Bears

How the Bears pulled off that awesome fake punt against the Minnesota Vikings

How the Bears pulled off that awesome fake punt against the Minnesota Vikings

Adrian Amos scanned the 11 Minnesota Vikings players in front of him and rubbed the front of his jersey with both of his hands. That was the sign: It’s go time. 

Amos knew the play would work — “if I wasn’t 100 percent confident I wouldn’t have called it,” he said. The Bears practiced it all week after special teams coordinator Jeff Rodgers picked up something while watching film of the Vikings’ punt return team. The middle of the field would open up if the Minnesota was in a certain punt return look, and that’s the one Amos saw. 

It wasn’t clear the play would work, though, the first couple times the Bears ran it in practice. It was “a little shaky,” linebacker Christian Jones said, on the practice fields at Halas Hall this week. But punter Pat O’Donnell and running back Benny Cunningham practiced the throw and catch a few extra times during Sunday’s walkthrough, which Cunningham said not only built confidence in the two of them but in the rest of the team that the play could be successful. 

So when O’Donnell got the ball, his calm toss to Cunningham looked more at home during an idle break at a backyard barbecue than in a nationally-televised Monday night football game. 

“Great throw,” Cunningham said. “Great throw.”

O’Donnell was a little more self-deprecating: “10-yard little dump pass, it’s easy, right? You could do it,” he said. 

Cunningham had a certain first down ahead of him, but he didn’t want to settle for just that, not with the Bears trailing, 10-2, at the time. The veteran running back dodged two tackles to get in the end zone for a 38-yard touchdown that, through five games, is the Bears’ longest passing play of the season. 

“They kind of teased me throughout the week, saying I had to make (returner Marcus Sherels) miss,” Cunningham said. “So it just felt good to make him miss and get in the end zone and make that play and not have to go in to the film room knowing I let him tackle me.”

Cunningham’s touchdown, had the Bears’ won, would’ve been viewed as the turning point in Monday night’s game. But even in a defeat, that the play worked so well is worth highlighting. 

“We were excited to do it,” Amos said. “On the punt team, you’re always excited to do a little something to change it up. It was a big moment in the game.” 

Postcard from Bears camp: Not a great Mitch Trubisky day but another good one for rookie CB, plus Peter King’s look at the ’18 Bears

Postcard from Bears camp: Not a great Mitch Trubisky day but another good one for rookie CB, plus Peter King’s look at the ’18 Bears

 BOURBONNAIS, Ill. – Dear Tolliver clan:
 
I think most of you were there at practice today in your “Toliver II 33” T-shirts, including the three little guys in their “K. T. II Cousin” T’s. That’s pretty amazing support for an undrafted rookie free agent cornerback out of LSU, so you know I just had to intercept another pass for you guys, after the two yesterday. This one was off Tyler Bray throwing a ball to Anthony Miller, a rookie wide receiver who’s playing like anything but a rookie. Miller has amazing speed and is catching balls all over the field and having fun with the crowd. He stopped short of the end zone after one long catch, fans started yelling for him to score, so he backtracked fast and broke the plane of the goal line. Fans loved it.
 
Anthony made a diving catch 45 yards downfield off a throw from Chase Daniel (I won’t say against whom) and Mitch Trubisky and I think half the offense sprinted downfield to give him high-fives. Lotta energy on that side of the football. 
 
And we had some great defensive moments, too. Prince Amukamara broke and nearly intercepted at Mitch pass to Kevin White, and Bryce Callahan broke up one to Josh Bellamy one play later.
 
Meanwhile, the fans loved just about everything, this being the first practice the public could watch. They were even cheering completions in drills, especially Tarik Cohen, who seems like everybody’s favorite. They loved it (and so did the players) when tight ends coach Kevin Gilbride was up tight on guys to simulate press coverage and got faked right off his feet by Trey Burton working his release. But it was all in good fun, and Trey is a tough cover for us DB’s, let alone a coach.
 
Speaking of “coach,” coach Nagy said some nice things about me after practice, saying I’d flashed a few times and gotten turnovers, and “we stressed takeaways on defense and having interceptions is important. [Kevin’s] done that now the last couple of days. Kevin’s a big kid. He’s a tall, rangy, lengthy corner that really almost looks like a safety. So for him to be able to move around out here, it’s about getting confidence. So any time he gets some interceptions, you’re going to build confidence.”
 
Coach Nagy said he needs to see me do it in pads, and we go in pads tomorrow for the first time. The hitting’ll really start then.
 
[signed] Your favorite family cornerback,
 
Kevin

 
Wanted: QB accuracy
 
Improving on the 59.4-percent completion rate he posted as a rookie was a prime directive for quarterback Mitch Trubisky, but Saturday’s session was not a step in the right direction. Trubisky completed less than half of his throws in two 7-on-7 sessions that normally favor the quarterback and receiver. His accuracy rate was no better in the first full-team session but in the second he completed eight of 10, two for touchdowns.
 
Whether the issues were throwing accuracy, route-running or combination of elements wasn’t easily apparent, and coach Matt Nagy did not seem concerned.
 
“There’s going to be a lot of mistakes made out here; that’s what training camp’s all about,” Nagy said.
 
*                          *                          *
Sick bay
 
Guard Kyle Long, coming back from multiple surgeries, was given the first of his scheduled days off on Saturday. Veteran Earl Watford stepped in at right guard. Linebacker Danny Trevathan remained out with a hamstring issue, as did cornerback Sherrick McManis.
 
More concerning was the absence of outside linebacker Aaron Lynch, who injured a hamstring in Friday’s relatively light practice. It marked the third time this offseason that Lynch has been sidelined with injuries, following ankle and hamstring problems through OTA’s and minicamp.
 
*                          *                          *
 
It could happen….
 
Legendary NFL writer Peter King, who joined NBC Sports full time this year after nearly 30 years with Sports Illustrated, dropped by training camp as part of his annual “North American tour” and sat down for chats with this writer, which was a chance to recall some good times and stories as far back as Platteville. Peter and I did a little podcast that includes some Brian Urlacher, Mike Ditka and other tales, as well as Peter’s assessment of the Bears’ situation.
 
Interestingly, Peter does not rule out a season with as many as 10 W’s, despite being in one of the NFL’s toughest divisions with a first-year combination of coach-quarterback-system.
 
It could happen…..
 

 

Training Camp Daily: Peter King Talks Bears Upside

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USA TODAY

Training Camp Daily: Peter King Talks Bears Upside

Training camp Daily: Peter King joins the Under Center Podcast on Day 2 of practice in Bourbonnais. King and John "Moon" Mullin talk Trubisky year 2, Trubisky comparison, Bears upside this season and Urlacher's Hall of Fame Induction.

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded link below: