Bears

Moon: Bears touched by 911 tribute

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Moon: Bears touched by 911 tribute

Sunday, Sept. 11, 2011Posted: 11:30 a.m. Updated: 8:00 p.m.

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com Bears Insider Follow @CSNMoonMullin

Roy Williams caught all four of the passes thrown to him Sunday as a Chicago Bear. Something also caught him, on the inside.

It was his own emotion choking him up during the singing of the National Anthem. Players and coaches joined with police officers, firefighters, soldiers and others to unfurl and hold a giant American flag that covered the playing field as Cornelison sang.

Williams had heard Cornelison sing the Star Spangeled Banner in his time as a Detroit Lion, but when youre holding that flag, the land of the free, thats the part that hit me, Williams said.

I didnt want to be the only one in tears but it was very, very tough when you think of the people who died on 911 and their families. You hear so many stories of people that day and it was a touching moment.

Jay gaming

Jay Cutlers passer rating was 107.8 for Sundays game. The Bears are now 23-0, including the Seattle divisional playoff win, when Cutler has a 100 rating. Cutler has had 100 ratings in six of the last nine games.

Why this is more than just an interesting stat is that the Bears lost all three of the games when he was a sub-100 passer (New England, Green Bay twice and the NFC Championship).

But as far as feeling all warm and furry about a 312-yard passing game with 2 TD passes and 23 points tallied by the offense against an Atlanta defense that was fifth-best in points allowed in 2010, nope.

"We left some points out there, Cutler said, referring to two missed TD opportunities in three red-zone trips. We started off pretty good but we just have to get better in the red zone. We just have to hammer out some of these details because we left points on the board.

Duly noted
Right guard Lance Louis was in a plastic walking cast for his injured right ankle, which forced him out of the game in the first half. Chris Spencer took over at right guard, but that leaves questions:

Will Louis be ready in time for New Orleans? If not, would Spencer stay at right guard or flip-flop with Roberto Garza, since Spencer is a natural center and Garza a veteran at right guard?

Defensive end Julius Peppers and tackle Henry Melton switch positions on occasion and have going back into last season. Whats notable is that the two players make the decision themselveswell, sort of. Peppers was asked if Melton tells him to go on the inside and he, Meltonll play end? Peppers smiled the oh-I-dont-think-so smile.
Matt Toeaina found out Sunday morning that he was starting at nose tackle instead of Anthony Adams. A preseason calf injury kept Adams out of full practice until late in the week and a final decision was not made until Adams was put through drills Sunday morning. The decision was made to use him only in spot duty, taking less risk of re-injuring his calf.

The Atlanta Falcons surprised the Bears with a no-huddle offense but Bears defensive linemen felt that their conditioning and speed ironically gave them an edge over the bigger, slower Atlanta offensive linemen.

Hurry up, Devin

Devin Hester may be one of the fastest Bears and receiver-mate Williams, downfield blocking on Hesters 53-yard catch-and-run that saw him chipped out of bounds at the Atlanta 1-yard line. I thought he was gone, Williams said, then deapanned, I wouldve scored.

QB Hits

The game featured a pair of crushing hits on quarterbacks by defensive ends wearing No. 90.

Cutler was blasted by Lawrence Sidbury, coming around a missed block by tight end Kellen Davis, in the third quarter and was slow to get up after the hit.

Peppers, who had three sacks and other hits on Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan, pursued Ryan out of the pocket along the right sideline. He caught the Atlanta quarterback and delivered a sweeping hit that sent Ryans helmet rolling away on the ground.

Nice guy

After Matt Spaeth caught his one-yard TD pass in the third quarter, his first as a Bear, the tight end bee-lined for the first row of the north end-zone stands to hand the ball to his mother and aunt. Head equipment manager Tony Medlin traditionally takes the balls from significant plays and cleans them up.

New guy

Brandon Meriweather, signed last weekend from the New England Patriots, saw his first work at free safety in the third quarter, stepping in for Major Wright.

Peppers slid down inside to defensive tackle in some nickel alignments, with tackle Melton moving outside to end. The two combined for that kind of flip-flop last season, with good effect.
Ouch

Spencers better position is center but he was needed at right guard in the second quarter after Louis limped off with an ankle injury. When Louis suffered an injury in Game 4 last year, that ended his starts at right guard.

Remember him?

Hester -- rather than Johnny Knox -- was back as the kickoff returner for the Bears. Knox took the first snap at wide receiver on the first possession but Hester was back at his No. 1 spot on the start of the second series.

Knox was a Pro Bowl alternate as a returner in 2009 but slumped to less than 23 yards per return last season.
our flag was still there

With the words of the National Anthem sung by Jim Cornelison echoing across Soldier Field, players on both teams joined with police, fire fighters and others unfurling a United States flag that covered the entire playing surface.

When Cornelison pointed to the flag atop the stadium as he sang that our flag was still there enough said.

Lockout? What lockout?

So much for the lockout making it significantly more difficult for newcomers to break onto NFL rosters. Not only have the Bears built this years roster with 18 new players out of 53, but the active roster the Bears fielded for Game 1 included six rookies and one first-year player, fullback Tyler Clutts, playing his first NFL football after stints in the UFL.

Rookie Bears playing Sunday: Gabe Carimi, Chris Conte, Dane Sanzenbacher, Dom DeCicco, Winston Venable, Kyle Adams.

Rostering

Adams was active after missing most of the preseason with a calf injury but Toeaina was inserted as the starting nose tackle.

On the inactive list were running back Marion Barber, quarterback Nathan Enderle, guard Edwin Williams and defensive linemen Mario Addison, Stephen Paea and Corey Wootton. Special teams took a hit with receiver Sam Hurd on the inactive list and still recovering from an ankle injury in preseason.

The Falcons were without center Todd McClure and defensive tackle Corey Peters in their starting lineups.

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.

How a tired Bears defense shut down Cam Newton and dominated the Carolina Panthers

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USA Today

How a tired Bears defense shut down Cam Newton and dominated the Carolina Panthers

The Bears asked a lot of their defense on Sunday, and every single unit delivered in a big way. 

Midway through the third quarter, on the 11th play of a drive nearing the red zone, Eddie Goldman stuffed Cam Newton on fourth-and-2 to keep the Carolina Panthers from scoring while the Bears’ offense was sputtering to a string of three-and-outs. Akiem Hicks continued what should be a Pro Bowl season with a sack, a hurry and two tackles for a loss. Mitch Unrein teamed up with Goldman to record a sack and played well against the run. 

Leonard Floyd and Pernell McPhee each recorded sacks and consistently disrupted Newton. Danny Trevathan dropped Newton, too, and picked off a pass. Christian Jones was rock-solid next to Trevathan, helping limit Jonathan Stewart and Christian McCaffrey to 58 yards on 21 carries. 

Prince Amukamara tipped a pass intended for Kelvin Benjamin that fell into the waiting arms of Eddie Jackson for a 76-yard pick six; the rookie safety, of course, had that 75-yard fumble return score that set the tone for a dominant defensive day. Kyle Fuller continued to play like a shutdown corner, and Adrian Amos continued his solid play since stepping in for an injured Quintin Demps. 

This name-by-name breakdown is deserved for these players not only for their production, but for playing this well while the Bears’ defense was on the field for 38:35 and 69 snaps. 

Were these players tired?

“Heck yeah, we were tired,” Hicks said. 

But did it affect how they played?

“No,” Floyd said. “To be honest with you we were excited to go back out there, keep on executing. We just felt good today, just playing on a high level and hitting on all cylinders.”

The Bears’ defense hasn’t allowed a touchdown since Jerrick McKinnon gashed them for a 58-yard run in the third quarter of Oct. 9’s loss to the Minnesota Vikings. Say what you will about the Baltimore Ravens’ offensive struggles this year, but the Panthers — led by Newton, McCaffrey and Benjamin — have plenty of playmakers on offense. Newton and the Carolina offensive line were bullied for five sacks and 11 hurries, McCaffrey was largely bottled up, and Benjamin managed three catches on six targets. 

“We want to be on the field, the defense,” Trevathan said. “That’s our job. When we’re put in a tough situation, we’ve got to rise, take that as a challenge. Guys coming in our backfield trying to run in our end zone? No, it’s not going to happen. It’s an attitude and it’s an execution of the plays called and being on the same page, having fun out there and making plays."

The message from the Bears’ defensive players after Sunday’s game was less about their accomplishments, though, and more about what else they can do. But the sense is this defense believes it can be the reason why the Bears can blow past their 2016 win total, which they’ve already matched. 

Still got a long way to go,” McPhee said. “Just keep building that chemistry, that bond. We got a long way to go. We ain’t really done nothing yet. It’s great, now I love it, but we just gotta stay focused, forget about this game and move on to the Saints and go take that.

“… We got a special group, man. We just gotta keep believing in the system and keep holding each other accountable and take it one play, one game at a time.”

This was already a confident group going into Week 7 — Hicks said the Bears’ defense had one of its best weeks of practice leading up to facing the Panthers — but that belief will surely grow after Sunday. If the Bears’ defense can play this well, against a good offense, while being on the field as much as they were, there’s no reason to think this level of success can’t continue. 

“We’re trying to wake the city up, bring the city back to loving the Chicago Bears,” Floyd said. “We’re just going to keep fighting, keep going in and executing. We’re looking forward to next Sunday.” 

View from the Moon: Another sign of culture shift evident within emerging Bears team

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AP

View from the Moon: Another sign of culture shift evident within emerging Bears team

Just win, baby. That really is the whole point, or maybe points – the scoreboard points, not the style points. On Sunday, however, the defense in the Bears’ 17-3 win over the Carolina Panthers accounted for enough of both kinds of points for the Bears (3-4) to matching their win total of last season, and in the process win two straight games for the first time since mid-2015.

How much or what it really means, though, as was the case with the Bears’ win at Baltimore a week ago, will have to play out in New Orleans next Sunday. Because the last time the Bears stacked two victories, it got them to 5-6 in John Fox’s first Bears year, whereupon Robbie Gould missed some field goals and the Bears went into a two-year death spiral, fueled by a year of quarterback turmoil. “I don’t know if [the 2016 win total] is really a benchmark for us, to be honest,” Fox deadpanned.

But that was then, this is now. And a lot is different. A lot. Because in the past handful of weeks, which have seen victories over Baltimore and Carolina after a failed final possession with a chance at a winning score over Minnesota, the Bears have seemed to be pulling up from the death spiral that followed the last time they won two straight.

“We’re definitely trying to change the culture,” said linebacker Leonard Floyd, whose first-quarter sack of Carolina quarterback Cam Newton was Floyd’s fourth in the last four games. Right now, it is difficult not to sense the culture change, regardless of whether the Bears go into their off-week 4-4 or 3-5.

One of the hallmarks of success, in fields far beyond just football, is to win when you’re not performing anywhere close to your best. Everybody does well when they’re “on” and cylinders are firing. Winning when they’re not is another matter.

And the Bears won a game Sunday despite their quarterback taking as many sacks (four) as he had completed passes – this after winning a game (Baltimore) in which Mitch Trubisky threw away almost as many passes (six) as he completed (eight). Probably a pattern that neither he nor the Bears are looking to as some weird winning formula, but if they can win when they don’t play well, just maybe… .

This time at least the Bears managed to close out a game in the standard 60 minutes, which was critical since the defense, while holding Newton and the Panthers to three points. This marked the first time since midway through Newton’s rookie season (2011) that Carolina has been held to that few points, a span of 94 games.

“We didn’t score [a touchdown] as an offense, and defense carried us so we kind of felt salty that we didn’t help out more,” Trubisky said. (Consider that another small culture tweak – in eight years of Jay Cutler and, before that, Kyle Fuller and Brian Griese and Rex Grossman, “salty” was never an accusation anyone would have leveled at the offense, win or lose).

Credit Trubisky with candor and accuracy. The defense did indeed carry the offense, holding Carolina out of the end zone and in the process making it nine-plus quarters and 29 straight opposing possessions that have ended short of the end zone, extending back to Vikings running back Jerick McKinnon’s TD run in the third quarter of the Minnesota game.

It wasn’t always elite on defense. In the course of the first four games this season, the Bears defense allowed nine scoring drives of 60 yards or longer; over the past three games, a total of just two. 

Pulling the camera back to look at more than just the defense:

To put this in some sort of NFL context: No Bears opponent has been below .500 at the time they faced the Bears (Atlanta and Tampa Bay hadn’t played before they faced the Bears). This was not only the Bears’ third win; it was their third win over a team with a winning record (Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Carolina) at the time the Bears faced them. 

Sunday was not without its obvious concerns, big ones in fact.

For the second straight game, Trubisky was sacked four times. This time he appeared to take sacks rather than throw balls away as he did in Baltimore, but Trubisky was still unofficially the only starting NFL quarterback completing less than 50 percent of his passes, and his 4-for-7 day only managed to pull him even at 50 percent.

And an offensive line with a supposedly elite interior-three and a left tackle recently given a contract extension has been complicit in Trubisky taking nine sacks over the past 11 quarters. Actually, to put a little finer point on it, that would be nine sacks in the last 46 drop-backs, although some of those were admittedly Trubisky electives.

“We had more plays called [Sunday], I was just pulling them down, being conservative and taking sacks,” Trubisky said. “I was just trying to play smart, protect the football and get out of here with a win.”

That would be the informal football Gospel according to John Fox, so Trubisky is indeed learning; the downfield fireworks will come when they come. And the Panthers did come into Sunday ranked No. 2 for total sacks in the NFL.

In the meantime, the Bears could go into their off-week following New Orleans within a game of first place in the NFC North, if next weekend they defeat the Saints (4-2) and Minnesota (5-2) loses. The latter isn’t terribly likely given that the Vikings play Cleveland, but the game is in London and the Browns do have to beat SOMEBODY (don’t they?).

Regardless, that’s the math of it all, and the Bears have played themselves back from the abyss to this point. And they clearly are looking forward, not back.

“Guys just know we have a good chance of winning every week,” Trubisky said. Maybe that’s the biggest culture change taking place.