Bears

Bears schedule: Packers, Vikings apply pressure

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Bears schedule: Packers, Vikings apply pressure

With Green Bay and Minnesota winning, the Bears cannot give any ground vs. the Detroit Lions in the division, one of only two with three of four winning records (NFC South). Right now they hold the No. 2 record (4-1) in the NFC and third-best in the NFL (Atlanta 6-0, Houston 6-1) and dont play a team with a winning record until Houston in three weeks.

Lovie Smith teams have won five of their last six after a week off and it will have been 15 days since the win at Jacksonville. Monday is a chance to go three games up on Detroit and take a commanding conference position only the Giants, Falcons, 49ers and Vikings have fewer than three losses.

Indianapolis Colts (3-3) W 41-21

Balanced identity established with 33-35 run pass ratio and O runs up 428 yards with Jay Cutler throwing for 333 yards and 2 TDs to go with rushing TDs by Michael Bush (2) and Matt Forte (1) as part of 122 rushing yards.

@ Green Bay Packers (4-3) L 23-10

Cutler berates offensive linemen on national TV for seven sacks; linemen just have to accept Cutlers four INTs apparently. Embarrassing offensive performance all around as defense holds Aaron Rodgers and Pack to 3 FGs and one TD.

St. Louis Rams (3-4) W 23-6

Defense sacks Sam Bradford six times and holds Rams out of the end zone. Offense scores only one TD for the second week in a row and Cutler continues to find a groove with receivers.

@ Dallas Cowboys (3-3) W 34-18

Five interceptions of Tony Romo, two returned for TDs (Lance Briggs, Charles Tillman) and a workmanlike 360 yards on offense produce a crucial road win on MNF.

@ Jacksonville Jaguars (1-5) W 41-3

Bears offense runs up 501 balanced yards (214 rush, 287 pass) and explodes after a sluggish first half. Briggs and Tillman make NFL history with TD interceptions for second straight week and Brandon Marshall puts up 144 yards on 12 catches.

Sun., Oct. 14 Bye Week

vs. Detroit Lions (2-3)

Next: BEARS, MNF

vs. Carolina Panthers (1-5) Sun., Oct. 28, noon

Freefall reaches four straight as Cam Newton cant get Panthers offense above 14 points for third time in last four. No answer to Dallas two FGs in the fourth quarter. Next: at BEARS

@ Tennessee Titans (3-4) Sun., Nov. 4, noon

Remember Chris Johnson? Bills will after franchise RB goes for 195 yards and 2 TDs on 18 carries. Titans go to Buffalo and upset Bills behind another Matt Hasselbeck comeback. Two straight wins and scoring. Next: vs. Indianapolis

Houston Texans (6-1) Sun., Nov. 11, 7:20 p.m

After Green Bay embarrassment, Texans annihilate Baltimore. Seven games with at least 23 points and defense is top 10 vs. both run and pass. Next: Bye Week

@ San Francisco 49ers (5-2) Mon., Nov. 19, 7:30 p.m.

49ers survive a defensive taffy pull with Seattle to recover from the embarrassment vs. Giants. Offense questions with QB Alex Smith remain but Frank Gore runs for 131 vs. good Seahawks D. Long break to prepare for Cards in tough NFC West match. Next: @ Arizona (Mon.)

Minnesota Vikings (5-2) Sun., Nov. 25, noon

Weak offensive day vs. Cardinals except for APs 23 carries for 153 yards and a TD. Christian Ponder nets 58 passing yards but a W is a W. Vikes 4-0 at home. Next: vs. Tampa Bay

Seattle Seahawks (4-3) Sun., Dec. 2, noon

Russell Wilson struggles with 9-for-23 passing and cant get Hawks in the end zone for four quarters or on the scoreboard in the second half vs. 49ers. Next: at Detroit

@ Minnesota Vikings (5-2) Sun., Dec. 9, noon

Green Bay Packers (4-3) Sun., Dec. 16, noon

Another Aaron Rodgers masterpiece: 30-37 passing, 342 yards, 3 TDs, no turnovers for second straight game. Rams threaten but Packers score three times in fourth quarter. Next: vs. Jacksonville

@ Arizona Cardinals (4-3) Sun., Dec. 23, 3:15 p.m.

A stumble at Minnesota makes three straight for former 4-0 team that now gets 49ers, Packers and Falcons. John Skelton in for Kevin Kolb and is sacked seven times. Next: vs. San Francisco

@ Detroit Lions (2-3) Sun., Dec. 30, noon

Next: @ BEARS (MNF)

Could Bears improve and still lose ground? The MMQB's Albert Breer weighs in on tough NFC North

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USA TODAY

Could Bears improve and still lose ground? The MMQB's Albert Breer weighs in on tough NFC North

NBC Sports Chicago’s John "Moon" Mullin talked with The MMQB's Albert Breer, who shared his thoughts on where the Bears stand — and if they’ll be able to compete — in a highly competitive NFC North.

Moon: The Bears have made upgrades, but they’re in the NFC North and not many divisions are tougher, given the strength at quarterbacks.

Breer: Yes. You look at the other three teams, and they all very much believe they’re in a window for winning a championship. The Packers are going through some changes, but they’ve gotten Mike Pettine in there as defensive coordinator and a new general manager who was aggressive on draft day. I know that internally they feel that’s going to give them a boost, and bringing Aaron Rodgers back obviously is the biggest thing of all.

Minnesota, all the things they did this offseason, signing (quarterback) Kirk Cousins, (defensive lineman) Sheldon Richardson, and they were knocking on the door last year.

The Lions have been building for two years under (general manager) Bob Quinn and (new coach) Matt Patricia, who lines right up with the general manager — the two of them worked together in New England. They really believe that Matthew Stafford is ready to take the sort of jump that Matt Ryan made in Atlanta a few years ago, where you see that mid-career breakthrough from a quarterback that we see sometimes now.

It’s one of the toughest divisions in football, and every team in the division believes that it’s in the position to contend right now.

Moon: We didn’t see a lot of Mitch Trubisky — 12 games — so it sounds possible that the Bears could improve and still lose ground.

Breer: The Lions were pretty good last year. The Vikings were in the NFC Championship game. And who knows where the Packers would’ve been if Rodgers hadn’t broken his collarbone. The biggest change is that Aaron Rodgers will be back, and that’s the best player in the league. It was a really good division last year, and you’re adding back in a Hall of Fame quarterback.

As far as the Bears, there’s going to be questions where the organization is going. It’s been seven years since they were in the playoffs. I think they certainly got the coach hire right. This is a guy who I know other organizations liked quite a bit and was going to be a head coach sooner or later.

And I think he matches up well with Mitch. I think the Bears are in a good spot, but as you said, they’re competing in a difficult environment, so it may not show up in their record.

Moon: A lot of love for the Vikings after they get to the NFC Championship and then add Kirk Cousins.

Breer: A lot of people look at Minnesota and think Kirk Cousins’ll be a huge improvement. And maybe he will be. I think he’s a very good quarterback, top dozen in the league. But Case Keenum played really, really well last year, so it wasn’t like they weren’t getting anything out of that position last year.

The NFC right now is clearly the strength of the league. If you picked the top 10 teams in the league, you could make a case that seven or eight of them are in the NFC. I think there will be NFC teams that miss the playoffs who could be in the Super Bowl coming out of the AFC. There’s a little bit of an imbalance there.

Moon: Trubisky projects as part of a wave of new quarterbacks league-wide, a sea change in the NFL.

Breer: The interesting thing is that this is probably as stable as the league has been at quarterback in a long time. There’ve been questions where the next great quarterbacks will come from, but I don’t know that there’s a team right now in the NFL like you looked at the Jets or Browns last year, where you say that team is definitely drafting a quarterback in 2019.

Everyone either has a big-money veteran or former first-round pick on their roster. One team that doesn’t is the Cowboys, but they’ve got Dak Prescott who’s played really well. Every team in the league has some stability at the position. I think the position is as healthy as it’s been in a long time, and you’ve got a lot of good young prospects.

A significant first practice goes well for three Bears critical to 2018 success

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USA TODAY

A significant first practice goes well for three Bears critical to 2018 success

BOURBONNAIS, Ill. — It’s a major Bears story until it isn’t, and in Friday's first practice of training camp ’18, the story was that Leonard Floyd, Kyle Long and Allen Robinson weren’t the story. 

Not even the weather was a story, as coach Matt Nagy continued the two-hour practice without interruption despite repeated torrential downpours. Whether this represented a soggy, wet chapter of Nagy’s campaign of physical practices and getting his team “calloused” is a question, but “It's just a part of what we wanted to do,” Nagy said, with a bit of a smile. “We weren't going inside. We were coming outside unless that (lightning/tornado) horn went off. So it was a good day. The guys fought through it.”

Getting through it was of franchise-grade import for three linchpins coming off significant injuries that cost them all or part of their 2017 seasons. All had been largely held out of minicamps and training camps, making Friday a de facto shakedown cruise for three players the Bears need at the elite levels projected for them.

Floyd practiced without the large brace he’d worn during minicamp work and which he admitted was an impediment to performance. Bears medical and training staff and Floyd have been pointing to this moment as the first step toward full health for the regular season.

“I basically, this whole offseason, I've been working on getting my leg right,” Floyd said on Friday. “I’m not really looking into who's playing where. I've been looking to get back healthy. ... Yeah, I'm able to go full force.”

Floyd’s pursuit speed was noteworthy as he ran down several offensive players with the football.

Players were not in pads, but Robinson similarly flashed, at one point making a difficult catch of a ball slightly behind him as he was tumbling to the ground. If he was holding anything back, it was not apparent in his cuts, routes and runs after catches.

“I feel great,” Robinson said. “It's been a process that we've taken a little bit slower, but I think that was for the best. It just was all about getting me ready for this time right here, so I feel great. I feel 100 percent.”

Long has been buffeted by injuries requiring surgeries over the past two years. The setbacks have taken him down from the Pro Bowl level at which he played his first three seasons.

But he turns 30 in December and is entering his sixth NFL season having missed 14 games the past two years after just one the first three.

“I’m feeling great,” Long said. “It’s really a lot of fun to get out here with my teammates and start camp without any limitations and be able to contribute from Day 1. It feels good. I spent a lot of time with our training staff. I got to know Andre Tucker really well, our new head trainer. He has done a tremendous job.

“You know, it’s Day 1 and I was out there at practice, and I got to hit other guys, and that was fun. I don’t look much into psychological hurdles. But a physical hurdle? Yes, it was. I had a lot going on this offseason. I’m just really happy to be out here.”

All was not good news physically for the Bears as inside linebacker Danny Trevathan and cornerback/special teamer Sherrick McManis were held out of practice after hamstring issues surfaced in their pre-camp physicals. Nagy said neither was considered serious but gave no timetable for their returns.