Bears

Bears-Lions: And the winner is...

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Bears-Lions: And the winner is...

The 2013-14 Bears lost four straight games to the Detroit Lions, the first time that level of futility has occurred since the woeful times of the late ‘60s-early ‘70s. The Lions obliterated the Denver Broncos 45-10 in John Fox’s first year as Broncos head coach.

None of that particularly matters approaching Sunday when the Bears go to Ford Field to face the Lions.

“We don’t spend a lot of time looking in the rear-view mirror,” Fox said. “We’re looking out the windshield. That’ll determine what we do Sunday.”

Other things will indeed determine outcomes.

[MORE BEARS: Week 6 in-foe - A Motown mess]

Winning two straight games restored some balance to a Bears team that had lost its two previous games by 25 (Arizona) and 26 (Seattle) points. The fact that the wins involved fourth-quarter surges against teams that are a combined 3-7 really isn’t relevant; only winning matters and the Bears, despite injury levels approaching epic levels, managed to do that.

If there is any concern it lies in the fact that the Bears have scored no more than 23 points in any of their five games this year. That cannot continue if the Bears are entertaining thoughts of stacking more wins.

The Bears went through a stretch like that last season and were 2-3 then, too. They went six games of no more than 23 points in 2011 (the six after the Jay Cutler injury) and went 1-5 then; they were 3-3 over six 23-or-less games in 2010 before righting themselves for the run to the NFC Championship game. A seven-game 23-or-less stretch in 2009 ended 1-6.

[MORE BEARS: Bears waiting on Alshon Jeffery to provide downfield threat]

Not that 23 is any sort of points tipping point, like 17 is for points allowed; over the last 10 years the Bears are 39-12 when holding an opponent to 17 or fewer points.

All of which cascades into Bears-Lions.

Detroit has failed to score more than 17 points in any of its last four games, all since blowing a 21-10 halftime lead at San Diego in Week 1. The Bears’ defense has allowed just four touchdowns over the past three games (none rushing), and Detroit has scored more than two offensive touchdowns just once this year.

More to the overall were the indications of quitting last Sunday against Arizona, and that was at home. Coach Jim Caldwell began benching players, including quarterback Matthew Stafford after a third interception.

The variable this Sunday is how the Lions respond to both the adversity of losing and also the Caldwell message that no one is immune to benching. The Lions may come out with extreme fire, which then involves the Bears weathering an early attempt to blow them out, and matching that can be an early decision point.

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Bears fans]

But the guess here is that it will be the Bears coming out with smash-mouth intentions and also the ability to carry that through, both on offense and defense. The Lions are 32nd in the league rushing, both in yardage and per-attempt.

The Bears, however, are understandably wary of wounded Lions.

“I still see all the talent and the explosiveness that they've had the past few years,” said Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. “Ever since [Stafford] has been there, particularly with that receiving group that he's got in [Calvin] Johnson and [Golden] Tate.

“They just have struggled a little bit, they've played some really good defenses and it just hasn't worked out for them. But they're still very capable of winning a lot of games during the season.”

Just not this one. “View from the Moon” predicted the Bears to be 2-3 after five games this season and that they would lose at Detroit. Not now.

Prediction: Bears 20, Lions 16

Bears ’18 offseason dramatically different from ’17 but with difficult money-management issues looming

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USA TODAY

Bears ’18 offseason dramatically different from ’17 but with difficult money-management issues looming

About this time a year ago the Bears were setting up for the annual NFL beauty pageant in Indianapolis, sitting with the No. 3 pick in the 2017 draft and with myriad roster decisions to address with both that draft and free agency. Because of the Bears’ lofty draft position, even more scrutiny and attention swirled around the college prospects (Deshaun Watson, Jamal Adams, Solomon Thomas, not enough on Mitch Trubisky as it turned out, a testimonial to GM Ryan Pace’s ability to keep a secret).

But what was developing in free agency was arguably of even greater significance in what was then the short term, at least for John Fox, as it turned out. And the changed landscape this year bodes considerably better for Pace and the Bears. At least in one important respect.

First, a perspective from last year’s pre-Combine period...

Because of the unsettled quarterback situation – the Bears were working toward Mike Glennon and cutting Jay Cutler two weeks later – and concerns about a possible lame-duck situation for Fox, free agents and their agents were willing to look at the Bears but only if the Bears would pony up excessive guaranteed dollars. The worry any time a coach is heading into a tipping-point year is that if things go badly, the coach and staff are gone, and the resulting changes will alter the job situation of that particular veteran player.

So the likes of cornerbacks A.J. Bouye or Stephon Gilmore opted for less total money from Jacksonville and New England, respectively, because the Bears weren’t offering higher guarantees to compensate for the uncertainty.

(One of the reasons then-President/CEO Michael McCaskey stated to this reporter for firing Mike Ditka after the 1992 season was a concern over the negative pall Ditka cast over playing for the Bears as the NFL prepared for the 1993 start of free agency. A quarter-century later, Pace didn’t fire Fox because of free agents’ aversion to Fox, but the overall wasn’t making Pace’s job any easier.)

Would Alshon Jeffery have stayed if...

On a slightly different tack: Would Alshon Jeffery have given the Bears a more receptive look had the quarterback position been addressed sooner in the Fox/Pace tenure? Jeffery took less from the Eagles in a one-year prove-it deal, not because Philadelphia was so much warmer than Chicago, but in large part because of where the offensive arrow was pointing in Chicago with Fox, Dowell Loggains and an unsettled quarterback situation.

Not insignificantly in the Jeffery case: Jeffery had four choices – Bears, Indianapolis, Minnesota, Philadelphia. The Colts weren’t sure about Andrew Luck, coming off shoulder surgery and ultimately missing all of ’17. The Vikings were resting then on brittle Sam Bradford, whose knee broke down early, and Case Keenum wasn’t CASE KEENUM at that point. The Bears with Loggains and Glennon? Jeffery didn’t go with Philadelphia, Doug Pederson and Carson Wentz only for the money, which did come anyway.

The Bears have “fixed” all of those issues in the year that’s played out since Jeffery signed with the Eagles almost concurrent with the Bears moving on from Cutler. None of that matters now in the least with Jeffery, Bouye, Gilmore or any other options that demanded too much guaranteed money or spurned the Bears back then, but it does matter going into the run-up to free agency over the next couple weeks.

Why this in fact matters more than the draft is that, while sound organizations are grounded in quality drafting, the reality is that in virtually every offseason, more starters for that season are acquired via free agency than the draft. Last year’s draft centerpiece was Trubisky, though he wasn’t supposed to start last season. But free agents Glennon, Prince Amukamara, Marcus Cooper, Quintin Demps and Markus Wheaton and Kendall Wright were.

The money pit

Longtime Bears and NFL personnel chief Bill Tobin once remarked back in the beginning of free agency, “Just because you pay a guy $2 million doesn’t make him a $2-million player.” That still applies, adjusted for inflation. And that could make this free agency dicey for the Bears.

Because price isn’t always determined solely on quality; it’s a matter of supply and demand. And while the Bears are among those with the greatest estimated space under the projected cap of $178 million, the others way up on the list include Cleveland, Indianapolis, the Jets, Houston and Tampa Bay – all teams with five or fewer wins in ’17 and expected to be the most aggressive in using free agency to fix gaping holes. The Bears have a lot of money to spend, but so do a whole lot of others.

Meaning: A lot of dollars will be chasing a select few players, which will make some of them overpaid, not unlike Glennon was last offseason (how many apparently better options were there?) or a couple of others, who will be paid like $2 million players even if they aren’t, adjusted for inflation.

The result is another offseason of brinksmanship for Pace, this time in need of better results than his first three free agencies if the outcome for his second head coach is to be better than it was for his first.

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

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USA TODAY

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 NFL.com'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).