Cutler injured as turnovers doom Bears in home-opening loss

Cutler injured as turnovers doom Bears in home-opening loss

It didn't take long for the boos to rain down from Soldier Field.

The Bears went into halftime trailing by just two points, but wound up turning the ball over three times in a 14-minute span, handing the Philadelphia Eagles a 29-14 win in the Chicago home opener.

Jay Cutler was responsible for two of those turnovers, losing a fumble on a sack on the Bears' first drive of the second half and then throwing an interception in the shadow of his own endzone.

The pick was Cutler's last play of the night as he entered the locker room with a hand injury.

The Eagles, meanwhile, shot themselves in the foot with a couple of ill-timed penalities and drops early as rookie quarterback Carson Wentz looked impressive, but Philadelphia had to settle for field goals early.

Once the Bears offense started getting sloppy with the ball, the Eagles took advantage, scoring touchdowns on each of the three ensuing possessions.

The Bears defense looked as if they provided a spark, stuffing the Eagles at the goal line on a fourth-down attempt in the fourth quarter, but Leonard Floyd was lined up offside, giving the Eagles another chance, which they promptly converted to put the game well out of reach.

John Fox and the Bears coaching staff said they were going to commit to the running game this week, but the offense came out with only 10 yards on the ground on seven first-half carries.

The tide turned briefly in the second half with 51 rushing yards in the third quarter, including a couple of nice runs from Jeremy Langford and rookie Jordan Howard before Cutler's fumble.

The Bears suffered a slew of injures beyond Cutler, with Eddie Goldman, Adrian Amos, Bryce Callahan, Lamarr Houston and Ka'Deem Carey all leaving the game with ailments and not returning.

Before he left the game, Cutler was 12-of-17 for 157 yards and one interception.

In Cutler's place, Brian Hoyer completed 9 passes on 12 attempts for 78 yards.

Langford finished with the Bears' only offensive touchdown - a one-yard scamper in the second quarter. He tallied just 2.5 yards per carry (28 yards on 11 carries) on the evening and also lost a fumble.

Eddie Royal provided the second Bears score when he took a punt 65 yards to the house late in the fourth quarter when the game was already well in hand.

The Bears defense held the Eagles to less than 300 yards of offense (280) and did tally seven deflected passes coupled with a pair of sacks.

But the turnovers gave the Eagles short fields to work with and they capitalized to push their record to 2-0 while the Bears fall to 0-2 to begin the 2016 campaign.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Will Cam Meredith return to the Bears?


SportsTalk Live Podcast: Will Cam Meredith return to the Bears?

Hub Arkush (Pro Football Weekly/670 The Score), Mark Grote (670 The Score) and Mark Carman (WGN Radio) join Luke Stuckmeyer on the panel. Quenton Nelson works out at Notre Dame’s pro day. If he’s still on the board at 8, should the Bears take him? Plus the panel talks about the Cubs outfield heading into 2018 and if it’s time to shut down both Jonathan Toews and Lauri Markkanen.

Could Quenton Nelson increase his value by playing tackle?

USA Today

Could Quenton Nelson increase his value by playing tackle?

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Quenton Nelson hasn’t met with the Bears yet during this pre-draft process, and doesn’t have a local visit scheduled with them. But maybe that’s not too surprising.

Harry Hiestand has better intel on him than anyone else after coaching him for the past four years at Notre Dame, after all. 

“Coach Hiestand, he’s known me since I was an immature freshman that wasn’t good at football, until now being a lot more mature and responsible and doing the right thing and a good football player,” Nelson said. “He knows everything about me.”

Could part of that intel provided by Hiestand be that Nelson has the ability to eventually play tackle?

Nelson might be the closest to a “sure thing” prospect in this year’s draft, with his reams of dominant film and off-the-charts work ethic projecting him as an All-Pro for years to come. But that he plays guard is a stumbling block, given interior positions generally don’t hold as much value as tackles in the NFL.

So here’s a potential scenario for the Bears: They draft Nelson at No. 8 — which is still "high" for a guard — and plug him at left guard in 2018. They then, under the careful watch of Hiestand, slide him to tackle in 2019. 

“I’m pretty convinced that Q could do whatever he sets his mind to,” Mike McGlinchey, a first-round tackle in his own right who's Nelson’s ex-Irish teammate and workout buddy, said. “If that’s what teams want him to play, I’m sure he’ll take that head on and perform to the best of his ability.” 

Nelson, to his credit, is confident he could make the switch to tackle (he was recruited by Hiestand as a tackle, and began his college career backing up Zack Martin at tackle). He said the only team that’s asked him about it so far is the Cincinnati Bengals, though it’s unlikely he’ll still be on the board when they pick at No. 21. 

But maybe the thought of guards being significantly less valuable than tackles is slowly becoming antiquated in today’s NFL. Four of the top 10 highest paid offensive linemen, by total contract value, are interior linemen. Three of the top 10 offensive linemen with the most guaranteed money are guards, led by Andrew Norwell, who inked a five-year, $66.5 million deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars earlier this month with $30 million guaranteed at signing. Only one offensive lineman — Nate Solder, who just signed with the New York Giants — is guaranteed more money. 

Following the money, if teams are willing to splash down loads of cash for the best guards in the league, a team may be willing to spend a top-10 pick on a guard who could immediately be among the best at his position in the NFL. Or the calculation for whatever team drafts him may be this: Would you rather have him as a perennial All-Pro guard or "merely" a solid-to-good tackle? 

Regardless of where he ends up playing, though, Nelson is one of those supremely-talented players who takes the right approach to his craft — in other words, one of those guys you just want to get in your building. And while Nelson said he’d love to play for his hometown New York Giants — who could be interested in him with the No. 2 pick — he said getting to link back up with Hiestand would be an incredible opportunity, too. 

“That would be amazing to play for him,” Nelson said. “He’s the one that made me into the player I am today. I wouldn’t be here without him or be in any conversations in the draft without him, so it would mean a lot to play for him again.”