Bears

Breaking down the play that sums up how good the Bears’ defense has been in 2017

Breaking down the play that sums up how good the Bears’ defense has been in 2017

The Bears’ defense proved to be a stout bunch through the first eight games of 2017, with major contributions coming from every unit within it. But there’s one play that stands out when evaluating just how good Vic Fangio’s group has been this year:

Midway through the third quarter of the Bears’ 17-3 win over Carolina on Oct. 22, the Panthers lined up to try to convert a fourth-and-two at the Bears’ 25-yard line. This was a pivotal point in the game: Carolina was down, 17-3, but was driving after 10 plays covering 51 yards. A first down could’ve begat a touchdown, which would’ve changed the entire complexion of a game in which the Bears were struggling to mount anything offensively.

So the Panthers called for a bread-and-butter play: QB power, with Cam Newton running behind the right side of his offensive line as well as a running back and a tight end. The 6-foot-6, 260 pound Newton is averaging 3.8 yards per carry on third/fourth-and-short downs in his career; only 28 of his 133 attempts (21 percent) in those situations have not gone for first downs. This was one of them, and it had everything to do with how good the Bears' defense -- specifically Akiem Hicks and Eddie Goldman -- played the call. 

This is right as Newton received the snap. Goldman is the blue arrow, blocked by right guard Trai Turner (70). Hicks is in the red circle and immediately draws a double team of tackle Daryl Williams (60) and tight end Ed Dickson (84). Leonard Floyd is the yellow arrow, coming from the edge, with running back Jonathan Stewart (28) identifying his rush. 

Goldman (blue arrow) quickly beats Turner to his inside shoulder, while Hicks takes on the double team and Floyd is met by Stewart. Danny Trevathan (black arrow) doesn't over-pursue and stays on his assignment. 

Goldman is free of Turner, Hicks doesn't give ground against the double team and Floyd beats Stewart to his outside shoulder. The play is quickly blowing up for Carolina. 

The purple circle is where Turner wound up after being beat by Goldman, who's ready to meet Newton at the 26-yard line. Carolina had to get to the Bears' 23-yard line to convert a first down. Floyd, too, now has an opportunity to get to Newton, even after Stewart gets his hands on him. And there's nowhere for Newton to push forward because Hicks proved to be immovable. 

Scene. Goldman (1) is credited with the tackle, but Floyd (2) is contributing. Adrian Amos (3), Trevathan (4) and Hicks (5) make sure there's no chance Newton can power his way forward for two yards. It officially goes as a one-yard gain and a turnover on downs. 

Here's how defensive line coach Jay Rodgers explained the play:

“(Goldman) was playing a left side shade,” Rodgers said. “Their right guard blocked down on him, he recognized the key read right there and knocked that guy back. He’s supposed to fit on the right side of that guard, but here comes Cam to the left side of that guard, he just gets rid of them and go makes the play. Now, that doesn’t happen unless Akiem anchors the double-team, and that’s what he had to do first. So those are two guys who are playing off of each other right there in a positive way.”

Here’s what Hicks saw on it:

“It was a heavy set to our side,” Hicks said. “Then they pull the guard from the back side, they take the running back through the hole and then they send Cam last, so it’s just a lot of meat coming through one area. I would say that’s a great play for their offense. That wasn’t the only time that they ran it, but we did a great job of shutting it down. Taking on those first two blocks that I did allowed guys to come around the sides and stop him before he got to the first down.”

The point here: The Carolina Panthers, a 6-3 team with a good chance of making the playoffs, ran one of its most effective offensive plays in a high-leverage situation, and the Bears stopped it. This was Carolina's best against the Bears' best. The Bears won. And that's what Fangio's defense can do. 

NBC Sports Chicago to provide extensive, multi-platform coverage of 2018 NFL Draft

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NBC Sports Chicago

NBC Sports Chicago to provide extensive, multi-platform coverage of 2018 NFL Draft

Chicago, IL (April 24, 2018) – With the Chicago Bears holding the #8 overall pick, NBC Sports Chicago is ready to deliver extensive multi-platform coverage of this week’s massively-anticipated 2018 NFL Draft highlighted by a special “Authentic Fan” Draft Night Party on Thursday night (April 26), live eighth-pick reaction cut-ins during the network’s White Sox & Cubs telecasts, a special remote edition of “SportsTalk Live,” a Draft Night taping of “Beer Money,” “Draft Central” Preview & Recap specials, full-blown digital & social media coverage, and much more!  Please note NBC Sports Chicago’s multi-platform 2018 NFL Draft coverage details beginning tomorrow night (Wed, Apr. 25) (all times Central Time):

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 25

  • 10:30 PM - “NFL Draft Central Preview presented by Coors Light” – Featuring “Bears Postgame Live” host Laurence Holmes & former Bears standout/current Bears PGL analyst Alex Brown, along with veteran Bears/NFL expert Hub Arkush, this half-hour Draft preview special will provide fans with extensive details on all of the options the Bears may take with their first round pick, along with additional discussion on other players to keep an eye on in the later rounds of this weekend’s Draft. (NOTE: Live stream available to authenticated NBC Sports Chicago subscribers at NBCSportsChicago.com/WatchLive or via the NBC Sports app) 
     

THURSDAY, APRIL 26

5:30 PM – “Authentic Fan” Draft Night Party presented by Coors Light - Buffalo Wings & Rings (3434 S. Halsted St., Chicago – Bridgeport neighborhood)

Draft Party highlights include…

  • Special drawing for two (2) to win a trip to the 2018 Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Festival in Canton, OH, which includes tickets to the NFL/Hall of Fame Game featuring the Bears vs. Baltimore (Thu, Aug. 2) and tickets to the Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony featuring the official induction of Bears legend Brian Urlacher (Sat, Aug. 4)
  • First 100 fans in attendance to also receive a free “Authentic Fan” stadium blanket
  • 5:30 PM - “Beer Money presented by Coors Light” Draft Special taping (featuring hosts Luke Stuckmeyer & Kelly Crull)
  • 6:00 PM - Special remote edition of “SportsTalk Live presented by The Chevy Silverado” (with host David Kaplan, along with Bears/NFL Draft experts) (NOTE: Live stream available to authenticated NBC Sports Chicago subscribers at NBCSportsChicago.com/WatchLive or via the NBC Sports app) 

Additional Draft Night coverage includes…

  • Between 8:15-9:00 PM (time approx.) -- Live #8 pick reaction cut-ins during NBC Sports Chicago’s White Sox & Cubs telecasts from the “Authentic Fan” Draft Night Party (featuring commentary from “Bears Postgame Live’s” Laurence Holmes & Alex Brown)
  • 11:00 PM - “NFL Draft Central Recap presented by Coors Light” – This half-hour Draft recap special, hosted by Holmes & Brown, will dive into detailed discussion surrounding the Bears first round pick, along with showcasing podium moment highlights from AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX, a complete overview of all first round picks and draft night trades, plus – NBC Sports Chicago will also carry interviews with Bears team execs live from Halas Hall. (NOTE: Live stream available to authenticated NBC Sports Chicago subscribers at NBCSportsChicago.com/WatchLive or via the NBC Sports app) 
  • NBCSportsChicago.com Bears digital reporter/producer JJ Stankevitz will provide fans with a thorough overview of the Bears top pick, along with additional coverage on how the pick fits into the Bears scheme for 2018 and beyond, plus follow-up content/perspective following Bears GM Ryan Pace session with the media.  Upon the conclusion of the Draft on Saturday, Stankevitz will also provide a complete breakdown on what the Bears accomplished in this year’s Draft and all the pro & cons associated with their 2018 picks/trades.  For full NFL Draft content and videos, fans are urged to visit the network’s dedicated Bears section at NBCSportsChicago/Bears
     

Additional coverage highlights leading up to and throughout the Draft…

  • SOCIAL MEDIA:
  • Each day leading up to the Draft, NBC Sports Chicago will be posting “On The Clock” and “Players That Bear Watching” features on both NBCSportsChicago.com and @NBCSBears on Twitter. “On The Clock” is a breakdown of all the top first-round prospects and features analysis from NBC Sports NFL Draft expert Josh Norris and Chicago Sun-Times Bears beat reporter Adam Jahns. “Players That Bear Watching” spotlights a number of additional prospects of note that could go in rounds 2-7. 
  • On Thursday night, fans are also urged to check out a special Facebook Live (Facebook.com/NBCSChicago) segment (starting the moment the 7th pick is on the clock) featuring reaction/commentary from Laurence Holmes and Alex Brown to the Bears’ 8th overall pick in the Draft (to also stream live on NBCSportsChicago.com).
  • Fans will be able to find full Draft coverage throughout the weekend on Facebook, Twitter (@NBCSBears) and Instagram (from ‘NBCSChicago’).
  • PODCASTS: Fans can look forward to a pair of NFL Draft-specific editions of NBC Sports Chicago’s popular “Under Center PODCAST” this week featuring Holmes, Brown, Stankevitz and additional special guests. Fans can download all of NBC Sports Chicago’s podcasts at NBCSportsChicago.com/podcasts and simply subscribe to them via Apple Podcasts, Google Play or Stitcher.  The podcasts can be played on any mobile device, laptop, or desktop computer.
  • IN THE LOOP presented by GMC: On Sunday night at 10:00 PM, “In the Loop” will recap the entire weekend featuring the top moments of the 2018 NFL Draft including player/front office interviews, social media reaction highlights and much more.

 

Will Devin Hester wind up being the last great kick returner in football history?

Will Devin Hester wind up being the last great kick returner in football history?

Devin Hester announced his retirement from the NFL last fall, and on Monday, signed a ceremonial one-day contract to officially retire as a member of the Chicago Bears. This was not an easy decision for the 35-year-old, who had to fight back tears while talking about saying no to football Monday at Halas Hall — Hester said the Philadelphia Eagles reached out to him after Darren Sproles suffered a season-ending injury last September.

But Hester firmly remained retired, opting to spend more time with his family in Orlando. And with Hester officially out of the game, it raises this question: Does he retire as the last great return man in NFL history?

“He changed the game,” said former teammate Matt Forte, who also signed a ceremonial one-day contract to retire with the Bears on Monday. “I mean, literally, changed the game. If you can affect the game like that, he’s gotta be a first-ballot Hall of Famer. The definition of a Hall of Famer is somebody who changed the game — like defenses and coaches had to carve out certain time to assess that particular guy. There’s not going to be another Devin Hester ever, I don’t believe.”

Hester himself was a special player, returning an NFL record 20 punts, kicks and missed field goals for touchdowns. Forte may be right in that there will never be another player like him, even if the NFL stays the way it is now.

But no player may ever get the opportunity to be the next Devin Hester as the sport continues to evaluate the serious issue of head trauma. Kickoffs, in particular, are among the most dangerous plays for player safety, and the sport has continued to work on finding ways to increase touchbacks and decrease returns since moving kickoffs from the 30 to 35-yard line prior to the 2011 season.

The Ivy League, for example, saw a significant decline in concussions on kickoffs when it moved the kicking spot from the 35 to 40-yard line. But increasing touchbacks is an imperfect solution, as many around the league have pointed out, as some players may run at half-speed thinking there will be a touchback while others are still going full speed in case there isn’t.

While the NFL hasn’t considered banning kickoffs yet, it’s entirely fair to wonder if they’ll still be part of the sport’s highest level in the next five years. And that doesn’t sit well with Hester.

“It’s one of the key aspects to this ballgame, man,” Hester said. “This is football. You gotta let these guys play football and that, at the end of the day, brings a lot of excitement to a lot of fans out there.

“… This is a position. It’s how a lot of kids make a living, and at the end of the day it’s football, man. They’re trying to find ways to eliminate injuries but the moment you step on the field, you’re bound to get hurt somewhere. You can’t avoid injuries. That’s just the nature of the beast. And I think taking that out of the game, it’s big. I (wouldn’t) like to see it happen.”

For everyone invested in the sport, it’s a difficult topic: On one hand, a kick return touchdown is one of the more exciting things that can happen in a game (and it certainly was the highlight of the Bears’ last Super Bowl appearance). On the other, concussions are a serious threat to the game, and the NFL continues to try to create and enforce rules that are designed to limit them.

So Hester may wind up being the last great kick returner in NFL history, maybe football history. That should — emphasis on should, not will — be enough to get him inducted in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, right?

“Sometimes you gotta put guys in the Hall of Fame for being the most dangerous person on the field,” Hester said.

And he could be the last person to be, as a kick returner, the most dangerous person on the field.

“It’s a big part of football, it’s one of the most exciting plays when you’re playing this game of football,” Hester said. “At the end of the day, if I’m the last, if I’m the one to be the best at the return game, it’s an honor. But at the same time, I want to continue to see it play out.”