Bears

15 on 6: The good, the bad and then there's Collins

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15 on 6: The good, the bad and then there's Collins

Monday, Oct. 11, 2010
10:03 a.m.

By Jim Miller
CSNChicago.com
O-Line gets off the schneid!
It was nice to see the grunts up front respond after suffering through tremendous scrutiny the last four weeks. Rushing for 218 total yards is no small feat in the NFL versus any opponent. All five offensive linemen responded with no one performing so egregiously that they would be benched this week against Seattle at home. Offensive tackle Chris Williams may have to wait another week to return to the lineup because all five have earned another opportunity to start and are eager to follow up their Carolina performance. A shake-up at the quarterback position will be the one coaches have to address.

The good, the bad and then there's Collins

The team played exceptionally in response to Jay Cutler's absence. Informed of Carolina's issues, everyone raised their level of play a notch to log another victory. The defense offered up another masterpiece creating turnovers and physically beating up QB Jimmy Clausen who eventually had to be replaced. Special teams were outstanding providing great field position and Robbie booted a 53-yard field goal to put the game out of reach in the fourth quarter. There inlies the only problem: the game should have been blown wide open in the second quarter if the Bears received any heady play at all from veteran QB Todd Collins.
Know your role, know your situation in the game
I always love listening to the voice of the Bears, Jeff Joniak, and former Chicago Bears offensive lineman, Tom Thayer, on my drive into the city to cover the game. They do a great job and Jeff offered some good questions when he interviewed Collins earlier in the week. Todd played exactly how he sounded in his responses on air -- nervous! Todd has been in the league far too long to not understand the situations he was presented in Carolina. When you are ill-prepared in situational play explains the panic witnessed on the field by Collins.

Bears are up 17-3 in the second quarter and the offense gets another opportunity to score after the unbelievable interception by defensive end Julius Peppers. It is third-and-one at the 1-yard line and Todd elects to panic by forcing a throw to Devin Hester. If Carolina defensive tackle Ed Johnson did not intercept it, a Panthers linebacker and defensive back were waiting, almost lining up, for the swipe. The situation is just throw the ball away and take the field goal. It puts the game at three scores and would have put more pressure on Carolina to go away from their power run game much earlier. This relates to a blog last year about not assuming what a player knows from previous stops in the NFL. Todd has been in the NFL a long time, but really has not played a lot. Martz has to preface the play in the headset to Todd with something like this: "Be smart with the ball, throw it away if it's not there, we will take the field goal and go up three scores." Just a subtle reminder is all Todd should need, but he panicked not knowing the situation, and then threw the ball late when the timing was already off, which is another no-no, especially in the red zone. How about the deep interception over the middle versus a straight Tampa 2 defense. The middle linebacker's assignment is to carry any middle-read receiver, essentially it becomes a cover 3. If the linebacker's too deep, I guarantee a receiver is open replacing him underneath. Todd predetermined his throw not prepared to react from his post-snap read. That is bad football and poor QB play! I could cover the other two interceptions, but let's move on, like the Bears, with Jay or Caleb.

Hanie

It was the right coaching decision to start Collins and it was also the right coaching decision to insert Caleb Hanie. I have been in Caleb's situation before. If you watch the replay of the game, Caleb is listening to every play call to get a feel for the game. You try to put yourself on the field and mentally play the game. He's looking at the sideline photos with Jay and Todd to reaffirm his own mental decisions and is seeing and gaining confidence. He was dying to play when called upon and knew he could make a difference. He had a nice third-and-six conversion in the fourth quarter showing his poise and confidence through his preparation. He knew his situation, the team's situation and led two drives of four that ended in field goals to finish the game. If Jay is not cleared to play this week, Caleb would be the call to start at QB. Caleb is intoxicated from stepping on the field and making a difference helping his team win. Welcome to the NFL!

Jim Miller, an 11-year former NFL quarterback, is a Comcast SportsNet Bears analyst who can be seen each week on U.S. Cellular Bears Postgame Live. Miller, who spent five seasons with the Bears, analyzes current Chicago QB Jay Cutler in his "15 on 6" blog on CSNChicago.com and can be followed on Twitter @15miller.

How Tarik Cohen is thriving as the Bears continue to put more on his plate

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USA Today

How Tarik Cohen is thriving as the Bears continue to put more on his plate

Mitchell Trubisky shook his head and grinned when he fielded yet another question this week about the touchdown pass Tarik Cohen threw against the Baltimore Ravens.

“Dang, you guys can’t get enough of this,” Trubisky said. “I talked about it after the game. Dowell (Loggains) was saying it was the best pass of the game. I’m like, ‘All right, geez, let him play quarterback.

“… He threw a dime ball. I love how he was fading away on it and celebrating on the 50-yard line. Zach (Miller) made a great catch. So A-plus; really impressive spiral, especially with the gloves on. Can’t count any of that out. Tarik’s a special player and it was an awesome throw.”

The point here is less about Cohen’s throw and more about the Bears finding yet another way for the rookie running back to make an impact. So far this year, Cohen has rushed 50 times, caught 26 passes, returned 14 punts and now thrown that historic touchdown. He’s been asked to block in pass protection more frequently, allowing him to be on the field more. And he’s worked with wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni and Kendall Wright (who Cohen referred to as another receiver coach for him) to expand his route tree, leading him to be the most-targeted player (33 targets) on the Bears through six weeks. 

That may seem like a lot to put on the plate of a fourth-round draft pick from an FCS school, but it hasn’t been too much for Cohen. 

“We need Tarik to be that guy for us — the best playmaker we have,” Loggains said. “There’s no secret there. And he’s a guy who we’ll continue to use, and people are aware of him. So how creative can we get with him? How many different things can we do with him? 

“Like, we’re stretching him. Mentally, he’s stretched to the max playing all these positions — motioning out to wide receiver, playing running back and doing more in the backfield with more carries. So we have to keep stretching him and keep using him in the offense.”

Opposing defenses have keyed on Cohen since his explosive debut Week 1 against the Atlanta Falcons, scheming to muffle his playmaking ability. But he still managed to nearly have a walk-off 73-yard run against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 3, and then in Week 6, with defenses figuring they could crash down on him on sweep plays to the edge, he (literally) threw another wrinkle into how to gameplan against him. The next time the Bears run a toss sweep to Cohen, opposing safeties will have to think twice about bolting toward the line of scrimmage to stop him. 

Every time Cohen seems to hit a rookie wall, he and the Bears find a way to knock it down. The discussion a week ago about Cohen was that he was dancing too much and not cutting upfield quick enough; this week, it’s all about his perfect quarterback rating. 

“Our coaches do a good job of continuing to put him in places so he can be successful,” fellow running back Benny Cunningham said. “But ultimately I feel like he has such a genuine love of the game, I don’t see that happening (hitting the wall). Since the day he’s been here, from Day 1 to today, I’ve seen no drop-off in his desire to be successful and to help this offense.”

The Bears have known this about Cohen's mentality since they scouted and drafted him back in the spring, and his potential only blossomed after getting him into Halas Hall in May — “Early on, we knew Tarik was going to be pretty special,” coach John Fox said. But Cohen wouldn’t be able to reach that potential without the ability to handle the responsibilities of all the different tasks the Bears have asked of him so far. 

Cohen’s ability to do so many different things makes him an important player for this team, and his ability to do them with an exciting, playmaking flair has made him a fan favorite since training camp. So what’s next for the 5-foot-6 rookie?

“I think we’ve got something — I’ll punt the ball this week,” Cohen joked. “Naw, I’m playin’. I can’t put the ball for nothing, I don’t think. It’ll probably go like 20 yards.”

The Bears defense is trending up, and could get Nick Kwiatkoski back as soon as this weekend

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USA Today

The Bears defense is trending up, and could get Nick Kwiatkoski back as soon as this weekend

Nick Kwiatkoski was a full participant in Bears practice on Friday, marking the first time the second-year linebacker has done that since he suffered a pec injury Sept. 17 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Officially listed as questionable for Sunday’s game against the Carolina Panthers, Kwiatkoski sounded confident he could make his return five weeks after suffering that painful injury. 

“It’s not really my decision,” Kwiatkoski said. “I’m preparing like I am, so we’ll see. … “In my head I am (playing). But we’ll see.”

The Bears’ defense, despite placing three key players — linebackers Willie Young and Jerrell Freeman and safety Quintin Demps — on injured reserve, has been solid at worst so far this year. Pro Football Focus has Vic Fangio’s group as the third-best defense in the NFL through Week 6, behind only the Minnesota Vikings and Jacksonville Jaguars. 

While Christian Jones played some quality snaps next to Danny Trevathan (and John Timu — he struggled after Timu’s injury against Minnesota), Kwiatkoski represents an upgrade at inside linebacker. The Bears liked what Kwiatkoski did last year in place of an injured Trevathan, and were confident they wouldn’t miss a beat with him filling in after Freeman’s Week 1 injury. 

“He’s a smart guy who has been willing to work,” coach John Fox said. “And I’ve seen that improvement from last year to this year. And anytime you get whacked or injured or taken out for some reason, you’ve got to kind of regain that again. It’s like a do-over. So he has had a good week.”

Kwiatkoski stayed sharp by going through meetings and film study as if he were playing while that pec injury — which he said felt like a “bad pulled muscle” — kept him sidelined for practices and games. If Kwiatkoski indeed is active and/or starting Sunday against Carolina, the hope is he can step in and pick up where he left off in Week 2. 

“I have all the confidence that he'll do fine,” defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said prior to Kwiatkoski’s injury. And that confidence, in all likelihood, still exists.