Kyle Long

Three and out: Pernell McPhee talks relationships, Kyle Long describes the Bears’ ‘beacon of hope’

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USA Today

Three and out: Pernell McPhee talks relationships, Kyle Long describes the Bears’ ‘beacon of hope’

BALTIMORE — The Baltimore Ravens let Pernell McPhee hit free agency after the 2014 season, in which the former fifth-round pick recorded a career high 7 1/2 sacks. So Sunday will be an awkward homecoming of sorts for McPhee against the team that spurned him a few years ago. 

“If your girlfriend or your wife leaves you, that’ll hurt, right? Okay,” McPhee said, “that answers that question.” 

That’s one way to put it. Defensive end Akiem Hicks — who will face a former team of his, the New Orleans Saints, in the Bears’ next road game — expanded on that thought. 

“Any time you go against your former team you want to prove a point, correct?” Hicks said. “He hasn’t made too big a deal out of it and he hasn’t been hoo-rah’ing about it. But I’m sure as anybody else that’d be going into that situation you want to go out there and put on a show.”

A big game from McPhee and/or Leonard Floyd against an interception-prone Joe Flacco could, at least, help keep things close on Sunday, or at best swing momentum in the Bears’ favor and push Mitchell Trubisky to his first career win. 

“I mean, it just was a relationship, just like you’ve got a girlfriend. They leave you sometimes,” McPhee said. “It is what it is, but like I said, I’m just very thankful that (general manager) Ozzie Newsome and coach (John) Harbaugh gave me the chance to become a Raven and see how it was to be a Raven. That’s the best feeling I got out of it.” 

More flowing analogies

While McPhee described facing the Ravens in terms of relationships, offensive lineman Kyle Long offered an eloquent description of how badly Bears fans want Mitchell Trubisky to finally end the quarterback drought in Chicago. 

“Being here since 2013 I’ve definitely understood the obsession with the quarterback position in this town,” Long said. “I mean, Mitch is a young guy with a lot of talent and this is a town that’s hungry for success in their sports, especially football. And I think that they see a beacon of hope and light with Mitch Trubisky, and it’s my job and the guys around me, their job is to keep that beacon of light nice and shiny and keep him upright.”

Snap decisions

Cody Whitehair has had some rather odd issues snapping this year, with a handful of snaps going high to both Trubisky and Mike Glennon over the Bears’ first five games. The second-year center wasn’t making any excuses when asked about it on Friday, but it is worth noting the Bears moved Whitehair between center and guard due to injuries to Long, Josh Sitton, Tom Compton and Hroniss Grasu in training camp and through the first three weeks of the season. 

“Just get back in that muscle memory,” Whitehair said. “For whatever reason, I dunno why, they’ve been bad. That’s what I’ve been focused on this week.”

Whitehair, who was flagged for holding against Minnesota, summed up his season to date:  “I haven't been where I've wanted the last four games and I'll continue to work on that. I feel like I'm getting back into my groove and we'll see how the season goes.”

The Bears don’t have any long-term concerns about Whitehair, who was solid as a rookie last year and should continue to be an important piece of their offensive line. 

“Once we get that consistent, exactly where we want it, he’s moving guys off the ball,” offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said. “He’s a big part of the run game. He’s a really talented player.” 

Bears Week 4 grades: Mike Glennon, John Fox fall flat in Green Bay

Bears Week 4 grades: Mike Glennon, John Fox fall flat in Green Bay

QUARTERBACKS: F

Mike Glennon lost two fumbles and threw an interception in the first half, then threw another interception in the third quarter. This was another horrendous game for the Bears’ starting quarterback. Teams don’t go into Green Bay — or anywhere, really — and win when their quarterback turns the ball over four times and doesn’t make enough plays to overcome those mistakes. Glennon now has eight turnovers to his name through four games.

RUNNING BACKS: D

Jordan Howard was bottled up for 53 yards on 18 carries, with 21 of those yards coming in garbage time during the fourth quarter. According to Pro Football Focus, he didn’t force a missed tackle on any of his 18 runs, and also dropped a screen pass. Tarik Cohen (six carries, 24 yards, four receptions 24 yards) wasn’t able to get loose but did deliver a nice block in pass protection on Glennon’s touchdown to Kendall Wright. Unfortunately for the Bears’ “Thunder” and “Lightning” Green Bay did what plenty of opposing defenses will do going forward: The Packers put eight or more defenders in the box on 12 of Howard’s 18 runs Thursday night.

WIDE RECEIVERS: D

Wright caught all four of his targets and looked like a productive pass-catcher a week after not being targeted against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The rest of his teammates struggled, though — like Josh Bellamy being unable to bring in a relatively well-thrown Glennon deep ball late in the first quarter. On Glennon’s first interception, he threw the ball too quick, so Markus Wheaton wasn’t able to get the depth in his route that he wanted.

TIGHT ENDS: D

Zach Miller had two productive catches totaling 45 yards, but this group didn’t do enough in the run blocking game. Adam Shaheen didn’t play enough, and when he did, he wasn’t able to block Ahmad Brooks on a snap, who dropped Howard for a four-yard loss that preceded Glennon’s first fumble. Dion Sims had one catch for eight yards and hasn’t been much of a factor in the passing game this year.

OFFENSIVE LINE: D+

A Kyle Long false start put the Bears behind the chains right before Glennon threw his first interception. Josh Sitton (holding) and Charles Leno (false start) were flagged in a succession on three plays in the second quarter that backed the Bears up from the Packers’ 37-yard line to the Bears’ 47. Cody Whitehair had another shaky snap before he and Glennon botched the one Green Bay recovered (for what it’s worth, Olin Kreutz said that was on the quarterback):

This was a struggle for an offensive line that finally had all five projected preseason starters, but was facing a Dom Capers defense that was going to sell out to stop the run and force the Bears to pass. In that sense, that the only sack Green Bay had was when Glennon held the ball too long on the first play of the game is a positive.

DEFENSIVE LINE: C-

Green Bay ran the ball on five of its first six plays, with Ty Montgomery, before he exited with a reported broken rib, quickly pushing the Packers into Bears territory. When the Packers did pass, a lot of the balls came out quick — except for that 58-yard heave to Jordy Nelson. But even if the pass-rushing opportunities were limited, this was a missed opportunity for a defensive line going against an offensive line missing its two starting tackles and playing guys out of position.

LINEBACKERS: C-

Leonard Floyd notched his first sack of the year and Pernell McPhee continued his solid play to open the season with a sack of his own, but this group (and the defense as a whole) didn’t record a hurry on Rodgers. According to Pro Football Focus’ numbers, Rodgers was under pressure only seven of his 28 drop backs. Danny Trevathan made 13 tackles but his vicious hit on Davante Adams may warrant a suspension, which would leave the Bears precariously thin at inside linebacker.

DEFENSIVE BACKS: D+

Nelson getting wide open for a touchdown in the second half was ugly, and the only positive play on the ball this group made was when Eddie Jackson dislodged the ball from Nelson’s hands on a deep third down throw in the first quarter. The Bears still don’t have an interception through four games.

SPECIAL TEAMS: D

Connor Barth missed a 47-yard field goal wide right for the second consecutive week. More positively, Pat O’Donnell pinned the Packers inside their own 20-yard line on all three of his punts, and perhaps not coincidentally, Green Bay punted on all three of those possessions.

COACHING: F

John Fox said it himself: “It starts at the top. We got out-coached.” The Bears were sloppy, and their eight penalties followed games in which they were flagged 10 times (Pittsburgh) and eight times (Tampa Bay). Coaching on a short week isn’t ideal, but the Packers had to deal with the same timeframe (though they committed seven penalties, too).

On another topic — why was Howard, shoulder injury and all, still in the game down 28 in the fourth quarter? It was a white flag drive lasting 8:53 with the team down by 28. At that point, protecting the team’s best offensive player would’ve seemed to be important, especially if that was the reasoning for not playing Mitchell Trubisky.

“If you watch the game, I don’t think it was an ideal time to put him in,” Fox said.

Bears still waiting for offensive line to come into focus

Bears still waiting for offensive line to come into focus

Kyle Long played all 62 offensive snaps the Bears took in his first game since Nov. 13, 2016, so he reported to Halas Hall on Monday feeling “about as sore today as I was prior to anything surgically," as he described it. 

“It’s a good thing," Long said. "It's something you miss when you're not in it. It's funny, I was talking to my dad and he's like ‘well are you sore?’ I was like yeah, and he's like well that's a good thing. It's one of the things I miss, being sore after a game feeling like you've done something. It feels good to be in here after a win."

Considering Long struggled to make it through practices last week as he worked to get back into football shape, that he played every single offensive snap was a little surprising to coach John Fox. 

“He played probably a lot longer than I thought was possible as far as I think he was probably pretty gassed afterwards,” Fox said. “I thought he played very well, like our whole offensive line. Was it perfect all the time? No. But whenever you can run the ball as many times and as effectively as we did, I think it starts up front. So I think he played well.”

Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen combined to average more than six yards per carry in Sunday’s 23-17 overtime win over the Pittsburgh Steelers behind an offensive line that got Long back, but still had to deal with more next men up. With Josh Sitton out with a rib injury and Tom Compton sidelined with a hip injury, and Hroniss Grasu injuring his hand in the first half, the Bears had to shuffle the interior of their offensive line for the second consecutive game. That meant Cody Whitehair moved back to center and Bradley Sowell replaced him at left guard. 

The interior of the Bears’ offensive line was circled as a strength prior to this season, but the Sitton-Whitehair-Long trio hasn’t played a game together yet. Sitton was listed as a “limited participant” on the Bears’ injury report for a theoretical practice on Monday (the NFL requires teams playing a Thursday night game to release participation, even if they don’t practice the day after a game). Compton was a full participant, so the Bears should at least have him back at Lambeau Field. Fox would only say Grasu, who was listed as a limited participant Monday, "has a hand" and wouldn't detail the extent of his injury. 

Until the Bears’ offense is able to at least threaten to stretch its passing game downfield, opposing defenses can continue to cheat up and scheme to stop the run. That makes the offensive line’s job harder, though getting back to full health could help lead to more games like the one the Bears had against Pittsburgh. 

"It’s extremely tough, but you gotta get it done," left tackle Charles Leno said of trying to run block when opposing teams know what's coming. "You gotta get your job done. You gotta find a way. You gotta dig down deep and get your job done and that’s what we did."