Bears

Marcus Cooper's inexplicable screw-up didn't end up costing the Bears much

Marcus Cooper's inexplicable screw-up didn't end up costing the Bears much

The question “What was Marcus Cooper thinking?” perhaps wasn’t answered to the extent folks might have liked. But really, is an explanation even possible?

“That was just a mistake on my part,” Cooper said after Sunday’s overtime win at Soldier Field. “I didn’t think he was that close to me, slowed down.

“I thought I was in, but obviously I wasn’t. The guy came in and made a great play.”

Cooper was not in, something a video review confirmed after a jaw-droppingly unbelievable play in which the Bears’ starting cornerback picked up a blocked field goal and dashed the length of the field before stopping inside the 10-yard line, allowing a defender to chop the ball out of his hands.

The stunned crowd — and a perhaps even more stunned press box — couldn’t possibly guess why Cooper did such a bone-headed thing, instantly becoming the new Leon Lett. He shrugged it off pretty calmly afterward, explaining that he thought he scored.

He did not score. But the Bears won. So the approach seems to be: Who cares?

“Regardless of that play or not, we’re in here for wins and losses,” Cooper said. “We stepped up today, and we did what we needed to do to get the ‘W.’”

It’s true that the play didn’t end up being as costly as it could have been. Because the Steelers batted the ball out of the end zone, they were flagged and the Bears got to run one more play before the half ran out. That play also included a Bears miscue, Charles Leno flagged for a false start, meaning a second crack at a touchdown was wiped out in favor of a field goal.

Those four points left on the board could’ve been seven if not for the officials sticking to the letter of the law. They had initially called the half over after Cooper’s screw up. The Steelers even went to the locker room and had to come back to the field.

And even when the Bears turned the ball over twice in the second half, both those giveaway leading to Steelers scores, they never trailed. The only difference that might’ve been made is that the game might not have spun into overtime. Had Cooper just scored the touchdown, the Bears would have had four more points.

Cooper, to his credit, also made a great, potentially game-saving play in the fourth quarter, defending a Ben Roethlisberger pass on third down that turned a potential go-ahead touchdown drive in the wake of Mike Glennon’s interception into a game-tying field goal.

“I couldn’t dwell on that play,” Cooper said. “You move forward. Especially as a corner, you have that next-play mentality. So after that occurred in the first half, let it go and just tried to make plays.”

So while Cooper’s play at the end of the second quarter still remains crazy, ghastly and unable to be properly explained, the result rendered it rather more forgettable.

The Bears won. So who cares?

Can the Bears make enough plays to beat the Carolina Panthers?

Can the Bears make enough plays to beat the Carolina Panthers?

Everything changed for the Bears after going up 17-3 last week against the Baltimore Ravens. Mitchell Trubisky’s 27-yard touchdown to Dion Sims was immediately followed by Bobby Rainey running a kickoff back 96 yards for a touchdown, then the offense was bogged down with three fumbles (two lost) on three consecutive possessions. 

But Adrian Amos seemed to seal the game with his 90-yard pick six — that is, until Michael Campanaro ran Pat O’Donnell’s punt back 77 yards for what wound up being a game-tying touchdown after a two-point conversion.

The point is the Bears should’ve cruised to a comfortable win last week; a few critical mistakes didn’t allow that to happen. The Bears haven’t led at the end of the fourth quarter this year, a pretty strong indicator they haven’t played a complete game yet despite having two wins. 

The Carolina Panthers have road wins over the Detroit Lions and New England Patriots this year, and only lost to the Philadelphia Eagles by five points last week (despite Cam Newton throwing three interceptions). The bet here is the Bears keep things close on the backs of a strong defense, but either can’t make enough plays or make too many mistakes to win. 

Prediction: Panthers 20, Bears 16

Three and out: What Ron Rivera likes about Mitchell Trubisky played out this week

10-21ronrivera.jpg
USA TODAY

Three and out: What Ron Rivera likes about Mitchell Trubisky played out this week

Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera saw a lot of Mitchell Trubisky last year, with the North Carolina quarterback on TV quite a bit in the Charlotte area. The Panthers, set with Cam Newton, weren’t in the market for a quarterback in the 2017 NFL Draft, but Trubisky nonetheless stood out to the seventh-year Carolina coach and former Super Bowl-winning Bears linebacker. 

For Rivera, more than Trubisky’s arm strength and athleticism jumped off the screen. 

“Leadership,” Rivera pointed to. “When you watch him when he was playing — I love watching guys that either get on their teammates when they’re not doing it or they take accountability when they make a mistake. And you saw that with him.

“… We think the young man has got what it takes. We like who’s he’s gonna become. We do. We think the future can be bright for him. We are big fans here.”

Trubisky took accountability for both of his turnovers against the Minnesota Vikings: The interception Harrison Smith baited him into was certainly his fault, but his sack-strip fumble was more the result of Everson Griffen jumping the snap and blowing past left tackle Charles Leno. Against the Baltimore Ravens, Trubisky also lost a fumble on a sack-strip when cornerback Lardarius Webb hit him and dislodged the ball.

Trubisky’s explanation of that fumble was that he moved off his first read too quickly, causing him to miss Webb making a beeline for him in the backfield. But according to offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains, that fumble wasn’t the quarterback’s fault. 

“That’s because he’s a stud,” Loggains said of Trubisky taking responsibility for it. “We screwed the protection up. We should have been sliding to the guy. The guy should not have been coming free. That’s Mitch taking a bullet that he doesn’t need to take. The reality is he saw the guy coming and tried to get over to the check down quickly but we got to do a better job up front protecting him.”

But that Trubisky was willing to say he was at fault for that fumble plays into why he quickly gained the respect of the Bears’ the locker room. That’s what a quarterback should be doing when speaking to the media after the game — accepting responsibility and deflecting off his teammates, even if he’s not at fault. That kind of stuff doesn’t go unnoticed. 

Stopping Superman

Pernell McPhee offered this goal up for his fellow defensive teammates this week: Make sure Newton stays as Clark Kent on Sunday. 

“He’s a very talented guy, but the only thing I told the defense is let's make him be Cam Newton, not Superman,” McPhee said, referring to Newton’s signature touchdown move. “We don't want him opening up the cape.”

So how does a defense stop Newton from being Superman?

“He’s a very versatile quarterback,” defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said. “Obviously his running the ball, whether it be through his improvising with scrambling on called pass plays, or the called running plays they do have for him, that’s a strength for him. We can’t just focus on stopping that. We’ve gotta stop Cam Newton the passer and the runner. They’ve got good running backs they’re handing it off to and receivers and running backs he’s throwing it to, so you’ve got a total offense to stop.”

One point to note here: Newton threw three interceptions last week against the Philadelphia Eagles and had been picked off eight times this year. A Bears secondary that intercepted Joe Flacco twice last week could have some more shots at takeaways on Sunday. 

High praise

Sunday will mark Thomas Davis’ 156th game in the NFL, with the linebacker playing every one of those with the Carolina Panthers. He played for John Fox from 2005-2010. But where we’re going here is what he had to say about how the Bears run their offense with a rookie quarterback:

“I think this is probably the best running game that we’ve seen from an offense with a rookie quarterback,” Davis said. “You look at some of the other rookies that come in. Teams want to run the ball. But when you look at the physicality and the style of play that this team plays with, I think that really makes the job a lot easier for a young quarterback. So I definitely feel like that physicality in their running game is definitely going to help him out.”

The Bears ran the ball 50 times against a Baltimore Ravens defense that played a lot more Cover-2 than expected. With star linebacker Luke Kuechly out for Sunday, the Bears may try to use a similar strategy, even if Carolina loads the box more than Baltimore did (a little more than once one every three runs by Jordan Howard). 

But if the Bears’ offense is going to have success, it’s going to be behind Howard, Tarik Cohen and an improving offensive line. Maybe Davis’ comments are hyperbole, but he’s also played a lot more football than you and me.