Bears

Bears In-Foe: Carson Wentz, the fallout boy in trade aftermath, delivered

Bears In-Foe: Carson Wentz, the fallout boy in trade aftermath, delivered

It's Carson, from North Dakota State, not Pete, from the Chicago rock band.

Nine days after going from third-string understudy behind Sam Bradford and Chase Daniel, Carson Wentz was elevated to Opening Day starter following the trade of Bradford to Minnesota. That despite just a handful of NFL preseason snaps, courtesy of broken ribs in the first exhibition.

All he did Sunday was give the tough Philly fans exactly what they wanted, with a 22-of-37 passing performance for 278 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions and a 101.0 passer rating in a 29-10 win. OK, so it was against a Cleveland defense that put six starters on the field with less than ten games of NFL experience. Yet still...

The number-two overall pick became the Eagles' first rookie starter at quarterback in the opener since 1939 (Davey O'Brien). Heck, even Donovan McNabb wasn't afforded that opportunity in 1999, as Andy Reid went with Doug Pederson instead, the same Pederson who made his rookie NFL head coaching debut after deciding to go with Wentz.

In the process, Wentz became just the third QB to pass for 275-plus yards, and throw at least two TDs with no interceptions in the season opener of his first NFL season since (wait for it...) Robert Griffin III and Jim Kelly (who had USFL experience).

His first scoring pass was a thing of beauty to Jordan Matthews, who remained the receiving corps' top target (7 catches, 114 yards). But listen to the warning 34-year-old left tackle Jason Peters gave Vic Fangio's defense:

"All we have to do is keep the pocket clean. He'll eat `em up."

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The eight-time Pro Bowler also already claimed Wentz's passing on the run is as good as... Aaron Rodgers. Don't tamp down expectations for the kid, Jason. Sounds like the Bears are in trouble.

Wentz won't have his secondary target next Monday night in Zack Ertz. The tight end (6 catches, 58 yards) apparently played most of the game with a rib displacement beneath his left shoulder. The fifth-year Stanford product caught 35 passes over the final four games last season and won't play. Last year's first-rounder, Nelson Agholor, had four catches Sunday after being limited to 23 as a rookie due to ankle issues. Tennessee gave up on its 2015 second round pick during training camp and dealt 6-foot-5 Dorial Green-Beckham, who had just two grabs versus the Browns.

With DeMarco Murray dealt in the aftermath of the Chip Kelly Cleanup Project, injury-prone Ryan Matthews took over the top running back job after averaging a career-high 5.1 yards per carry a year ago. He ran 22 times for 77 yards Sunday, but Kenjon Barner added 42 on just four carries to get the team average up to about four per rushing attempt.

Peters' enthusiasm over Wentz may be a carry-over from relief over Kelly's firing, as the two did not get along. His back and ankle injuries the last couple of years had affected what had been great footwork and athleticism that consistently punched his ticket to Hawaii. The fourth overall pick from 2013 bookending the other side of the line is Lane Johnson, who continues awaiting closure to a potential PED suspension. Jason Kelce went from 2014 Pro Bowl to a bad 2015 as an undersized center who relies on leverage. The Eagles signed ex-Texan Brandon Brooks and former Jaguar Stefen Wisniewski in free agency to strengthen the guard position, but only Brooks starts and 10-year vet Allen Barbre held off third-round rookie Isaac Seumalo at left guard.

Join Chris & Dan Jiggetts from Halas Hall at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday on CSN Chicago, for "Bears Huddle" and "Bears Blitz." You'll hear from Bears coaches and players after practice, previewing Monday Night's home opener.

Rob Gronkowski 'highly unlikely' to play Sunday against the Bears

Rob Gronkowski 'highly unlikely' to play Sunday against the Bears

Sunday's game against Tom Brady and the Patriots will be a tough test for the Bears, but it looks like they're going to receive a big break.

According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski didn't travel with the Patriots to Chicago and is "highly unlikely" to play Sunday.

Avoiding Gronkowski, who is one of Brady's favorite targets, would be a huge break for the Bears' defense. In six games this season, the tight end has 26 receptions for 405 yards and a touchdown; in 14 games last season, Gronkowski had 69 catches for 1,084 yards and eight touchdowns.

Gronkowski has not officially been ruled out yet, though time is running out for the Patriots to make a decision.

Meanwhile, Khalil Mack appears set to play Sunday despite dealing with an ankle injury. Between having Mack on the field and Gronkowski off of it, good news keeps coming for the Bears' defense.

Final thoughts: Cody Parkey quickly moves on from missed game-winning kick

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USA Today Sports Images

Final thoughts: Cody Parkey quickly moves on from missed game-winning kick

There’s, probably, only one position in sports that can match the you-had-one-job scrutiny of a placekicker attempting a critical field goal late in a football game. As in: If you make the kick, it was expected; if you miss it, well, you didn’t do the one thing you were brought on to do. 

The comparison here is a closer in baseball. The expectation is whoever is called upon with a one-to-three-run lead in the ninth inning will convert the save and win his team the game. 

But when a closer blows a save and is in the spotlight during baseball’s regular season, there’s always a game the next day or, at worst, in two days. The immediacy and pace of a Major League Baseball team’s schedule lends itself to closers having to “flush” a bad outing and move on to the next one, since it might be tomorrow. 

For Bears kicker Cody Parkey, though, he’s had to wait a week until he gets his next “meaningful” chance at making a field goal after missing a game-winning 53-yard attempt last weekend against the Miami Dolphins. But moving on from a critical missed kick has never, and is not, a problem for the fifth-year veteran. 

“(It takes) five minutes,” Parkey said. “You kick the ball, and if it doesn’t go in you’re not going to sit there and cry on the field, you’re going to continue to move on with your life. I don’t think there’s really much to it other than knowing you’re going to have to kick another one sometime throughout the season, next game, in the next week, you never know. You stay ready so you’ll be ready for the next week.”

Not allowing those missed kicks to fester is an important trait for a placekicker to possess. What helps Parkey quickly work through his misses is focusing on having a good week of kicking in practice, and also an even-keel mindset that’s been instilled in him since a young age. 

“I think I’ve always been pretty mellow,” Parkey said. “At a young age, my coaches told me never let the highs get to high, never let the lows get too low. And I’ve kind of taken that to heart. If I miss a game winner, make a game winner, I’m going to have the same demeanor. I’m just going to be super chill and knowing it’s a game, it’s supposed to be fun, we’re supposed to go out there and try our best. I put in a lot of work and I try my best on the field.”

That’s something, too, that special teams coach Chris Tabor sees in Parkey. 

“He's always been like that,” Tabor said. “He hit a good ball, his line was just off. In his career going in he was 7-of-8 over 50 yards. I'll be honest with you, I thought he was going to make it. And next time we have that situation, I know he will make it.” 

Age is just a number

Sunday will mark the 6th time in Tom Brady’s career that the 41-year-old has faced a head coach younger than him, but the first time it’ll be a coach other than Miami’s Adam Gase (who’s 40). Brady is 3-2 against Gase’s Dophins. 

Matt Nagy, meanwhile, is also 40. Brady just missed playing Kyle Shanahan (38) and Sean McVay (32), facing the San Francisco 49ers and Los Angeles Rams in 2016, a year before both those youthful coaches were hired. 

Meanwhile, the youngest player on the Bears — 21-year-old Roquan Smith — was three years old when Brady made his unassuming NFL debut on Nov. 23, 2000. 

They said it

A couple of amusing one-liners out of Halas Hall this week…

Nagy, when it was brought to his attention that Mitch Trubisky (105.6) has a better passer rating than Brady (98.2), chuckled: “You want to say that one more time?” 

Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, when asked if he’d ever heard of “Baby Gronk” Adam Shaheen: “(long pause)… Sometimes.”