Bears

Special teams turn in solid performance

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Special teams turn in solid performance

Special teams put the Bears in position to win Sunday. That should have been enough.

Returns B-

Devin Hester fair-caught 5 punts, but his 26-yard punt return in the third quarter gave the Bears their best field position of the game at the Denver 42 and set up the first points of the game for either team. Charles Tillmans holding penalty contributed to a drive starting at the Chicago 5 in the second quarter.

Kicking A

Robbie Gould gave the Bears a two-score lead with a 57-yard field goal, longest of his career, on the first play of the fourth quarter

Julius Peppers was credited with a blocked field goal in the second quarter when he and Israel Idonije collapsed the middle of the Denver line on a 28-yard attempt Gould gave the Broncos no chances for returns on his 3 kickoffs.

Punting A

Adam Podlesh averaged 46.4 yards on 5 first-half punts to keep the Bears in the field-position battle. He finished with a 47.8-yard average, with 4 punts inside the 20. And he was consistent, forced to punt 11 times without incident.

Coverage B-

Podleshs inside-the-20s were the result in part by good coverage. The Broncos were able to average 9.1 yards on 8 returns, however, none longer than 14 yards.

Coaching A-

Credit coaches for making the right decision to go with Gould on the 57-yarder. And the thinking appeared to be conservative with Hester fair-catching so many in a close game where one fumble could be pivotal.

With Leonard Floyd going on injured reserve, will the Bears have a pressing need at outside linebacker in 2018?

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USA TODAY

With Leonard Floyd going on injured reserve, will the Bears have a pressing need at outside linebacker in 2018?

The Bears placed Leonard Floyd on injured reserve Thursday morning, ending the second-year outside linebacker’s season following a knee injury suffered Sunday against the Detroit Lions. Floyd suffered an MCL and PCL injury and will have surgery in the next week, coach John Fox said, and the Bears do not have a timetable for his recovery yet. But that Floyd didn't suffer damage to his ACL is potentially good news for Floyd's recovery timetable. 

Still, with Floyd on injured reserve and out for the season, the Bears’ current outside linebacker depth chart consists of two veterans (Pernell McPhee and Sam Acho) and two practice squad signees (Isaiah Irving and Howard Jones). These final six games of the 2017 season could serve as auditions for all four players for roles on the 2018 Bears. 

If every team needs at least three good pass rushers, the Bears can count on Akiem Hicks and Floyd for 2018, provided Floyd comes back healthy. But who’s the third?

The Bears could save about $7.5 million in cap space if they release McPhee in 2018; if they were to cut ties with Willie Young, who’s on injured reserve right now as well, it would provide $4.5 million in cap relief. McPhee will be 29 in December, while Young will turn 33 next September. 

The Bears won’t necessarily need the cap relief next year, and could certainly decide to keep both players, who’ve shown they’re still productive when healthy. But even if both players are back, the Bears may need to add another outside linebacker via free agency of the draft — remember, the team could’ve began the season with Floyd, Young, McPhee, Acho and Lamarr Houston as their outside linebackers; an injury Houston suffered in the fourth preseason game ended his time in Chicago. 

Needs at wide receiver and cornerback are pressing, but outside linebacker may need to be in that same conversation. If the Bears have a top-10 pick for the fourth consecutive year, plus some cap space, they perhaps could have the ability to address all three needs in March and April. 

That may be looking a little too far into the future, though. The best-case for the Bears is McPhee finishes the season strong and Irving and/or Jones shows something in the opportunities they receive in these final six games (Jones, for what it’s worth, had five sacks as a rookie with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2015). But the worst-case — and perhaps the most realistic — is that the Bears go into the offseason needing to fill at least one pass-rushing spot. 

Under Center Podcast: Can Mitch Trubisky follow Carson Wentz’s path to stardom?

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Under Center Podcast: Can Mitch Trubisky follow Carson Wentz’s path to stardom?

JJ Stankevitz and John “Moon” Mullin are joined by NBC Sports Philadelphia Eagles reporter Dave Zangaro to offer an encouraging connection between Carson Wentz’s growth and that of Mitchell Trubisky.

Check out the entire podcast here: