Josh Bellamy

A win over the 49ers wouldn't mean much in the standings, but as frustration mounts, it'd be important for the Bears

A win over the 49ers wouldn't mean much in the standings, but as frustration mounts, it'd be important for the Bears

Josh Bellamy dismissed his heated argument with Tre McBride — which was within earshot of reporters in the media room at Halas Hall on Monday — as “brotherly love” and “normal,” even though McBride was waived from the team within 24 hours of the altercation. Bellamy said he doesn’t “feel bad for nothin’” regarding the argument. 

These are things that happen when a team is 3-8 and could be on its way to a fourth consecutive season with double-digit losses. This team is frustrated with the way this season has gone, with four consecutive losses crashing the Bears out of fringe playoff contention to the bottom of the NFC North. 

“You just gotta hold everybody accountable,” Bellamy said. “That’s it. Just get everybody on the same page so we can get this thing going.”

A win on Sunday won’t change the course of the 2017 season for the Bears, but it would alleviate some of that mounting frustration, at least for a week. 

The likely return of linebacker Danny Trevathan — who was a full participant in Thursday’s practice — could be key for slowing a 49ers offense that, even with quarterback of the future Jimmy Garoppolo making his first start for San Francisco on Sunday, relies on running back Carlos Hyde. In Trevathan’s seven games, the Bears have allowed 3.7 yards per carry; in the four games he’s missed, opponents have averaged 4.5 yards per carry. 

“When you have a veteran linebacker back there, somebody that’s done it at the highest levels, played for a Super Bowl, that’s been in this league for five years, it’s just beneficial,” defensive end Akiem Hicks said. “It helps. It keeps everybody else on cue.”

That sort of fits the getting-everyone-on-the-same-page thought. A win certainly would help move things in that direction here at Halas Hall. And while it may not count for much in the standings, it can’t hurt the development of Mitchell Trubisky to happen in a less-frustrated atmosphere. 

Why aren't the Bears using Tarik Cohen more?

Why aren't the Bears using Tarik Cohen more?

Last month, Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera explained why the Bears can be dangerous on offense when both Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen are on the field at the same time. 

“When they put them both in there, now you’ve got to play attention to both of them,” Rivera said. “If you treat it like it’s a nickel type of package and you put an extra DB in there, they’re going to run the ball at you. If you put a linebacker out there on them, now they’re going to isolate that linebacker on that back. I think the one one-two punch they have with those guys has worked very well for them as a football team.”

That line of thinking would, seemingly, feed into how Cohen can make an impact even if he isn’t getting handoffs or targets. The Bears like Cohen’s ability to be a decoy now that opposing defenses have figured out he’s the team’s best playmaker.

So why did Cohen only receive 13 offensive snaps on Sunday against the Green Bay Packers?

“You’re looking at one game,” coach John Fox said. “Sometimes the defense dictates who gets the ball. I think from a running standpoint it was a game where we didn’t run the ball very effectively. I think we only ran it 17 times. I believe Jordan Howard being the fifth leading rusher in the league probably commanded most of that. I think he had 15 carries. It’s a situation where we’d like to get him more touches, but it just didn’t materialize that well on that day. But I’d remind people that he’s pretty high up there in both punt returns, he’s our leading receiver with 29 catches, so it’s not like we don’t know who he is.”

Cohen was always due a decline from his early-season usage, which peaked at 62.5 percent of the Bears’ snaps in that Week 2 blowout loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (in which Jordan Howard was given a rest as things got out of hand with a banged-up shoulder). But he was used on about one-third of the Bears’ plays against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 6, throwing a touchdown and carrying 14 times for 32 yards. 

Offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains pointed to Cohen not matching up well against the Packers in pass protection as to why he was only on the field for 21.7 percent of the Bears’ snaps, his second-lowest percentage of the year (18.4 percent vs. Carolina). Cohen is not part of the Bears’ two-minute package, for example. 

“Tarik, he’s a really good player, sometimes the defense dictates who is going to be out there,” Loggains said. 

But why are opposing defenses dictating the personnel the Bears’ offense has?

“We might not feel great about Tarik in protection vs. Clay Matthews, or there may be a certain blitz they run,” Loggains said.

The fundamental issue here goes beyond Cohen’s usage, or lack thereof, and is that the Bears don’t enough other playmakers on offense outside of their undersized fourth-round pick. With more talent in this group, Cohen receiving 13 snaps wouldn’t be as significant a topic of discussion. 

But as long as the Bears need, as Loggains said last month, “Tarik to be that guy for us, the best playmaker we have,” the coaching staff has to seek a way to get him on the field more, even if it’s merely as a decoy. 

What about the receivers?

Josh Bellamy played 40 snaps on Sunday after totaling 14 in the Bears’ previous four games, while Tre McBride — who caught three passes for 92 yards in Week 8 against the New Orleans Saints — only played seven snaps against Green Bay. 

Loggians said Bellamy’s uptick in playing time was because the Bears though they needed his speed in the offense. That doesn’t speak well to how much the coaches trusted Markus Wheaton, who was a full participant in practices Thursday and Friday leading up to the weekend but hadn’t played since Week 5 due to a groin injury (Wheaton said barely playing against Green Bay was “extremely frustrating,” but acknowledged he still needed to prove he’s healthy). 

“Sometimes statistically when you say (McBride) played the best game of his career, that may not match with what the coaches see on tape when balls aren't going your way or how you're getting separation vs. man coverage or other things,” Loggains said. “We thought Bellamy gave us an element of speed that we needed that week. He's always been a good blocker. Part of that thought process was we needed to stretch the field and he's probably our fastest wide receiver. He came up big on the long touchdown pass. That was really why we did it.”

Bellamy, though, only had two catches on seven targets, and didn’t track a pass from Trubisky with the “great urgency” needed to catch it on the Bears’ last-ditch drive in the fourth quarter, Loggains said. 

It wasn’t all disappointing for the Bears’ receivers on Sunday, though, with Dontrelle Inman impressing Loggains with how quickly he developed a chemistry with Mitchell Trubisky. 

“(He’s) a big guy that was in the right spots — a calming presence for Mitchell,” Loggains said. “I think you guys felt as the game went Mitchell’s confidence with him grew. And confidence is only born from demonstrated ability. Mitchell needed to see the that. He needed to see Dontrelle go out and be in the right spots. He did a nice job with it.” 

Why Mitchell Trubisky isn’t feeling pressure as his era begins with Bears

Why Mitchell Trubisky isn’t feeling pressure as his era begins with Bears

Mitchell Trubisky’s high school quarterbacks coach, Nes Janiak, offered some wisdom a few years back that’s stuck with the newly-named Bears starting quarterback: Pressure is what happens when you’re not prepared for something.

So going into Trubisky’s first career start, in front of a primetime Monday Night Football audience next week, he’s not expecting the moment will be too big for him.

“You only get nervous or feel pressure when you’re not prepared for the situation or you don’t know what you’re doing,” Trubisky said. “So my job is to just study the game plan and once I get in there just go back to my instincts, play the game I know how to play. I’ve been playing this game for a long time, so I’m going to go in there and be myself and the pressure shouldn’t be anything what everyone else makes it out to be. So I’ll just go out there and try to have fun.”

That’s a fresh approach for a player who will make his NFL debut with the weight of the Bears’ franchise on his shoulders. This organization hasn’t had a quarterback like Trubisky in a while, maybe ever. The long-term expectations for him are lofty, but that’s why the Bears traded up to draft him with the No. 2 overall pick in April.

For the 2017 Bears, though, the switch from Mike Glennon to Trubisky represents an opportunity for the entire offense to hit the reset button after four mostly sloppy games to begin the season. Beyond Glennon’s eight turnovers, the Bears offense seemed restrained with him at quarterback — he wasn’t mobile and wasn’t able to push the ball downfield, allowing opposing defenses (except, oddly, the Pittsburgh Steelers) to load up the box and sell out to stop running back Jordan Howard.

“Opportunity,” wide receiver Markus Wheaton said of what Trubisky brings to the offense. “With him being mobile, obviously there will be a lot of scramble plays, a lot more scramble plays than we had with Mike. More opportunity for us to get open.”

Trubisky said the Bears’ offense will be more basic than it was under Glennon, which hardly sounds like a bad thing. “Basic” will involve moving the pocket and allowing Trubisky to throw on the run, which could in turn prevent defenses from crowding eight men in the box to stop the run game. Either way, “basic” should look more dynamic than what the Bears’ offense was in September.

“It’s kind of a gunslinger’s mentality,” Trubisky said. “It’s being methodical, staying within the offense, being consistent and doing my job. And then when things break down, I’m able to make plays and again get the ball to my playmakers, because I’m not the best athlete on the field. There are other guys who do that. But when things can break down I can maybe make something happen.”

This is an exciting time not only for fans, but for players, coaches, front office personnel and the entire Bears organization. The future of the franchise is getting his first crack at changing the franchise. Let the Mitchell Trubisky era begin.

“He’s a baller,” wide receiver Josh Bellamy said. “We can’t wait to see him Monday.”