Bears

Jordan Howard, Tarik Cohen ranked 4th-best RB committee in NFL

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USA Today

Jordan Howard, Tarik Cohen ranked 4th-best RB committee in NFL

Chicago Bears running back Jordan Howard is the only player in team history to start his career with back-to-back 1,000-yard-rushing seasons. His rookie year produced a team record 1,313 yards for a first-year player.

His backfield-mate, Tarik Cohen, dazzled fans as a rookie with highlight-reel plays as a runner, receiver and return man and is expected to have an even bigger role as an offensive weapon in 2018.

Defenses will be challenged on every down this season, regardless of which running back is in the game. Both players are capable of shouldering starter's responsibilities and as a result, they were ranked the fourth-best running back committee in the NFL by NFL.com's Bucky Brooks.

For a team that won just five games in 2017, the Bears have plenty of reasons for optimism heading into the new season. And a lot of the positive vibes spawn from this 1-2 backfield punch, which gave opponents fits last fall. Howard has eclipsed 1,000 yards rushing in each of his first two NFL seasons, exhibiting a one-cut running style that is ideally suited for rugged runs between the tackles. Cohen is a 5-6, 181-pound jitterbug with explosive stop-start quickness and wiggle. He routinely makes defenders miss in tight quarters and is nearly impossible to snag in the open field. As a designated receiver out of the backfield, Cohen exhibits Darren Sproles-like playmaking ability, but he is more polished and refined as a pass catcher. Considering Matt Nagy's experience working with versatile playmakers in Kansas City, the Bears' backfield could be a treat to watch in 2018.

There have been questions surrounding Howard since early in the offseason when he was rumored to be on the trade block. There was no apparent truth to the trade speculation but concerns over how Howard will fit in coach Matt Nagy's system have remained. Mainly, there are doubts about his ability to be an effective receiver out of the backfield, a trait that appears to be a prerequisite for playing time under Nagy.

Naturally, Cohen would seem like a better fit because of his well-rounded game. The only problem, however, is his size. At 5-6 and 181 pounds, he hardly presents as a full-time starter. As a result, they should both find a path to the field and have the opportunity to produce. Add in the new weapons at wide receiver and the modern-era passing attack being installed by Nagy, and the Bears' ground game could reach new heights in 2018.

As for who ends up the primary ball-carrier this season? Nagy hinted that game situation will dictate who's in the backfield, but Howard should continue doing the dirty work between the tackles. It's safe to assume he'll get the lion's share of the carries, but expect Cohen to have a lot more touches in his second season as a receiver and package player.

Lack of flags another reason why the Bears’ defense is the NFL’s best

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USA Today Sports Images

Lack of flags another reason why the Bears’ defense is the NFL’s best

A thought here after watching Thursday night’s Chargers-Chiefs tilt, which featured eight flags for either defensive pass interference or defensive holding...

As the NFL makes it harder for defensive players to play defense (and as TV ratings go up), the Bears are one of the cleanest teams when it comes to their opponents’ passing game. They rank second among teams with only eight combined defensive holding and defensive pass interference penalties: 

1. Dallas (5)
2. Chicago (8)
3. Oakland (10)
4. Tennessee, Los Angeles Chargers (11)
6. Arizona, Indianapolis (12)
8. Carolina, Cleveland, Green Bay, Jacksonville, Houston, Philadelphia (13)
14. Cincinnati, New York Jets, Seattle, Tampa Bay (14)
18. Baltimore, Pittsburgh (15)
20. Los Angeles Rams (16)
21. Buffalo, Minnesota, New England (17)
24. Denver, Detroit, New York Giants, San Francisco (18)
29. Atlanta, Miami (20)
31. New Orleans (23)
32. Kansas City (36)

The Chargers entered Thursday night’s game tied with the Bears with eight holding/pass interference penalties, but where whistled for three during the game — and not all were clear fouls, either. And that kind of stuff can be annoying for defensive players around the league to see. 

“100 percent,” Bears safety Eddie Jackson said. “.. .I’ve seen some things, I’m like come on, man. But there’s some things you can’t control. Control what you can control, and that’s go out there and play ball and to the best of your ability try not to hold or get a flag for pass interference called on you.”

Jackson credited four members of the coaching staff with the Bears’ ability to avoid holding/interference penalties: Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, defensive backs coach Ed Donatell, assistant defensive backs coach Roy Anderson and quality control assistant Sean Desai. From teaching proper technique for being told what to watch out for, this is a well-coached group. Only cornerback Prince Amukamara — who’s usually in press coverage, subjecting him to the most contact — has been whistled for multiple interference or holding flags this year (he actually has half the Bears’ total, with four). 

“It’s a combination of both (coaching and technique) I would say,” coach Matt Nagy said. “The players, technique-wise is a big part of it. You’ve got to be really disciplined in that area. And then I think the other part of it is with the coaching is making sure that they’re watching to make sure to see where they’re at with it. So far, to have that, you want that overall as a team to be the least penalized, specifically in that area, that’s always a good thing.”

Consider it another feather in the cap of the league’s best defense: Even when passing-oriented rule changes and tweaks supposedly make it harder to play defense, the Bears largely haven’t suffered for it. 

“It’s more difficult for the referees, too,” Nagy said. “It’s difficult for them. It’s difficult for the players. There’s some subjectiveness to it. But you gotta try to not be too grabby.”  

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Bears and stream the ‘Football Aftershow’ easily on your device.

Bears vs. Packers, Week 15: How to watch, listen and stream

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USA TODAY

Bears vs. Packers, Week 15: How to watch, listen and stream

The Bears have their shot at redemption with the Green Bay Packers coming to town on Sunday. Chicago should be plenty motivated to avenge their devastating Week 1 loss, especially with the two teams trending in opposite directions this season.

Here’s how you can tune in to the game:

Game Information

Green Bay Packers (5-7-1) at Chicago Bears (9-4)

12:00 pm. CT, Sunday, December 16

Soldier Field, Chicago

Television

NFL on FOX
Announcers: Chris Myers and Daryl Johnston

Stream
Watch live with fuboTV — Try free trial

Football Aftershow on NBC Sports Chicago

Radio

WBBM 780 (Chicago)

Satellite Radio

Bears feed: XM 227

Packers feed: XM 383

Coverage on NBC Sports Chicago

"The Warm Up” — 15 minutes prior to every Bears game this season, host Laurence Holmes, along with analysts Lance Briggs, Alex Brown, Matt Forte, will hold a special Facebook Live segment on NBC Sports Chicago’s official Facebook page — offering a game day preview featuring their expert commentary and predictions, plus - Bears fans will have also an opportunity to have their questions answered by submitting their game day inquiries via the “comments” section on the live stream.

“3rd Quarter Sidecast” — At the start of the third quarter of every Bears game this season, fans will also be able to interact with the Football Aftershow crew via Facebook Live (Facebook.com/NBCSChicago) as they watch and react to the first few series of the second half.

In addition, the “3rd Quarter Sidecast” will also feature more fan interaction as fans can post their thoughts and ask their questions to Briggs, Brown, and Forte.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Bears and stream the ‘Football Aftershow’ easily on your device.