Dent honorary captain; Harris: I'm playing


Dent honorary captain; Harris: I'm playing

Friday, Jan. 21, 2011
Posted: 12:47 p.m. Updated: 5:08 p.m.
By John Mullin

Former Chicago Bears defensive end Richard Dent, the team's all-time sack leader, MVP of Super Bowl XX and Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2011 finalist, will serve as the team's honorary captain for Sunday's NFC Championship at Soldier Field.

In two stints spanning 12 years with the Bears, Dent recorded a franchise record 124.5 sacks. He recorded a Chicago single-season record and career-high 17.5 sacks in 1984. Dent totaled eight double-digit sack seasons as a Bear while leading the team in sacks eight times.

Dent played professional football for a total of 15 years, also earning a Super Bowl ring with San Francisco in 1994, finishing with 137.5 career sacks, tied for sixth all-time in the NFL.

Im playing

He may not be taking all the practice reps yet but safety Chris Harris was firm Friday: He is playing against the Green Bay Packers Sunday.

Harris hip pointer kept him out of practice Wednesday and Thursday but I feel a lot better than I did previous days, Harris said after practice Friday. Im playing. Im definitely playing.

A hip pointer can be painful and coaches may face a decision on whether he at his current level or Craig Steltz, on the inactive list seven games this season, makes more sense against a Green Bay offense that averages 24.3 points per game (10th in the NFL).

The Bears defense, whether in Cover-2 mode or other, requires strong safety play and decision-making and Harris is not going to create a problem just so he can be on the field.

If it happens to bother me, I will definitely come out of the game, Harris said.

Love the matchup classic vs. classic

Lovie Smith has had to defend (well, not really defend) his Cover-2 defensive scheme from critics who havent always had a real grasp of what he and coordinator Rod Marinelli actually do run and when.

The unit has been a top-10 defense in myriad areas in multiple years and with different personnel. Which makes you wonder Does Mike McCarthy up in Green Bay have to keep defending use of the West Coast offense?

Obvious answer: no. The reality is that the reason the West Coast system has worked well and for a long, long time by NFL standards is because it has been adapted by its various practitioners. Just as Smith has created his own version of the defense he learned under Tony Dungy.

You do have to love this matchup within the matchup: West Coast system vs. Cover-2.

For the record, the Bears handled Andy Reids version of the West Coast in their win over the Philadelphia Eagles. They allowed no more than 17 points in the Green Bay games (17 and 10) and Mike Shanahans Washington version only put up 17 and that was with one of DeAngelo Halls four interceptions going 92 yards the other way for 7 points.

Matt Hasselbeck is pure West Coast from his years with Mike Holmgren in Green Bay and Seattle. The Seahawks nicked the Bears in their regular-season meeting with help from the old Mike Martz offense calling 47 pass plays, 12 runs and controlling the ball less than 26 minutes.

Well throw out the divisional game just because of the injury to tight end John Carlson, a big part of Hasselbecks West Coast base. But the Seahawks did only total 96 yards and zero points in the first half before the Bears took their feet off the gas defensively.

Sometimes ya gotta love the classics.

James who?

Green Bay lost its running game opening day when tailback Ryan Grant was lost to an ankle injury for the year. It seemed to get it back when James Starks came of the physically unable to perform list, got in several late-season games, including one against the Bears, and then stunned the Philadelphia Eagles with 123 yards on 23 carries in the wild-card game.

The Bears rank 2nd in the NFL in rushing defense, allowing 90 yards per game. The Giants Ahmad Bradshaw (129) and Washingtons Ryan Torain (125) have been the only backs to gain 100 yards on the Bears this season and they dont exactly expect Starks to become the third.

As far as what makes Starks tough to bring down, linebacker Brian Urlacher wasnt sure the question even pertained to the Bears.

Tough, for other teams? Urlacher said. The point isnt Starks; its the Bears. We run to the football. Thats what we do really well. We get a lot of guys to the football. We havent missed a lot of tackles this year, but when we do we have guys running to the football to get him down so well keep doing that.

Distant rivalry

The Bear-Packer rivalry is certainly a competition of long standing. But it rarely has extended into the postseason.

Not only is this just the second time the two teams have faced each other in the playoffs. It also is only the fourth time the two teams have even been in the playoffs in the same year. Its difficult to have a true rivalry when one side of the situation is good and the other is bad, which was the case for too many seasons.

Besides the 1941 one-game playoff to decide the Western Conference, both reached the 1994 playoffs as wild cards. Both won in that round but lost big to other opponents in the divisional round.

The Bears won the division in 2001, Green Bay qualified and won a round as a wild card, but both lost big again in the divisional round.

This year, things were different.

Rivalry perspective

For many Bears the single most important aspect of Sundays game is not that its against Green Bay. Its that the game is the final step to the Super Bowl.

Same in Green Bay. As far as added significance to the game, For me personally, not really, said linebacker Clay Matthews. Obviously you want to beat them with everything that goes on between Chicago and Green Bay and the historic organizations that we both have.

I think the fans, Chicago would like to beat Green Bay that much more and Green Bay to Chicago, so like Urlacher said, its an NFC Championship game. You have to understand that no matter who youre playing, you better bring youre A-game because youre one game away from making the Super Bowl. You need to show up, and you wouldnt be in the position you are if you hadnt been.

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.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Did the Bears technically "win" on Sunday?


SportsTalk Live Podcast: Did the Bears technically "win" on Sunday?

David Haugh (Chicago Tribune), Adam Jahns (Chicago Sun-Times) and Patrick Finley (Chicago Sun-Times) join Kap on the panel.  Kap is happy that Mitch Trubisky played ok and John Fox’s team lost again.  The panel disagrees.

Plus Leonard Floyd doesn’t have an ACL tear…. Yet. Should the Bears shut him down even if he gets good news?

Bears need Mitch Trubisky to become a closer, but teammates see it coming

Bears need Mitch Trubisky to become a closer, but teammates see it coming

With Sunday’s game on the line and the Bears owning the football at their 17-yard line, the offense needed a drive for field goal position to tie the Detroit Lions. But rookie quarterback Mitch Trubisky, with 1:03 on the clock, wasn’t thinking 3 points. He was thinking touchdown and a win, and the huddle knew it.

“I think that's his mindset all the time,” said guard Josh Sitton, who recognized something familiar in Trubisky’s face that Sitton had seen over his years with Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay. “He's a play-maker, he's got all the confidence in the world in himself and the guys around him.

“You can just see it on his face. I don't think he really says anything, he doesn't really need to say anything, you can kind of see it, by that look in his eyes. He's got what it takes to be a great player in this league.”

It was not intended to be any even remote comparison with Rodgers. More than eyes are involved in that. But while the drive Sunday ended in failure in the form of a missed field goal, something was noted in the process.

The 13-play drive for the Bears’ first touchdown Sunday was the longest sustained by the offense under Trubisky. And it was a statement possession for an offense that had not scored a first-quarter touchdown in nine prior games.

But if a negative among the many Trubisky positives was the fourth time in five situations that Trubisky has failed to direct a game-winning or –tying drive, which goes a long way to answering why the Bears are 2-4 under him. Actually the number of come-up-short drives is more than those if you count things like a three-and-out at Baltimore in regulation before Trubisky led a seven-play drive for a winning overtime field goal.

Still, looking a little deeper, Trubisky has gotten progressively “closer” to being the kind of finisher that the Bears have needed for decades. At the very least, Trubisky is keeping drives alive longer and longer, if not ending them with points. In these situations:

Vs.                     4th qtr/OT situation

Minnesota         1 play, interception ends potential winning drive

Baltimore          3 plays, punt, regulation ends in tie

                           7 plays, game-winning FG in OT

Carolina            Game already decided

New Orleans    2 plays, interception ends drive for tie

Green Bay        5 plays, ball over on downs on drive for tie

Detroit               11 plays, missed FG for tie

Within the huddle, the team confidence in Trubisky and vice versa has clearly grown, regardless of outcome, and that is something the offense did not consistently have in Mike Glennon, Matt Barkley, Brian Hoyer, Jay Cutler, Jimmy Clausen or even Josh McCown.

“[Trubisky] is just growing and growing and you just see it,” Sittyon said. “You saw the talent right away and he just keeps ... the nuances of the game, he just keeps learning and learning. He gives you all the confidence in the world as a guy in the locker room and on the field, in the huddle.

“He has that look in his eye where you're thinking 'All right, he's going to get the job done.’”

Staff addition? Probably not but Bears have an opening

Taking a morning-after look around the NFL after the Bears’ 27-24 loss to the Detroit Lions:

Something to probably dismiss but at least worth mentioning… .

The Denver Broncos on Monday fired offensive coordinator Mike McCoy, the same Mike McCoy who handled the Denver offense as John Fox’s OC. Don’t expect anything in-season, certainly not at this point, but the situation does offer an interesting future option if somehow Fox sees the fourth and final year of his contract, even looking further down the coaching road irrespective of Fox’s presence.

McCoy was ousted from a foundering Broncos situation, presumably over not being able to make anything much out of Trevor Simian

McCoy, who was the mix of candidates and interviewed to succeed Lovie Smith back in 2012, wouldn’t necessarily be brought in as offensive coordinator by Fox or anyone else. What about the role of “consultant” or “assistant head coach” added to the Bears offensive staff?

The Bears have neither position on the staff currently, and haven’t had an assistant head coach since Rod Marinelli had that as part of his title from 2009-2012 under Lovie Smith. Marinelli, like McCoy, had been a head coach as well.

Notably, Fox kept McCoy on his staffs when Fox was hired both in Carolina and Denver, a good measure of Fox’s take on McCoy’s offensive-coaching skills. Fox added the job of passing-game coordinator to McCoy’s duties as quarterbacks coach with Carolina in 2007-08. Since then McCoy coached Peyton Manning in Denver and Philip Rivers in San Diego.

Also notably, perhaps in the other direction, Fox might have brought McCoy to Chicago after the latter was fired as Chargers head coach after last season. That didn’t happen, possibly because McCoy instead wanted a full OC position, which wasn’t open with Loggains in place.

Offensive consultants aren’t necessarily staff bloating; they have been referred to as “coaches for coaches.” Bruce Arians brought in longtime OC Tom Moore when Arians became Arizona Cardinals head coach (following Phil Emery’s decision to go with Marc Trestman over Arians). Moore previously served as offensive coordinator, then senior offensive coordinator, then offensive consultant through the Peyton Manning years in Indianapolis. Moore subsequently became offensive consultant for the Jets (2011) and Tennessee Titans (2012), the latter stint while Loggains was offensive coordinator.

Longtime offensive line coach Jim McNally has been a “consultant” with the Jets (2011-12) and Bengals (2012-this season). Randy Brown was a kicking consultant working under Bears special teams coaches in the Dave Wannstedt and Dick Jauron regimes, going on to work under John Harbaugh in Philadelphia and Baltimore.