Bears

Bears CB Tracy Porter bait Odell Beckham Jr.? Not his style

Bears CB Tracy Porter bait Odell Beckham Jr.? Not his style

Bears cornerback Tracy Porter considers himself kind of boring, not a lot of flash, not a lot of smack. And that might be the ideal persona to create an intriguing fire-and-ice matchup Sunday when the Bears face the New York Giants.

Porter is expected to spend a lot of his afternoon dealing with Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., the colorful centerpiece of the New York offense, he of legendarily athletic pass receptions.

Beckham also is one of the NFL’s most volatile on-field personalities, to the point of quarterback Eli Manning at one point publicly declaring that Beckham was in need of tempering his outbursts, which were creating penalties. Beckham is just outside the top 10 in receptions with 54, tied for fourth with 6 TD catches and eighth in yards per game (85.9).

But his behavior is as explosive as his play, albeit not as bad this season as past (one unsportsmanlike conduct, one taunting; a $36,000 fine for a blindside block on Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro, one of three fines in 2016). Which creates an opportunity for opponents:

Try baiting him into misbehaving? Or leave him alone, as in, don’t tug on Superman’s cape and make him constructively infuriated?

Porter isn’t having any of it. Not because of the risks or futility, but because, well, he’s just not that kinda guy.

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“I'm not one to fall into those types of things,” said Porter, the acknowledged veteran leader of the secondary. “I don't know what his deal is or why he likes it. That's just a part of his game.

“Me, we're sitting at 2-7 right now. There's no point in me to get overly hyped about what antics he's going to bring to the game. I just have to cover him, do my job and then do whatever I can to come out with a victory… .

“I may be one of the boring guys. I'm like, what's the point? I come out here to just do my job and help my team win. I may talk to guys here or there on the field. I'm not about to get into any personal battles and go back and forth with the guys. It doesn't even make sense to me, to be honest.”

The problem for the Bears is that Beckham is not simply a hothead who loses control.

“This guy's a different guy,” said defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. “[Tampa Bay’s Mike] Evans is a big, speed guy. This guy is speed, quickness and route running. This guy plays bigger than his size numbers, too, because of his leaping ability, his length, hands. He's got big hands, really good hands. He's a different type of assignment.”

Beckham also is one of the NFL’s best not only at getting the football into his hands, but doing things after he has it. He is 11th in yards after catch and has nine receptions of 20 yards or longer this season.

“Once he gets the ball in his hands, he's a great athlete,” Porter said. “We just definitely have to be mindful of it and do what we can and play sound football and not let him get those explosive plays.”

Arena League Revenge and Great Boxing: How the Bears are getting ready for their rematch

Arena League Revenge and Great Boxing: How the Bears are getting ready for their rematch

What a difference 24 hours makes. 

Here’s Mitch Trubisky, from his weekly Wednesday press conference, talking about the Bears-Packers rivalry. 

“I mean, the rivalry is important for sure,” he said. “The rivalry is very important. But I just feel like where we're at as a team, we're just hungry, that whoever is on our schedule next, we're going to come ready to play where we're playing with confidence. We don't really care who shows up next. The rivalry game is important, but I just sense overall a hungry team that's pretty focused, and hopefully that just drives us to get better throughout the week and come ready to play on Sunday.” 

How diplomatic! Despite this Sunday’s game in Green Bay being the 200th meeting between two of the NFL’s original franchises, there’s been a surprisingly large amount of water thrown on the whole notion of rivalry games around Halas Hall this week. That is, until Thursday. When Nagy was asked about Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, who’s returning to Green Bay for the first time since being traded last year, the coach wasted no time showing that time doesn’t necessarily heal all wounds. 

“I mean, on a much smaller spectrum, I've been traded away as a player,” Nagy said. “And I know what that feels like when you play them again. To each their own. I'm sure he'll be fired up. But it's a personal deal with him. I know he'll be focused there to help his defense out.” 

Nagy, of course, is talking about the earth-shattering Arena Football League trade that sent him from the Georgia Force to the Columbus Destroyers in 2007. Nagy got his shot at revenge in the playoffs, when he took the 6-seed Destroyers (7-9) into the Arena at Gwinnett Center and beat the 2-seed Force (14-2), 66-56. Nagy was 23-of-34 for 209 yards and five touchdowns. 

“We played them in the NFC championship game of the Arena League, and we dominated them!” he said. “I'll never forget that game.” 

The Bears now seem happy to embrace the revenge narrative, among a half dozen other motivational colloquialisms they’ve adopted during this three-game win streak. On offense, they’re trying to avoid watching too much of Week 1’s loss, and schematically speaking that’s probably not a bad idea. On defense, they’re watching hand-to-hand combat. It's probably a little on the nose, but when is football not? 

“We like showing boxing stuff,” defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano said. “You ever watch the Gatti-Ward fight, Round 9?”

Ring Magazine named the bout Fight of the Year in 2003, and Hall of Famer Manny Steward called that ninth round the “Round of the Century.” Micky Ward was a former prodigy who never quite fulfilled his potential, but he managed to find his way back into boxing after a hiatus spent paving roads and upset the heavily favored Arturo Gatti. Though he won by majority decision in 10 rounds, knocking Gotti down in the ninth is widely considered Ward’s crowning achievement – so much so that they got Mark Walhberg to play him in a movie.

It’s not a perfect analogy, but the Bears don’t need complete accuracy to find the motivation behind an underdog landing a late-round, knock-down blow. 

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Experts Picks: Ominous outlook for Bears in Week 15 vs. Packers

Experts Picks: Ominous outlook for Bears in Week 15 vs. Packers

Prior to the Bears' current three-game winning streak, the best-case scenario fans could've hoped for was meaningful December football.

Wish granted.

Entering Week 15's game against the Packers, Chicago is 7-6 and still alive in the NFC playoff race. Those playoff chances need some help via losses from the Vikings and Rams over the final three weeks of the regular season, but the Bears need to win-out before they can start watching the scoreboard. And if this week's collection of experts picks is any indication, scoreboard watching might never happen.

According to NFL Pick Watch, 93% of experts polled think the Packers are going to snag their 11th win of the season and send the Bears home for good on Sunday. It also means Green Bay would sweep the 2019 season series, giving its fanbase undeniable bragging rights and sending Bears fans hurdling into a brutal offseason.

Dating back to the 2016 season, Chicago has lost six of the last seven meetings against the Packers.

The Bears lost Week 1's matchup against Green Bay, 10-3, in a game that featured an undefined offense and a quarterback who didn't quite look like he belonged. Things have certainly changed over the last three weeks (all Bears wins), with Mitchell Trubisky being the obvious storyline.

Trubisky is riding a hot streak into Sunday's game and is fresh off his four-touchdown game (three passing, one rushing) against an above-average Cowboys defense.

Can he keep that momentum going in a do-or-die game against Chicago's most-hated rival? 

The experts certainly don't think so.

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