Bears

The Bears didn't make a move at the trade deadline, but they did make a statement

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USA TODAY

The Bears didn't make a move at the trade deadline, but they did make a statement

The NFL trading deadline came and went on Tuesday with a flurry of significant activity. Not all of it squared with apparent in-season situations, however, while the Bears were making a quiet statement or two of their own along the extended trading way.

Surveying what did and didn’t go down around the NFL and what some of it suggests.

Earlier this year the Bears took the temperature of the situation with the New England Patriots and Jimmy Garoppolo. They weren’t interested in the Patriots’ price (a first-round pick and more) for the backup quarterback and sat out the final notes of that dance as Garoppolo went to San Francisco on Tuesday for a second-round pick. (The Bears also had made inquiries about Kirk Cousins, just to put this sort of thing in context. Due diligence means at least asking.)

Teams reportedly had interest on Tuesday in trading for Josh Sitton. The Pro Bowl guard remains a Bear, though, with the organization clearly not inclined to weaken the already injury-laced palace guard for quarterback Mitch Trubisky – the biggest reason why GM Ryan Pace didn’t gut his draft arsenal to bring in Garoppolo.

What the Bears did do, however, was trade for depth at wide receiver last week, giving up a conditional late-round pick for Dontrelle Inman. Not the marquee addition that standout Panthers wideout Kelvin Benjamin was for the Buffalo Bills, who gave up a No. 3 and No. 7 in the 2018 draft for a de facto No. 1 receiver.

The Bears at 3-5 project to have a higher draft slot in 2018 than the Bills, who stand 5-2 and are ramping up for a run at the Patriots this year, not next. So why didn’t the Bears make that same offer to Buffalo?

Probably a handful of reasons. For one, Benjamin is due nearly $8.5 million in 2018, the final year of his rookie deal, after which he will be up for a major long-term one. For another, the Bears privately expect to have Cam Meredith and Kevin White back from injuries in 2018, however problematic that hope might be, and had already mentioned an extension for Meredith, a restricted free agent after this season. For a third, Pace already has traded for Inman, invested in Markus Wheaton, faces a decision on Kendall Wright and is expected to draft a receiver next April.

The Seattle Seahawks enhanced Russell Wilson’s protective shield with a deal for Houston left tackle Duane Brown, giving the Texans two draft choices. Those picks were a No. 3 next year and a No. 2 in 2019. Again, the same draft offer from the Bears could have been more enticing, given that the Seahawks project to be picking later than the Bears at this point. But the Bears extended left tackle Charles Leno, who is at left because he didn’t work at right at all when the Bears tried him there. And Brown is 32, due $9.75 million in 2018 and held out for a new contract this year.

Perhaps most notable was any Sitton deal that didn’t happen. The Bears may be rebuilding (EVERY team is rebuilding every year; the only questions are how extensively and what areas), but they were not dumping veterans just to clear cap space or acquire draft picks.

A win-now mindset may be a stretch. But if the Bears undertook the organizational-quitting that multiple MLB teams do every year when the World Series is deemed beyond them, John Fox might as well pack now. And siphoning off any of what talent there is around Trubisky only puts the franchise quarterback at increased physical risk.

The Bears didn’t do that.

Eddy Pineiro's mental edge is exactly what the Bears need

Eddy Pineiro's mental edge is exactly what the Bears need

Back when the Bears traded for Eddy Pineiro on May 6 — following that nine-kicker rookie minicamp circus — his old kicking coach offered some analysis that now looks particularly prescient.

“He. Is. The. Man,” kicking coach Brandon Kornblue texted NBC Sports Chicago. “He has the mental edge. Not afraid of anything.

“I think he is perfect for this situation.”

Four months later, Pineiro drilled a game-winning 53-yard field goal against the Denver Broncos. He won the team’s kicking competition, then won a game. This is the outcome the Bears hoped they’d realize though all the 43-yard tries and Augusta silences and dealer’s choices in the spring and summer. 

But beyond just making the kick, what stood out is how badly Pineiro wanted the ball on his foot to end the game. 

“I was praying on the sidelines that I was able to get that moment,” Pineiro said. “I was like please, God, give me this opportunity, I want to get in this spotlight to make this happen for the team.”

Mental edge. Not afraid of anything. Perfect for the situation. 

The stakes of Pineiro’s kick were massive — maybe not as dire as John Fox might’ve thought — given the discouraging track record of teams that begin a season 0-2. The moment was not too big for him, since it was the exact moment he wanted. 

“I knew I was ready for it,” Pineiro said. “From all the things that I’ve been put through, the Augusta silence, the kickers getting cut left and right, I feel like I was ready for it.”

There’s something to be said for a kicker wanting to be in that moment. It’s easy to get the impression that’s the case with Pineiro; it would’ve been a lot harder to come to that conclusion with Cody Parkey a year ago, even before the double-doink. Parkey missed a game-winning field goal in Week 6 against the Miami Dolphins, then hit the upright four times against the Detroit Lions, and even a week before the playoff game booted a PAT off an upright against the Minnesota Vikings. 

The Bears now know they can trust Pineiro in those kind of moments. Because the next time they need a game-winning kick, they’ll know their guy is not just confident he can do it. He wants the opportunity to have the ball on his foot with time expiring, and wants it badly. 

“He definitely craves the pressure,” offensive lineman Kyle Long said. “And that's something that coach Nagy has talked about for a long time, craving pressure and being in those pressure situations. We’ve been there before, now how do we deliver?”

Pineiro delivered. And the Bears can count on him to deliver again. 

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Bears are road favorites in Week 3 vs. Redskins

Bears are road favorites in Week 3 vs. Redskins

For the second week in a row, the Chicago Bears are road favorites heading into Monday night's showdown with the Washington Redskins.

The Bears were a rare road favorite in Denver for the Broncos' home-opener in Week 2, and are a four-point favorite against the Redskins at FedEx Field Monday.

This point spread represents a decent amount of confidence that Chicago will come away with a win Monday night. Home teams normally get a three-point edge by default, so for oddsmakers to like the Bears by four points suggests it should be a game they win by a touchdown or more.

Whether the Bears can pull off a victory is only part of the story in Week 3. It's already the second game Chicago will play in front of a national television audience, and no player needs a breakout performance worse than Mitch Trubisky. He has to change the narrative that's crystallizing around his career, one that suggests he's a game manager who the Bears win in spite of. He needs a breakthrough game that announces his arrival as a franchise quarterback, and there's no better time to do that than on Monday Night Football.

As for the rest of the NFC North, the Packers are eight-point favorites at home against the Broncos, the Lions are seven-point underdogs on the road against the Eagles and the Vikings are 7.5-point favorites at home against the Raiders.

 

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