Bears

Moon: How do Bears slow Brady, beat Patriots?

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Moon: How do Bears slow Brady, beat Patriots?

Friday, Dec. 10, 2010
Posted: 9:46 a.m.
By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

Every game turns on a small handful of plays or factors. Here are the three that will decide the Bears-New England Patriots game Sunday:

1. Blunt Brady

If the Bears can't fully stop Tom Brady, recent history says they stand a better-than-most chance of containing him, at least partially, and that may enough.

The Bears have held nine of the 10 "regular" starting quarterbacks they've faced this season to a passer rating below that quarterback's season average. Only Seattle's Matt Hasselbeck was better than his average. The Chicago defense has allowed an average passer rating of just 71.1 while Jay Cutler has been passing at a career-best 92.8. Only the Green Bay Packers (69.6) have been better at stopping passers.

Why that opposing quarterback rating matters in this case is because the only two teams to defeat the New England Patriots (New York Jets, Cleveland Browns) were responsible for two of Brady's three lowest passer ratings of the season and his two lowest completion percentages.

Brady hasn't thrown an interception in seven games, so blunting him is far, far easier schemed than done, particularly since only four teams have given up fewer sacks than the Patriots. But with a vulnerable defense, Brady is the absolute point of the New England spear with his own personal ball-control program built around completing 66.8 percent of his passes.

It is not a spear that lives with deep thrusts in the Martz downfield tradition. The Patriots average 11.8 yards; the Bears by comparison average 12.4. But Brady has thrown 385 passes and only four of them were intercepted vs. 27 going for touchdowns.

"That's why he's got all those Super Bowl rings," said defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli. "He doesn't make many mistakes."
2. Stay the course

The change in offensive philosophy from pass-first to balanced has been the biggest single key to the makeover of the Bears' season, from a stretch of losing three of four to reeling off five straight victories. The commitment to running the ball has helped bring the offensive line together and, if not necessarily reducing the sack total down to acceptable levels, has taken a huge chunk of pressure off Cutler.

The Bears are 7-0 this season when they rush for 100 yards. All three of their losses have come when they've rushed for few 75 yards, regardless of attempts or average per carry.

Their play-calling has been nearly 50-50 run-pass over the last five games. Cutler has thrown for fewer than 200 yards in three wins in the five-game run and, most important, has thrown 10 touchdown passes vs. three interceptions.

"It starts at the top with Mike Martz," Cutler said. "He does a good job in meetings of keeping guys positive and keeping them on point with the system and believing in it and showing guys examples on tape of how the system works -- if we do it right, what would happen.

"And guys got it. There were glimpses of it on tape, and guys understood if we completely got everything down that we could be explosive. Are we there yet? Not yet, but we're definitely on our way."

The problem with New England, however, is that no defensive schemer is better at forcing players, coaches and teams out of what they want to do than Bill Belichick. He has done it to Martz in the past and one dangerous scenario for the Bears would be Belichick completely shutting down the Chicago run game to the point where Martz and Cutler become impatient and risk turnovers in search of big plays, particularly if they believe they cannot afford their balanced game plan in the face of some quick New England points.

The Bears are 6-1 when they have had an edge in time of possession, a normally meaningless statistic if only looked at in terms of minutes and seconds. But every minute that the Chicago offense is on the field, New England's is not. It is a course Martz needs to stay on more than against any opponent to date this season.
3. Take the points
The Bears are 8-1 when they have scored 18 or more points. Only once this season (in Detroit) have they scored touchdowns on every possession reaching inside the red zone but they have won four of the five times that they have scored points of some sort.

The temptation may arise to press for touchdowns when facing a scoring offense like New England's, and when dealing with a defense like the 2010 Patriots which is 18th in points allowed and among the NFL's worst against the pass.

The Patriots committed three turnovers in the losses both to the Jets and Browns, accounting for two-thirds of New England's entire 2010 turnover total. Only three teams have taken the ball away more than the Bears' 26. The defense is tasked with adding to the New England turnover total and the offense and special teams need to turn every freebie into points and avoid point-less gambles.

"We have to be detailed to combat Tom Brady and the Patriots," said linebacker Lance Briggs. "We have to play fast and physical. We know he's going to take what defenses give him. He's going to take what he sees. We have to be ready when that ball does come out, we have to punish ball carriers and be opportunistic when that ball is in the air and get pressure on him."

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.

Bears, Top 10 draft scenarios get one last look, and a change at No. 8

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Bears, Top 10 draft scenarios get one last look, and a change at No. 8

This member of the NBC Sports Chicago team has gone through the blizzard of mock drafts that are a rite of NFL spring, although with perhaps less clarity and certainty than in any draft season in 25 years of doing this.

Usually the requisite detective work of the job produces at least a fix on a player, or not that, then one position – in ’94, the Bears were going edge rusher (John Thierry) to replace Richard Dent; in ’95, they targeted running back (Rashaan Salaam) to upgrade from Lewis Tillman; in ’99, a quarterback (Cade McNown); in ’05, a back (Cedric Benson); in ’16, an edge rusher (Leonard Floyd); last year, a quarterback (Mitch Trubisky).

No, those were not all successful mock-draft calls (this reporter called Deshaun Watson last year). No, the point is that getting a sense of what’s behind the curtain has gotten exponentially more difficult as the Ryan Paces of the business have become so well practiced at maintaining veils and cones of silence over their intentions.

So late on the night before the draft, your humble and faithful narrator is continuing to scratch in the dirt for edible morsels (there’s no shortage of chaff, not so much wheat). Some things that come through the dust… .

Tremaine Edmunds remains the call for the Bears at No. 8. And I don’t like it. Not Edmunds; I like him more than Roquan Smith, my previous mock pick, for reasons of grade, player skillset, and need.

But the scratching around has uncovered that prominent voices in the Bears’ draft room are pushing for Ohio State cornerback Denzel Ward at No. 8. Multi-year deals with a combined $36 million guaranteed for Prince Amukamara and Kyle Fuller notwithstanding, the Bears did immense work on Ward (Combine meeting, Ohio State pro day, pre-draft visit), who visited five teams drafting in the top 12 in addition to Pro Day evaluations.

The night before the 2018 draft, the order of Bears “probables” now stands at: 1) Ward, 2) Smith, 3) Edmunds, trade up for 4) Bradley Chubb (the Bears were one of only three teams to have him in for a pre-draft visit, 5) trade up for Quenton Nelson. And 6) trade down for Marcus Davenport (see below).

“4-gone” a Bears wish-list? Maybe not

Four quarterbacks going off the board within the seven picks before the Bears are on the clock at No. 8 has been cast as the best of scenarios for the Bears. And it would mean that the Bears, who don’t number a quarterback among the players in their cluster graded as worth that No. 8, would be in position to draft the de facto fourth-best player of the draft, certainly among non-quarterbacks.

But would that “4-gone” be the best of all possible Bears cases? Not necessarily.

One NFL insider suggested to NBC Sports Chicago that the Bears would be better off if THREE of the four top QB’s were gone and one was still there at No. 8. The Bears, claiming to have a cloud of guys that would comfortably allow them to trade back and still get an elite player, would then likely be fielding a call or calls from Miami, Buffalo and anyone else desperate for a quarterback.

As in: Josh Allen has fallen, still there at 8, and so are, say, Marcus Davenport, Tremaine Edmunds, Roquan Smith, Denzel Ward, any one of which would be a solid pick at No. 8. The Bills at No. 12 want Allen, Ryan Pace’s phone rings, and Pace slides back to 12, gets Buffalo’s No. 3 to replace the one he surrendered in the trade-up last year for Mitch Trubisky, and still gets one of the elites he would’ve drafted anyway at No. 8.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: What should Bears do at No. 8?

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SportsTalk Live Podcast: What should Bears do at No. 8?

On the latest SportsTalk Live Podcast, David Haugh (Chicago Tribune), Hub Arkush (Pro Football Weekly/670 The Score) and Chris Emma (670TheScore.com) join Kap on the panel.

The guys discuss Ryan Pace’s options with the NFL Draft just a day away. Plus, Porter Moser gets an extension at Loyola, Kyle Schwarber continues to rake and Michael Kopech continues to dominate at Triple-A.

Listen to the full SportsTalk Live Podcast right here: