Bears

Field secrets? Hester not sharing any tips

Field secrets? Hester not sharing any tips

Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2011
7:45 PM
By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

So the Soldier Field turf is a problem? Not if you know your way around on it.

Opposing NBA players at one time thought that a true advantage for the great Boston Celtics teams were the dead spots in the parquet floor of Boston Gardens. An innocently dribbled basketball might go down but if it hit one of those dead spots, it wasnt coming back up. The Celtics knew how to pick their spots, literally.

And not all spots in Soldier Field are slip-inducing. You just have to know where the different spots are.

Some Bears know where to step and where not to.

Kind of, Devin Hester said, with a sly smile and a laugh. Yeah, kind of.

Would he mind sharing those now?

Uh, not sharing those, he said.

Sack Pack

Green Bay sacked Jay Cutler six times in the second game between the teams this season. The Packers sacked him three times in the first.

You have to understand that with some of the guys they have, depending on what you do, theyre going to go all out, and with hot protections there are going to be some sacks involved occasionally, said coordinator Mike Martz. You just have to limit those sacks and not get too concerned about it.

But at the time of the year when quarterbacks are all, sacks are a concern, more with Martz than many in his job. Running the offense of Ron Turner last season, Cutler went down five times in the two games last year.

Sacks definitely should be expected in a Martz offense. Veteran Jon Kitna was never sacked more than 37 times in a season prior to Martz taking over as the Detroit offensive coordinator. Kitna then was sacked 63 and 51 times in his two seasons with Martz, more than in any three combined seasons in his NFL career.

The problem is not necessarily poor blocking but rather in the variety of pass plays Martz uses and the accompanying myriad adjustments those require from the offense, particularly the line.

We throw a lot of hots reads a lot of sights adjustments, said offensive line coach Mike Tice, not necessarily pleased with all that comes with the scheme. We still have some deep routes. We throw some empties where its our five blockers against the world.

Sometimes were all on the same page where that stuff is coming from and sometimes were not. So theres going to be some sacks but as you get better, you expect those numbers to go down. And theyd better.

Criticizing the critics

His defenses have been among the NFLs best and at other times among the not-so-best but through it all and in the face of sometimes-shrill criticism, Lovie Smith has not wavered in his belief in his Cover-2 defensive scheme.

One reason not to care about critics attacks is the conclusion that they dont know what theyre talking about. That is especially the case when the attacks were based on the opinion the game had passed Smiths schemes by.

Well I look at criticism a little bit by who is giving it, Smith said. For people to criticize Cover 2, which has been around since George Halas and Vince Lombardi, and long before that. Cover 2 is a defense everyone uses. It will be around long after were gone.

Interestingly perhaps, no one seems to make those kinds of assaults on the West Coast offense or even the Mike Martz offense when it has not succeeded. We believe in what we do defensively, Smith declared.
Sick bay

Safety Chris Harris, who suffered a hip pointer in the Seattle game, was held out of practice Wednesday. Receiver Earl Bennett and cornerback Zackary Bowman did not practice for reasons not related to injuries.

Multiple Packers were limited in work Wednesday: offensive linemen Chad Clifton (knees) and Jason Spitz (, defensive ends Cullen Jenkins (calf) and Ryan Pickett (ankle), linebacker Clay Matthews (shin), cornerback Pat Lee (hip), running back John Kuhn (shoulder). Linebacker Frank Zombo (knee) did not practice.

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 Cairo Santos be the kicker the Bears need?

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USA Today

Can Cairo Santos be the kicker the Bears need?

Since the Bears inserted Mitchell Trubisky as their starting quarterback, they've had 12 drives end with a field goal — an average of two per game. Connor Barth hit nine of those dozen kicks, which had an average distance of 38.4 yards, but all three of Barth’s misses came from 45 yards or longer. 

Barth’s missed game-tying 46-yarder in the final seconds Sunday against the Detroit Lions was the last straw for someone who hadn’t been consistent in his one and a half years in Chicago. So enter Cairo Santos, who made 89 of 105 field goals (85 percent) from 2014-2017 with the Kansas City Chiefs. More importantly: Santos has made 73 percent of his career field goals from 40 or more yards; Barth made 52 percent of his kicks from the same distance with the Bears. 

(73 percent from long range isn’t bad, but it’s not great, either: Philadelphia Eagles kicker and Lyons Township High School alum Jake Elliott has made 88 percent of his 40-plus-yard kicks; Harrison Butker, who replaced Santos in Kansas City, has made 90 percent of his kicks from that distance. Both players are rookies who were drafted and cut prior to the season.)

Santos was released by the Chiefs in late September after a groin injury landed him on injured reserve (he played in three games prior to being released). The injury wasn’t expected to be season-ending, and Santos said he’s felt 100 percent for about two weeks before joining the Bears on Monday. 

“It was a long and difficult battle, but I was confident that it wasn’t going to be a serious injury, I just needed time,” Santos said. “I dealt with it in training camp, I was kicking really well, I was the only kicker in KC, and I didn’t have the appropriate time to heal. I tried to play the first three games and it got worse, so my main goal was to get 100 percent. I’ve been kicking for about a month now and finally the last week been able to come here and visit with the Bears. The muscle is in good shape to come and take a full load of a week’s practice and games, so thankful the opportunity worked out.”

For Santos, these next six weeks can be an audition for him to stick in Chicago next year. If the Bears can look optimistically at the improvements made by the Philadelphia Eagles and Los Angeles Rams with second-year top-drafted quarterbacks, they’ll need to figure out their kicking situation sooner rather than later. Bringing in Santos provides a good opportunity for that down the stretch. 

“He’s kicked in Kansas City, which is a similar climate,” special teams coordinator Jeff Rodgers said. “Their field is similar to Soldier Field. He’s played in some big games, played in some important situations and he’s, by and large, been successful in those situations.”

Looking deeper to understand how John Fox still commands Bears trust through bad times

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USA TODAY

Looking deeper to understand how John Fox still commands Bears trust through bad times

I’ve always placed great stock in the drama tenet, “Action is character.” What an actor/person does in significant part defines their character, or lack of same.

Conversely, in some situations, what someone doesn’t do can be equally defining or revealing. A couple of those involving the Bears are worth noting, because they suggest things about John Fox and and his staff, and perhaps a bit of what players think of them.

Nothing stunning, just a case of when you pull the camera back for a little wider angle, a broader picture forms out of seemingly separate or isolated incidents. Fox has never lost his teams through three generally miserable seasons, those teams consistently played hard through bad times. A handful of specific situations offer some insight into perhaps why:

The Cohen conundrum

Fox and offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains came in for scalding criticism for their recent seeming under-utilization of running back Tarik Cohen. The closest either came to laying out the real reason was a reference to concerns about the rookie’s pass-protection capabilities, no small issue against Green Bay and coordinator Dom Capers’ blitz proclivities; coaches want to see Mitch Trubisky wearing a Bears uniform, not Clay Matthews.

Cohen may be the Bears’ leading receiver, but if a back can’t present the viable option of pass protection, the offense is limited even more than it already is anyway with a rookie quarterback.

Come forward a week: Overlooked in the aftermath of the loss to Detroit, in which Cohen was not part of the hurry-up offense driving for a winning or tying score, was the fact that Cohen simply didn’t know the plays well enough in that situation. Fox didn’t say so. Neither did Loggains.

Cohen did.

Asked afterwards what he wasn’t solid with, Cohen owned it: "Probably the hurry-up plays at those positions. I know certain plays at those positions, but to open up the whole playbook with me, I’ll have to learn all of those plays.”

Should he have been up to a faster speed in week 10? That’s another discussion. But like it or not, his coaches were not going to be the ones to out him.

The Howard hassle

Jordan Howard finished 2016 second to only Dallas’ Ezekiel Elliott in rushing yardage. He began the year inactive for game one and lightly used in games two and three. The reason Loggains gave from the podium was that coaches didn’t really know what they had in Howard.

Yes. They did. But Loggains didn’t cite Howard for not being in shape to carry the load the offense needed. Neither did Fox.

Howard did.

“I should’ve been in better shape,” Howard said at the outset of training camp last July. “I should’ve been playing earlier if I would’ve handled what I had to do.”

Some very effective coaches have used public embarrassment for motivation; Mike Ditka assessed that he wasn’t sure Donnell Woolford could cover anybody, and Buddy Ryan summarized that “No. 55 [Otis Wilson] killed us,” for instance.

Fox and his staff don’t do that and they’ve have taken the heat for their players, which does frustrate those tasked with accurately reporting sometimes hard information.

Medical restraint

Fox’s tenure has been awash in major injuries to pivotal players. He has made points in his locker room by shielding those players and their issues whether outsiders like it or not.

That started back with Kevin White and the infamous stress fracture that Fox was accused of knowing about and lying that he didn’t. The real situation was that medical opinions (and the Bears had gotten a bunch) were divided to the point where the Bears opted against surgery until it was conclusive that the shadow on an x-ray was indeed a fracture. Fox refused to call the injury a stress fracture with the doctors so divided, and he was pilloried for it. But not in his locker room.

The organization very much needed Pro Bowl lineman Kyle Long this season for an offense that certainly wasn’t going to live on the arm of Mike Glennon. Long was testy and combative during training camp, and “honestly I’ve been champing at the bit to get back,” he conceded, “but they’ve done a good job of pulling the reins a little bit and making sure that I understand that it’s a long season.”

Small things, not necessarily connected, but as Fox’s third season winds down, what his team shows will factor into decisions on his future. The Bears right now, after the Green Bay and Detroit losses effectively ended the “hope” part of their season, are entering that dreary phase of a year when effort will be critiqued as critically as performance.

The on-field results now will say something about character, Fox’s own and the collective one he has worked to instill since January 2015.