Lovie: We know what's at stake


Lovie: We know what's at stake

DENVER The focus of the past week has been on Tim Tebow, the Denver Broncos hybrid unorthodox offense and occasionally with a Caleb Hanie or offensive line thought once Matt Fortes absence was confirmed.

But the Bears are now officially on the brink, having edged closer and closer to the edge each of the past two weeks.

Only one team in franchise history has lost three straight games and gone to the postseason. That was the 1979 team and it won its last three in a row to get there with a 10-6 record, which is precisely what the Bears would need to do with a loss to the Broncos, a team that has won five straight and four of those on the road.

Two losses in a row doesn't cut it around here for our football team, coach Lovie Smith said. We know what's at stake this week.

You have to hope so. No jokes this week about pronunciations of the opposing quarterbacks name. The Bears are in trouble.
Playoff disaster?
The Kansas City loss was potentially devastating in the big picture as well as the immediate setback and loss of Forte.

The Bears currently own the No. 5 seed in the NFC playoff standings but find themselves in danger of falling out of the postseason even if they win their remaining four games.

The reason is because if the Bears, Atlanta and Detroit all win out, the NFL tiebreak procedure first decides between division teams. Detroit is the same 7-5 that the Bears are, but if the Lions win out, both would have 3-3 division marks but the Lions will own a better record against common opponents.

The Lions crushed the Chiefs 48-3 earlier this season, and that game would decide who joins the Falcons as a second wild card, even though the Bears own a head-to-head win over Atlanta.

There is simply zero margin for error.

We still have to win every game. 11-5 will definitely get you in. 10-6 will probably get you in, linebacker Brian Urlacher said. So its a race to 10 for us. Whatever happens with everybody else it doesnt matter. Weve got to take care of our business, like weve said all season long. We just didnt do it the last two weeks.
Some good?

The woes of Hanie and the offense will be at the heart of the situation against the Broncos. Tebow has directed five fourth-quarter comebacks in just 10 career games, suggesting that the Broncos are every bit as well conditioned as Smith insists his Bears are.

This will be difficult. Whether because of altitude or whatever, the Broncos have the NFLs best record at home (218-84) since 1975. They already have lost to Oakland, San Diego and Detroit at home this year.

While Hanie and the offense were squandering three touchdowns last Sunday Marion Barbers illegal-formation penalty, Roy Williams goal-line drop, Hanies overthrow of a ridiculously open Earl Bennett the defense has allowed just one touchdown in each of the last two games. One of those came on the aberrant Hail Mary pass at the end of the Kansas City first half.

One of the important things for them in games is that they've kept it relatively close, or close enough that they can make something happen at the end of the game, said linebacker Lance Briggs. Watching film on Minnesota, they had something like 46 yards in the first half, but in the second half there was just some badly blown coverages in critical situations.

Those are just things you can't do if you want to win games, and I thought that was a game Minnesota should have won. They were in position to win the game. And the San Diego game, just off of certain decisions, you know, running the ball and losing yardage and stuff like that. But hey, you can't worry about that. None of those teams are going to help us win once we step on the field. We have to go out to Denver and win it.

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


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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.”