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.

Many Factors Combine to Make the Bears-Patriots Tilt Among the Most Interesting of the Season

Brad Biggs did a nice interview with Chicago Tribune colleague and former NFL safety Matt Bowen which concentrated on the special problems the Bears face against the Patriots.  Among the more interesting aspects of the match up which were addressed was this one:

“What is the challenge to covering their rookie tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, who have combined for 10 touchdowns?

“They want you to play your standard 4-3 and to use Gronkowski as the down tight end and Hernandez as a wide receiver so they give you a three-wide receiver look with that deuce (two tight end) personnel.”

“Do you leave your base personnel on the field? They’re going to throw the ball. OK, you’re going to play nickel. They have a ton of one-back runs with BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead.”

This is exactly what Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz would like to accomplish with Greg Olsen.  He wants teams to guess whether the Bears will run with him in at tight end or if they will use him as a receiver.  He hopes to create mismatches.  That’s why it was and is so critical for Olsen to get better as a blocker.  He needs to be effective if the Bears are going to run with him in the game.  It prevents teams from simply playing a nickel defense and defending him strictly as a receiver.

The guess here is that’s exactly what the Bear will do to the Patriots tight ends.  They’ll keep nickel personnel on the field and try to stop the run with it as they did against the Lions.  With Nick Roach’s health being questionable anyway, they may want to keep nickel back D.J. Moore in the game more often anyway.  The Bears success defensively might hinge a lot on how much better the Patriots running game is than what the Bears saw last week.

Personally, if I were Lovie Smith, I’d try my best to disguise coverages more effectively than usual, something that they planned to do more of this year.  Even if in the end they still play cover-2 more often than not early, it will give them the option to subtly change the game plan to cover the shorter routes more effectively should the Patriots be executing their underneath game particularly well against it.

Smith has to be ready to be flexible.  He has to see what’s happening and adjust to the Patriot game plan and their execution.  In that respect, the Bears also have to worry about the other side of the ball:

“What should the Bears expect from Bill Belichick‘s defense?”

“Something they haven’t seen before.”

Although Bowen is a former defensive player, some of the more interesting aspects of the article focus on the Bear offense:

“Much has been made of the Bears not throwing the ball downfield. Are you surprised offensive coordinator Mike Martz resisted the urge to go deep during the five-game winning streak?”

“I’m not surprised, just because of how good the defense and the special teams are playing.

“He’s working within that role, ‘How many points do I need to win?’ It’s not a very high-risk offense right now. Matt Forte is running the ball and they’re not running deep routes. That’s why Earl Bennett is showing up so much. They’re running those three-step drops and he plays on the inside. It’s a quick, easy throw for (Jay) Cutler.”

It hard not to notice Cutler has been leaning a lot on Bennett recently.  Certainly if I can see it, the Patriots coaching staff can.  I think we can count on them concentrating upon taking away both Bennett and Olsen underneath.  Therefore it will be extremely important for Cutler to be ready to distribute the ball to other players.

I would be remiss if I didn’t highlight at least one of the more interesting factors that Biggs’ fellow journalist, Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times, pointed to as well:

“(Patriots offensive tackle Vince) Wilfork has size and mobility in the mold of the Redskins’ Albert Haynesworth, who gave the Bears plenty of trouble. (Bears Center Olin) Kreutz and guards Roberto Garza and Chris Williams containing Wilfork will be key. The Bears’ communication on the line has improved of late, and they’re better equipped to handle opponents of Wilfork’s ability.”

Kreutz traditionally has a tough time with large defensive linemen and it makes handling the 3-4 particularly difficult.  If Wilfork is pushing him and his fellow guards into the backfield all game it could be a long day.  The Bears undoubtedly will choose to attack the edges again rather than attack Wilfork.

Anyway you slice it, this will be a wonderful challenge for the Bears and a great game with many interesting facets to watch.

Lovie Smith’s Challenge. Coach Needs to Adjust to Patriots Not Belichick.

One of the best pieces of advice my father ever gave me was when we talked about what I should do for a living.  He told me not to worry about money.  “Do what your heart tells you to do.  Make sure its something you like.  If you do, then you’ll probably be good at it and the money will follow.”

This more or less worked for me.  Though I’ll never be rich, I do like what I do and I make enough to live on.  But what was important here was the broader lesson.  If you take care of things on the ground level, success on the broader scale will follow.  Because I like what I do and I think I’m reasonably good at it, I’m reasonably comfortable financially and I consider myself to be reasonably successful overall.  And if you really cut to the bottom line, I’m reasonably happy.

In the Chicago Tribune today, David Haugh encourages Bears head coach Lovie Smith to be creative against Patriots head coach Bill Belichick:

“Chances are rare any coach will out-Belichick Belichick or out-Brady Brady. But Smith needs to try anyway to use his noggin so we shake our heads in disbelief.

“Add a new wrinkle in the return game. Dare to dabble in something that may not work defensively. Have the Bears run a flea-flicker since the Gary Crowton era?”

Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times puts is even more bluntly:

“That’s how you beat Belichick. You have to be Belichick.”

These columns highlight one of the problems that Smith faces.  They suggest that Smith alter his game plan to out coach Belichick.  I would suggest that is putting the cart in front of the horse.  What Smith has to do is adjust to what the Patriots do as a team and let success against Belichick flow from that.

Belichick has such a reputation as a great coach that it can, I think, become a distraction which can keep other coaches from concentrating on the more basic, more important things.  Smith can’t be worried about out dueling the other coach.  What Smith has to worry about is how to use his personnel to neutralize Wes Welker‘s quickness.  He has to worry about Tom Brady‘s accuracy.  He has to worry about the Patriot’s underneath passing game and he has to think about how to counter that.

Bottom line, if Smith takes care of business and thinks about the ground level aspects of the game that make up the big picture, he’ll come out ahead of Belichick in the end as a natural result.  Like with everything else in life, it starts with the little things.