First round of Bears 'playoffs' starts Sunday vs. Pats


First round of Bears 'playoffs' starts Sunday vs. Pats

Monday, Dec. 6, 2010
Posted: 2:31 p.m.

By John Mullin

In the first round of the 2010 playoffs, the Bears have drawn the New England Patriots.

In the second round, they have the Minnesota Vikings. Then the New York Jets. And don't forget the Green Bay Packers; the Bears certainly have not.

The de facto "playoffs," the time of year when one loss effectively ends your season, have in fact begun for the Bears. They are ahead of the Packers in the NFC North in the standings but losing in Green Bay the final week of the season could cost the Bears dearly even if their record is superb. The Patriots and Jets may not be NFC opponents but the win-loss totals can't tell the difference.

"Absolutely," said safety Chris Harris. "Every game in December is a playoff game for me. We're at 9-3 right now. We definitely don't want that to slip away. We're going to approach every game like it's a playoff game becaues it's going to be tough. The Packers are a good football team as well. Every single game right now counts."

Some Bears appeared to forget that on the way to Ford Field but they are unlikely to make the same mistake again. A little check of NFL history will show them why.

Pittsburgh, Houston and Atlanta all missed the playoffs last year with 9-7 records. Cleveland missed in 2007 with a 10-6 mark. None other than the Patriots missed last season with an 11-5 record.

"There could possibly be a 10-6 team or 11-5 team that doesn't make the playoffs this year," Harris said. "We just have to take care of business and win our division and not worry about that. We don't want to be that team on the outside looking in."

Depth charging

Pisa Tinoisamoa underwent arthroscopic surgery Monday on his injured right knee, a procedure described as "minor" and at this point not something expected to land the veteran strong-side linebacker on injured reserve.

Rod Wilson, whose listed position is No. 2 middle linebacker, filled in well and is expected to start in Tinoisamoa's spot, which points to a subtle strength of the Bears' depth chart. The Bears also are without Nick Roach (hip) after he was injured against Detroit and was unable to finish the game.

Wilson and Brian Iwuh are standouts on special teams and they also can be quickly retrofitted to play multiple linebacker spots. Iwuh came off the bench to start against Seattle in place of injured Lance Briggs and calmly delivered 12 tackles, including 10 solos.

And speaking of linebackers ...

Brian Urlacher did not have 17 tackles against the Lions. Coaches' review of game tape put the final total at 19. Considering that the Lions only ran 53 plays total, that puts Urlacher intimately involved in nearly 36 percent of Detroit's snaps.

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: 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.”