The Bears can only hope that this is not how it starts.
Wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, limited in practice with a knee issue on Wednesday, was completely out of practice on Thursday, prompting ominous flashbacks to the 2015 season when Jeffery played barely half of the games with a succession of injuries. It is a situation the Bears are “monitoring,” per coach John Fox.
Jeffery, who has accounted for 45 percent of the Bears receiving yards and 37 percent of all offensive yardage through the first two games, missed all of preseason with a calf injury, played Week 1 and then missed the next four games with a hamstring injury. When this current problem started was unclear, and whether Jeffery returns to practice on Friday looms as significant.
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“Obviously it didn’t go as well from yesterday to today,” Fox said.
Sudden health concerns were not limited to the offense. Defensive lineman Will Sutton, the presumptive next-man-up at nose tackle after the ankle injury to Eddie Goldman, and end/linebacker Willie Young both practiced in full on Wednesday but were limited on Thursday, Sutton with an elbow problem and Young with a knee.
Denver Broncos superstar pass-rusher Von Miller is one of the most feared defenders in the NFL. He can single-handedly destroy an offense's gameplan, and in Sunday's Week 2 matchup against the Chicago Bears, it was up to Charles Leno and Bobby Massie to make sure he didn't make a game-changing sack of Mitch Trubisky.
The Bears' offensive line wasn't perfect in Denver, but they checked one of the biggest boxes of the week by keeping Miller away from Trubisky all afternoon. According to Pro Football Focus, Miller made no impact -- literally none -- as a pass rusher.
Miller entered the 2019 season with five-straight seasons of double-digit sacks, including 14.5 in 2018. His rare talent, combined with the defensive genius of Vic Fangio, appeared like a mission-impossible in Week 2. But Leno and Massie answered the call in dominant fashion. They both finished the game with top-10 grades on Chicago's offense, per PFF.
To be fair, Miller registered an elite grade against the run in Week 2, but his 49.3 pass-rush grade was the worst on the Broncos defense. You read that right; Miller was Denver's worst pass-rusher Sunday.
Kudos to Leno and Massie for a job well done.
Former Bears coach John Fox knows a thing or two about getting run out of Chicago. He won just 14 games during his three seasons with the Bears and was fired following the 2017 season when Chicago finished 5-11.
Now an analyst with ESPN, Fox was like every Bears fan watching Week 2's game against the Broncos. And he had a pretty strong opinion about the ramifications of Eddy Pineiro's game-winning 53-yard kick moments before the ball split the uprights.
According to Adam Schefter, Fox said Pineiro's Bears career was on the line.
“I’m watching [Bears vs. Broncos] with John Fox later in the day,” Schefter told ESPN Radio on Monday. “He goes ‘Do you realize how massive this kick is for this one individual and the team?’ He said this before the kick, ‘If this guy misses this kick, he probably can’t kick in Chicago again. If he makes it, he’s a hero with confidence and momentum.’ So that’s all that’s riding on this one kick at the end of the game.”
That seems like a pretty extreme hot take. A 53-yard field goal is hardly a layup, especially for a young kicker who before the game-winner had never been in a situation like that. Would it have been another gut-wrenching loss because of a missed kick? Sure. And would it have magnified the kicker drama Chicago's been living with since last January? Of course. But it's highly unlikely the Bears would've cut Pineiro loose had he missed.
Fortunately, we'll never know. Pineiro's clutch performance not only has his confidence at an all-time high, but it's also put to rest any concerns about Chicago's kicking situation. In fact, an argument can be made that Pineiro has been the NFL's best kicker through two weeks.
Pineiro and the Bears will have a fantastic opportunity to build off of Week 2's momentum when they travel to Washington to take on the Redskins in Week 3's Monday night showdown.