Bears

Bears' Bell ready to step up with Barber out

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Bears' Bell ready to step up with Barber out

Friday, Sept. 9, 2011
Posted: 1:52 p.m.

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com Bears Insider Follow @CSNMoonMullin
He hasnt practiced all week and was restricted to working on his injured calf muscle with medical staff on the sidelines before practice. So it came as no surprise that running back Marion Barber was confirmed as out of Sundays game against the Atlanta Falcons.

The loss of Barber elevates Kahlil Bell to Matt Fortes No. 2 after getting zero carries all of 2010, the year given to Chester Taylor as Fortes backup. Bell was the Bears leading rusher in preseason, playing primarily against backups on opposing defenses but netting 157 yards on 35 carries for an average of 4.5 yards and one TD.

I feel like Ive done the things necessary to prepare myself to be successful when I get an opportunity, Bell said. So Im here, and Im still loving it, and when I get a shot, hopefully I can produce.

Bell played in seven games in 2009, carried 40 times and turned in an impressive 5.5 yards per carry, aided in large part by his 72-yard TD run on his first-ever NFL carry.

Great opportunity, you have to be ready, coach Lovie Smith said. Kahlil has been in this position before. Hes a pro. Hes had a good camp. Theres a reason why hes on our football team right now, and if youre a backup, this is the time that you want. If your number is called, the team expects us to have a running back in that position that can get the job done.

Bell put himself through a grueling offseason regimen that included running repeated sprints up a long, steep hill in the tradition created by Walter Payton for Chicago running backs.

He established himself on special teams during the preseason, a clear advantage over Taylor apart from any salary or production differences. Whether he stays on special teams Sunday, however, is unlikely given his expanded role on offense.

The more you can do, the more valuable you are to any team or any organization, Bell said. I definitely want to be a running back, dont get me wrong. I love running the ball. Thats what I feel like what I was put here to do.

But at the same time, if theyre asking me to cover a kick or help in punt protection or whatever they ask me to do. Any time Im out there, Im going to give 100 percent.

John "Moon" Mullin is CSNChicago.com's Bears Insider and appears regularly on Bears Postgame Live and Chicago Tribune Live. Follow Moon on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bears information.

Bears still waiting on kickoff season to come for Cordarrelle Patterson

Bears still waiting on kickoff season to come for Cordarrelle Patterson

There were 312 kickoffs in the NFL this season heading into this weekend. Of those, 221 (70 percent) went for touchbacks. 

After Sunday's games, three teams — including the Bears — have yet to have a kickoff return. Half the league hasn't had a return go more than 25 yards. 

This is the NFL in 2019, with the league’s efforts to reduce the number of kick returns — for safety reasons — proving effective. It’s also meant the Bears haven’t been able to fully utilize Cordarrelle Patterson’s talents yet.

The 5,276 return yards Patterson has since entering the league in 2013 are by far the most in the NFL in that span (he’s about 1,500 yards ahead of Andre Roberts, who has the second-highest total). Patterson is the only player with more than two kick return touchdowns since 2013; he has six. Among players with at least 50 kick returns, Patterson’s average of 29.98 yards per return ranks No. 1, and he’s one of just 14 players to average more than 25 yards per return.

So Bears special teams coordinator Chris Tabor is itching to unleash Patterson on a return — as long as the opportunity presents itself.

“I want to bring the ball out, I really do,” Tabor said. “And there's going to come a time and point that we want to do that. You want to be able to put pressure on that coverage team. But I think you still have to be smart about when you're doing it.”

Patterson’s last kick return touchdown came last year while with the New England Patriots against the Bears, so this coaching staff has a good idea of how dangerous he can be on kickoffs. So do other teams, though — all four of Brandon McManus’ kickoffs last week went for deep touchbacks in the thin air of Denver, while all three of Mason Crosby’s kickoffs in Week 1 were deemed unreturnable and went for touchbacks.

"These kickers are getting paid a lot of money to try to kick the ball away from me," Patterson said. "And that's what they're doing. It's football. You can't always have everything you want."

The Bears don’t want to see Patterson return a kick so badly that they’d have him take one out from the back of the end zone, though. A drive starting on the 25-yard line from a touchback is more likely to be successful than a drive starting inside the 23-yard line, Tabor said. Still, the Tabor said the team is comfortable with Patterson attempting a return from eight or even close to nine yards deep in the end zone. 

With the Bears’ offense struggling — 13 of their 22 drives have ended with a punt — the team hopes it can get a spark from the return game to at least generate good field position.

“A lot of factors that go into that but if you don't bring it out you have zero chance of getting the ball past the 25,” Tabor said. “I think realistically for offenses, all offenses, 75-yard drives in the NFL just don't happen repeatedly so I think you have to try to get something sparked in the return game.”

But as long as temperatures remain warm — the forecasted temperature is in the upper 70’s for kickoff Monday night in Landover — it’ll be easier for kickers to blast touchbacks out of the end zone. And few, if any, of the league’s coaches and special teams coordinators will want to try to kick to Patterson.

So until weather conditions become a little more favorable for kickoff returns, there not anything Tabor can do to generate them.

“I wish I could,” Tabor said. “(Maybe) send the coach a nice bottle of wine or something.”

Bears in must-win game vs. Redskins after NFC North dominates Week 3

Bears in must-win game vs. Redskins after NFC North dominates Week 3

Rarely is a Week 3 game described as a must-win, but in the case of the Chicago Bears' Monday night contest against the Washington Redskins, it may just be. 

Chicago's win last Sunday over the Broncos was a critical victory that evened their record at 1-1, and while a .500 start after two games suggests a playoff berth is still a very realistic possibility, the early-season returns from the rest of the NFC North have turned up the heat.

Week 3 was dominated by the division. The Packers, Vikings and Lions all won their games in impressive fashion. Detroit was especially terrific in their win over the Eagles, who were favored entering the week. 

Green Bay's victory over Denver moves them to a perfect 3-0 to start the year, while the Lions also remain undefeated at 2-0-1. The Vikings improved to 2-1 with their win over the Raiders and will be Chicago's next opponent in Week 4.

If the Bears lose Monday night, they'll fall to 1-2 and last place in the NFC North. That, coupled with a divisional game next Sunday, is a potential doomsday scenario if Chicago goes 0-2 over that span. They'll be 1-3 and left clawing for a wildcard over the final 12 games, especially if the Packers upend a banged-up Eagles squad Thursday night.

Obviously, a win over the Redskins changes that outlook. They'll return to Soldier Field with confidence and momentum against the Vikings; a sweep improves their record 3-1 and still very much neck-and-neck with the Packers.

As crazy as it may seem, Chicago needs a win Monday night in the worst way. If they come up short, the season could quickly come apart at the seams.