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

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

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

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

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 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.

Even in a controlled gameplan, Mitchell Trubisky's playmaking ability shines through

Even in a controlled gameplan, Mitchell Trubisky's playmaking ability shines through

While the Bears praised Mitchell Trubisky’s operation of a controlled gameplan in his second NFL start, they’re not losing sight of the special kind of athleticism and playmaking ability the rookie quarterback possesses. Two plays in particular stand out — plays that led to anywhere from a five-to-10 point swing in the game. 

Trubisky’s 18-yard third down completion to Kendall Wright in overtime seems to looks better every time you watch it on film. Trubisky was pressured by two Baltimore Ravens pass rushers, but managed to wriggle free and slide to his right, only to find linebacker C.J. Mosley waiting in front of him. The blend of athleticism and aggressiveness Trubisky displayed in firing high over the middle toward Wright — who made a specular play of his own — is one of the many reasons why the Bears are so excited about him. 

“To be able to throw that ball with both hands in the air and changing your arm angle – that’s why you draft a kid second,” offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said. “Because of things like that.”

But there was another instinctual, athletic play Trubisky made that was just as impressive, and just as important. Cody Whitehair’s snapping issues cropped up at the Bears’ 13-yard line, with the center sailing a snap over Trubisky’s head and toward the end zone. 

If Baltimore recovered that ball, it would’ve tied the game; had Trubisky simply fell on the ball, it very well could’ve led to a safety that would’ve brought the Ravens within five points about a minute after the Bears took a 17-3 lead. Instead, Trubisky picked up the ball, scrambled to his right and threw the ball away — one of six throwaways he had on Sunday. 

“(That) was a critical, critical play at that time,” Loggains said. 

This isn't to say that two plays — only one of which gained yards — are enough to say the Bears' offense is in a good place. It's still a group that necessitates a controlled gameplan, similar to the one they used with Mike Glennon. But the difference: Trubisky can make plays. 

Briefly, on Whitehair

Since we’re on the subject of another poor snap by Whitehair, here’s what Loggains had to say on that topic: 

“He’s gotten better. We still had one too many. The thing and point I want to make with Cody Whitehair is, obviously wants to talk about the snap, but you’re talking about two weeks in a row of completely dominating. We’re an outside zone team that ran 25 snaps of inside zone because of what they were playing. It changed our game plan and Cody’s a big part of that. The last two weeks we’ve been able to move those guys inside. He’s a really good football player. 

“We’re going to battle through these snap issues. We’re cutting them down. He’s more accurate. He did have the one that obviously is unacceptable and no one owns that more than Cody Whitehair does. But he is a really good football player and let’s not lose sight of the 79 snaps where he really helped the team run the football and you can’t do that without a Cody Whitehair at center.”

Loggains has a point here — if Whitehair were struggling in the run game, against the defensive looks the Ravens were showing, the Bears wouldn’t have been able to run the ball 50 times with the kind of success they had. But the poor snaps nonetheless are ugly and have to be eliminated — imagine the uproar over them if Trubisky didn’t make that play in Baltimore. The Bears' offense won't always be good enough to overcome those kind of self-inflicted mistakes. 

Loggains and coach John Fox have praised Whitehair’s attention to the problem, and as long as Hroniss Grasu is still limited with a hand injury, Whitehair will have some time to work through these issues. One final thought: Who would’ve expected, back in May, that Whitehair would have the problems with snaps, and not Trubisky? 

SportsTalk Live Podcast: What are Bears' chances against Panthers?

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SportsTalk Live Podcast: What are Bears' chances against Panthers?

On the latest SportsTalk Live Podcast, David Haugh (Chicago Tribune), Laurence Holmes (670 The Score) and Phil Rogers (MLB.com) join Kap on the panel.

The crew discusses Bobby Portis’ suspension, Edzo’s return to the booth and the Bears' chances against the Panthers. 

Listen to the full SportsTalk Live Podcast right here: