Bears Turn Broncos Quarterback Troubles to Their Advantage

Phil Thompson and Tim Bannon at the Chicago Tribune pass on information about Broncos quarterback Brock Osweiler, who will start in place of Peyton Manning this Sunday against the Bears. There’s not much there.

“Osweiler accidentally ignored Peyton Manning’s tweet congratulating him on draft day in 2012. He was chosen in the second round (57th overall). It wasn’t until he was boarding a plane later that he finally noticed it. ‘I was like, ‘Oh, shoot! Peyton Manning!'”

Manning was benched during a miserable outing last Sunday against the Chiefs in which,, though he was under siege, it was hard not to notice the lack of accuracy. Broncos head coach Gary Kubiac says it was due to injury. Most people have their doubts. With some exceptions, such as their game against the Packers coming off of their bye, Manning hasn’t looked good this year. Its likely that age is catching up with him.

That leaves the Bears facing a quarterback in Osweiler that the league doesn’t know much about. That would ordinarily be a major advantage for the Broncos. But the guess here is that few people know Osweiler better than Bears head coach John Fox and offensive coordinator Adam Gase. In this, the Bears are fortunate and the Broncos are forfeiting that initial period of uncertainty that would usually come with starting a new quarterback. Further, assuming Gase exposes Osweiler’s weaknesses sufficiently, the Beras will provide a road map against the rest of the league for beating him.

Fox and the Bears are lucky they’re playing the AFC West division this season. The Bear coaching staff knows those teams very well and up until last Sunday’s win against the Rams the Bears had only beaten AFC West teams. Though the Broncos are certainly more talented, there’s at least reasonable hope that the Bears will be competitive in this game despite being underdogs at home.

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Quick Comments: Bears at Rams 11/15/15


  1. The Rams came out with the expected game plan. Lots of short passes to the tight end and the running back out of the backfield to take advantage of the Bears lack of speed at linebacker. They also tried to run the ball with star rookie Todd Gurley. As with Adrian Peterson last week, the Bears didn’t really stack the box in an effort to stop him unless the formation indicated a power run.
  2. You have to like how the Rams try to use misdirection with Tavon Austin. Teams like the Bears have to be aggressive to stop Gurley. That makes them susceptible to that.
  3. Willie Young did a good job of showing up in place of the injured Pernell McPhee. He was around the quarterback a lot and made some good plays in the running game. Generally speaking the Bears got pressure on Nick Foles and that helped the Bears coverage a lot.
  4. Another thing that helped the Bears coverage, Foles did not impress me today. His accuracy was very poor and he often failed to hit the men that got open. The Bears jumped the short routes with little apparent regard for Foles ability to throw the ball deep. That Foles trade for Sam Bradford isn’t looking good right now.
  5. The Rams used Wes Welker sparingly and almost entirely on third down. They usually tried to throw it to him short of the sticks and let him run for the first down with only limited success.
  6. Kudos to Bryce Callahan who had a pretty good day today.  Tracy Porter had a good day in coverage, too.
  7. Kudos also to Lamarr Houston with another sack, too, but I’d like to see it at some point when the whole stadium doesn’t know the Rams have to pass.


  1. The Bears came out with their usual ball control game plan. Lots of short passes and runs with Jeremy Langford. The Rams are pretty tough up front and they generally did a decent job of stopping the run.
  2. The Bears offensive line had their hands full against the Rams front. I thought they lost the line of scrimmage in the run game. They did better in pass protection but Jay Cutler still got knocked around pretty good. Aaron Donald dominated the Bears guards at times. Donald is a star but this highlights the need for interior offensive linemen in the offseason.
  3. Part of the reason why Cutler got knocked around was the Rams tendency to blitz. The Bears took full advantage of the tendency, catching the Rams in a blitz for big plays and two of their touchdowns in the first half, one by Jeremy Langford and one by Zack Miller. the Bears used the screen game to good effect.
  4. Zack Miller with another impressive run for a touchdown early this week. He was helped a great deal by some poor tackling on the part of the Rams. Miller had a heck of a day with another touchdown in the second quarter. The sky’s the limit as long as he stays healthy.
  5. It’s a good thing that Miller showed up because Martellus Bennett looked a little sluggish to me today.
  6. Whatever you say about Ka’Deem Carey, he runs hard. Gotta love that.
  7. Jay Cutler took off on a read option for 26 yards in the third quarter that had everyone in the building fooled. Adam Gase was on the ball with the play calling today.
  8. Another thing the Bears have been doing with some success if stacking receivers. It’s been confusing the coverage allowing guys to pop open behind little crosses at the line of scrimmage.


  1. I didn’t have a tough time with Andrew Catalon, Steve Tasker and Steve Beuerlein. They didn’t teach me much but they weren’t afraid to be critical of anyone with the exception of Jay Cutler. They spent a lot of time kissing Cutler’s rear, making me wonder if someone was related to him.
  2. Robbie Gould was coming off of three straight field goal misses. He hit his field goals today, though. Gould’s kickoffs were pretty deep for once as well. The Bears return teams were poor, leaving the offense with bad field position for much of the game. Bears coverage teams did a good job containing Tavon Austin. Their extra discipline in holding to their lanes and doing their jobs was evident. The Rams weren’t bad on special teams but they tried a fake punt from their 20 yard line in the fourth quarter that failed. To their credit, the Bears looked ready for it. The resulting field goal put the game out of reach.
  3. The Rams spent most of this game just killing themselves with terrible penalties. The Bears, on the other hand, didn’t have any until Alan Ball got called for a stupid unsportsman-like conduct penalty. The Bears had more than their share but nothing like St. Louis. That was a large part of the difference in the game.
  4. Foles’s receivers didn’t help him much with a lot of drops in the game. Foles wasn’t accurate but some of those balls should have been caught.
  5. The teams traded turnovers early with a muffed punt by Marc Mariani followed by a fumble by Tre Mason, both in the first quarter. Each turned in to only a field goal. Willie Young got a nice late interception. Ka’Deem Carey fumbled the ball away in garbage time, as well.
  6. They say that the vast majority of the time, you don’t have teams win a game. Its the other team that loses it. I’m starting to get a good idea why the Rams aren’t doing better despite their talent. That team has the worst discipline of any team I’ve seen all year. The penalties were awful. The drops were inexcusable. Nick Foles looks totally incapable of completing a long pass. Not that the Bears didn’t play a good, game. They did and all credit to them. They made plays and the played a good clean game. But bottom line the Rams handed this game to the Bears on a platter. The Bears only had to accepted it. To their credit, they did.
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The Real Reason Why the Bears Appear to Have a Bright Future at the Season Midpoint

Dan Wiederer at the Chicago Tribune goes over some positives for the Bears at the midpoint of the season, starting with the nice job offensive coordinator Adam Gase has done:

“The 37-year-old offensive coordinator has been as good as advertised and will remain a hot name in head coaching searches when January rolls around. To measure Gase’s biggest impact, look first at the performance and poise of quarterback Jay Cutler.”

It’s far too early to talk about losing coaches. But like most of Chicago, I recognize that he’s certainly been doing well and may deserve his shot.

But count me as one guy who is happy with one of the coaches that Wiederer didn’t mention: defensive coordinator Vic Fangio.

Case’s unit has helped Fangio a lot with a wonderful, ball control offense that I, for one, never thought they had the discipline or the offensive run blocking to pull off. Nevertheless, what Fangio has done with almost no talent on the defensive side of the ball is nothing less than a miracle. The Bears are currently eighth in the league in total defense and fifth in passing defense. All this with a patchwork defensive line that wasn’t very good even when healthy, one very good linebacker in Pernell McPhee, and one average corner and average safety in Kyle Fuller and Adrian Amos, respectively. It’s one of the most unbelievable things I’ve seen since I’ve been a Bears fan.

To his credit, Wiederer does point out the major force behind all of this:

“[Bears head coach John] Fox vowed from his first day on the job to build a smart and tough football team and is clearly succeeding. His skills as a motivator have been lauded across the locker room. His penchant for utilizing bright and experienced assistants has also elevated the Bears’ preparation.”


Fox has shown himself capable of attracting some of the best assistants in football, something that Lovie Smith was only marginally successful at. Smith hired people he’d worked with before whenever possible and that severely limited his choices, particularly on the offensive side. He also didn’t like coaches who disagreed with him like Ron Rivera. “Creative tension” wasn’t in his vocabulary and he ended up with a lot of “yes men” on his staffs.

Fox doesn’t have any of that. He’s gotten the best available and let them do their jobs. And the Bears have benefited and will continue to benefit. Yes, when you hire good coaches you are bound to eventually lose them. But Adam Gase or not, the Bears are set up for a bright future as long as Fox is the head coach.

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The Cutler Debate Encapsulated

One of my favorite podcasts to listen to as I’m walking in to work is the Around the NFL podcast.  During yesterday’s episode (entitled “Midseason Power Poll”) which recapped the Monday Night game against the Chargers, I thought they did a very good job of encapsulating the debate surrounding the future of quarterback Jay Cutler with the Bears.

The debate starts at 31:30.  The guys defending Cutler are Gregg Rosenthal and Dan Hanzus.  The “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me for 10 years, shame on me” guy is Chris Weaseling (but I confess, could have easily been me).  I recommend that you give it a listen no matter how you feel about this issue.

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Bears Will Have Cap Space in 2016 but What Will They Do with It?

Mike Mulligan at the Chicago Tribune highlights the amount of cap space taken up by players no longer on the Bears:

Jared Allen, now playing with the Panthers, is the second-highest cap hit on the team at $11.7 million. Brandon Marshall, catching touchdowns for the Jets, is the eighth biggest hit at $5.6 million-plus. Tim Jennings, playing for the Buccaneers, counts $4.4 million. The Bears have more than $25 million in dead cap space, led by those players.”

That is, indeed, a lot and if I’m the owner of the Bears I can’t be happy at spending that kind of money in that kind of way. Mulligan’s point that you can’t buy a good football team is well taken and I’m sure everyone who is reading this doesn’t need to hear again about how the Bears need to build through the draft from here on out. I realize that the McCaskey’s want to win as soon as possible but you can actually do that through the annual selection process if you have someone who is doing the drafting who knows what they are doing.

What I do want to do is point out that there is some good news here. Former general manager Phil Emery made a lot of mistakes but one he didn’t make was sewing these guys up with long-term cap implications. The Bears have all of this dead space this year because they were in a position to release those players. Yes, the cap space hurts but they still did it without totally crippling the team.

All of these players are off the books next year which means that the Bears are going to have more than the usual amount of cap space to work with in January. What they do with that space will be very interesting to see. Certainly they’ll want to pay their own. Here’s hoping they don’t blow the rest on long-term free agent contracts of the type that could have caused even more damage than we saw this year.

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A Trade Off at Cornerback

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune comments on former Bears cornerback Tim Jennings‘ situation:

“When the Bears released two-time Pro Bowl cornerback Tim Jennings on Aug. 30, some questioned if the club was ditching a shot at winning now in order to get some younger players involved. Yes, that really was the approach some took. As is often the case, the front office had a solid gauge on where Jennings was at as the Buccaneers and former coach Lovie Smith released him on Monday. Keep in mind Jennings had arthroscopic knee surgery early in the offseason and Smith probably didn’t get the same player he remembered.”

Yes, but its worth noting that though the Jennings signing didn’t work out, former Bear Charles Tillman has been performing extremely well for the undefeated Carolina Panthers. So strike one up for the Bears on Jennings but take it away for Tillman, someone the Bears could sorely use in coverage this season.

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The Bears Linebacking Corp Needs Major Work in Coverage

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune talks up undrafted free agent linebacker Jonathan Anderson. Anderson is asked about the fact that he was given the helmet with the headset in it on Monday night to call the plays instead of Christian Jones:

“‘I feel like they trust me a little bit more and that is why I got a little more action,’ Anderson said. ‘I was out there trying to do my job.’

“In press box statistics, Anderson was credited with a team-high 11 solo tackles and 12 total. It will be interesting to see how coaches grade him. The Chargers did some damage underneath in the passing game. Jones was second on the defense with seven tackles. When [SheaMcClellin is cleared to return, I’d expect him to regain some playing time from the younger players.”

That first comment was a blunt assessment that won’t score him points for tact in the locker room. But If Jones doesn’t like it, he should perform better.

Regardless, the bet here is that none of the linebackers is scoring many points with the coaching staff. As Biggs points out, San Diego running back Danny Woodhead did major damage in the underneath passing game and the old man at tight end, Antonio Gates, had a good game against them as well.

You have to play mistake free football to take advantage of that kind of weakness and the Chargers obviously weren’t up to the task. But if the Rams don’t execute well enough to take advantage of that weakness, I can guarantee you that the Broncos will and then the Packers will on Thanksgiving.

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Outside Linebacker Position Up for Grabs as Acho Steps Out and Houston Steps Up

Rich Campbell at the Chicago Tribune celebrates Lamarr Houston after he got two sacks late in the second half against the Chargers:

“‘I was out there trying to work hard,’ Houston said, ‘and see if I could get something done.'”

Houston and Willie Young almost both saw opportunity knocking after starter Sam Acho had a lousy night where he gave up a touchdown on a blown coverage and was otherwise a non-entity. The Beras have gotten almost no pass rush opposite Pernell McPhee with Acho getting the bulk of the snaps and they obviously were in search for more in the second half on Monday night.

This will be a position to keep an eye on as it’s obviously a place that is waiting for someone to step up and take it.

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Game Comments: Bears at Chargers 11/9/15

monday-night-football-bears-vs-chargers-score-results Offense

  1. Though it wasn’t all through the air, the Bears spread it out a bit more than usual early with fewer double tight end sets and with Martellus Bennett in the back field rather than right at the line of scrimmage. The Bears apparently wanted to use the pass to set up the run tonight. I thought they ran the ball a bit more in the second half.
  2. The Bears offensive line was doing a good job of moving the San Diego defensive line in the run game. They won the line of scrimmage for the most part tonight.
  3. Martellus Bennett had a good game. He looked like he reacted by coming back to play full speed after catching some criticism last week for his low numbers in the passing game.
  4. The Chargers used line stunts to try to get pressure on Jay Cutler with limited success. It’s probably something the offensive line needs to work on.
  5. The Chargers also liked to blitz, especially on third down. The Bears went to the screen game in response with some success in the second half. Jeremy Langford did a good job picking up the blitz as well.
  6. That was a wonderful long catch by Jeremy Langford to pick up a first down in the first quarter. He’s appears to have good hands. Langford had a good night.
  7. Jason Verrett played an excellent game as he shut down Alshon Jeffery and had an interception for a touchdown. Once Jeffery ended up on Steve Williams in the second quarter the Bears tried to feed him with some success.
  8. If Jeffery had a good night, it would have been nice to have seen Marquess Wilson have a better one along side him. He had a tough time getting open against man coverage.
  9. That was a wonderful play action pass call on the one yard line to get Martellus Bennett a touchdown in the second quarter.
  10. Magnificent catch by Zach Miller for what turned out to be the game winning touchdown.


  1. San Diego was winning the line of scrimmage early with their offensive line. Bears linebackers were having a hard time getting off blocks.
  2. The Bears had a tough time getting pressure on Philip Rivers and eventually resorted to doing more blitzing than usual with limited success.
  3. The Bears may have gotten a little more pressure on Rivers in the third quarter and there were more tipped passes which makes me wonder if the Bears coaches didn’t say something about getting their hands up on the line of scrimmage at half time. TO my eye, Willie Young came out with some fire. He may be seeing a chance to show the coaches something with poor play o that side by Sam Acho.
  4. Speaking of Acho, that was a bad blown coverage on Danny Woodhead to give up a San Diego touchdown in the first quarter.
  5. San Diego took advantage of the Bears linebackers by sending their running backs out into patterns from the backfield. The Bears had a tough time handling it.
  6. The Bears defensive backs didn’t fare much better than the linebackers in coverage as there appeared to be big gaps on occasion for the Chargers to take advantage of. The Bears appear to me to play particularly poor zone defense, perhaps because they lack speed.
  7. Melvin Gordon is a huge disappointment to me. Going into the NFL draft I thought he might have been even better than Todd Gurley. But he looks like an average back with average vision to me right now.
  8. Does Philip Rivers ever shut up?
  9. With a lot of injuries the Chargers certainly welcomed a good performance from Antonio Gates.
  10. The defense really came through with some nice plays on the last San Diego possession. A couple nice sacks on the last drive by Lamarr Houston. I wish he wouldn’t celebrate like that…


  1. These have to be two of the worst special teams units in football. Robbie Gould missed a field goal in the first quarter and in the third quarter. The ball may have been tipped on the first one. San Diego missed an extra point in the second quarter. There was also a poor punt by Mike Scifres late in the second quarter.
  2. This was a sloppy game with too many penalties on both sides. San Diego had an illegal formation in the first quarter. Matt Slauson had a false start with the ball at the 10 yard line near the beginning of the second quarter. Lamarr Houston had an offsides penalty in the second quarter and a bad one in the fourth quarter on the final San Diego drive. That was followed by an offensive pass interference, a holding call and a false start as San Diego shot themselves in the foot. Kyle Long got a stupid unsportsman-like conduct penalty late in the second quarter to take the Bears out of field goal range. Long also had a holding penalty that the Bears could ill afford late in the third quarter with the team down nine points. Jarvis Jenkins had a killer roughing the passer penalty to put the Chargers in field goal range on the drive to end the first half. Stevie Johnson had a terrible delay of game penalty in the fourth quarter with the Chargers in the red zone after he spiked the ball in the field of play. That was followed by a damaging ineligible man down field penalty by D.J. Fluker that took a touchdown off the board. Those penalties arguably cost the Chargers the game in the end.
  3. Dropped passes weren’t really a factor.
  4. It wasn’t a good night for Cutler as far as turnovers are concerned. A Cutler fumble on the 20 yard line gave the ball to San Diego and ruined a trip into the red zone in the second quarter. In the same quarter the Bears recovered a fumble in San Diego territory but Cutler threw it back to them for a pick six.
  5. Jay Cutler giveth and Jay Cutler taketh away in what was really a sloppy game on both sides tonight. Too many turnovers and far too many penalties, especially on the San Diego side of the field. The Bears continue to have coverage issues in the defensive backfield and, especially, with their linebackers and I think we can expect to see plenty of short passes, especially to running backs out of the backfield, in the near future. It wasn’t pretty but a win is a win.


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Are Willie Young and Lamar Houston Still Recovering?

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers more your questions:

“Now that the trade deadline has passed do you see the Bears parting ways with Willie Young or Lamarr Houston and giving their reps elsewhere? — @sly034

“There aren’t any exciting outside linebackers on the street right [now]. As unproductive as Sam Acho has been as a starter opposite Pernell McPhee, is shows you what the coaching staff thinks of Young and Houston at this point. But getting rid of them right now doesn’t necessarily improve the roster and it also doesn’t save the Bears any money.”

I would add that both Young and Houston are recovering injuries. These frequently take more than a year to completely heal, particularly knee injuries like the top Lamar Houston.  The recovery of former Bears defensive tackle Tommie Harris comes to mind as a comparison.

It’s possible that the Bears are biding their time with both of these men. As Biggs points out, there’s not much out there anyway and you can always release them later if they don’t get better.

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