Bears

Death of former Bears RB Cedric Benson a blow – and a reminder

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AP Images

Death of former Bears RB Cedric Benson a blow – and a reminder

Getting the news that Cedric Benson had died last night in a motorcycle accident was a blow on Sunday. The former Bears running back and a passenger were killed when the bike they were riding collided with a minivan in Austin, Tex. As former Bears defensive end and Benson teammate Adewale Ogunleye tweeted Sunday, “What the hell is going on? The Bad news wont stop.”

Personally, this sort of thing hits hard. The passing of receivers coach Darryl Drake last week, former 1994 first-rounder John Thierry dying last November – of a heart attack at age 46 – Rashaan Salaam committing suicide in December 2016, and now Ced. That’s too many good dying young.

And yet even as the Benson news was sinking in, Bears beat colleague Rich Campbell over at the Tribune was celebrating the birth of his daughter. Not sure why that seems so striking, maybe just something about the circle of life, or just how there’s a spot of sunshine somewhere. 

As in so many of these things, the Ced death sparks memories, and in this case, good ones. Which may seem a bit unlikely, since Ced was one of the least popular Bears during his three (2005-2007) years after the organization made him the fourth-overall pick of that 2005 draft.

But things are not always as they seem.

Benson went through a 36-day holdout before reporting to the team, missing just about all of the 2005 training camp and preseason. When he arrived, the locker room seemed pretty set against him, for various reasons:

He was drafted as the replacement for Thomas Jones, the very popular tailback who’d been signed in the 2004 offseason but who failed to impress in the first year of a four-year, $10 million contract. He and Jones did not get along, coming to blows in one practice, and teammates were clearly Jones supporters.

But Jones had zero 1,000-yard years over his first five seasons; beginning with ’05 and the arrival of Benson, he went on a run of five straight seasons of no fewer than 1,100 yards, two with the Bears followed by three with the New York Jets after he engineered a trade to get out of Chicago.

And Ced was just…different. But to this reporter, different in good ways. He was very thoughtful; more than a few times, he’d have a question posed to him, then take an unusually long time before answering. But he was simply a thoughtful guy.

Case in point: I did a lunchtime sit-down with Ced outside the Olivet Nazarene mess hall during the 2006 training camp in Bourbonnais. To one of my questions, Ced said, “Hmm, that’s an interesting question. Let me get back to you about that one.”

Much later that afternoon, after a brutal, full-pad practice, I was walking away from the fields. Ced came running over, still in pads. “Hey,” he said. “I was thinking about what what we were talking about… .” And he had. And he also was honest about getting back to me. Yeah, I liked the guy.

The Bears let him go after a disappointing 2007 season and he caught on with the Cincinnati Bengals the next year. In 2009 the Bears went to Cincinnati and were annihilated 45-10, putting 215 rushing yards on a very good Bears defense and Benson accounting for 189 of those yards.

Afterwards I was able catch Ced before he left, and I was stunned to see how good he looked physically. He laughed at my surprise, then talked a long time about how he’d discovered a severe gluten intolerance. With that fixed, his complexion cleared up and he wasn’t dealing with the intestinal issues that any gluten-challenged fan out there knows too well. Anyhow, it was great to see a young man moving on to some sort of career, which included that year and the next two with more than 1,000 yards.

That it didn’t happen for him in Chicago was always a little puzzling. He was a phenomenal athlete, good enough to be drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers as an outfielder and play in their summer league.

He was a very, very emotional guy; at Halas Hall Sunday it was recalled how he’d cried during his conference call with the media following his drafting by the Bears. And he had his problem situations off the field, and he was waived in the 2008 offseason after a couple of arrests involving suspected alcohol abuse.

Those are probably the things too many people will remember about Ced. Too bad. There was much more to the young man. And as was said before, things — and people — are not always everything they seem to be. Under that heading I’d include Thomas Jones’ tweet on Sunday. From a supposed “enemy:”

“Woke up to the horrible news of Cedric Benson's passing,” Jones said. “My heart aches for him and his family. Sending love, peace and blessings their way. Gone way too soon my brother. Rest well young King. You will truly be missed…. “

Rams 17, Bears 7: Whose arrows are up and down after Bears loss to Rams

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USA TODAY

Rams 17, Bears 7: Whose arrows are up and down after Bears loss to Rams

LOS ANGELES — It’s good news that, generally speaking, Bears’ losses this season are already being met with apathy, because this particular one, being played in front of a national audience, was hard to watch. The Bears had more first downs than the Rams, ran over 20 more offensive plays, and scored once in a 17-7 loss. In case you did something else – literally anything else – with your night, all you need to know is that the game ended with a presumably-healthy, cap-wearing Mitch Trubisky watching the Bears’ final three minutes from the sideline. Here’s where the arrows are pointing on one of the bleaker nights of the Bears’ 2019 season:

ARROW DOWN – Mitch Trubisky 

Yeah. 

ARROW DOWN – Eddy Pineiro 

The Denver game feels like it happened in a different universe at this point. It’s hard to defend multiple first half misses when you’re kicking in 80 degree weather without even a slight breeze. Pineiro hooked his first attempt, from 48, wide left. He then proceeded to miss the next one, from 47, to the right. The latter was clearly the end of his leash, as Nagy would proceed to either go for it on 4th down or punt any time the Bears would get into Rams’ territory for the rest of the half.

Pineiro's now 12-for-17 on the season, and even though field goal percentage is down across the league, his job doesn’t really feel all that safe anymore. Everyone around Halas Hall has loved how the kicker bounces back after tough misses, but at a certain point it’s less about perseverance and more about making kicks. 

ARROW UP – Roquan Smith 

Sunday was Smith’s best game in 2019 and it’s not close. The second-year linebacker started things off with the easiest interception of his life in the first quarter: 

It was his second career interception, with both coming off Goff. Stop throwing Roquan the ball, Jared! Smith hasn’t had the year that many expected after a strong training camp, but he certainly played like the 8th overall pick on Sunday night. With Danny Trevathan’s status (somewhat curiously) remaining up in the air, games like that from Smith are all the more vital as the Bears try and find a way back into the playoff picture. 

ARROW DOWN – Khalil Mack 

It’s never quite Mack’s fault when he shows up on this list, but he was quiet again on Sunday again (though so was Aaron Donald, for what it's worth). Here’s all you need to know: 

ARROW DOWN – The WR Group 

A bad night all around. Allen Robinson? Four catches for 15 yards; Jalen Ramsey is a stud. Taylor Gabriel? Seven for 57. Anthony Miller had six catches for 54 yards and was directly involved in the Rams’ only interception of the night. They all had at least one drop, too. Even Cordarrelle Patterson –who doesn’t really play on offense anymore and certainly not as a wide receiver – cost the Bears 15 yards on a punt with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after taking his helmet off on the field.

Patterson almost cost them again when he ran into a Rams’ punt returner late in the third quarter, but the flag was called off. There were a half-dozen times on Sunday when it seemed like the Bears’ wideouts weren’t running the routes that Trubisky thought they would. 

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Three takeaways: Did the Bears just bench Mitch Trubisky?

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USA TODAY

Three takeaways: Did the Bears just bench Mitch Trubisky?

LOS ANGELES -- Immediate reaction from the Bears' 17-7 loss to the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday night:

The quarterback change happened…maybe.

Mitch Trubisky completed seven of nine passes and flipped a well-placed throw to Tarik Cohen for a touchdown on the Bears’ first drive of the second half, bringing the score to 10-7 in favor of the Rams.

The Bears’ defense forced four consecutive punts after that touchdown, including three three-and-outs. The Bears’ offense did not deliver at all, gaining 30 yards on their next 14 plays and punting four times.

And then, Chase Daniel led the Bears’ offense back on the field after the Rams opened up a 17-7 lead. The Bears announced Trubisky had a hip injury, so they can say the 2017 No. 2 overall pick was not benched.

Trubisky, though, was seen on the sidelines in a baseball cap and did not appear to be taken into the blue medical tent on the Bears’ sideline. We’ll have plenty of questions for coach Matt Nagy after the game about why the change was made, because before the Bears announced Trubisky’s injury, it looked like a move of desperation to save a season on life support.

The Bears’ season is effectively over, though, with a 4-6 record too much to overcome for a football team that might just be lucky to finish with seven wins in 2019. If the Bears were to bench Trubisky, it would be because both coach and team lost faith in their quarterback, who did have some good moments on Sunday, for what it’s worth (but still wasn’t anything special).

Plenty more to come on this. But to more takeaways:

Roquan Smith was at his best

The Bears did not place Danny Trevathan on injured reserve this week, indicating team and player believe the veteran inside linebacker has a chance of returning at some point during the regular season. But the Bears can expect to be without Trevathan for a little while, which made Roquan Smith’s performance on Sunday all that more important.

Smith played his best game of 2019 and has been building to this for a few weeks. He picked off Jared Goff in the first quarter and stopped Todd Gurley twice on third and short carries, leading to the Rams punting. The physicality and sideline to sideline speed that led the Bears to pick Smith with the eighth overall pick in 2018’s draft was more than evident.

Smith has played better as he’s got farther and farther from his mysterious absence in Week 4. If this Bears’ defense is able to hold together over the rest of the season — without Trevathan and Akiem Hicks for most, if not all, of it — it’s going to need players like Smith to continue playing at a high level.

Eddie Jackson, it should be noted, had one of his better games of 2019 on Sunday as well.

Kicking tryouts, anyone?

Eddy Pineiro missed kicks from 47 and 48 yards in the first half, leaving six points on the board and dooming the Bears to a scoreless first 30 minutes. Matt Nagy looked like he lost confidence in his kicker — again — in going for it on fourth-and-long deep in Rams territory in between those misses (Trubisky threw an incomplete pass).

Pineiro is now 12 of 17 this season and is two months removed from his game-winning kick in Denver. He missed a PAT last week, too.

The Bears should take a look at a few kickers this week at Halas Hall, but at this point — with the 2019 season devoid of hope — maybe seeing if Pineiro can work through his recent rough patch isn’t the worst idea. After all, if not — or if he were to be cut this week — the Bears still would have a kicking problem in 2020.

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