Bears

Bears buried under early blizzard of Pats' points

338632.jpg

Bears buried under early blizzard of Pats' points

Sunday, Dec. 12, 2010
Posted 6:12 PM Updated 9:10 PM

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

The Bears were fueled through their five-game winning streak by a number of total team wins, games in which offense, defense and special teams turned in winning performances.

That win streak came to a disastrous and brutal end Sunday against the New England Patriots (11-2) with a total team loss. The Bears (9-4) were soundly thrashed on offense, defense and special teams in a 36-7 loss that will unleash a new spasm of questions as to the legitimacy of the Bears as a championship hopeful.

The Patriots are the best team in the AFC, said linebacker Brian Urlacher. They came in here, our field, our weather, and pounded us.

The afternoon was a particularly bitter setback, with the loss coming after the Green Bay Packers (8-5) lost quarterback Aaron Rodgers to a concussion and their game 7-3 to the Detroit Lions. A win over New England would have given the Bears a two-game lead in the NFC North with three games to play.

The good news, however, is that the Packers go to New England next Sunday. The Bears can clinch the NFC North with a win over the Minnesota Vikings and a Green Bay loss to the Patriots, which now looks extremely likely. The resurgent Vikings had their Sunday game with the New York Giants bumped to Monday night and to Detroit after snow collapsed sections of the Metrodome, also placing in question the locale for the Bears game next Monday night against the Vikings.

But we cant count on other teams, said quarterback Jay Cutler. We have to take care of our business. We dont want to slide in the back door. We want to be playing our best football right now so we can make a serious run at this.
How bad was it?

The Bears were playing anything but their best football Sunday against arguably the NFLs best.

We were outplayed, said defensive end Julius Peppers. We need to get better, a lot better, quick.

Swirling snow obscured yard stripes most of the game, with Chicago Park District shovelers and sweepers working during breaks to clear areas of the field. They shouldve saved themselves the trouble. There was precious little worth seeing from a Chicago perspective and they mightve done the Bears a service by moving the snow onto the field instead.

But neither the snow nor the winds gusting as high as 53 miles per hour nor the wind chill of 9 degrees turned out to matter.

There were some gusts from time to time, Cutler said, but other than that it wasnt that bad.

It wasnt a game. It was virtually a seven-on-seven passing drill by the New England offense with a defense that didnt appear allowed to tackle.

The Bears actually outscored the Patriots 7-3 in the second half, with a 1-yard touchdown run by Chester Taylor midway through the third quarter when many of the 56,161 in attendance had long since departed. All that did was take the victors margin below 30.

New England quarterback Tom Brady did nothing to tarnish what is moving toward an MVP season. Brady methodically ran up 314 passing yards through three quarters, a passer rating of 110.2 and tossed two touchdown passes against zero interceptions. The Patriots 475 yards were a season high.

Tom Brady is the best QB in the NFL, said Urlacher. We knew it coming in and this game just confirmed it.

Cutler and the Bears offense, which had controlled the ball and games in the process of rolling off five straight wins, did nothing remotely comparable. The Bears managed only 115 net yards through three quarters, had just eight first downs to New Englands 22, and Cutler was 8 for 19 for 96 yards, no TDs, an interception and a rating of 36.3.

No Bears opponent had scored more than 26 points in a game this season. The Patriots, leading the NFL with an average of 31.6 points per game, had 33 in the first half alone, including 10 directly off turnovers by a disoriented, ineffective offense.

New Englands 273 yards in the first half were more than Detroit, Carolina, Minnesota and Miami each managed in whole games against the Bears this season.

The Bears had 33 net yards, two first downs and zero points to show for 30 minutes of play against a team that was handing them their third home loss of the season.

Ominously, the Bears failed to make the playoffs in all three of their seasons under Lovie Smith when they lost three times in Soldier Field.

The reality is we got our butts kicked and were still in first place, Urlacher said. Well watch film and learn from it but were still in first place in the NFC North and thats where we wanted to be when the season began.

Its happened before

The Bears can only console themselves with the knowledge that they are far from alone in enduring New England batterings. Since falling behind the Detroit Lions midway through the third quarter on Thanksgiving, through the early third quarter Sunday when their lead over the Bears reached 36-0, the Patriots outscored three opponents 109-3.

And two of those opponents were nine-win teams: the New York Jets and the Bears.

The Patriots had the ball for six possessions in the first half and scored on five of them. To make up for the one failed possession (the first of the game, when Urlacher and Israel Idonije combined on a sack of Brady), New England even scored on one of the Bears possessions.

The Bears had allowed only one opponent (Seattle) as many as two drives of at least 80 yards. New England had three in the first half alone.

Hopeless early

If there was any hope of catching the Patriots in a letdown after their 45-3 dismantling last Monday of the New York Jets, that vanished abruptly and brutally less that 20 minutes into Sunday.

The Patriots went through the Chicago defense on drives of 85 and 87 yards, lasting 12 and 11 plays against a unit that had allowed drives of double-digit plays only five times in the last five games. Less than five minutes into the second quarter the Bears were in a 14-0 hole.

That worsened to 21-0 almost immediately when Johnny Knox was stripped of the ball by cornerback Devin McCourty after a catch at the Chicago 39. The ball was recovered by linebacker Gary Guyton and returned 35 yards for a touchdown.

The Bears challenged the ruling when in slow-motion replays Knox appeared to be down before the ball came out. But close-up camera work revealed that Knox was on McCourtys foot, not the ground, when the ball was lost and the Bears were in their biggest hole of the 2010 season.

Getting worse

Matters continued to spiral downward in a hurry.

A 42-yard punt return by Julian Edelman set the Patriots up for a 30-yard Shayne Graham field goal midway through the second quarter. Graham was called on again barely a minute later when Cutler was sacked and lost a fumble to linebacker Jerod Mayo at the Chicago 9. Graham turned that into points with a 25-yard boot that pushed the New England lead to 27-0.

Edelman broke a 71-yard return for an apparent touchdown just before halftime but was denied because of a holding call by one of his blockers.

No problem.

The penalty simply moved the Patriots back to their 20, from where Brady found wide receiver Deion Branch several steps behind cornerback Charles Tillman for a 59-yard touchdown. The PAT was wide right, one of the few things the Patriots missed.

We should have had someone back deep and we didnt, Lovie Smith said. It was as simple as that, basic cover-four breakdown in coverage.

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.

'It's fast-tracked iRacing': With sports shut down, Kyle Long explains sim racing

'It's fast-tracked iRacing': With sports shut down, Kyle Long explains sim racing

For years, the casual sports fan has heard about eSports, but while video games continue to grow in popularity, the virtual gaming world has never really threatened the mainstream sports world.

That is, until the COVID-19 pandemic effectively shut down sports altogether.

Last month, with no NASCAR race to show on television, FOX and iRacing partnered together to broadcast a live virtual race with real NASCAR drivers. And with sports fans all hunkered down at home starving for any kind of activity, the event quickly went viral on social media, with this year’s Daytona 500 winner Denny Hamlin winning the virtual Homestead race inside his own house with his daughter cheering him on.

With the success of that first race, FOX did it again last Sunday, racing virtually at Texas Motor Speedway, which would have been hosting that weekend’s real NASCAR race. This coming Sunday, they’ll do it again at Bristol. NBC Sports has also joined the party, announcing it will broadcast an IndyCar iRace Saturday at 1:30 p.m. CT on NBCSN.

But let’s shift into reverse. What is iRacing? And what the heck is that contraption Hamlin has sitting in his living room?

Of all people, recently retired Chicago Bears offensive lineman Kyle Long has the answers. He’s been iRacing since 2016 and is now a part owner of an actual iRacing team.

Yes, this is all very real.

“I got started right after I blew my ankle out against Tampa Bay,” Long told NBC Sports Chicago this week. “That was the first real serious injury I had in my life and I struggled mentally. I didn't know what to do.”

That’s when a friend recommended iRacing.

“I had no use of my right foot for like a year almost. I had a computer, so I downloaded and I subscribed to the iRacing service,” Long said. “I bought a few of the basic cars and basic tracks that are popular. I think it was Daytona, Talladega and Charlotte.”

You might be thinking that this is just some video game played on Xbox or Playstation, but it is very different. iRacing is a subscription-based racing simulator you use on the computer. And it’s about as real as it could possibly get. The Massachusetts-based company is backed by Boston Red Sox owner John Henry (who also is a co-owner of Roush Fenway Racing) and uses laser scanning technology to replicate every detail of every professional racetrack.

“They have this machine that essentially is like if R2-D2 and C-3PO had a baby -- but like a really fat baby -- and they roll it around the track, and it has lasers all over it like Mission Impossible style,” Long explained.

The technology works. If you have the right equipment at home, you can feel every bump in every track. Of course, the better your equipment, the more realistic the driving experience becomes.

“I was using a controller at first,” Long said. “So that's how cool iRacing is. You can go anywhere from a controller to a full-blown cockpit as you have seen on the internet. And I have somewhere in-between. I've got a really nice setup, but it's not as nice as say, Denny Hamlin's, which is (a) $150,000 rig. Mine's expensive, but nowhere near that.”

You definitely don’t need to spend more money on a rig than you would on a real car – Long said a nice Logitech wheel/pedal setup will set you back $150 – but there’s a reason why NASCAR drivers are spending so much money on their in-home simulators. The racing is so realistic, the professionals actually use iRacing to practice.

“If a guy lives in Charlotte and they have a race in Phoenix next week and they need to train and they want to get their car set up, they can do everything on the car,” Long said. “I'm not a mechanic, but you can set up the car how you'd like, as well as experience the track for free in the comfort of your own home without spending money on tires, fuel, flights, insurance, risking getting hurt, etc.”

The simulators are set up to give drivers hard forced-feedback on the steering wheel and pedals. Long has three monitors that wrap around his “GT-like” racing seat.

“It's incredible. When you're sitting in there and you're racing, you sometimes forget that you're in your living room and your dog is sitting right behind you,” he said.

But he’s also right that you don’t need an expensive setup to be successful. NASCAR driver Timmy Hill won Sunday’s Pro Invitational Series race at Texas with a simple wheel/pedal setup and one monitor in front of him.

“It's not like you have to break the bank to have success,” Long said. “You really just have to take it seriously and respect racing.”

Now that Long is done playing football, he’s showing racing even more respect. As iRacing tries to take advantage of the added attention it is getting with the sports world shut down, Long was one of many celebrity racers invited to join The Replacements iRacing Series, which now runs bi-weekly through June 30. The series includes Dale Earnhardt Jr. and longtime NASCAR crew chief Chad Knaus.

“I remember I was in there drafting with Bubba Wallace and Dale Earnhardt Jr. on lap 60 and it was just crazy for me. Such an experience,” Long said after last week’s race.

The next Replacements race takes place Tuesday night and can be streamed at Twitch.tv/iRacing. But while Long has made it on a big stage in the iRacing community, he still views it as a hobby and not a second career.

“If you're asking me if I'm going to be a pro racer, absolutely not in the iRacing community. Absolutely not,” Long said. “The talent level of these guys is crazy. I'd say I'm middle of the road or a little bit above average. I can be fast at times, but there are guys who are just incredible. So no, but I enjoy being part of the iRacing series and kind of pushing this brand forward.”

But Long admits “there is some rich soil in the roots of iRacing” and that those in the community have “projected that this thing is going to blow up eventually.” That’s why Long has jumped in as a part owner in iRacing’s premiere professional series, which is sponsored by Coca-Cola.

The eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing series runs every other Tuesday night at 8 p.m. CT and Long is part owner of Mode Motorsports, which has two cars in the series. One of them is a "Kyle Long Ford Mustang" with No. 75 painted on the side – the same number he wore for the Chicago Bears. Every detail is taken seriously, including the car paints, which are designed by the same people who design the paints on actual NASCAR and Formula 1 cars.

The races themselves are fascinating. Many of the drivers have cameras pointed at them and wear headsets that allow them to talk to their “spotters” who are viewing the race from different camera angles and can help their drivers get through traffic. And yet, it’s pretty obvious they’re at home.

“We get to see facial expressions of these 17 to 30-year-old dudes who are the best sim racers in the world, but they're in their bedroom,” Long said. “There’s one guy that’s got a lizard cage behind him or something.”

Hey, in these uncertain times, iRacing serves as an outstanding self-isolation tool all while remaining part of an online social community.

“(These are) unfortunate circumstances that iRacing and the simulation world are enjoying so much success right now with sports coming to a screeching halt, but it's just fast-tracked iRacing,” Long said. “I think there's tremendous value in it and teams are starting to see that. You're going to start to see real big sponsors.”

In the meantime, Long’s hobby is an entertaining distraction, both for drivers and newfound viewers.

“It's a welcomed escape from a crappy sort of time,” he said. “I'm looking out the window, it's April 1, it's a beautiful sunny day. It's a little brisk here, but I know I can't go out and go to town and have a good time … because there's bad stuff going around. So we welcome these things.”

And the eSport is welcoming new drivers too.

“If you're really all about racing, but you don't have the time or the weather or you got a bunch of kids and you don't want to get in a car going 150 miles per hour, you can go race in iRacing, which is what I've done.”

Considering most of our real cars are gathering dust in our garages right now, it’s not a bad idea.

Bears spoiling Packers' Brett Favre celebration was only highlight of John Fox era

Bears spoiling Packers' Brett Favre celebration was only highlight of John Fox era

NBC Sports Network will replay 2015’s Bears-Packers Thanksgiving game on Thursday night 8:30 p.m. CT, a game that was supposed to be a celebration of Brett Favre’s career. His No. 4 jersey was retired that night at Lambeau Field, and what better opponent to play than the one Favre so thoroughly tormented during his career in Green Bay, right?

“That’s like they’re scheduling a homecoming game, like a high school team is gonna schedule a homecoming game where they know they’re gonna whoop up on somebody so they can celebrate their homecoming,” ex-Bears tight end Zach Miller recalled. “I feel like they’re throwing this Brett Favre celebration on Thursday night, Thanksgiving, against us trying to have their ultimate celebration where they can celebrate the career he had.”

Only there was a hitch in the Packers’ plans: The Bears went into Lambeau Field and won, 17-13. It was a high point of the John Fox era — maybe the only high point — even if it didn’t change the course of Matt Nagy's predecessor's otherwise-forgettable three-year tenure in Chicago. 

The game itself was awfully sloppy, played in brutal conditions — rain, sleet, cold — and the score reflected that. 

“Pregame warmups, I don’t think I’ve seen more dropped football in my entire career in a matter of 20 minutes because of the rain and sleet we had coming down,” Miller said. “Literally the worst weather combination you could have if you want to throw the ball around. And guys were taking gloves off, guys were switching gloves and it still wasn’t working. I had footballs flying off my hands left and right. Going into this thing I was man, we’re gonna run the ball like 80 times.”

Then-offensive coordinator Adam Gase didn’t call 80 runs, though — 31 passes to 31 rushing attempts were the Bears’ final totals (balance!). But there were five fumbles, with the Bears recovering one of the Packers’ and turning it into a game-tying touchdown in the second quarter. 

Miller was the recipient of a three-year touchdown pass from Jay Cutler to end that drive, and remembered how worried he was he was going to embarrassingly drop a wide-open touchdown — one of the easiest of his career. 

“If you watch the tape, I turn my hands over and catch the football like a loaf of bread,” Miller laughed. “Normally I would have my hands, I would reach out and catch it, but I couldn’t just because I wanted to make sure that I was securing this thing. I’m sitting there, the ball’s flying at me and I’m like alright baby, just please catch this thing.”

The most remarkable thing about this game, though, was that Aaron Rodgers *didn’t* complete one of his patented fourth quarter comebacks against the Bears. 

As you’re watching this game on Thursday night, you might feel like your memory fails you (I know I did). We've seen this story so many times, with Rodgers driving the Packers into the end zone for a last-minute, game-winning touchdown against the Bears. He had to do it this time, right? This is Aaron Rodgers! Against the John Fox Bears! How could he possibly not get the job done?

After grabbing three first downs in succession inside four minutes, Rodgers was picked off by Tracy Porter. But the Bears couldn’t run the clock out and did the thing they’ve so often regretted — they gave the ball back to Rodgers with another chance to win the game. 

Rodgers drove the Packers to the Bears’ eight-yard line, and on fourth down rifled a pass to Davante Adams. Instead of Adams catching the pass over Bryce Callahan for a game-winning touchdown, it slipped through his cold, wet hands. The Bears won. 

The Fox era didn’t have many other memorable moments (maybe Eddie Jackson’s two-touchdown game against the Panthers in 2017?). But hey, Bears fans, when there’s an opportunity to re-watch a win over the Packers, you’re gonna take advantage of it no matter what, right?

8:30 p.m. CT on NBC Sports Network. I’ll be watching it. I hope you will too. 

“Cool for us to go up there and I guess spoil it in a sense,” Miller said. “I know they’re always going to remember the day they retired Brett Favre’s jersey, they got beat by the Chicago Bears.”  

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Bears.