Bears

Mike Glennon answers a question, but Cameron Meredith’s injury asks another one

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USA TODAY

Mike Glennon answers a question, but Cameron Meredith’s injury asks another one

NASHVILLE — Mitch Trubisky offered differing evaluations of his play and that of Mike Glennon after the Bears’ 19-7 win over the Tennessee Titans on Sunday. 

“I gotta watch the film, but (I) would like it to go a little smoother,” Trubisky, who made a couple of mistakes but still had a quarterback rating of 115.4, said of his play. As for Glennon?

“I thought he balled out today, which is awesome to see,” Trubisky said. 

The Bears’ quarterback competition, as it pertains to Week 1, is over. Mike Glennon not only avoided a disastrous game — which could’ve thrown his status for Sept. 10 into question — but played well, completing 11 of 18 passes for 134 yards with a touchdown and a quarterback rating of 102.5. Glennon looked poised and confident while driving the Bears 96 yards for a touchdown on their first possession of the game, and didn’t make the kind of catastrophic mistakes that marred his prior to preseason contests. 

That doesn’t mean Trubisky can’t keep the heat on Glennon. Ideally for the Bears, he will, because Glennon played well after losing some first-team reps to Trubisky in practice last week and on Sunday. 

“These guys are all competitors and we try to build competition,” coach John Fox said. “You want guys to respond to that. … I think Mike did that.” 

If the Bears are thinking optimistically about their 2017 outlook — and what we’ve seen from Glennon so far — it’s that the 6-foot-7 quarterback needed two preseason games to shake off the rust that had built up in his final two years with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, during which he only threw 11 regular season passes. 

“I feel like I have plenty of reps in practice and you get good at that, but there’s nothing that you can replicate that is a real game situation,” Glennon said. “Would I liked to have played better early on? Of course. But I think that’s just part of it. I haven’t played in two years, so these reps are extremely valuable and I’m glad we took a step forward today.” 

The positivity about the Bears’ first team offense in the first half — all of which came under Glennon — was undercut by the grisly injury suffered by Cameron Meredith late in the first quarter. The Bears believe it’s an ACL injury, but haven’t conducted an MRI on their leading receiver from last year (66 catches, 888 yards). Either way, the discussion about Meredith was mostly conducted in the past tense about his 2017 season, dealing a brutal blow to the Berwyn native who appeared ready for an even more productive year. 

Losing Meredith creates an added challenge for Glennon that played out on Sunday. After Meredith’s injury, Glennon completed only three of eight attempts for 34 yards, and he failed to connect with an open Deonte Thompson near the goal line on a pass that could’ve resulted in a touchdown just before halftime. 

“Obviously Cam was a huge part of our offense,” Glennon said. “I’m pulling for him, but guys just have to step up. Unfortunately that’s just sometimes the reality of football, guys go down. I think what we kind of talked about is we have a deep group of receivers and a lot of guys that can play.

“A lot of guys, there’s an opportunity for someone in that room to really go grab that new open spot. It’s unfortunate but I think we have a deep group at receiver.”

Glennon showed a good connection with Kendall Wright early, finding the former Titans receiver for three third down conversions on that lengthy opening drive. The Bears need more of that, whether it’s from Kevin White (four targets, two receptions, 30 yards), Zach Miller (two targets, one catch, nine yards), Markus Wheaton (who hasn’t played in a preseason game yet and hasn’t practiced much due to an appendectomy and broken finger) or perhaps someone from outside the organization. 

Ideally, that reliable replacement for Glennon would be White, the seventh overall pick in the 2015 draft who’s shown modestly encouraging signs in the last few days. White had a strong practice on Wednesday — Glennon said he “had one of the best days I’ve seen him have,” — and caught a 19-yard pass over the middle on Sunday, for what it’s worth. 

But can White be the guy who Glennon, while under pressure, trusts to catch a pass even while blanketed in man coverage (as Meredith did for 28 yards on Sunday)? White said he’s not putting added pressure on himself to be that guy, but trusts he — or one of his teammates — can be. 

The Bears now need to see that optimism translate into production. 

“I always want to do my job and do it at a high level,” White said. “Us as receivers, everybody’s gotta step up when guys go down. We’ll do that, we’ll be all right.”

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

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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.