Bears

Bears-Vikings preview: Bears ball

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Bears-Vikings preview: Bears ball

In the Rollerdome get ahead and stay there
Perhaps more so in this game than any other this season, if the Bears fall behind against the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, more than just their quarterback could be in true jeopardy.
The reasons are compounded.
First, the overall: The Bears in general are not a team with the passing offense to play well from behind. They are 14-45 under coach Lovie Smith when trailing at halftime and a dismal 1-9 over the past two seasons, and just 2-10 when trailing after three quarters.
Jay Cutler has not played well from behind over his career. His 134.9 fourth-quarter passer rating is the NFLs best, but has involved just three from-behind games all year (Green Bay, Carolina, Seattle) and he has fewer career fourth-quarter comeback wins than Eli Manning had last season alone.
Cutler connected with Brandon Marshall for a 56-yard completion to set up a tying field goal at the end of regulation. But in two previous possessions, with chances to put the game away, the offense had first-and-10s at the Seattle 48 and 44 and failed to get even a field goal try.
Sounding off
The issue this Sunday, however, is that the Bears are not against the Panthers or Seahawks in Soldier Field. They are in the Metrodome where they allowed seven sacks, 3.5 by defensive end Jared Allen, in a Week 17 win last year.
Minnesota, a dome, its going to be loud, Cutler said. Jared Allens a little bit of a different player in that dome compared to Soldier Field. A lot to deal with, a good team, very similar to our defense. Its going to be a challenge.
It will be a particular challenge for the offensive line, which is playing its first road game with three starters changed from the last time the Bears saw the Vikings.
Left tackle JMarcus Webb is still the spotlighted figure because of his assignment to neutralize Allen. That was accomplished in the first Minnesota game by scheme as well as personnel.
Were going to try to mix it up, offensive coordinator Mike Tice said. Different Minnesota defense at home on that field turf with that crowd noise, and we just have to make sure that were smart about the calls and how were helping JMarcus out.
Matchup styles
Tices plan, as it was in the Bears 28-10 win two weeks ago, is to run at defensive ends Allen and Brian Robison as a means of slowing the pass rush. The Bears are 30th in sacks allowed per pass play but 10th in rush yards per game. The Vikings are 16th in sack percentage and Allen and Robison have a combined 14 on the season.
Minnesota had just one sack in the first game when the Bears averaged a very modest 2.9 yards per carry but ran 39 times vs. 32 pass plays.
Weve got to be able to run the ball efficiently like we did last time; keep ourselves in manageable third downs, said offensive coordinator Mike Tice. I think thats the key to the game.
Indeed, with Gabe Carimi and Edwin Williams at guard and Jonathan Scott at right tackle, the Bears have three players still learning each other. Carimi is a converted right tackle, Scott is the right tackle, and they work well together on combination blocks, a key in the run game.
A Marshall Plan?
Marshall caught tied his season high with 12 catches against the Vikings, for 92 yards. Notably perhaps, his average of 7.7 yards per reception was more than three yards less than his previous low. The Vikings were not going to let Marshall beat them deep and he had no catch longer than 17 yards. Only against Green Bay (14) and San Francisco (13) was he held to that short a long. Both of those games were Bears losses.
The Minnesota plan was not necessarily to let him make catches but to hit him very hard when he did.
The thing that stood out the most to me when we played them two weeks ago was, as soon as you catch the ball, they are right on you, Marshall said. Those guys are rallying to the ball, they play together and theyll hit you. You have to be tough out there, especially against that secondary because theyre an aggressive group and theres not a lot of separation out there.
Its going to be another grinder I think.

Roquan Smith helps shear a sheep at Bears community event

Roquan Smith helps shear a sheep at Bears community event

Roquan Smith has more sheared sheep than tackles on his stat sheet as a pro football player.

Smith and several other Bears rookies participated in a hands-on community event at Lambs Farm in Libertyville, Illinois on Monday where he assisted farm staff with the sheep's grooming. Smith said it was a first for him despite growing up around animals. 

"It's like on the norm for me though, playing linebacker you're in the trenches," Smith said of the experience.

"Shaving a sheep, I never really envisioned myself doing something like that," Smith said via ChicagoBears.com. "I was around animals [growing up], but it was more so cows and goats here and there and dogs and cats. I've petted a sheep before, but never actually flipped one and shaved one."

Bears rookies got up close and personal with more than just sheep.

Smith was selected with the eighth overall pick in April's draft and will assume a starting role opposite Danny Trevathan at inside linebacker this season. Here's to hoping he can wrangle opposing ball-carriers like a sheep waiting to be sheared.

The Bears' defense is ahead of its offense, but Matt Nagy doesn't see that as a problem

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USA Today Sports Images

The Bears' defense is ahead of its offense, but Matt Nagy doesn't see that as a problem

Asking players about how the defense is “ahead” of the offense is a yearly right of passage during OTAs, sort of like how every baseball team has about half its players saying they’re in the best shape of their life during spring training. So that Vic Fangio’s defense is ahead of Matt Nagy’s offense right now isn’t surprising, and it's certainly not concerning. 

But Nagy is also working to install his offense right now during OTAs to build a foundation for training camp. So does the defense — the core of which is returning with plenty of experience in Fangio’s system — being ahead of the offense hurt those efforts?

“It’s actually good for us because we’re getting an experienced defense,” Nagy said. “My message to the team on the offensive side is just be patient and don’t get frustrated. They understand that they’re going to play a little bit faster than us right now. We’ll have some growing pains, but we’ll get back to square one in training camp.”

We’ll have a chance to hear from the Bears’ offensive players following Wednesday’s practice, but for now, the guys on Fangio’s defense have come away impressed with that Nagy’s offense can be. 

“The offense is a lot … just very tough,” cornerback Prince Amukamara said. “They’re moving well. They’re faster. They’re throwing a lot of different looks at us and that’s just Nagy’s offense. If I was a receiver I would love to play in this offense, just because you get to do so many different things and you get so many different plays. It just looks fun over there.”

“They’re moving together, and I like to see that,” linebacker Danny Trevathan said. “We’re not a bad defense. They’re practicing against us, so they’re getting better every day, and vice versa. It’s a daily grind. It’s going to be tough, but those guys, they got the right pieces. I like what I see out there. When somebody makes a play, they’re gone. Everybody can run over there. It’s the right fit for Mitch, it’s the right fit for the receivers, the running backs.”

Still, for all the praise above, the defense is “winning” more, at least as much as it can without the pads on. But the offense is still having some flashes, even as it collectively learns the terminology, concepts and formations used by Nagy. 

And that leads to a competitive atmosphere at Halas Hall, led by the Bears’ new head coach. 

“He’s an offensive coach and last year coach (John) Fox, I couldn’t really talk stuff to (him) because he’s a defensive coach and it’s like Nagy’s offense so if I get a pick or something, I mean, I like to talk stuff to him,” Amukamara said. “He’ll say something like ‘we’re coming at you 2-0.’ Stuff like that. That just brings out the competition and you always want that in your head coach.”