Points of View, December 16, 2010


  • Sean Jensen at the Chicago Sun-Times wrote one of his nice human interest pieces on an unlikely friendship has helped defensive tackle Tommie Harris through adversity this season.
  • Apparently they are selling naming rights for statistics now.  Jensen points out the Bears rank dead last in something called the “New York Life Protection Index”, which measures a team’s ability to protect the passer.
  • Mike Mulligan, also at the Sun-Times, points to the incredible good heath that the Bears have enjoyed as a huge factor in their success.  I can only agree.
  • Perhaps I’m a bit biased but seems a shame that Lance Briggs‘ outstanding season is being reward by being only third in the an voting at outside linebacker.
  • Patrick Mannelly gets some well deserved dap.


“The owners need to find a way to get the labor situation resolved fast. If it’s not done sooner, I don’t know that Bill Cowher or Jon Gruden will find jobs. You’re talking about some of the best football coaches in the National Football League. They clearly want back in and are good for the game, but there is not a place for them, not with the uncertainty. They are not coming cheap. … You know what suffers — it’s the product on the field.”

I made the point some time ago that the owners could be firing head coaches early in an attempt to give the interim guys a good shot at earning the job.  It cold be much cheaper than paying two coaching staffs not to work during a lockout.  Its what I’d do in this situation and I don’t consider it to be a good sign that teams are possibly resorting to this.  It means they really aren’t sure a deal will get done.

  • Mike Klis at The Denver Post throws out Jim Fassel‘s name as a possible successor to Josh McDaniels as Broncos head coach (via Mike Florio at profootballtalk.com).  I never understood why Fassel can’t find another job in the NFL.  He led the Giants to a Super Bowl and is known as a good offensive mind.  He might be a good fit in Denver.
  • Dan Steinberg at the Washington Post reports (via Florio) that Donovan McNabb was booed as he attended a Wizards home game.  Rumors have been rampant that the Redskins are thinking of starting Rex Grossman and I guess the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.  As much as I like Grossman and am rooting for him, I really don’t think Washington fans know what they’re likely in for if that happens.

One Final Thought

I will be away on a business trip today, through Saturday so there will be few if any posts until Sunday morning.    Have a good time in the malls. –Tom Shannon

Weather Will Now Be a Factor For the Monday Night Game Against the Vikings

The Bears will now be playing at TCF Bank Stadium at the University of Minnesota Monday night.  This is an outdoor stadium.  For those who might be wondering, snow continues to fall in the area and the long range forecast indicates that this will continue through Sunday night.  Temperatures for the game will be 15-20 degrees.  The wind chill, of course, could be much worse than that.

This should be just one more factor among many that will favor the Bears.  The Vikings aren’t the Patriots.  They’re a dome team with nothing to play for and there is a distinct possibility that they will turtle up in this kind of weather.

Can One Game Derail a Season?

Matt Bowen at the Chicago Tribune writes about recovering from a bad loss like that the Bears endured on Sunday:

“I have never been a believer that one game can derail a season. Get through training camp, the first three months of the season and then fold after a bad loss in December? It shouldn’t happen, but it can if the proper adjustments aren’t made and these corrections stemming from Sunday aren’t treated with importance.”

I don’t have much doubt that this is true, particularly coming from an ex-NFL player.  But there is a danger here.

Certainly as long as you see the film and you recognize that you made mistakes, you know that you can correct them.

But what if you are D.J. Moore or Tim Jennings, who were both tabbed with covering Wes Welker one-on-one and got ruined?  What do these guys do when they get totally out classed not because of poor technique but because the other guy was just better?  What if you are their teammates and you are thinking the same thing?  What if you look at the tape and you think, “Man, our coaches got thoroughly played.  And they’ll never be good enough to keep up with these guys”?

Everyone from the front office down to the average fan knows that there’s only so much you can do to compensate for a lack of ability.  That’s how you get a loss of confidence.  That’s how one game can derail a season.

I’m not saying this is going to happen.  But if enough players saw these kind of things enough on tape, the Bears are going to have a long remaining three games.

It’s all about confidence.  It’s all about improvement.  Perhaps most importantly, its all about faith.  Faith in your coaches.  Faith in your teammates.  Faith in yourself.  Here’s hoping this team has enough of it.

Points of View, December 14, 2010


“Branch explained what was discussed.

“‘It was good conversation.'”

“‘He said he was about to clean me off,’ Branch said of Wright. ‘Guys are always talking. But, like I told him, I’ve been playing a lot of football. I have a lot of football under my belt for me to just run a route and not think that you’re going to be there.

As a general rule, my experience is that its the quiet guys who get the job done.  That certainly appeared to be the case Sunday.

  • Much is being made of Wright’s failure to get over the top and cover Branch deep on the last play of the first half, which resulted in a touchdown.  But as Brad Biggs and Matt Bowen at the Chicago Tribune point out, let’s not forget that Charles Tillman also failed to divert Branch and allowed him to release to the outside, something that simply can’t be allowed in those situations.

“Did (the poor technique by both players) cost the Bears the game? No. They were trailing 26-0 before the touchdown. But it was indicative of how poorly prepared the Bears were and how they suffered major breakdowns in technique for the second week in a row.”

Tillman’s error didn’t really matter because Wright was so late.  But even if he hadn’t been its very possible the Patriots would have scored anyway.  Tillman had a terrible game.

“While Tom Brady had the kind of game that only further cemented his MVP and Hall of Fame credentials, this game magnified an even bigger difference between the Patriots and the rest of the NFL — they block better.”

They certainly do and the difference between the teams was noticeable not just on the offensive line but all over the field.


Mike Florio at profootballtalk.com comments upon Tarvaris Jackson’s performance at quarterback for the Vikings last night:

The Vikings had rookie Joe Webb at quarterback for part of the fourth quarter Monday night.    They may as well get Webb some practice, because he’s the only Vikings quarterback on the roster that’s likely to be back next year.

Both Jackson and Webb were former head coach and all around genius Brad Childress’s projects.  The Vikings are already reportedly considering moving Webb moved back to wide receiver, the position for which he was drafted.

Brett Favre may well be put on injured reserve and the unsettled quarterback position bodes well for the Bears, who play the Vikings this week.

One Final Thought

Though I sympathize with their plight, I wasn’t too thrilled with Jets defensive end Shaun Ellis’ reaction to Rex Ryan’s comments after they lost to the Dolphins 10-6 (via Mark Cannizzaro of the New York Post):

“’According to Rex we played [bleepy].  He said we weren’t good enough. I guess we needed a shutout. I guess that’s what he was talking about.”

Yes, that’s exactly what he was talking about.  You’re supposed to win and lose as a team.  If that means you throw a shutout then you throw a shut out.

Good team members point the finger at themselves first.

Bears Could Clinch the Division This Weekend But Don’t Count On It

The Bears could clinch the NFC North this weekend with a win over the Vikings and a Packer loss.  Both of these things could easily happen.  But only if conditions are right.

First let’s take a look at how the Bears are reacting to the way that the Patriots dominated them.  This is what tight end Greg Olsen is saying via Neil Hayes at the Chicago Sun-Times:

“It still hurts. We took a lot of pride in playing well, and it was a big stage for us, and we didn’t take advantage of it at all.

“‘But we have to move on. One loss could become two, and then you’re snowballing down the wrong path. We have to bounce back. We play the Vikings — a division game. Maybe a week from [today], we’ll be celebrating being NFC North champs. We’ll see.”

Sounds good.  As long as they aren’t assuming they are going to beat the Vikings and they concentrate and give it full effort this week instead of letting the post-game hangover affect them.  There’s still a chance that they could play the Vikings in the Metrodome and the Bears have lost seven of their last eight there.  If they don’t, they could be playing outside at the University of Minnesota which, as Sean Jensen, also at the Sun-Times, points out, may not be much better.  It isn’t like the Bears looked fast on the snow Sunday.

But I think the Bears can handle the Vikings.  What is more in doubt in my mind is the Packers-New England game.  Yes, I’m aware that the Patriots have won 26 in a row at home.  And I’m aware that Aaron Rogers might not play.  Without him, the Packers are almost certainly sunk.

As I pointed out last week and as numerous people have pointed out since the game ended, the Patriots were practically built to beat the Bears.  They specialize in executing a patient, short passing game that works well against the cover two.  As Don Pompei at the Chicago Tribune pointed out yesterday, the Patriots forced the Bears to play a lot of man-to-man because they are so good at setting up mismatches with their personnel against zone defenses.

So the Bears problem was that they don’t specialize in playing man-to-man.  The Packers do.  In contrast to the good match up that the Patriots had against the Bears, the matchup with the Packers defense is terrible.  They play tenacious man-to-man defense and they have the personnel to do it.  You could argue that even their backups are better at it than the Bears starters are, particularly in the snow.

And, of course, there’s always the possibility that coming off of two tough wins, the Patriots could let down.  Things like that don’t happen to Bill Belichick‘s teams, you say?  All you have to do is remember that the Browns beat them 34-7 just last month.  No one is in top form all the time.  Though the best do manage to minimize it, it’s human nature to let down at least a little in these situations.

I know it was garbage time and I know better than to make a big deal of it.  But I’ll say out right that the Patriots played a very sloppy second half against the Bears and if they play at all like that against the Packers with Rogers in the line up, home game or not they’ll lose.

So even if the Bears react properly and come out on fire against the Vikings, the Packers aren’t going to just lay down and die.  The Patriots could have their hands full next week.

Bears Defense Needs to Be More Versatile to Compete Against the Elite

Dan Pompei made one of his usual astute observations about yesterday’s game for the Chicago Tribune:

“The Bears also played a heavy dose of man-to-man, especially against nickel personnel. In fact, they played man on about half the snaps.

“They tried D.J. Moore on Wes Welker man-to-man. Result: 17-yard reception. They tried (Tim) Jennings on Welker in man-to-man. Result: 12-yard reception.

“The Patriots’ multifaceted offense took the Bears out of what they do best. They are not built to play man-to-man any more than a rear-wheel-drive sports car is built for a Chicago winter.”

The Patriots are very good at dictating match ups when going against teams who play a zone defense.  A good part of that is because they can dictate personnel with their tight ends, then line up Welker or another player in a position to get a favorable match up.

Looking at it in retrospect, the only way that the Bears were going to effectively defend against the New England offense was going to be by playing man-to-man.

As Pompei points out, the Bears just aren’t built to do that.  Their defensive backs were signed and/or drafted to play zone and, when they’ve got their heads in the game and conditions are right, they’re pretty good at it.  But if they want to compete with the elite teams, their defensive backs are going to have to be more versatile.  Otherwise losses like yesterdays are always going to be a possibility.

Bears Need to Take Close Look at Their Mental Preparation

Mike Mulligan brought up a point for the Chicago Sun-Times that I know is probably running through many people’s minds this morning.

“But the thinking was the Bears were beyond this sort of game, yet another in a series of historic losses. It has been going that way for the Bears the last couple of years.

“They don’t just lose; they set some kind of record for futility en route to disaster. It happened last year against Cincinnati and Arizona and earlier this year when they gave up an NFL- record nine sacks in the first half of a road loss against the Giants.”

This is something that the Bears seem to struggle with.  All teams have bad games but when they do it, everything seems to collapse at once.  I can’t believe that there weren’t signs that this was coming last week.  Perhaps the players were too tight or too loose in practice.  Perhaps they didn’t appear to be focused.  Whatever the signs were, the Bears coaches obviously missed them or, if they didn’t, they didn’t do anything about it.

Players as individuals have to get themselves ready to play but getting the team as a group prepared to play is Lovie Smith‘s job.  He’s got to recognize when a large percentage of the team doesn’t appear to be ready to play.  Right now he should be questioning his evaluation when performances like yesterday’s come along with no apparent warning.  Good teams with good coaches just don’t lay eggs like yesterday’s.

Smith has a lot of former head coaches on his staff.  Perhaps a talk with them is long overdue.  At minimum, its time for some self evaluation.

The Bears Were at a Disadvantage on the Slick Soldier Field Surface Against the Patriots

There were all kinds of reasons for yesterdays 36-7 debacle against the New England Patriots.  But I thought Bears defensive tackle Tommie Harris came up with one of the main problems that perhaps people aren’t considering in the locker room after the game (via Neil Hayes at the Chicago Sun-Times):

“Nobody was making excuses afterward as player after player agreed with linebacker Lance Briggs’ assessment that this had been a ‘butt-whipping,’ although defensive tackle Tommie Harris did say the Patriots’ defensive scheme may have given them a built-in advantage in the wintry conditions.

“‘If you’re a fast defense, you play better on turf and other fast surfaces,’ Harris said. ‘Their defense is a 3-4, so their guys stand up, so traction isn’t a problem.'”

Last week I pointed out that one of the keys to the game was going to be the Bears defense playing particularly fast against the Patriots.  Then the snow came.

With Lovie Smith as the effective defensive coordinator and with Mike Martz as the offensive coordinator, the Bears have effectively brought the St. Louis Rams blue print of the late nineties to Chicago.  That plan is built based upon speed.  But the Rams play in a dome.  The Bears don’t and, though the problem hasn’t reared its head much previously, it was obvious that the footing hurt them more than the Patriots yesterday.

Game Comments: Bears Vs. Patriots, December 12, 2010


  1. Bears came out playing passive in the cover-2 in the first quarter. They had nickel personnel on the field on first down.
  2. The Patriots obviously anticipated what the Bears were going to do and they responded by running the ball and they did it very well.
  3. That wouldn’t have been so bad if it hadn’t been for the fact thay the Bears weren’t stopping them from passing either.  If you can’t stop the pass with nickel personnel on the field its going to be a long day.  It was.
  4. Eventually the Bears started putting in the standard front seven more often and bringing an eigtth guy into the box in running situations.  They haven’t had to do that for most of the year but they did here.  This did help stop the run but Patriots quarterback Tom Brady passed at will.
  5. Color man Phil Simms almost immediately pointed out the significant fact that the Patriots offensive line was expected to block the Bears pass rush without help.  The fact that they did was a huge key to their victory.  The pass rush wasn’t getting to Brady quick enough under the circumstances.
  6. The Patriots run the play action really well.  Of course it starts by running successfully which they did until the Bears gave in and started to scheme to stop it, giving the pass.
  7. The Patriots executed the passing game to perfection finding the holes in the cover-2 defense all day, especially by throwing over the middle.  The gaps were huge particularly when the linebackers got sucked toward the line of scrimmage by the play action fake.
  8. The Bears just weren’t playing fast enough or tight enough to stop a balanced Patriot offense that was executing well.  The footing had a devastating effect.
  9. The last play of the first half was a disaster.  Charles Tillman let Branch release to the outside.  He got no help over the top.  Absolute disaster.
  10. Terrible game for Tillman.
  11. Give the Bear defense credit.  They continued to give good effort in the second half and really laid some good hits.


  1. The Bears came out running and it looked like the right thing to do.  They were getting yardage and the Patriots seemed perfectly happy to give it to them by staying in their standard 3-4.  But the Bears didn’t execute well enough, consistently enough to do what they had to on the ground.  This was true particularly when they tried to run up the middle.
  2. On a related note, the Bears offensive line was particularly bad today.  The Patriots defensive linemen got penetration and generated negative plays all day.
  3. I don’t know what it was with quarterbacks not sliding today but after watching Aaron Rogers get a concussion I grimaced when Bears quarterback Jay Cutler took off with the ball.  He’s got to start sliding.
  4. The protection was really bad for Cutler and the Patriots got good pressure up the middle.  Once it got to be about 24-0, the Patriots just started rushing all out, knowing the the Bears had to throw the ball.  In fairness to the line they did improve in the second half (as usual).  But it was way too little, way too late.
  5. Cutler did throw the ball pretty well today.  He’s got the arm to compete in this kind of weather if he has time to throw.  I know he was intercepted twice but he was simply trying to make something happen under trying circumstances.
  6. For a team that dominated the game the way they did, the Patriots didn’t tackle very well.


  1. Jim Nantz and Phil Simms did a very good job.  It’s tough when the game is so uncompetitive.  I really appreciated the occasional wide shot that CBS gave the television viewers.  It allowed us to get a glimpse of the formation before the camera zoomed in more closely.
  2. The special teams were both good and bad.  Good with the returns as Danieal Manning had some good ones.  Bad with the kick coverage as the Patriots had some good returns as well.  The ball was dead which made kicking difficult.
  3. The Bears deferred on the coin toss giving the ball to the Patriots first.  I was mildly surprised because one of the keys is to keep Brady and that offense off the field.  No harm done.
  4. The turnovers were, of course, killers.  The Patriots converted them into points and things really snowballed in the first half because of it.  The Bears, on the other hand, missed repeated opportunities to get turnovers of their own – opportunities which they usually take advantage of.  Not a good game.
  5. The Patriots didn’t drop many balls in the first half.  They let down and dropped quite a number of them in the second half.  The Bears had maybe a few more than usual but relatively speaking it wasn’t a serious problem.
  6. The Bears, again, had far too many penalties.  As usual, the offensive line was the main culprit.
  7. The Bears seemed to have a lot more trouble with the footing than the Patriots did.  It wasn’t really  the slipping around that was so obvious but they looked tentative on their feet and it limited their mobility.  The Patriots looked like they were much quicker and more sure footed.
  8. Thank goodness the Packers lost to the Lions today.
  9. The Tweet of the game comes from Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune: “In his team speech last night, @ZachZaidman reports Lovie Smith was so emotional, some players teared up. Anyone cry at halftime?”
  10. The Bears didn’t play well and they didn’t handle the footing very well, either.  But those things can be corrected.  Their biggest problem today was that this was an awful, awful match up for them.  The Patriots look and play like they were almost designed to compete against cover two defenses like the Bears.  The loss was disappointing and I’m as frustrated as anyone.  But, unlike some fans, I’m also not going to be calling this a team full of frauds, either.  Circumstances and their offensive line just conspired against them today.  Here’s hoping they learn from it and are better able to handle them later.  There’s still hope that over the next month that offensive line will solidify and come together to make a playoff run.  But they’d better hurry.

Points of View, December 12, 2010


  • I made a big deal about the Bears handling cold weather better because they practice outside.  So its not surprising that today’s opponent, New England, who also is used to handling cold weather, is also doing so.
  • Jason La Canfora of the NFL Network reports (via Brad Biggs at The National Football Post) that Lions defensive end Cliff Avril was fined $15,000 fine for unnecessarily striking Jay Cutler in the face area.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. High hits lead to bad things. Period. Get used to it.


“Q: In your opinion, over the last 15 seasons, who has been the league’s best quarterback, Tom Brady or Peyton Manning? — Kevin Armstead

“A: That’s like asking which super model you’d rather take to the prom. Both are great, obviously. If I had to chose I’d probably take Brady because he hasn’t had as much consistency with surrounding personnel or with coordinators and he has won three Super Bowls to Manning’s one.”

Give me Manning any day.  He does more to carry the Indianapolis Colts with less talent than Brady generally has to with the Patriots.

Expectations for Skelton are and should be low.  But I’ll say this.  I watched the quarterbacks workout on the television broadcast of the NFL combine last spring and the microphones picked up Skelton’s ball literally whistling as it left his hand.  He’s got some physical tools.  It should be interesting to see what he can do with them.

One Final Thought

I loved the reason special teams coordinator Dave Toub gave to Vaughn McClure at the Chicago Tribune for keeping kicker Robbie Gould after a try out involving four other kickers in 2005:

“Out of those five guys, Robbie had the best kickoff leg. Nobody came in and just blew us away. … He wasn’t crappy, so we kept him.”

It’s always nice to impress with your brilliance.  But sometimes it pays just not to screw up too badly.