Bears

Bears close the gap with Packers, but still drop season opener

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Bears close the gap with Packers, but still drop season opener

Last season in Green Bay as the Packers blew out the Bears at Lambeau Field, Aaron Rodgers knew exactly what the Bears defense was going to do.

In the 2015 season opener Sunday at Soldier Field, Rodgers and the Packers had no idea what to expect from new-look Bears, but it wasn't enough for the Bears to turn the tide in the rivalry.

The Packers still won 31-23, though the Bears hung with them for most of the game, showing an inspired effort on both sides of the ball until Jay Cutler threw an interception to Clay Matthews with less than four minutes remaining in the game.

Bears cornerback Kyle Fuller was flagged for a big pass interference call just before the two-minute warning to set up the Packers' final score as they put the game away with a two-yard Eddie Lacy touchdown run.

Cutler connected with Martellus Bennett on a 24-yard touchdown pass with less than a minute remaining to make the game appear closer than it was.

The Bears actually entered the fourth quarter down only 17-16, but Rodgers connected with Randall Cobb for a five-yard touchdown pass four minutes into the final stanza and the Packers never looked back.

[NBC SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

The Bears had two good chances to score early in the fourth quarter, but the first drive stalled at the two-yard line when Cutler threw three straight incomplete passes to turn the ball over on downs.

After the Bears defense forced a three-and-out on the ensuing possession, the Bears offense took over with solid field position and converted on third-and-long before Cutler threw the next pass right into Matthews' hands.

Matt Forte was a huge reason why the Bears kept things close, racking up 141 rushing yards, including 105 yards on 16 carries in the first half. He also added five catches for 25 yards and had a one-yard touchdown run in the second quarter.

The Bears defense kept Rodgers at bay for most of the game, throwing different looks at the Packers' All-Pro quarterback. The Packers also shot themselves in the foot with several key false start and holding penalties, but came through when they needed to most down the stretch.

Rodgers finished the day 18-for-23 for 189 yards and three TDs while Lacy had 85 rushing yards.

Cutler was only 18-for-36 with 225 yards through the air and 31 yards on the ground. Alshon Jeffery was the Bears' leading receiver with 78 yards on five catches.

Robbie Gould was 3-for-3 in field goals on the afternoon, nailing a 28-yarder in the first quarter, a 50-yarder with eight seconds left before half and a 44-yarder in the third quarter.

Gould's second-quarter field goal gave the Bears a 13-10 lead heading into the half.

Chicago Bears Training Camp: Veteran and rookie report dates

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USA Today

Chicago Bears Training Camp: Veteran and rookie report dates

Chicago Bears training camp is right around the corner with the first practice (non-padded) scheduled for July 21. 

Bears veterans and rookies will report a few days ahead of that first session to acclimate themselves to their new (for some) surroundings. Rookies report on July 16, with veterans coming three days later on July 19.

All eyes will be on QB Mitch Trubisky and the potentially high-flying offense under coach Matt Nagy. Training camp will take on extra importance because of the plethora of new faces on the roster and coaching staff as well as the installation of a completely new offensive scheme. It's critical that Trubisky builds chemistry with wide receivers Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, Anthony Miller and Kevin White, all of whom he's never thrown a regular-season pass to. Add Trey Burton to that mix and a lot of miscues should be expected in the preseason.

The rookie class is led by linebacker Roquan Smith, who remains unsigned. With less than 30 days until rookies are required to report, a greater sense of urgency -- even if it's not quite a panic -- is certainly creeping in. Assuming he's signed in time, Smith should earn a starting role early in training camp and ascend to one of the defense's top all-around players. 

The Bears have higher-than-usual expectations heading into the 2018 season making fans eager for summer practices to get underway.

Leonard Floyd picked as potential Pro Bowler in 2018

Leonard Floyd picked as potential Pro Bowler in 2018

The Chicago Bears need a big season from outside linebacker Leonard Floyd. He's the team's best pass-rush option and the only legitimate threat to post double-digit sacks this year.

Floyd joined the Bears as a first-round pick (No. 9 overall) in 2016 and has flashed freakish talent at times. The problem has been his health; he's appeared in only 22 games through his first two seasons. 

Floyd's rookie year -- especially Weeks 5 through 9 -- showed a glimpse of the kind of disruptive force he's capable of becoming. He registered seven sacks and looked poised to breakout in 2017. Unfortunately, injuries limited him to only 10 games and four sacks.

Despite his disappointing sophomore season, NFL.com's Gil Brandt has high hopes for Floyd in 2018. The long-time NFL personnel executive named Floyd as the Bear with the best chance to earn a first-time trip to the Pro Bowl.

CHICAGO BEARS: Leonard Floyd, OLB, third NFL season. Floyd had seven sacks as a rookie in 2016, but missed six games last season due to a knee injury. He's a talented guy who can drop into coverage or rush with his hand on the ground and should play much better this season. He also has become much stronger since coming into the league.

The Bears will be in a heap of trouble if Floyd doesn't emerge as a Pro Bowl caliber player. There aren't many pass-rushing options on the roster outside of Floyd aside from Aaron Lynch and rookie Kylie Fitts. Neither edge defender has a resume strong enough to rely on as insurance.

It's a critical year for Floyd's future in Chicago, too. General manager Ryan Pace will decide whether to pick up Floyd's fifth-year option in his rookie contract next offseason. If he plays well, it's a no-brainer. If not, Pace could be looking at two straight first-round picks (see: Kevin White) that he's declined the extra year.

We're a long way from that decision. Until then, the Bears' season may sink or swim based on its pass rush. It begins -- and ends -- with Floyd.