Bears

Moon: Changing of the guard?

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Moon: Changing of the guard?

But whos counting?

The 4-0 start for the Detroit Lions is all that ultimately matters right now but what coach Jim Schwartz and the infusion of new talent to go with a core the likes of wideout Calvin Johnson and left tackle Jeff Backus has the Lions on a 12-game winning streak, which is the stuff of culture-changing.

Detroit won its last four in 2010, all four in the 2011 preseason and now the current run of four. If the Lions arent for real this year.

Of course, carriages do turn into pumpkins, as the 2009 Denver Broncos illustrated. Kyle Orton got them to 6-0 with wins over Cincinnati, Dallas, New England and San Diego, all eventual division champions and a far more impressive conquest card than the Lions that is a combined 6-10. The Denver Cinderella lost eight of the next 10 to finish out of the postseason.

The 2007 Lions with Mike Martz coordinating the offense went pumpkin after a 6-2 start to finish 7-9.

Still, even with the jaw-dropping second-half stupidities by the Minnesota Vikings and Dallas Cowboys to blow 20-point leads to Detroit, the 2011 Lions believe theyre good. That makes them dangerous. And it doesnt altogether surprise the Bears.

Ive seen it coming over the past few years, said cornerback Charles Tillman. I never thought they were a terrible team. I just think that they never jelled together. Now theyre getting all the jelling, theyre believing and theyre winning games. Theyre doing a helluva a job.

But the Lions are skating around the edge of a hype volcano. Sports Illustrated is putting the Lions on this weeks cover, and Michael David Smith over at ProFootballTalk.com captures the growing mania that has even reached the point of declaring Ndamukong Suh a better draft choice than Barry Sanders (http:tinyurl.com42ydoo3).

This is a fork in the emotional road. Just one, but its a national stage for a team that hasnt been on it since 2001, and when the whole world is telling you how good you are, it only takes a few in a locker room to start believing it for some unraveling to start.

The Bears would like to help that get started.

Help wanted

Linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa will be working out for the Bears on Wednesday, according to various sources. The veteran started 10 of the first 11 games last season, was hampered by the knee injuries that have plagued his career and missed four games, then returned and started the NFC Championship game.

Another offseason knee surgery sent the Bears committing to Nick Roach as the starter on the strong side. But the linebacking group is seriously thin on experience and Tinoisamoa has been a favorite of Lovie Smiths since Tinoisamoas 2003 rookie season with the St. Louis Rams under Smith as defensive coordinator.

Worthy nominee

Not surprisingly, Matt Forte is among the nominees for the FedEx Ground NFL player of the week after 205 rushing yards and a touchdown. If he doesnt win this one, there shouldnt be a recount; there ought to be an investigation.

Arian Foster rushed for 155 yards and a TD in the Houston Texans win over Pittsburgh and Ryan Torain picked up 135 in Washingtons victory over the St. Louis Rams.

Forte has now had games of 158, 166 and 228 yards in the span of four weeks.

Fans are now part of the award process and can post ballots from now until 2 p.m. Friday on NFL.comFedEx.

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.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: How hot is John Fox's seat?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: How hot is John Fox's seat?

Seth Gruen (Bleacher Report/”Big Ten Unfiltered” podcast), Chris Emma (670TheScore.com) and Matt Zahn (CBS 2) join Kap on the panel. If the Bears lose badly to the Lions, should Sunday be John Fox’s last game? 

Plus Bulls Insider Vincent Goodwill joins the panel to talk Bulls as well as the Niko/Portis cold war.

Listen to the full SportsTalk Live Podcast right here:

Collecting some final thoughts on if Tarik Cohen isn't getting enough snaps for the Bears

Collecting some final thoughts on if Tarik Cohen isn't getting enough snaps for the Bears

John Fox on Friday sought to clarify some comments he made earlier in the week about Tarik Cohen that seemed to follow some spurious logic. Here’s what Fox said on Wednesday when asked if he’d like to see Cohen be more involved in the offensive game plan:

“You’re looking at one game,” Fox said, referencing Cohen only playing 13 of 60 snaps against the Green Bay Packers. “Sometimes the defense dictates who gets the ball. I think from a running standpoint it was a game where we didn’t run the ball very effectively. I think we only ran it 17 times. I believe Jordan Howard, being the fifth leading rusher in the league, probably commanded most of that. I think he had 15 carries. 

“It’s a situation where we’d like to get him more touches, but it just didn’t materialize that well on that day. But I’d remind people that he’s pretty high up there in both punt returns, he’s our leading receiver with 29 catches, so it’s not like we don’t know who he is.”

There were some clear holes to poke in that line of reasoning, since the question wasn’t about Cohen’s touches, but his snap count. Cohen creates matchup problems when he’s on the field for opposing defenses, who can be caught having to double-team him (thus leaving a player uncovered, i.e. Kendall Wright) or matching up a linebacker against him (a positive for the Bears). The ball doesn’t have to be thrown Cohen’s way for his impact to be made, especially if he’s on the field at the same time as Howard. 

“They don’t know who’s getting the ball, really, and they don’t know how to defend it properly,” Howard said. “… It definitely can dictate matchups.”

There are certain scenarios in which the Bears don’t feel comfortable having Cohen on the field, like in third-and-long and two-minute drills, where Benny Cunningham’s veteran experience and pass protection skills are valued. It may be harder to create a mismatch or draw a double team with Cohen against a nickel package. It's easier to justify leaving a 5-foot-6 running back on the sidelines in those situations. 

But if the Bears need Cohen to be their best playmaker, as offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said last month, they need to find a way for him to be on the field more than a shade over one in every five plays. As Fox explained it on Friday, though, it’s more about finding the right spots for Cohen, not allowing opposing defenses to dictate when he’s on the field. 

“We have Tarik Cohen out there, we're talking about touches, not play time, we're talking about touches so if they double or triple cover him odds are the ball is not going to him, in fact we'd probably prefer it didn’t,” Fox said. “So what I meant by dictating where the ball goes, that's more related to touches than it is play time. I just want to make sure I clarify that. So it's not so much that they dictate personnel to you. Now if it's in a nickel defense they have a certain package they run that may create a bad matchup for you, that might dictate what personnel group you have out there not just as it relates to Tarik Cohen but to your offense in general. You don't want to create a bad matchup for your own team. I hope that makes sense.”

There’s another wrinkle here, though, that should be addressed: Loggains said this week that defenses rarely stick to the tendencies they show on film when Cohen is on the field. That’s not only a problem for Cohen, but it’s a problem for Mitchell Trubisky, who hasn’t always had success against defensive looks he hasn’t seen on film before. And if the Bears are trying to minimize the curveballs Trubisky sees, not having Cohen on the field for a high volume of plays would be one way to solve that. 

This is also where the Bears’ lack of offensive weapons factors in. Darren Sproles, who Cohen will inexorably be linked to, didn’t play much as a rookie — but that was on a San Diego Chargers team that had LaDanian Tomlinson, Keenan McCardell and Antonio Gates putting up big numbers. There were other options on that team; the Bears have a productive Howard and a possibly-emerging Dontrelle Inman, but not much else. 

So as long as Cohen receives only a handful of snaps on a team with a paucity of playmakers, this will continue to be a topic of discussion. Though if you’re looking more at the future of the franchise instead of the short-term payoffs, that we’re having a discussion about a fourth-round pick not being used enough is a good thing.