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Mullin: Where will Bears-Vikings play next week?

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Mullin: Where will Bears-Vikings play next week?

Monday, Dec. 13, 2010
9:12 AM

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

Morning after cleaning out the notebook...

Or in this case, flushing it out...

Adecision on locale for the Bears-Vikings game next Monday night will becoming in the next couple of days as they sort through a handful ofsituations and considerations. Metrodome officials believe thecollapsed dome can be fixed in time for the game, but whether the NFLor anyone else wants to commit to that course and put 60,000 peopleunder it next Monday.... Would you?

And if the course is indeedset for the dome, what if then another snow load, even modest, isdumped on it between decision time and game time? Changing directionagain late in the week is something not ideal for anyone involved.

TheUniversity of Minnesota's TCF Bank Stadium is available but does nothave near the capacity of the Metrodome, meaning some ticket issues forthe Vikings, already dealing with a few. NFL officials also toldCSNChicago.com that it is far from a simple deal to set up a stadiumfor an NFL game. Things like the replay system alone are majoroutfittings.

Indianapolis and the Lucas Oil Dome is closer thanDetroit and obviously is NFL ready. But that tilts the situation evenfurther in the Bears' favor as far as fan presence.

For thatmatter, however, Detroit will be a Bears home game, based on more noisecoming from Bears fans than Lions fans in recent Ford Field encounters,and that's with the Lions fans having a horse in the race.

Stay tuned....

Optimism for Bears fans?

If you are a Bears fan looking for some cause for optimism, it might be that the New England Patriots have twice been involved in losses by a team in a regular season that subsequently went on to defeat that other team in a Super Bowl, which is where the Bears see themselves. (No, really, they do.)

One was the 2001 team that fell to 5-5 after a loss to Mike Martzs St. Louis Rams and then won the rematch in the Super Bowl. And the 2007 Patriots, who set the NFL record for single-season scoring (589 points), got past the New York Giants in the final game of their 16-0 regular season, then lost to the Giants five weeks later.

But if your uncertainty about the 2010 Bears simply received a massive booster shot with Sundays 36-7 humiliation, you probably know that the Patriots and Giants both at least showed glimpses of some positives in their regular-season losses. The Bears showed absolutely none yesterday.

And not to add to the darkness, but no Lovie Smith team has lost three home games in a season and still made the playoffs. No Jay Cutler team has ever had a winning record in December, either.

Weather or not mostly not

The silly notion of Bear weather can hopefully be forever banished from anything. Given the numbers of players from Florida, Texas, Alabama, California, New Mexico, Arizona and any number of warm places (including a coach from Texas), my sense of true Bear weather was always 95 degrees-95 humidity anyway. Frankly, training camp was more Bear weather than anything on the lakefront in December or January.

Bear weather for most fans traces to Wilbur Marshall (a Floridian) picking up a Rams fumble in the swirling snow in an NFC Championship game and gliding down the field for a touchdown. If youre as far superior to others as that team was, and the Patriots currently are, any weather is your weather.

(Very) bad matchups

No surprise then that the Bears as they are currently constituted on defense, a one-gap, speed-based group built more for fast tracks, struggled against a team like New England whereas the widebodies in New Englands 3-4 wasnt going to be moved.

I feel like if youre a fast defense, you play better on turf or a fast surface, said Texan Tommie Harris. With their defense is a 3-4 where guys stand up, stand around, so really traction coming off the ball is not a problem if you stand there.

To his credit at least, Harris added, But thats no excuse.

No, it is definitely not. And it inadvertently points fingers at the Bears offense, which allowed one of those supposed big fat guys to sack Cutler and force a fumble inside the Chicago 10.

Harris also was in effect pointing fingers at his secondary, as if it wasnt embarrassed enough already, and possibly at the coaching staff for not using more man-to-man coverage on a day when reacting to the ball was exponentially more difficult than on a dry surface. The Bears do not usually play their Cover-2 scheme more than about a third of the time, but it does have them in zone coverage, and against the New England offense, anything that gave Tom Brady and his bunch a window to throw through was potentially lethal.

And then the secondary and linebackers couldnt tackle the receivers once they did have the ball.

The craziest thing about their system is that most teams and quarterbacks do check-downs to secondary receivers and you usually can tackle them right there, said Harris, back in the starting lineup for the first time since Week Two. But Wes Welker and (Danny) Woodhead, those are YAC guys. They catch that ball and they go bananas with it.

Sometimes youve just got to admit when someone outplays you and they outplayed us.

And a couple more things...

He wasnt particularly interested in talking about stats (he never is) but Julius Peppers ran his sack total to 8 with a late takedown of Tom Brady, who was then pulled by Patriots coaches. Peppers has had sacks in four straight games...

Lost in the carnage wrought by Brady and the New England passing offense were the 124 rushing yards by a unit that has more than one running back that is arguably better than anything the Bears have.

While Matt Forte and Chester Taylor were foundering (Taylors one net yard in three carries was his TD run), BenJarvus Green-Ellis was averaging 4.1 yards on his 21 carries. Ultra-smurf Danny Woodhead averaged 3 yards and scored a TD, and old Fred Taylor, the guy the Jacksonville Jaguars settled for back in 1998 instead of Curtis Enis when the Bears wouldnt deal on draft day, calmly added 16 yards to a career rushing total 16th in NFL history...

Rodgers concussed

The fate of Aaron Rodgers and his concussion will be topics of interest to Bears fans this week. Best guess is that Rodgers will not be allowed to play after this, his second concussion of the season, suffered in the 7-3 loss to Detroit Sunday.

A class guy and a total team guy. Here's hoping that he's also a total smart guy.

Nothing to say?

It likely wont be fun to noodle over this one but well have our regular Monday chat tonight from 7-8 on CSNChicago.com. And Ill hop on with the guys at WFMB-AM 1450 SportsRadio in Springfield at 4:40 this afternoon.

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.