriented, Cutler didn’t always have to be much of a decision maker. (He didn’t even have the power to change protections, let alone call an audible.) Martz was more concerned about Cutler’s mechanics (which have improved but can still be too inconsistent from play to play).

“Tice will undoubtedly ask his quarterback to be more a thinker and less of a reactor, though he won’t try to make Cutler become Peyton Manning. To highlight Cutler’s strengths, Tice will incorporate more moving pockets (bootlegs, rollouts, etc.) into the passing game.”

“Marshall isn’t the only risky new receiver. There are many who believe the rookie possession target Alshon Jeffery will be too lazy and moody to live up to his second-round billing. If he is, the Bears could be in a bit of trouble because the reliable veteran Earl Bennett is not as effective outside as he is in the slot and the intriguing second-year man Dane Sanzenbacher lacks the size to play on the perimeter, at 5-foot-11, 180 pounds.”

“‘He’s a great back,’ [Michael] Bush said.

“Added [Matt] Forte, ‘He’s very easy to get along with.

“‘At the end of the day, we’re kind of the same. We never get too high or way too low. In the end, it’s going to work out pretty good for everyone.’”

“I was excited we got Michael Bush this year. He is a physical runner and has a burst outside too. Do you envision plays where both Matt Forte and Bush are in the backfield at same time? Justin C., Woodsboro, Md.

“It may be something that Mike Tice tinkers with from time to time as a changeup, but I would not foresee a steady diet of it. If you are trying to run the ball with both Forte and Bush in the backfield, you can get a better blocker on the field than either Forte or Bush, whoever is not carrying the ball. If you are trying to throw the ball with Forte and Bush in the backfield, you can get a better route runner on the field than one of those players. Although it often seems like an enticing idea, there are reasons you don’t see too many teams using two halfbacks together. It just doesn’t work very well. The new trend is for teams to use multiple tight ends together. That does work very well, and I would expect for the Bears to go that route quite a bit.”

  • McClure quotes running backs coach Tim Spencer after a fumble by Forte in practice:

“‘He kind of got a little thumb injury, and I’m not trying to make any excuses for him, but it did kind of hit him on his thumb,’ Spencer said.”

May be something to keep an eye on.

“Harvey Unga said after Friday’s practice he is trying to get accustomed to playing the H-back role and performing some of the duties of a tight end. The Bears selected Unga in the supplemental draft to play running back.”

Dom DeCicco got his share of reps in the middle during the offseason as Urlacher rested, but such hasn’t been the case for DeCicco during camp.”

  • Steve Rosenbloom at the Chicago Tribune has an interesting thought about how to handle the apparent problems Brian Urlacher is still having with his knee:

“So, back to the top: It only matters if Urlacher misses a real game, but the question will be whether he can make a second game. That seems to be the subtext here: The Bears have a lot of time to let Urlacher rest before the season opener, which remains a month away, but what about the second game?

 

“And it’s not just any second game, either. It’s a second game just four days later and it’s in Green Bay.

 

“If Smith’s suspicious and unsatisfying answers indicate Urlacher’s questionable readiness to play a full season, then the Bears ought to act like the Packers game is his season opener. “

 

“Tell Urlacher to skip the opener against the Indianapolis roadkill and get ready for the more important game four days later in Green Bay.”

  • Marinelli says Shea McClellin is pressing. From Fred Mitchell at the Chicago Tribune:

“Marinelli says he is trying to unclog McClellin’s mind so he doesn’t think too much.

“’It’s the words I choose,’ Marinelli said. ‘I keep talking about, ‘Make sure you’re getting off the ball, I’ll clean you up.’ So as long as he keeps coming off the ball then we can clean this up. He’s kind of thinking, ‘Am I going to get punched this way.’ We have to create on the go.’”

“McClellin had been struggling in one-on-one pass rush drills but in live drills with the reserves at the end, he blew past starting left tackle J’Marcus Webb.”

Sounds like a routine play that most of the league could make to me.

“Paea making a move?

“Second-year defensive tackle Stephen Paea continues to make progress, according to defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli.

‘‘’He’s coming,’ Marinelli said. ‘I’m very pleased with all of his work — at the nose, the [three-technique] and the nickel. He shows tremendous skill. Great pad level. He’s healthy. When he’s out there, you can feel him.’”

Paea probably is the defensive tackle to keep an eye on this year.  Much has been made about the progress of Henry Melton but I’ve seen nothing from him that makes me think we didn’t think we saw him top off last year.  Something tells me if anyone is going to step up this year, its going to be Paea.

  • Former defensive end Alex Brown will retire as a Bear.  Via Biggs.
  • This is the kind of thing that could spell trouble for D.J Moore.  From McClure:

“Veteran Kelvin Hayden, who entered camp healthy and competing with Tim Jennings at left cornerback, slid over to nickel back for the first time during practice Thursday at Olivet Nazarene University.”

Moore doesn’t seem worried:

“Ain’t no challenge to me at the nickel position,” Moore said. “Shoot, if this is not my position, it don’t really make sense.”

Now those are the words of a man who may be headed for a fall if I ever heard them.  By all accounts Hayden has been playing well and he may be the third best corner in camp.  Ahead of Moore.

  • I thought this excerpt from a Biggs article was interesting:

“The Bears are working on Hester improving catching short punts that sometimes take long rolls and back the offense up.

“‘Teams were trying to kick the rugby kick short and have it hit the ground where there was a chance it would hit us or roll,’ [special teams coordinator Dave] Toub said. ‘We want him to go up and fair catch those balls. Fair catch it. We’ll get out of your way, but catch it.'”

“‘I think it’d be nice if all the players could go up under one [lawsuit] and represent all the players,’ Dent said recently. ‘Obviously, everybody wants to make some money off that, just like everybody wants to make money off our Super Bowl team.

“‘Everybody wants their little piece of the pie. But I just haven’t figured out what.’”

Elsewhere

“Yes, the Packer defense took a step back. After ranking fifth (in yards allowed) en route to a Super Bowl title in 2010, it ranked 32nd in 2011. Opponents averaged a league-high 299.8 yards per game throwing against Dom Capers’s unit. This data is a bit misleading, though, as the potency of Green Bay’s offense led to a lot of garbage time or shootout games. Yes, Green Bay’s defense must bounce back this season, but it doesn’t have as far to bounce as you’d think. If it did, the Packers would not have gone 15-1(!).”

“How is James Starks looking in Packers camp so far? @splurge76, from Twitter

“He didn’t do much when I saw him, but I know Packers coaches have not been doing handstands about his performance. I asked Green Bay offensive coordinator Tom Clements about Starks, and this is what he said. ‘Early on he was a little tentative. He’s getting better. He is the kind of guy who needs reps. The more times he has to carry the ball the better he gets. He has a lot of ability. He runs hard.’  The running game is an issue in Green Bay.”

  • Center Jeff Saturday said the Packers’ offense is completely different from the offense he was a key part of in Indianapolis.  Via Pompei:

“The offense we had there is dead,” he said. “I don’t think anybody runs it. So there isn’t a ton of carryover. But I like this offense.”

  • The eldest son of Eagles head coach Andy Reid has been found dead at the Eagles training camp facility.  Via Mike Florio at profootballtalk.com.
  • Pompei points out that former Bear Caleb Hanie’s back up job in Denver is by no means secure:

“Hanie is competing for a job with the Broncos.  He opened up camp as the clear No. 2 quarterback, but all three Broncos backups have been alternating as the No. 2 in recent practices.  Some believe second-round rookie Brock Osweiler has emerged as the favorite to be Manning’s primary backup.

“‘It’s kind of like we have a 2A, 2B, and 2C right now,’ Broncos coach John Fox said. ‘Caleb has probably had the most experience of the three, but Adam Weber with us all last year. Brock got in early, and got a lot of good reps during OTAs.’”

When you are being mentioned in the same breath with “Adam Weber”, that can’t be good.

One Final Thought

I’m really fascinated by the fact that the writers at the Sun-Times seem to be absolutely convinced that Shea McClellin is going to be a linebacker.  For instance, we have this from Potash in a story about Brian Urlacher’s knee injury:

“Rookie defensive end Shea McClellin fits the Urlacher mold better than anybody on the team. He’ll probably find his way there by mistake, just as Urlacher did.”

I tend to believe the team when they say that McClellin is a defensive end.  but I’m going to be really interested to see if these writers turn out to be right.