Bears In-Foe: Bad Pack reacts


Bears In-Foe: Bad Pack reacts

Simply put, since both the Vikings and Bears recently faced the Packers, things have not gone well for either team since.

The Bears have acted like the Thanksgiving win at Lambeau was their Super Bowl, following it with two flat home performances against San Francisco and Washington squads that both rode into Soldier Field with 0-5 road records this season. The week before, Minnesota seemingly had Green Bay right where it wanted them, as the visitors limped into the Twin Cities reeling after three straight losses. But the hosts' opportunity to grab control of the NFC North disappeared in a 30-13 loss. After rebounding the following week against quickly-fading Atlanta, the Vikings returned home and got thrashed by Seattle, then lost last Thursday in a tight, tough loss at Arizona.

The Vikes will have 10 days of rest for the Bears (just as Tampa Bay will a week from Sunday). And even though the Packers own a one-game lead and a tie-breaker, this is by no means a lost cause for Mike Zimmer's club. Green Bay now travels to Oakland and Arizona before hosting the rematch in the season finale. Even if the Pack wins those two tough road games, Minnesota would still hold the tie-breaker (by division record) with a win at Lambeau, provided they take care of business at TCF Bank Stadium against the Bears and Giants.

[MORE: Bears place Antrel Rolle on injured reserve]


Norv Turner's attempt to speed up Teddy Bridgewater's production has yet to happen, despite the sophomore quarterback's career-high 335 yards passing versus an impressive Cardinals secondary Thursday night. The return of Adrian Peterson was supposed to make him better. The presence of a downfield threat in Mike Wallace was supposed to make Bridgewater better. And while some of the intangibles may be improved, the numbers haven't. His 13 games this season matches his number of starts as a rookie. Check it out:

  Comp. Att. Yds. Comp. % TD/INT Rating
2014 259 402 2,919 64.4 14/12 85.2
2015 250 383 2,733 65.3 9/8 85.3

Wallace has just 33 receptions through 13 games, and only seven (113 yards) in the last seven games, including Thursday night's three catches for 42 yards and a touchdown. As for Peterson after his year "off," he leads the NFL in rushes (268), yards (1,251), yards per game (96.2) and ... fumbles (6). In the face of adversity after the embarrassment at home by Seattle (when he carried just eight times for 18 yards), he made a point to say the Vikings were "outcoached" as well as outplayed. Odd, since, if memory serves correct, Zimmer was one of the few non-players in the organization who publicly had his back while serving his suspension a year ago (while A.P. pushed for a trade behind the scenes). Excluding 10 points in the final two minutes of the second quarter in Denver, the Vikings have trailed at halftime by a combined 67-13 in their five defeats. And Turner probably naturally reacts with having to go the air, despite the track records of Peterson and Bridgewater. Here's Peterson's production by wins and losses this season:

  Rushes Yds. Avg./Rush Avg./Game
8 wins 198 1,005 5.1 125.6
5 losses 70 314 4.5 62.8

Bridgewater's numbers were helped Thursday by checking down while being blitzed 65 percent of the time, finding 11 different receivers. It's helped that tight end Kyle Rudolph's remained healthy after missing 15 games the last two years. His 45-421 catches/receiving yards numbers has almost matched the career-best of 53-493 when he last played a full season in 2012. The Bears learned the hard way about rookie Stefon Diggs' speed (44-638, two TD's) on the late tying score Nov. 1 at Soldier Field. They were also victimized by Charles Johnson's sixth catch of the year on the missed pick opportunity by Antrel Rolle that set up Blair Walsh's winning field goal. He has just three catches since, after seemingly having a bright future with a strong finish to 2014 (31-475).

The offensive line that allowed 51 sacks a year ago is already up to 38, and left tackle Matt Kalil still hasn't turned things around since being a Pro Bowler as a rookie (fourth overall pick) in 2012. With the Vikings looking to get a little closer for a Walsh game-tying field goal at the Cards' 30 with 13 seconds left and no timeouts, Dwight Freeney beat Kalil to force a game-ending fumble, the third the Vikings lost that night.

[RELATED: Bears fail 'test of character' in loss to Redskins]


It was an impressive effort against Carson Palmer and company in the desert considering the key parts Zimmer's defense was missing. We'll know more when the Vikings return to practice Wednesday about the possibility of starting safeties Harrison Smith (knee & hamstring) and Andrew Sendejo (knee), run-stuffer Linval Joseph (foot), and rising linebacker Anthony Barr (groin & hand) being available Sunday. All but Joseph were injured in the Seahawks' blowout, when fellow safeties Antone Exum was lost for the season and Robert Blanton also got banged-up. That forced Zimmer to play 37-year-old Terence Newman (team-high three interceptions) at safety and give first-round pick Trae Waynes his first significant playing time, though it was a shaky one at cornerback. 

Rookie linebacker Eric Kendricks leads the team with 70 tackles (nine ahead of former UCLA teammate/roommate Barr), while adding four sacks. That's second on the unit to the 8.5 belonging to Eversen Griffen, who was held to one quarterback hit by Charles Leno, Jr. in the first meeting. On the left side, though, 32-year-old Brian Robison has gone from a combined 25.5 sacks his first three years as a starter to 4.5 a year ago, to only three so far this season. Tackle Sharrif Floyd missed the first matchup.

Alshon Jeffery had a monster 10-catch, 116-yard game with a TD in the first game, primarily matched up against talented 6-foot-2 corner Xavier Rhodes.

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

Special Teams

A bit of solace for Robbie Gould: Walsh has been a younger, just-as-accurate kicker as Gould to begin his career, but the move outdoors at home has made him a little more "human," too, the last couple of years. Walsh is 26-for-31 this season. Gould is 26-for-32, but his recent misses have been more dramatic. 

The most recent of the three touchdowns Bears Teams have allowed came on Marcus Sherels' 65-yard punt return on the lakefront. He's ninth in the NFL with a 9.6-yard average, but the bigger concern should still be Cordarrelle Patterson's league-leading 31.1-yard kickoff return average, which includes a pair of returns to the house.

Report: Bears could be a potential landing spot for Dolphins WR Jarvis Landry


Report: Bears could be a potential landing spot for Dolphins WR Jarvis Landry

The Bears are looking for an upgrade at wide receiver this offseason, and there may be one available.

The Dolphins used the franchise tag on wide receiver Jarvis Landry on Tuesday, in a move that many believe signals the team's desire to deal him instead of losing him in free agency for nothing.

Landry put up excellent numbers last season, catching 112 passes for 987 yards and nine touchdowns. He led the league in catches and was fourth in touchdown receptions but was just 17th in yards. His yards per reception ranked 108th of 139 qualifying players.

Still, it's no secret he'd be an upgrade for the Bears at wide receiver. Though they'll get Cam Meredith and Kevin White back from injury, the corps largely struggled and didn't give rookie quarterback Mitch Trubisky much help.

Luckily, they may be interested in Landry, per's Ian Rapoport.

"There are a couple teams that we should keep an eye on as far as a potential Jarvis Landry landing spot......the Chicago Bears are looking for receviers," he said.

Rapoport also mentioned the Titans, Panthers and Saints as options for Landry. The franchise tag will pay Landry about $16 million before he becomes a free agent in 2019 (or has the franchise tag used on him again).


2017 Bears position grades: Management

2017 Bears position grades: Management

2017 grade: D+

For these purposes, “management” encompasses the coaching staff and front office. We don’t need a lengthy re-litigation of the failures of the John Fox era, so briefly: The offense was unimaginative, predictable and unsuccessful; there were too many head-scratching coaching decisions, punctuated by that backfiring challenge flag against Green Bay; the defense was solid but not spectacular; special teams had plenty of highs (three touchdowns) and lows (Marcus Cooper’s gaffe against Pittsburgh, Connor Barth’s missed field goal against Detroit). Fox didn’t win enough games to justify a fourth year, even if he left the Bears in a better place than he found them back in 2015. But that 5-11 record drags the management grade down. 

But the larger thing we’re going to focus on here is the hits and misses for Ryan Pace in the 2017 league year. The hits: 

-- Drafting Mitchell Trubisky. Will this be a long-term success? That’s another question. But Pace hitched his future in Chicago to a quarterback last April. For a franchise that hasn’t had a “franchise” quarterback in ages, what more can you ask for? If Trubisky pans out, nobody should care that Pace traded up one spot -- effectively losing a third-round pick for his conviction in his guy -- to make the move. 

-- Moving quickly to hire Matt Nagy. As with Trubisky, Pace identified his guy and made sure he got him. The Bears hired Nagy just two days after the Kansas City Chiefs’ season ended with that playoff collapse against the Tennessee Titans, and with the Indianapolis Colts -- who eventually got burned by Josh McDaniels -- sniffing around Nagy, Pace made his move to hire a young, energetic, offensive-minded coach to pair with Trubisky. It’s tough to argue with any of the coaching hires made by Nagy, who had a head start on the competition: He retained defensive coordinator Vic Fangio and that entire defensive staff, kept Dave Ragone to be Trubisky’s quarterbacks coach and hired Mark Helfrich to bring some different concepts as offensive coordinator, and hired a special teams coach in Chris Tabor who must’ve been doing something right to survive seven years and a bunch of coaching changes in Cleveland. Like with Trubisky, it’s too early to say if Nagy will or won’t work out long-term, but it stands out that Pace had conviction in getting a franchise quarterback and a head coach who will make or break his tenure in Chicago. 

-- Drafting Tarik Cohen and Eddie Jackson in the fourth round. In Cohen, the Bears found an offensive spark (who was nonetheless under-utilized) who also was a key contributor on special teams. In Jackson, the Bears added a plug-and-play 16-game starter at safety who looks to have some upside after a solid rookie year. Both picks here were a triumph for the Bears’ amateur scouting department: Cohen wasn’t on everyone’s radar (special teams coach Chris Tabor, who previously was with the Browns, said Cohen’s name never came across his desk in Cleveland), while Jackson was coming off a broken leg that prematurely ended a solid career at Alabama. These were assuredly two hits. 

-- Signing Akiem Hicks to a four-year contract extension. The Bears rewarded Hicks a day before the season began; Hicks rewarded them with a Pro Bowl-caliber season (despite him only being a fourth alternate) and was the best player on the team in 2017. 

-- Signing Charles Leno to a four-year contract extension. Leno may not be an elite tackle, and still has some things to clean up in his game, but he’s 26 and his four-year, $37 million contract is the 14th-largest among left tackles (for what it’s worth, Bleacher Report ranked Leno as the 20th best left tackle in the NFL). The Bears believe Leno is still improving, and could turn that contract into a bargain in the future. But this is important to note, too: Players notice when a team rewards one of its own, especially when that guy is a well-respected former seventh-round draft pick. 

-- Signing Mark Sanchez to a one-year deal. This wasn’t a miss, certainly, and while it’s not much of a “hit,” Sanchez was exactly what the Bears wanted: A veteran mentor to Trubisky. While Sanchez was inactive for all 16 games, he and the No. 2 overall pick struck up a good relationship that makes him a candidate to return in 2018 as a true backup. 

-- Releasing Josh Sitton when he did. Whether or not the Bears offensive line is better off in 2018 is a different question, but file cutting Sitton on Feb. 20 -- when the team had until mid-March to make a decision on him -- as one of those things that gets noticed by players around the league. 

-- Announcing the expansion to Halas Hall. The plan has Pace’s fingerprints on it, and should help make the Bears a more attractive destination to free agents in 2018 and beyond. 

And now, for the misses:

-- Signing Mike Glennon. That completely bombed out. While the Bears weren’t hurting for cap space a year ago, and Glennon’s contract essentially was a one-year prove-it deal, his play was so poor that he was benched after only four games -- when the initial plan was for him to start the entire season to give Trubisky time to develop. The wheels came off for Glennon on his seventh pass in Week 2, when after completing his first six he threw the ball right to Tampa Bay’s Kwon Alexander for an interception from which he never seemed to recover. He’ll be cut sometime soon. 

-- Signing Markus Wheaton. After signing a two-year, $11 million deal in the spring, Wheaton struggled to stay healthy, with an appendectomy and finger injury limiting him in training camp and the early part of the season, and then a groin injury knocking out a few weeks in the middle of the season. When Wheaton was healthy, he was ineffective, catching only three of his 17 targets. That places him with eight other players since 1992 who’ve been targeted at least 15 times and and caught fewer than 20 percent of their targets. He’s another one of Pace’s 2017 free agent signings who’s likely to be cut. 

-- Signing Marcus Cooper. The Bears thought they were signing an ascending player who picked off four passes in 2016 and would be a better scheme fit in Chicago than he was in Arizona. Instead, Cooper was a liability when he was on the field and didn’t live up to his three-year, $16 million contract (with $8 million guaranteed). Dropping the ball before he got in the end zone Week 3 against Pittsburgh was a lowlight. The Bears can net $4.5 million in cap savings if he’s cut, per Spotrac. 

-- Signing Dion Sims. Sims isn’t as likely to be cut as Glennon and Wheaton, and even Cooper, but his poor production in the passing game (15 catches, 29 targets, 180 yards, one touchdown) puts a spotlight on how the Bears evaluate how he was as a run blocker in 2017. If that grade was high, the Bears could justify keeping him and not garnering a little more than $5.5 million in cap savings. If it was low, and the Bears are confident in Adam Shaheen’s ability to improve, then Sims could be cut as well. 

-- Signing Quintin Demps. The loss here was mitigated by the strong play of Adrian Amos, but Demps didn’t make much of an impact on the field before his Week 3 injury besides getting plowed over by Falcons tight end Austin Hooper in Week 1. He’d be a decent guy to have back as a reserve given his veteran leadership -- he was a captain in 2017 -- but given how well Amos and Eddie Jackson worked together last year, he’s unlikely to get his starting spot back in 2018. 

-- The wide receiver position as a whole. Kendall Wright led the Bears in receptions and yards, but his numbers would’ve looked a lot better had he been surrounded by better players. The cupboard was bare at this position, and after the worst-case scenario happened -- Cameron Meredith tearing his ACL in August, and Kevin White breaking his collarbone in Week 1 -- the Bears were left with an overmatched and underperforming group of receivers. For Trubisky’s sake, Pace has to work to make sure 2018 isn’t a repeat of 2017. 

-- The kicker position as a whole. Since we’re focusing solely on Pace’s 2017 moves, the decision to release Robbie Gould and replace him with Connor Barth doesn’t fall into this grade. But Barth had struggled with consistency prior to this season, and Roberto Aguayo didn’t provide much competition in his short-lived stint in training camp. The Bears eventually released Barth after he missed a game-tying kick against Detroit in November, then replaced him with a guy in Cairo Santos who was coming off an injury and, as it turned out, wasn’t completely healthy yet. So the Bears then had to move on from Santos and sign Mike Nugent to get them through the rest of the season. Better consistency from this position will be important to find in 2018. 

A couple moves fall into the neither hits nor misses category:

-- Drafting Adam Shaheen. Tight ends rarely make a significant impact as rookies, but Shaheen was only targeted 14 times last year. He did catch three touchdowns and flash some good chemistry with Trubisky before suffering an injury against Cincinnati that wound up ending his season. The gains he makes with a year of experience under his belt and during his first full offseason as a pro will be critical in determining his success in Year 2, and whether or not taking him 45th overall was a hit or a miss. 

-- Signing Prince Amukamara. This was neither good nor bad, with Amukamara playing solidly in coverage but not making enough plays on the ball and committing a few too many penalties. 

Pace still has decisions to make on a few other potential cuts, including right tackle Bobby Massie ($5.584 million cap savings per Spotrac) and linebackers Willie Young ($4.5 million cap savings) and Pernell McPhee ($7.075 million cap savings). Whether or not to place the franchise tag on Kyle Fuller and potentially pay him $15 million in 2018 is another call Pace has to make before the official end of the 2017 league year. 

But for Pace, did the hits out-weigh the misses in 2017? The Glennon signing imploded, but Trubisky showed signs of promise during an average season for a rookie quarterback. Cooper was a bust, but Fuller emerged as a potential long-term option to cover for that. The most glaring misses, then, were at wide receiver and tight end where, after injuries sapped those units of Cameron Meredith and Zach Miller, there weren’t reliable targets for Trubisky. 

We’ll probably need more time to determine if Pace’s “hits” on Trubisky and Nagy truly are “hits.” But if they are, the misses of 2017 -- Glennon, Wheaton, Cooper, etc. -- will be nothing more than amusing footnotes to a successful era of Bears football.