Bears' defense back to its old ways


Bears' defense back to its old ways

DETROIT Once again the Bears managed to keep All-Pro receiver Calvin Johnson from running amok in their secondary. The Detroit Lions put 327 yards on the Bears defense and converted half of their 14 third downs but needed Matthew Stafford throwing 42 times to stay close to the Bears.
Israel Idonijes sack and forced fumble recovered by Julius Peppers was a huge turning point in the second quarter, setting up a TD on a 10-yard drive. The rush harassed Matthew Stafford with some consistency and forced the fumble and an interception despite registering just two hits (Peppers, Corey Wootton).
Nick Roach finished with a team-high eight tackles and a pass deflection. Lance Briggs added six tackles, one for loss, and the Bears allowed no run longer than 13 yards, limited Mikel Leshoure to 57 yards on 15 carries (3.7).
The Lions found openings for a first-quarter drive that included third-down conversions but was stopped for a field goal. Consistent tackling was a problem.
Tim Jennings intercepted his ninth pass of the season in the second quarter to set up a scoring chance and the overall coverage of Calvin Johnson was excellent again. Johnson had just two catches (on eight targets) in the first half and finished with five for 72 yards and zero touchdowns, leaving him with five for the year.
The Bears offense could not put the game out of Lions reach, forcing the Bears to play under pressure throughout. Several lapses, however, allowed the Lions back into the game after falling behind 20-3 in the first half. Breakdowns on third downs were alarming.

Special teams gave the offense a gift with a fumble-recovery on a Detroit kickoff return and kicking was crucial in a surprisingly close game against a poor team.
Olindo Mare converted four of five field goal tries, missing wide right from 43 yards. Adam Podlesh was superb with four of five puts inside the 20 and one touchback, all with a 43.8-yard average.
Joe Anderson forced a fumble and is a clear favorite to land a roster spot next season, and Eric Weems recovered the ball on the first-quarter kickoff. Coverage units were in position on punts but did allow Joique Bell to average 27 yards on two kickoff returns.
Devin Hester continued his season of undistinguished returning and sometimes that would be putting it politely. His failure to get the second-half kickoff beyond the Chicago 5 was appalling and gave the Lions a shot at momentum after theyd closed the first half with a TD. Hester finished with a 19.7-yard average on kickoff returns but was no threat to the Lions.
The Bears were prepared and allowed the Lions few seams or opportunities in the return game in a game that was one-score through much of the second half.

Bears injury report: Mitchell Trubisky still listed as questionable after three straight days of full practice


Bears injury report: Mitchell Trubisky still listed as questionable after three straight days of full practice

Everything leading into Week 7’s Bears-Saints game makes it sound like Mitchell Trubisky will make his return under center, but officially he’s still questionable.

Trubisky still has that designation despite being a full participant in practice on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Trubisky has missed the past two games with a left shoulder injury.

Defensive tackle Bilal Nichols and offensive lineman Ted Larsen are also questionable. Nichols was limited in practice on Friday with hand and knee injuries. Larsen was a full go in practice on Friday with a knee injury after being limited on Wednesday and Thursday.

Wide receiver Taylor Gabriel and linebacker Joel Iyiegbuniwe are listed on the injury report, but expected to play.

Who's the Bears' best option to replace Kyle Long at right guard?

USA Today

Who's the Bears' best option to replace Kyle Long at right guard?

The Bears have three options on their roster to start on Sunday against the New Orleans Saints, the first game of — in all likelihood — the post-Kyle Long era in Chicago. Is a guy who’s only played 30 snaps as a guard in his pro or college career really the right choice?

Rashaad Coward may be new to the position, but the Bears like his athleticism, physical edge and work ethic he brings to the offense. Also in the conversation: 10-year veteran Ted Larsen and undrafted rookie Alex Bars. 

Coward has more immediate upside, but Larsen (who's officially questionable with a knee injury, though he practiced in full Friday) is more a you-know-what-you're-getting guy. Coward's upside, though, lies in the athleticism and physicality he showed in limited time against the Minnesota Vikings in Week 4.

“He’s a tough guy, he plays very, very hard,” offensive line coach Harry Hiestand said. “It’s super important to him, he’s very prideful, he’s very determined to keep his guy from making a play and that’s a big part of this.”

That Hiestand has actual game film on which to evaluate and teach Coward is important. And the Bears saw him do some good things in letting his raw talent take over against the Vikings. 

“Going into the game, I was like F it,” Coward said. “It is what it is. It’s either you do it or you don’t.”

Coward said on Monday he practiced with the No. 1 offense, and given Larsen was limited in Wednesday's and Thursday's practices, there's a decent chance Coward will start on Sunday. 

Larsen, though, is the kind of guy who could get the nod on Sunday without getting many reps during mid-week practices. 

Larsen suffered the injury in Week 4, which led to Coward entering the game, and he didn’t travel to London with the Bears in Week 5. But his veteran experience — he’s started 87 games in his career — and flexibility to play guard or center make him a trusted backup.

“I played a lot of football,” Larsen said. “I’m ready whenever they want to use me.”

There is a possibility the Bears rotate Larsen and Coward on a series-to-series basis, as the team did with a veteran (Eric Kush) and a greenhorn (James Daniels) at left guard last year. 

"It’s something that could definitely happen," Nagy said. "I’m not opposed to that. And then you can also balance and see, whether it’s Ted or Rashaad, how are they playing and we can get a feel for that during a game and we feel comfortable with both."

Bars is unlikely to factor this week but does have long-term upside. He turned down an opportunity to join the New England Patriots’ 53-man roster earlier this month because he saw a better opportunity in Chicago. That his college offensive line coach is now his pro offensive line coach certainly played into that decision, too.

Many thought Bars would be a mid-round draft pick prior to his final season at Notre Dame, but a torn ACL and MCL suffered last September knocked him down to being an undrafted free agent. The opportunity to link back up with Hiestand helped bring him to Chicago, where he played well during the preseason — but not well enough to make the Bears’ initial 53-man roster.

“The transition to this level coming off the injury was an adjustment I had to make, still making it every day,” Bars said. “I’m trying to improve and work against really, really good guys.” 

The Bears’ starting right guard for the rest of 2019 will hardly be settled by who starts against the Saints in Week 7. Coward may get the first crack, but if his inexperience overshadows his talent, the Bears may need to call on a safer option in Larsen. And that could open the door for Bars to start, too, if he proves to Hiestand behind the scenes he’s back on the track he was on prior to his collegiate injury.

Whoever plays, though, needs to be better than Long was over his four games prior to going on injured reserve. The Bears made that difficult decision in part to improve at right guard. It’s now on Coward — or Larsen, or Bars — to make good on that promise.

"Between the three of them I think it will be fun for us to kind of work through what decision, where we want to go with that," Nagy said. "And then whoever it is, let's go. There's no looking back."

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