Bears

Moon: Forte giving away the game plan?

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Moon: Forte giving away the game plan?

Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2011
Posted: 10:25 p.m.

By JohnMullin
CSNChicago.com BearsInsider Follow@CSNMoonMullin
Matt Forte came as close to giving away a game plan this week as any player in the Lovie Smith tenure. And that would ostensibly be a good thing.

Going into Sundays game against Atlanta, Forte sent a message to the Falcons:

I expect to be how we were during the middle of the season last year when we started running the ball and be a balanced attack, the Bears franchise running back said. Both the pass and the run help each other out, so I think that well be balanced.

That message ideally is picked up by the Falcons, particularly sack threats and ends John Abraham and Ray Edwards, and has an effect similar to what the Bears achieved over the 7-2 run through the key portion of their schedule.

We did some good things at the end of the year, coach Lovie Smith said. We made progress I saw improvement throughout the year. And Ive seen that right now.
O-line help

The best help that coordinator Mike Martz can give young tackles Gabe Carimi and JMarcus Webb is to let them come off the ball and apply some muscle to Abraham and Edwards. Webb has a 70-pound advantage on Abraham. Carimi has 48 pounds on Edwards.

Whats perhaps been forgotten is that Lance Louis struggled early but never lost his starting job at right guard. Chris Williams ability to handle left guard faded as a topic of conversation, one of the nicest things that can happen to an offensive lineman.

Theyve made terrific progress in the last three weeks, particularly in the last two weeks, so Im anxious to see them play, Martz said. Well find out where we are with that. But Im excited about what theyve done so far. I think theyve got a chance to be a pretty good group.

Barber concerns

A factor in the improved performance by Forte, however, was Martzs willingness to have the ball handed to Chester Taylor 112 times and thrown to him another 20. Taylor was generally ineffective, which is why he is an Arizona Cardinal now rather than a Bear.

It is no coincidence, though, that Fortes career-best for yards per carry (4.5) was achieved when his workload was the lightest (237 carrries) of his career.

But the addition of Marion Barber from Dallas was made with the intention of not just lightening Fortes load; that could have been accomplished again with Taylor.

Barber has never averaged less than 3.3 yards per carry in his career (2010) or carried fewer than 113 times (also last year), one more than Taylor.

The calf injury Barber suffered against Tennessee in the preseason has had him out of practice ever since and he is not expected to play against the Falcons. Without his type of running, the ability of the offense to pound the Atlanta defense is reduced.

Hes such a violent runner, Martz said. Hes a guy that he can certainly jump-cut and do all of those things, but hell take a defender on, too, and break tackles that way. So hes kind of a complete back in that way. Hes a real tough, inside runner, but hes got the skills to get outside and hes an excellent receiver. Hes a guy that will excel, too, in short yards. We need to have him healthy. We really do.

Beyond Barber

What is different in the offense this year is that the presence of backup power to the backup power.

Kahlil Bell was inactive all 16 games last season as coaches were forced to have Garrett Wolfe on special teams. The trouble was, Wolfe was too small to suit Martz and was only used on four runs, all in the second Minnesota game.

Bell is 219 pounds, virtually identical with Barber and Forte.

Matts more comfortable with the scheme, and the offensive line and the way theyre opening holes, said quarterback Jay Cutler. Last year, Forte started a little slow, just like we all did, because everyone was getting comfortable with veering and we were trying to figure it out.

You add a Marion Barber a downhill guy, a short-yardage goal-line guy, packs a little more of a punch we got a good group back there.

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.

For one writer, Hall of Fame semifinalist selection of Brian Urlacher closes a career circle

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USA TODAY

For one writer, Hall of Fame semifinalist selection of Brian Urlacher closes a career circle

The news on Tuesday wasn’t really any sort of surprise: Brian Urlacher being selected as a semifinalist for the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility. Some of the immediate thoughts were, however, for one writer who covered Brian from the day he was drafted on through the unpleasant end of his 13-year career as a Bear.

Good thoughts, though. Definitely good.

The first was a flashback, to a Tuesday in late August 2000 when the ninth-overall pick of the draft, who’d been anointed the starting strong-side linebacker by coach Dick Jauron on draft day, was benched.

It happened up at Halas Hall when Urlacher all of a sudden wasn’t running with the 1’s. Rosie Colvin was in Urlacher’s spot with the starters and would be for a few games into the 2000 season. I caught up with Brian before he walked, in a daze, into Halas Hall after practice and asked about what I’d just seen.

"I'm unhappy with the way I'm playing and I'm sure they are, too," Urlacher said. "I don't think I've been playing very well so that's probably the cause for it right there. I just don't have any technique. I need to work on my technique, hands and feet mostly. I've got to get those down, figure out what I'm doing. I know the defense pretty good now, just don't know how to use my hands and feet."

Urlacher, an All-American safety at New Mexico but MVP of the Senior Bowl in his first game at middle linebacker, had been starting at strong side, over the tight end, because coaches considered it a simpler position for Urlacher to master. But he was not always correctly aligned before the snap, did not use his hands against blockers effectively and occasionally led with his head on tackles. His benching cost him the chance to be the first Bears rookie linebacker since Dick Butkus to start an Opening Day.

It also was the first time in his football life that Urlacher could remember being demoted.

"It's not a good feeling," he said. "I definitely don't like getting demoted but I know why I am. I just have to get better."

Coaches understood what they were really attempting, subsequently acknowledged privately that the SLB experiment was a mistake. While the strong-side slot may have been simpler than the other two principally because of coverage duties, "we're trying to force-feed the kid an elephant," then-defensive coordinator Greg Blache said.

"So you see him gag and what do you do? You give him the Heimlich maneuver, you take some of it out of his mouth, try to chop it up into smaller pieces. He's going to devour it and be a great football player. But he wouldn't be if we choked him to death."

Urlacher didn’t choke and eventually became the starter, not outside, but at middle linebacker when Barry Minter was injured week two at Tampa Bay.

We sometimes don’t fully know the import or significance at the time we’re witnessing something. Urlacher stepping in at middle linebacker was not one of those times – you knew, watching him pick up four tackles in basically just the fourth quarter of a 41-0 blowout by the Bucs.

That was the beginning. Over the years came moments like Urlacher scooping up a Michael Vick fumble in the 2001 Atlanta game and going 90 yards with Vick giving chase but not catching him. Lots of those kinds of moments.

And then cutting to the ending, in 2013, when he and the organization came to an acrimonious parting after GM Phil Emery managed to alienate the face of the franchise both with the one-year contract offer and the way it was handled. Butkus had a nasty separation at the end of his Bears years, too, and Bill George finished his career as a Los Angeles Ram after creating the middle linebacker position as a Bear. Maybe that’s just how Bears and some of their linebackers wind up their relationships.

In any case, while there is no cheering in the pressbox, the hope here is that Brian goes into the Hall in a class with Ray Lewis in their first years of eligibility. Somehow that just seems like it all should close out for that confused kid from New Mexico who lost his first job out of college, but responded to that by becoming one of the all-time greats in his sport.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Who deserves the most blame for Bears losses?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Who deserves the most blame for Bears losses?

Mark Potash (Chicago Sun-Times), Ben Finfer (ESPN 1000) and Kevin Fishbain (The Athletic) join Kap on the panel. It’s another losing season for the Bears. So who deserves the most blame: Ryan Pace, John Fox or the players? Plus Mark Schanowski drops by to talk about the Bulls future and if the Celtics will win the East.