Bears

Bears notes: 'The most incredible play'

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Bears notes: 'The most incredible play'

Sunday, Sept. 25, 2011
Posted: 11:39 a.m. Updated: 10:13 p.m.

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com Bears Insider Follow @CSNMoonMullin
It was the perfect play, one in a game that had precious few for the Bears. And it still produced nothing.

With the Packers leading 27-17 and just over a minute to play, the Bears forced a Green Bay punt. Scheming for a pooch punt to their right, the Bears staged a collective feint, with returner Devin Hester drifting to his left, and blockers going his way.

Except that the ball was not going anywhere near Hester.

Johnny Knox quietly had made his way deep along the right sideline and punter Tim Masthay dutifully punted that way. But the coverage team was suckered into going for Hester, while the ball was going to Knox all alone at the Chicago 11.

Knox gathered in the ball and went 89 yards for a touchdown that appeared to bring the Bears back to within a score and with a chance to recover an onsides kick and pull out a win.

But as Knox neared the Green Bay goal line, he looked back upfield and saw yellow, a penalty flag. Far on the other side of the field, away from the play, Corey Graham had been called for holding.

It wasnt explained, just a hold on me, said a visibly angry Graham. I should have just let him go. I shouldnt have even touched the dude. But the call was ticky-tack.

Other Bears used far stronger words for the call. The Packers, for their part, were impressed.

That was the most incredible play I had ever seen in seven years, said Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. And being a sports fan in that situation, it was incredible. I think everyone on the sidelines was wondering what the heck just happened as he was running down the sideline with two blockers in front of him. Honestly, it was the most incredible play that I have ever seen.

Bad trend

The Green Bay victory makes coach Mike McCarthy 7-0 in road openers.

Early problems

The TD pass from Rodgers to Jermichael Finley at the end of the first Green Bay possession marked the third time in the last four games that the Packers scored first. Ironically, the Packers scored first in game three last season and lost; the Bears scored first in the second meeting between the teams and lost.

Bad break

Looking down the schedule a ways, the Eagles may be in bad standings shape by the time the Bears visit them on Nov. 7. Quarterback Michael Vick suffered a concussion last week against the Atlanta Falcons and now has a broken right hand (not his passing hand) from the New York Giants game Sunday.

Nice repair job

The Detroit Lions were able to get the wheel fixed on their Cinderella carriage up in Minnesota. After trailing 20-0 at halftime to the Vikings, whod lost halftime leads in their first two games, Detroit pulled to within a score at 20-17 on a second TD pass from Matthew Stafford to Megatron, a.k.a wide receiver Calvin Johnson.

Then the two teams traded field goals to reach 23-23 until the Lions won on a field goal in OT. Bad news for the Bears.
For starters

Last year it was Green Bay needing huge contributions from backups as one starter after another went down with injuries. The injuries arent the season-enders that a lot of Packers suffered but the Bears hopes Sunday and possibly for longer hinge on reserves playing at starter levels.

Brandon Meriweather was signed with the intention of him being a starting safety and he will, for free safety Major Wright (head injury). Craig Steltz was tasked with standing up to Rodgers and the Green Bay offense as the fill-in strong safety for Chris Harris.

The offensive line struggled with injury based shuffling last year and Sunday was without the starting right side of Lance Louis and Gabe Carimi, although Louis was active. Chris Spencer started again at right guard and Frank Omiyale remained at right tackle, where he filled in last week for Carimi.

Sitting out

Rookie quarterback Nathan Enderle is active for the first time as the Bears inactives line up this way: Marion Barber, Earl Bennett, Carimi, Harris, Wright and Corey Wootton.

The Wootton inactive status is a little eyebrow-raising. Wootton was having an excellent training camp before needing a minor knee scope and being idled for some time. In his place, Mario Addison and Nick Reed consistently made impact plays, to the point where the Bears kept both of them on the 53-man roster.

Now Wootton isnt getting on the game-day roster while Addison and Reed are. Good for the Bears to have what they consider impact, quality depth at their outside-rush position but disappointing for Wootton, whos fought back twice now from knee injuries and looked close to his breakout before the camp setback.

Continuity, anyone?

After a 2010 in which the Bears started the same safety tandem Chris Harris, Danieal Manning for all 16 games, the Bears will start their third different pairing in as many games.

Harris and Major Wright started against the Falcons. Harris was out with a hamstring strain and missed New Orleans, so Wright moved to strong safety and Brandon Meriweather at free. Wright suffered a head injury against the Saints and will miss the Packers, leaving either Harris (listed as questionable) or Craig Steltz to start in his place.

The offensive line began to function well last season when it stopped needing weekly changes. The state of flux, unfortunately, has returned, and the Bears played third game with a different starting five:
Atlanta: Webb - C Williams -Garza - Louis - Carimi
New Orleans: Webb- C Williams - Garza - Spencer - Carimi
Green Bay: Webb - C Williams - Garza - Spencer - Omiyale

Must-read

Comcast SportsNet colleague Jim Miller gives an excellent analysis of a key Bears crisis; that they still have not established an identity on offense under Mike Martz. Jay Cutler said something to that effect last week, that it will take 5-6 games for that to shake out, which is head-shaking at this level and had the ring of excuse-making.

Jim also gets into why the Packers may in fact be struggling a little on defense, and it has some roots in the lost offseason and lockout. Great stuff.

Impact wideouts

If the Bears are indeed going to run the football with any measure of success, help has traditionally had to come from blocking by more than the offensive line and tight ends. It will come from a wide receiver group that coach Darryl Drake demands be blockers.

Two of the better ones were missing in New Orleans with Roy Williams inactive with a groin injury and Bennett down early with a chest injury that has him still out. Williams was back this week, bringing with him a veteran grasp of how best to get into the minds of defensive backs.

Corners dont want to tackle, Williams said. Thats the last thing a corner wants to do. So if you can run, it brings the safeties down which gives no help on the outside for corners. That puts them on an island and not many corners in this league can play by themselves on that island.

The thing safeties dont like is receivers coming down to block them. Thats the thing that makes them grumpy.
Anybody notice...

The only undefeated team in the NFC East is the Washington Redskins and that Rex Grossman is their quarterback.

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.

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).

 

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.