Bears

15 on 6: Cutler has a tough challenge vs. Saints

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15 on 6: Cutler has a tough challenge vs. Saints

Saturday, Sept. 17, 2011
Posted: 10:31 a.m.
By Jim Miller
CSNChicago.com

It's never easy facing a team that just got rocked the week prior. That's exactly what happened to the New Orleans Saints defense in their opener against the Green Bay Packers. The Saints defense gave up 42 points. It is not something defensive coordinator Gregg Williams places at the top of his resume when trying to get another head coaching job.

Williams has always been extremely aggressive with multiple looks and blitzes to destroy your pass protections. His goal is to hurt you. Remember his quote before the 2009 Championship game against the Vikings: "Remember my shots." It drew the ire of many that he would say something so brazen when facing Brett Favre, but it's football and he wants every quarterback to remember. He did it to me when I was with the Bears and played a Williams-coached team in the Washington Redskins. I never got hit more consistently than in that game, which we won on the road.

The point is, first and foremost, Jay Cutler has to be tough. He has proven his toughness over and over again even though some questioned it in the NFC Championship game one year ago. Cutler heads to New Orleans knowing he's going to get tagged. It's just a fact of life playing a perturbed Saint defense and Williams.

The Saints will make their corrections and will be much better in Week 2. They will also be prepared for the Bears' screen and draw game utilized Week 1 against the Falcons. A slow running back screen resulted in a 53-yard touchdown to Matt Forte and a wide receiver screen to Devin Hester set up another Bears touchdown. Screens and draws are called to take the heat off the quarterback and slow a defense down. Keep them honest, so to speak. But despite all the screens and draws called by offensive coordinator Mike Martz, Cutler was still sacked five times. Williams is not about to allow Cutler to hit a one-yard pass and have it go the distance for a score. Instead, he will play bump and run coverage forcing Cutler to be accurate passing and throwing down the field.

Blitzes

Cutler was successful late last year against blitzes with no-look passes and signaling routes to his receivers. It is something he successfully politicked to Martz. Remember, Martz is not a big audible guy. He just calls a play for what he expects to see. The issue is, what if he's wrong?

As a quarterback, you would like the ability to put the offense in a better positive play against what you're presented defensively. A happy medium was reached for both with the no look passes allowing Cutler to manipulate bad looks defensively. He must be on point when he takes advantage of these opportunities against the Saints. He can save his body from the aforementioned "remember my shots." It will also stop any leaks in the dyke concerning his offensive line. The Bears' tackles are young. They are not experienced enough to understand all the looks Williams will expose to them. I have a feeling these young Bears tackles are about to get an indoctrination in overload blitzes over the C-gap where offensive tackles are susceptible.

Green Bay executed a "No Huddle" offense early against the Saints. It was very effective in minimizing blitzes and also wore the Saints out. The problem is, it's always difficult to execute a "No Huddle" offense on the road. Communication is always difficult due to crowd noise and the "Dome Patrol" crowd will be in full force at the Louisiana Superdome. I would like the Bears to utilize this option, but Lovie Smith may want to rely on his defense which continues to get turnovers. Coaching wise, Smith will worry about going to the Saints' home and having unforced errors due to communication issues, which are avoidable by simply not putting that option on the table. Remember, the Bears' young offensive tackles have enough to worry about. It is understandable for Smith to put it on Cutler's experience to manage blitzes with the no-look passes. Smith also understands ball control is imperative against the Saints. Huddling takes more time off the clock and minimizes offensive opportunities for Drew Brees.

If Cutler is tough, hits down field throws, manages looks and gets some support from the run game to keep Brees off the field, the Bears will return victors. Easier for me to write than to execute.

Jim Miller, an 11-year former NFL quarterback, is a Comcast SportsNet Bears analyst who can be seen each week on U.S. Cellular Bears Postgame Live. Miller, who spent five seasons with the Bears, analyzes current Chicago QB Jay Cutler in his "15 on 6" blog on CSNChicago.com and can be followed on Twitter @15miller.

Rob Gronkowski 'highly unlikely' to play Sunday against the Bears

Rob Gronkowski 'highly unlikely' to play Sunday against the Bears

Sunday's game against Tom Brady and the Patriots will be a tough test for the Bears, but it looks like they're going to receive a big break.

According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski didn't travel with the Patriots to Chicago and is "highly unlikely" to play Sunday.

Avoiding Gronkowski, who is one of Brady's favorite targets, would be a huge break for the Bears' defense. In six games this season, the tight end has 26 receptions for 405 yards and a touchdown; in 14 games last season, Gronkowski had 69 catches for 1,084 yards and eight touchdowns.

Gronkowski has not officially been ruled out yet, though time is running out for the Patriots to make a decision.

Meanwhile, Khalil Mack appears set to play Sunday despite dealing with an ankle injury. Between having Mack on the field and Gronkowski off of it, good news keeps coming for the Bears' defense.

Final thoughts: Cody Parkey quickly moves on from missed game-winning kick

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USA Today Sports Images

Final thoughts: Cody Parkey quickly moves on from missed game-winning kick

There’s, probably, only one position in sports that can match the you-had-one-job scrutiny of a placekicker attempting a critical field goal late in a football game. As in: If you make the kick, it was expected; if you miss it, well, you didn’t do the one thing you were brought on to do. 

The comparison here is a closer in baseball. The expectation is whoever is called upon with a one-to-three-run lead in the ninth inning will convert the save and win his team the game. 

But when a closer blows a save and is in the spotlight during baseball’s regular season, there’s always a game the next day or, at worst, in two days. The immediacy and pace of a Major League Baseball team’s schedule lends itself to closers having to “flush” a bad outing and move on to the next one, since it might be tomorrow. 

For Bears kicker Cody Parkey, though, he’s had to wait a week until he gets his next “meaningful” chance at making a field goal after missing a game-winning 53-yard attempt last weekend against the Miami Dolphins. But moving on from a critical missed kick has never, and is not, a problem for the fifth-year veteran. 

“(It takes) five minutes,” Parkey said. “You kick the ball, and if it doesn’t go in you’re not going to sit there and cry on the field, you’re going to continue to move on with your life. I don’t think there’s really much to it other than knowing you’re going to have to kick another one sometime throughout the season, next game, in the next week, you never know. You stay ready so you’ll be ready for the next week.”

Not allowing those missed kicks to fester is an important trait for a placekicker to possess. What helps Parkey quickly work through his misses is focusing on having a good week of kicking in practice, and also an even-keel mindset that’s been instilled in him since a young age. 

“I think I’ve always been pretty mellow,” Parkey said. “At a young age, my coaches told me never let the highs get to high, never let the lows get too low. And I’ve kind of taken that to heart. If I miss a game winner, make a game winner, I’m going to have the same demeanor. I’m just going to be super chill and knowing it’s a game, it’s supposed to be fun, we’re supposed to go out there and try our best. I put in a lot of work and I try my best on the field.”

That’s something, too, that special teams coach Chris Tabor sees in Parkey. 

“He's always been like that,” Tabor said. “He hit a good ball, his line was just off. In his career going in he was 7-of-8 over 50 yards. I'll be honest with you, I thought he was going to make it. And next time we have that situation, I know he will make it.” 

Age is just a number

Sunday will mark the 6th time in Tom Brady’s career that the 41-year-old has faced a head coach younger than him, but the first time it’ll be a coach other than Miami’s Adam Gase (who’s 40). Brady is 3-2 against Gase’s Dophins. 

Matt Nagy, meanwhile, is also 40. Brady just missed playing Kyle Shanahan (38) and Sean McVay (32), facing the San Francisco 49ers and Los Angeles Rams in 2016, a year before both those youthful coaches were hired. 

Meanwhile, the youngest player on the Bears — 21-year-old Roquan Smith — was three years old when Brady made his unassuming NFL debut on Nov. 23, 2000. 

They said it

A couple of amusing one-liners out of Halas Hall this week…

Nagy, when it was brought to his attention that Mitch Trubisky (105.6) has a better passer rating than Brady (98.2), chuckled: “You want to say that one more time?” 

Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, when asked if he’d ever heard of “Baby Gronk” Adam Shaheen: “(long pause)… Sometimes.”