Bears

Bears' shot at No. 1 seed still alive after Saints win

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Bears' shot at No. 1 seed still alive after Saints win

Tuesday, Dec. 28, 2010
1:57 PM

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

Well, from the Chicago Bears, thank you very much, New Orleans Saints.

Drew Brees rallying the Saints for a win over Atlanta (only the second GeorgiaDome loss for Matt Ryan) gave a little more life to the Bears outside shot at the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs. The Saints and Falcons still need to both lose next weekend, which is a collective longshot because both are home, but anything that tilts the Bears toward playing the Green Bay game like it matters, the better for the Bears.

As I alluded to Monday, the Bears definitely benefit from a bye but not necessarily when they coast with resting starters in their final games of seasons. What that does is give certain key starters a de facto three-week break from intense prep, since the week before the last game isnt spent with the pedal all the way down if you know youre not playing. Thats just human nature. And then you have the actual bye week, and then finally comes the get-back-to-work.

You have to like the Bears chances in any case. And if Carolina and Tampa Bay can trip up Atlanta and New Orleans next Sunday, who knows?

Interesting perspective

FoxSports.com NFL vet and good friend Alex Marvez was in town for the Jets game (and some good jazz with Cyrus Chestnut at The Jazz Showcase awesome!). He also took an interesting look at the improbable Bears, improbable perhaps only because of some of the second-chance guys that have been instrumental in whats happened this season in Chicago.

Consider the number of key figures that have reinvented or re-started themselves as part of this Bears team: Mike Martz, Rod Marinelli, Greg Olsen (a new way of looking at his play), Jay Cutler, others. As Alex notes, not a lot was expected from this team but part of that was because of perceptions, and some very important individuals made some very important changes.

Rostering

It probably wont happen but putting tight end Desmond Clark on the active roster for Green Bay makes some sense. No one has caught more passes (36) lifetime vs. the Packers. Greg Olsen is next with 22 and Clark and Olsen have combined for 5 TD catches against the Packers...

Deal-watching

The three-year contract for defensive tackle Matt Toeaina sets in place a nice solid piece of the future on the defensive line, much as Israel Idonijes contract and extension did in 2006, even before Idonije emerged as the end he is now. The Toeaina pact give the Bears an obvious alternative to Tommie Harris, who isnt likely to be back after this season and likely just needs a fresh start for himself...

Two other contract situations warrant monitoring. Center Olin Kreutz is the only game in town at that position for the Bears and hell be back with a short-term deal. And Matt Forte, whos now the first back in franchise history to total 1,400 all-purpose yards his first three seasons, is up after next season. Look for the Bears to lock him up long-term before he goes to camp in what could be a very lucrative contract year if they dont.

What Forte and the offensive line have done since the off week, along with Jay Cutlers No. 1 conversion rate on third-down passes (54.7 percent), is have Forte averaging 4.7 yards per carry and stand No. 7 in the NFL with 810 total yards from scrimmage.

Huh?

The Bus was always the one that got away for the Bears, who could have drafted him in 1992 and solved running back issues for a long time. But Jerome Bettis as an analyst is a little harder to solve.

Bettis posits the Eagles as the best team in the NFC because of how theyre winning, variety of weapons, the usual stuff. What makes Bettis analysis a little bizarre is his citing the one Eagle blip as the loss to the Bears in Chicago, which he calls arguably the toughest NFC venue.

Really? The venue where the home team lost three times this season, twice to dud teams? And then theres the Georgia Dome, where Atlantas loss Monday to the Saints was exactly the second defeat the Falcons have suffered there in Matt Ryans career.

As I always stress, I have no rooting interest in the Bears (other than when they make my predictions look clairvoyant), but between Bettis proclamation and NFL guru Peter King ranking the Bears No. 7 on his power list, below the Eagles (No. 3) and tied with the Packers, two teams the Bears defeated, its hard to argue with Bears claiming they really dont get a fair share of respect.

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.

Can the Bears make enough plays to beat the Carolina Panthers?

Can the Bears make enough plays to beat the Carolina Panthers?

Everything changed for the Bears after going up 17-3 last week against the Baltimore Ravens. Mitchell Trubisky’s 27-yard touchdown to Dion Sims was immediately followed by Bobby Rainey running a kickoff back 96 yards for a touchdown, then the offense was bogged down with three fumbles (two lost) on three consecutive possessions. 

But Adrian Amos seemed to seal the game with his 90-yard pick six — that is, until Michael Campanaro ran Pat O’Donnell’s punt back 77 yards for what wound up being a game-tying touchdown after a two-point conversion.

The point is the Bears should’ve cruised to a comfortable win last week; a few critical mistakes didn’t allow that to happen. The Bears haven’t led at the end of the fourth quarter this year, a pretty strong indicator they haven’t played a complete game yet despite having two wins. 

The Carolina Panthers have road wins over the Detroit Lions and New England Patriots this year, and only lost to the Philadelphia Eagles by five points last week (despite Cam Newton throwing three interceptions). The bet here is the Bears keep things close on the backs of a strong defense, but either can’t make enough plays or make too many mistakes to win. 

Prediction: Panthers 20, Bears 16

Three and out: What Ron Rivera likes about Mitchell Trubisky played out this week

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USA TODAY

Three and out: What Ron Rivera likes about Mitchell Trubisky played out this week

Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera saw a lot of Mitchell Trubisky last year, with the North Carolina quarterback on TV quite a bit in the Charlotte area. The Panthers, set with Cam Newton, weren’t in the market for a quarterback in the 2017 NFL Draft, but Trubisky nonetheless stood out to the seventh-year Carolina coach and former Super Bowl-winning Bears linebacker. 

For Rivera, more than Trubisky’s arm strength and athleticism jumped off the screen. 

“Leadership,” Rivera pointed to. “When you watch him when he was playing — I love watching guys that either get on their teammates when they’re not doing it or they take accountability when they make a mistake. And you saw that with him.

“… We think the young man has got what it takes. We like who’s he’s gonna become. We do. We think the future can be bright for him. We are big fans here.”

Trubisky took accountability for both of his turnovers against the Minnesota Vikings: The interception Harrison Smith baited him into was certainly his fault, but his sack-strip fumble was more the result of Everson Griffen jumping the snap and blowing past left tackle Charles Leno. Against the Baltimore Ravens, Trubisky also lost a fumble on a sack-strip when cornerback Lardarius Webb hit him and dislodged the ball.

Trubisky’s explanation of that fumble was that he moved off his first read too quickly, causing him to miss Webb making a beeline for him in the backfield. But according to offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains, that fumble wasn’t the quarterback’s fault. 

“That’s because he’s a stud,” Loggains said of Trubisky taking responsibility for it. “We screwed the protection up. We should have been sliding to the guy. The guy should not have been coming free. That’s Mitch taking a bullet that he doesn’t need to take. The reality is he saw the guy coming and tried to get over to the check down quickly but we got to do a better job up front protecting him.”

But that Trubisky was willing to say he was at fault for that fumble plays into why he quickly gained the respect of the Bears’ the locker room. That’s what a quarterback should be doing when speaking to the media after the game — accepting responsibility and deflecting off his teammates, even if he’s not at fault. That kind of stuff doesn’t go unnoticed. 

Stopping Superman

Pernell McPhee offered this goal up for his fellow defensive teammates this week: Make sure Newton stays as Clark Kent on Sunday. 

“He’s a very talented guy, but the only thing I told the defense is let's make him be Cam Newton, not Superman,” McPhee said, referring to Newton’s signature touchdown move. “We don't want him opening up the cape.”

So how does a defense stop Newton from being Superman?

“He’s a very versatile quarterback,” defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said. “Obviously his running the ball, whether it be through his improvising with scrambling on called pass plays, or the called running plays they do have for him, that’s a strength for him. We can’t just focus on stopping that. We’ve gotta stop Cam Newton the passer and the runner. They’ve got good running backs they’re handing it off to and receivers and running backs he’s throwing it to, so you’ve got a total offense to stop.”

One point to note here: Newton threw three interceptions last week against the Philadelphia Eagles and had been picked off eight times this year. A Bears secondary that intercepted Joe Flacco twice last week could have some more shots at takeaways on Sunday. 

High praise

Sunday will mark Thomas Davis’ 156th game in the NFL, with the linebacker playing every one of those with the Carolina Panthers. He played for John Fox from 2005-2010. But where we’re going here is what he had to say about how the Bears run their offense with a rookie quarterback:

“I think this is probably the best running game that we’ve seen from an offense with a rookie quarterback,” Davis said. “You look at some of the other rookies that come in. Teams want to run the ball. But when you look at the physicality and the style of play that this team plays with, I think that really makes the job a lot easier for a young quarterback. So I definitely feel like that physicality in their running game is definitely going to help him out.”

The Bears ran the ball 50 times against a Baltimore Ravens defense that played a lot more Cover-2 than expected. With star linebacker Luke Kuechly out for Sunday, the Bears may try to use a similar strategy, even if Carolina loads the box more than Baltimore did (a little more than once one every three runs by Jordan Howard). 

But if the Bears’ offense is going to have success, it’s going to be behind Howard, Tarik Cohen and an improving offensive line. Maybe Davis’ comments are hyperbole, but he’s also played a lot more football than you and me.