Bears

Moon: Packers game critical step towards a big goal

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Moon: Packers game critical step towards a big goal

Sunday, Jan. 2, 2011
11:50 a.m.

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

They were the new guys back in 2006, the young guys, and it came almost too easily.

And now, Devin Hester and Danieal Manning, rookies in 2006, and Chris Harris, who went to the playoffs as a rookie in 2005 and a Super Bowl the next year, are in a position to do what many of the greats of the game, including many, many Bears never did: return to a Super Bowl.

Dan Marino went in his second, lost and never went again. Wilber Marshall and Ron Rivera went to playoffs as rookies, a Super Bowl in their second year, and never got back there.

Its tough, Harris said. You have some guys with great careers, Hall of Fame players, who never played in a Super Bowl.

Hester didnt think getting to a Super Bowl was necessarily easy but I didnt think it would go like that, he said, shaking his head at the memory and at the thought of not even getting back to the playoffs since then. The team we had the Super Bowl I thought would be good for a long time.

Its a long season and every year something happens, every year it seems like theres a different team.

Julius Peppers, Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs, Charles Tillman, Olin Kreutz, Tommie Harris all know what it means to reach a Super Bowl and lose there.

And they are part of the reason why the Bears are unlikely to make the mistake of not treating the Green Bay game and the two weeks that follow as critical steps toward a goal that will never be taken for granted.

Its a long journey for this team, Hester said. This year, weve been doing pretty good. The record is looking pretty good right now. The bye, and everything is starting to show up. Our team is starting to do some great things, as far as offense, defense and special teams. We got a good shot.

Arguably the single most important player in the Bears playoff saga, Jay Cutler, has never been in uniform for a playoff game. He has never had the experience of anything beyond regular-season playing speed.

But his motivation should be perhaps greater even than for his teammates who have been there but lost.

I dont think anybody in that locker room is gonna be satisfied until we win a Super Bowl, Cutler said. So theres a lot to be done yet. But weve got to keep getting better. Weve got to keep working. Weve got to keep coming to work. Keep the drive.

That makes Sunday in Green Bay important. If the Bears lose the drive, they will lose before they ever make the Super Bowl that some thought would have come again by now.

Gone but

If the Bears were hoping to see more of Juaquin Iglesias in the future, theyll likely have their wish after the 2009 third-round pick was signed off the Bears practice squad Saturday by the Minnesota Vikings. Iglesias showed flashes back in training camp but was unable to demonstrate enough consistent playmaker ability to warrant a spot of the regular roster. Iglesias was inactive for all but one game in his rookie season.

Iglesias joins fellow No. 3 pick Jarron Gilbert on the former-Bears list, leaving the Bears with neither of their top 2009 picks. Its unlikely the organization is going to have serious laments on a bad draft, however.

Henry Melton (fourth round) is a force in the defensive-line rotation and possible successor to Tommie Harris as the three-technique in the Bears scheme. D.J. Moore, the Bears second pick in the fourth round, is the No. 1 nickel back and has 4 interceptions. Johnny Knox (fifth round) needs just 40 yards Sunday to pass 1,000. Guard Lance Louis has settled into a backup role but has shown some promise.

And the Bears No. 1 and first No. 3 picks of that draft? They went for Jay Cutler, who has begun to look every bit like the franchise quarterback the trade was intended to secure.

And one more thing.

I didnt make a call on this game earlier because I really didnt know how much the Bears would put into it, in terms of effort, personnel and both. The Bears really dont have anything to play for except what really matters, that being playoff preparations.

They have a quarterback who has never played beyond a regular season since high school and needs to not only stay sharp, but also needs to be better than he has been, because thats what playoffs are about quarterback play. The only player close to a starter that the Bears made inactive was receiver Earl Bennett and that because of an injury.

The other thing that playoffs are about is play on defense, and the Bears group has played progressively worse into this fourth quarter of the season. The Bears kept linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa active despite his chronic knee issues, if thats any indication of intent. The Bears had their usual list of inactives: defensive backs Craig Steltz and Joshua Moore; running back Khalil Bell; offensive linemen Herman Johnson and Edwin Williams; and defensive lineman Marcus Harrison.

The Bears will definitely take this game seriously, at least through the first half. But I dont think thatll be enough to beat a resurgent and overall very good Green Bay team.
Packers 27 Bears 21

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.

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.