Bears offense astonishing, but D-Line was key


Bears offense astonishing, but D-Line was key

Sunday, Nov. 29, 2010
8:49 PM

By John Mullin

Scoring a season-high 31 points wins high marks for just about everyone on offense, even the line despite allowing four sacks; that group settled in as the game went along and did not allow Philadelphia to dominate consistently at any point. The defense made plays when needed but was hit for 333 passing yards and a possible game-changing late TD. Still, a strong overall performance by an 8-3 team.

Quarterback A

Jay Cutlers 146.2 passer rating was a career best and four TD passes matches his best. His TD throw to Earl Bennett in the first quarter was one of his finest throws in two seasons, a low red-zone bullet that either his guy or nobody was going to catch. Cutler was sacked four times in the first half but maintained composure throughout for his best half of the season with three TDs, 7-for-10 passing and a 152.1 rating. Cutler finished with 14-for-21 passing for 247 yards and the TDs but most important, no INTs and had a total handle on the game.

Running backs A

Matt Forte broke off his left side for a 61-yard run in the first quarter to set up a TD and picked up 28 on a third-quarter carry that was the key starter for a 17-play drive of 83 yards. Forte finished with 117 yards on 14 carries and caught two of three passes for another 22 yards. Chester Taylor was ineffective again, with minus-three yards on six carries.

Receivers A

Earl Bennett and Johnny Knox each caught first quarter TD passes on precise throws from Cutler and wideouts provided solid blocking downfield to spring first-half plays for long yardage. Bennett and Knox provided excellent yardage after catches and Devin Hester added a game-high 86 yards on three catches. Greg Olsen scored on his one catch and he and Brandon Manumaleuna performed generally well in pass protection.

Offensive line B

A difficult grading situation. The Bears allowed no sacks of Cutler in the second half and Fortes runs were behind increasingly solid blocking. Assignments against a creative Philadelphia pass rush befuddled the Bears early, who allowed four sacks in the first half to squander momentum as well as yardage and possessions. LT Frank Omiyale was guilty of a third-down false start, then was beaten for a sack on the ensuing play and for a second sack in the second quarter. RT JMarcus Webb appeared to miss an assignment and leave rookie defensive end Brandon Graham unblocked for a sack, and breakdown between Webb and RG Roberto Garza left DT Mike Patterson unblocked for another sack. But give Philadelphias blitz looks credit for causing many problems.

Defensive line A

The rotating front four was arguably the key to the game, allowing the rest of the defense to focus on more than just Michael Vick, whom the Bears sacked four times in all. DT Henry Melton collected his third sack in three games, sharing a first-quarter takedown of Michael Vick shared with Israel Idonije and getting superb early pressure on Vick. DT Matt Toeainas seven-yard sack ended a drive and Julius Peppers third-down sack on a play from the Chicago-3 midway through the second quarter forced the Eagles to settle for a field goal. Peppers pursued and tackled Vick in the fourth quarter to force another FG. Tommie Harris pass deflection was a game turning point. Anthony Adams was credited with a sack of Vick.

Linebackers B

Brian Urlacher was initially credited with a team-high 10 tackles and appeared to force a fumble on a sack that wasnt credited to him. Urlacher broke up a pass while Lance Briggs added six tackles and Pisa Tinoisamoa was credited with two solo stops.

Secondary B

S Chris Harris pick off of a deflected Vick pass in the end zone and 39-yard return was a major turning point, from a Philly scoring shot at the Chicago-3 to a TD by the offense. Harris also had two passes broken up. Nickel back D.J. Moore turned in two impact plays with first-half blitzes and finished with six solo tackles, one for a loss. Vick passed for 333 yards but the game plan was to prevent big plays and force the Eagles to play on a long field.

Special teams B

Danieal Manning returned a kickoff 44 yards and Devin Hester opened the second half with one of 46 yards. Poor coverage on Brad Maynards booming first punt allowed DeSean Jackson a 35-yard return to set up a Philadelphia FG. Robbie Gould converted his one FG try from 23 yards.

Coaching A

Relying on basics and the scheme vs. Vick was superb and kept the Bears from leaving huge gaps. Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli made stopping big plays the priority and the discipline staying with that plan was crucial. Mike Martz showed the run early with good effect and again called more than 20 runs by his backs. The Bears were clearly a team with solid focus and was not caught up in panic reactions against one of the NFLs best offenses and the No. 1 defense at producing turnovers.

John "Moon" Mullin is'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.

In moving forward with Dion Sims, the Bears will keep a mix of skillsets at tight end

USA Today

In moving forward with Dion Sims, the Bears will keep a mix of skillsets at tight end

When the Bears signed Trey Burton to a four-year contract worth a reported $32 million (with $18 million of it guaranteed), the natural thought was this: So long, Dion Sims. But the Bears are all but certainly going to hang on to the 27-year-old tight end after his $4 million roster bonus became fully guaranteed on Friday, barring a trade. 

“We like Dion Sims, a well-rounded tight end,” general manager Ryan Pace said on Thursday. “We’re excited we got him.”

Cynically — or, perhaps, fairly — Pace’s comments could’ve been interpreted as part of a play to trade Sims, who signed a three-year contract in 2017. The Bears saw Sims as a strong run blocker with pass-catching upside, but still gave themselves an out after one year that would’ve netted $5.666 million in cap savings. 

Sims didn’t show any of that receiving upside last year, though, catching 15 of 29 targets (51 percent) for 180 yards with one touchdown. Crucially, the Bears have the cap space to keep Sims, even with the flurry of signings they’ve announced this week -- and Kyle Fuller's reported four-year, $56 million extension -- and contract extensions looming for Eddie Goldman and possibly Adrian Amos, too. 

So hanging on to Sims means the Bears value his contributions as a run blocker and are willing to shoulder a $6.3 million cap hit for him to primarily be used in that role. The Bears expect Shaheen to be their primary in-line tight end, with Burton and Daniel Brown, who signed a one-year contract Friday, the more pass-catching-oriented “move” guys in Matt Nagy’s offense. But Sims will still have a role as the Bears look to maximize their production from the tight end position. 

“I think we can use all our tight ends,” Pace said. “I think the Super Bowl champions are a recent example of that, of using a lot of tight ends. They’re all valuable weapons. They’re all a little different. I think they all complement each other. It fits together nicely.”

Bears attitude adjustment already apparent in first wave of free agents

Bears attitude adjustment already apparent in first wave of free agents

The first thing you notice is some swagger, some chips on the shoulders of the newest Bears, and while that doesn’t win any games in-season, let alone in March, it’s something of a positive for a team that’d had a lot of its swagger pained out of it over the past two years in particular.

Receivers Taylor Gabriel and Allen Robinson, tight end Trey Burton, backup quarterback Chase Daniel and kicker Cody Parkey all said the requisite niceties and platitudes on Thursday, all about how much they like the coaches, the organization, all that stuff.

But I’ve seen free agents come and go since real free agency started in 1993. All levels of players coming through, and they all say right stuff. There was something else with this bunch, though, and it wasn’t always there in the past. (More on that in a second.)

So there was Gabriel mentioning how Mitch Trubisky had texted him after Gabriel had signed, and Gabriel first piping in with, “How’s your deep ball?” And Trubisky was right back at Gabriel, one of the fastest players in the NFL, with, “Are you still fast?”

Best guess — they’ll get along just fine.

Gabriel’s first comment on impressions of coach Matt Nagy? Not about his football knowledge, his enthusiasm. No, it was: “Smooth dude, man,” Gabriel said. “I like his swag a little bit.”

Robinson was described by former Jacksonville and current Bears teammate cornerback Prince Amukamara as “a nightmare” to play against because he let defensive guys, even his own, know when he’d had them for lunch. As far as now, a very high bar has been set: “I think for me as a player, it's not my job to make Mitch's job easier, it's to make his job easy.”

Two points on why this comes with a touch more relevance in the case of a Bears team coming off a fourth straight NFC North basement finish:

First, because of what developed on the other side of the football when the likes of Akiem Hicks, Pernell McPhee (describing his style of football as “violent”) and Danny Trevathan came in, even rookie safety Eddie Jackson last year. They brought in attitudes from not just winning organizations, but more important, championship organizations. And they were good enough to walk the walk, even as they struggled through injuries.

The result was that in less than three full seasons, the Bears were a Top 10 defense. Attitudes can be infectious, for good or bad, and the right attitude with the right players made the defense a force, even with its injuries.

What the Bears secured in their first wave of free agents was five players all involved in points production — two wide receivers, a tight end, a kicker and a backup quarterback, whose two mission statements consist of being ready to play winning football if he’s needed and also to be a foundation pillar for the starter, in this case Trubisky.

What makes this a speck more interesting is that Trubisky will be the biggest factor in formation of the 2018-and-beyond Bears, and it was Trubisky whom Leonard Floyd and his defensive mates dubbed “Pretty Boy Assassin” last year because of Trubisky’s give-some-smack attitude anytime he lit up the No. 1 defense just running scout-team plays.

The second observation is that this wasn’t the case last year with Markus Wheaton, Quintin Demps, Marcus Cooper, Dion Sims and certainly not Mike Glennon, last year’s main free agency additions. Some of that’s obviously personality; Glennon and those guys are simply not swagger-smack kinds of guys, and that’s OK, as long as they play with attitude.

Last year’s group, just to use them as a case in point, came from decent programs. But the current top Bears additions include Super Bowl winners (Burton, Daniel as Drew Brees’ backup), a Super Bowl loser (Gabriel, painfully in the Atlanta Falcons’ collapse vs. New England) and a top wideout who had his dream derailed by injury and missed out on his team’s drive to within 2 minutes 48 seconds of a Super Bowl (Robinson).

And while Nagy and the organization are probably wise to counsel patience in the Bears’ recovery climb, the players aren’t seeing it that way.

“You can never underestimate how important youth is and guys who are willing to learn and willing to get better, but then also you look at the city,” Burton said. “They want another championship. They want to win. They want to be winners. You look at the other sports, the Bulls, the Blackhawks, the Cubs, the Cubs just won a couple years ago.

“The city's ready for another championship and like I said, they have a great quarterback, young quarterback, and an unbelievable head coach. They're aggressive and they're ready to win right now.”