Bears

Bears entering tough final quarter of season

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Bears entering tough final quarter of season

Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2010
11:10 AM
By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

A 4-0 November and a 1-0 start for December have positioned the Bears within a game of the NFC overall lead. The wakeup call in Detroit should serve them well heading into the final quarter of their schedule which includes three teams (New England, Minnesota, Green Bay) that are playing very well lately.
W 9-14 Sept. 12 vs. Detroit Lions (2-10)

Bears survive 4 turnovers and red-zone failures to escape with a 'W' after officials rule Calvin Johnson did not complete a potential winning TD catch. Jay Cutler passes for 372 yards, Matt Forte nets 201 yards on 24 touches.
W 27-20 Sept. 19 At Dallas Cowboys (4-8)

Cutler's zero INT's plus in-game adjustments to Dallas pressure produced TD passes to Devin Hester, Greg Olsen and Matt Forte. Physical defense forced 3 Cowboys turnovers, all involving nickel back D.J. Moore who gets his first two career picks.
W 20-17 Sept. 27 (Mon.) Green Bay Packers (8-4)

Nothing like a truly 'pivotal game' just three weeks into a season. The winner gets the first tiebreak edge and the Bears have a chance to go 3-0 in the NFC. All games are statement games; this one comes with an exclamation point.

L 3-17 Oct. 3 At New York Giants (8-4)

The missing pass rush returned to get Jay Cutler and vault the Giants squarely back in the midst of a very tight NFC East race among non-exceptional teams. Jay Cutler was sacked nine times and left at halftime with a concussion that ruled out realistic chances for a comeback.

W 23-6 Oct. 10 At Carolina Panthers (1-11)

A horrendous, 4-interception performance by Todd Collins was offset by 218 rushing yards, 166 by Matt Forte who scored twice, and the defense shutting down the Panthers with 147 yards. Bears finally exploded in a first quarter and stayed with a run commitment with changes in the OL.

L 23-20 Oct. 17 Seattle Seahawks (6-6)

Seattle bumbled to 3 points in a loss to St. Louis, then came in from the week off to handle the Bears everywhere but special teams. Bears play calling (12 runs, 47 pass plays) becoming an issue as Cutler was sacked six times and Bears rarely got close to laying a hand on Matt Hasselbeck.
L 17-14 Oct. 24 Washington Redskins (5-7)

Jay Cutler throws 4 INT's to DeAngelo Hall and fumbles at the goal line in another game in which Mike Martz refuses to run the football. Bears lose at home for the second straight week, first time since Lovie Smith's rookie year (2004). Questions now are whether Bears can change course on offense after three miserable performances in last four games.

Oct. 31 Off week
W 22-19 Nov.7 At Buffalo BillsToronto (2-10)

Tim Jennings' interception led to a game-winning touchdown in a game that the Bears nearly let get away and gave up 3 TDs on defense for just the second time this season (Seattle). Jay Cutler managed the offense with some control and the offensive line allowed just one sack while coaches committed to the run enough to call 26 plays on the ground.W 27-13 Nov. 14 Minnesota Vikings (5-7)

In a best game of the season with all three phases playing well, the Bears all but bury the season for a dysfunctional Vikings team that has a quarterback done after the season and head coach possibly sooner. Jay Cutler throws 3 TD passes and backs carry 32 times; defense gets 4 takeaways; and Devin Hester shows he hasn't forgotten how to return kickoffs as well as punts.
W16-0 Nov. 18 At Miami Dolphins (6-6)

The defense recorded the first shutout since '06 and the offense, while not punching in red-zone opportunities the way it needs to, was efficient. A third straight game with 30 or more rushes was a first for a Mike Martz offense and has helped the offensive line settle in and taken pressure off Cutler. The result is another solid game of third-down conversions against a respectable defense.

W 31-26 Nov. 28 Philadelphia Eagles (8-4)

The building continues with a new high for Jay Cutler passing as he throws 4 TDs on just 21 attempts and Matt Forte runs for 117 yards in 14 carries. The defense stays basic to deal with Michael Vick, who gets some passing yards but into the end zone only twice.
W 24-20 Dec. 5 at Detroit Lions (2-10)

With third-stringer Drew Stanton in just his second NFL start, the Lions ran over the Bears for 253 yards in the first half as the Chicago offense had to prop up the D for a change. Jay Cutler was sacked four times but big defensive plays in the second half held Detroit to 49 yards and 3 points as the offense turned in a workmanlike performance with more of the run-pass balance that has worked.
Dec. 12 New England Patriots (10-2) Next: at BEARS 3:15 p.m.

The Pats thoroughly stomped the N.Y. Jets 45-3 in what was supposed to be an AFC East title match. Tom Brady threw for 4 TD's and the Jets were thoroughly handled by a New England defense that showed the Bears that statistical rankings wont mean much.
Dec. 20 At Minnesota Vikings (5-7) Next: vs. New York Giants

The previously moribund Vikings are 2-0 under interim Leslie Frazier and showing some of the pop that they were supposed to have after their near-title run of '09. Brett Favre remains an ongoing diva situation with his injuries but the rest of the Minnesota focus has come together. The Giants will be a major test compared to the Bills, an easy double-digit victory even with Tavaris Jackson at QB.
Dec. 26 New York Jets (9-3) Next: vs. Miami

The hot-cold Jets were thrashed on MNF by New England in their first road loss of the year. Mark Sanchez is looking suddenly very pedestrian and heading a team that is 4-2 since its break but not playing especially well on either side of the ball.
Jan. 2 at Green Bay Packers (8-4) Next: at Detroit

Getting by San Francisco in Lambeau Field was no problem and the Lions' performance against the Bears should alert the Packers to a possible nuisance that has given them trouble in Detroit. Aaron Rodgers is playing as well as any quarterback in the NFL and the absence of Ryan Grant in the run game continues to be a problem the Packers find ways around.

John "Moon" Mullin is CSNChicago.com's Bears Insider, and appears regularly on Bears Postgame Live and Chicago Tribune Live. Follow Moon on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bears information.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should the Bears let Mitch Trubisky throw more?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should the Bears let Mitch Trubisky throw more?

Adam Jahns (Chicago Sun-Times), Ben Finfer (ESPN 1000) and Jordan Cornette (The U/ESPN 1000) join Kap on the panel. Justin Turner hits a walk-off 3-run HR off of John Lackey to give the Dodgers a 2-0 lead in the NLCS. So why was Lackey even in the game? How much blame should Joe Maddon get for the loss?

The Bears run the ball over and over and over again to beat the Ravens in overtime, but should they have let Mitch Trubisky throw the ball more?

Two reasons why the Bears could finally start stacking wins

Two reasons why the Bears could finally start stacking wins

The Bears winning a road game against a perennial playoff contender, one with a winning record coming in – that’s great.

Winning in Baltimore with a rookie quarterback in only his second NFL appearance – that’s terrific.

Generating more takeaways than giveaways and netting points from them – that’s just outstanding.

And now what?

Because too often under John Fox the Bears have posted a victory and failed to have it mean much of anything because of what followed a week later – a largely self-inflicted loss. The Bears have not posted consecutive wins since midway through the 2015 season, and even then proceeded to unravel on by squandering opportunities sitting squarely within their grasp.

Why should this time be any different? Because if it’s not, and the Bears again fail to stack even one win on top of another, then a dominating performance against the Baltimore Ravens (leaving out special teams, which surrendered in two plays more points than the defense did in 14 entire Baltimore possessions) becomes another meaningless afternoon in the overall for a team determined to reinvent itself.

Coaches typically divide seasons mentally into quarters, and clearly in Fox’s mind, Sunday was part of a different quarter from the 1-3 first quarter. “Really it takes almost four games, it’s almost like the preseason anymore, where you kind of get it figured out,” Fox said. “So just developing that confidence, usually good things have to happen to gain that confidence. And we did some good things.”

But the Bears have done “some good things” in games past and it becomes much ado about nothing, sound and fury signifying less than nothing. So again: Why should this time be any different?

Two reasons, actually. Neither absolute, but neither very complicated, either.

Reason No. 1: Trubisky

Without making too much out of one individual player, the chief reason arguably lies in the person of Mitchell Trubisky, a quarterback who already has palpably changed the psyche of a previously languishing team.

“The team didn’t make nearly as many mental errors this week because of his patience,” said wide receiver Kendall Wright, who supported Trubisky with a leaping catch of 18 yards to set up the game-winning field goal.

Unlike Mike Glennon, Matt Barkley, Brian Hoyer and 2016 Jay Cutler, each of whom won one game and one game only over the past 22, Trubisky delivered the ball security of Hoyer with added impact that none of his predecessors did manage, or arguably even could have managed.

Put simply, the Bears do in fact have a quarterback who even at this point appears able not only to make plays as drawn up, but also to create something out of nothing or at least avert catastrophe.

“Mitch made some great plays,” Fox said. “I mean, if you look at the snap over his head in the end zone, there’s probably only five or six or seven quarterbacks in this league that could get out of that. I go back to the touchdown pass to Dion [Sims, tight end]. He flushed [from the pocket], we adjusted and he dropped a dime in the end zone for a touchdown. And the play obviously at the end where more than likely if we don’t get that, we’re probably punting, the play he made to Kendall. I think Mitch played outstanding… .

“Those are really good decisions. It beats six interceptions, for sure. There’s a 3rd-and-3 play in the red area, low red, sprint out to our left. It wasn’t all perfect but he did the next best thing and that’s throw it away. So those are really, really good decisions that I think sometimes the casual or un-casual fan does not see.”

The noteworthy element in Trubisky’s game was the impact achieved by a Bears quarterback who completed all of eight passes. The reality is that Trubisky doesn’t need to attempt more than 20 passes a game (including the four sacks his protection allowed, which absolutely needs to be fixed).

For perspective purposes: Ben Roethlisberger in his first two seasons averaged 17.4 and 15.9 passes per game. The Pittsburgh Steelers reached the AFC Championship game and won the Super Bowl in those two seasons, running an offense that was just short of 60 percent runs.

Reason No. 2: Mistake reduction

A mistaken notion as to how improvement happens is the belief that it comes from just getting better and better, skill sets rising to the loftiest heights.

Not necessarily. Anyone who has had the good fortune of working their golf handicap down knows that the stroke reductions come less from suddenly adding 30 yards to drives or developing a draw on a 200-yard three-iron, than from eliminating the fluffed pitch shots, the approach shots pushed into traps, the drives into the woods. Cut down the mistakes and good things happen.

So it is with the Bears, who effectively lost the Minnesota game by allowing a 58-yard TD run by Jerick McKinnon, and sealed it with a poor Trubisky pass on a possession with a chance to tie or win. They lost the Atlanta game simply by dropping passes. They aren’t as good as the Green Bay Packers – at least not until Trubisky reaches full extension and proves to be a challenge to Aaron Rodgers.

But only in the Atlanta near-miss did they self-destruct with fewer penalties (four) than they did at Baltimore (five). Sunday was the first time since Atlanta that they threw zero interceptions. And the defense limited the Ravens to three third-down conversions out of 18, one indicator of fewer breakdowns on the most important down.

“As long as we eliminate those mistakes that we’ve been making,” Fox said, “we’re gonna be right there going into the end of the game.”

The Bears have had positive spikes in the past and then collapsed; even after winning three of four in late 2015, the inept home losses to San Francisco and Washington were arguably a tipping point in the Fox era.

The point next Sunday against Carolina is to determine if the Bears are through with their one-and-done ways.