Bears going beyond the cliche, injuries to flirt with top-10 defense and major attitude change

Bears going beyond the cliche, injuries to flirt with top-10 defense and major attitude change

The Bears at this point in their 2016 season face any number of questions. But one in particular looms relevant as they try to build on an impressive win over the Minnesota Vikings and use it as a springboard into the second half of their season:

Does their attitude and confidence get them closer to more wins and better play? Or does the better play (and positive reinforcement from a “W”) build the attitude? Or both?

“Ideally you want to start off with that confidence,” said linebacker Sam Acho. “But some of it is built. You don’t really know you can do something until you go out and do it.”

So were the Bears good against Minnesota because they found some confidence? And will it last, whatever it is? Or does beating the Vikings materially improve their chances of win No. 3 next Sunday just because now they know they can be good for 60 full minutes?

“It’s a game of confidence and it’s hard to get confidence without something good happening and that typically is wins,” said coach John Fox. “No doubt. Obviously that helps. But what came first, the chicken or the egg? I think we performed well so you have a better chance of winning and then it all works.”

Talk is very, very cheap, and also very, very easy. And while the mood within the Halas Hall locker room was palpably better on this Wednesday than quite a few previous ones this season, that doesn’t mean much if the Bears come back from Tampa 2-7.

But within the defense in particular, as members of the Bears’ defense returned to practice on Monday, they weren’t used to so many bodies moving around, given the weekly sick bay the team has filled up too many times through eight game weeks.

Yet in spite of gaping starting-lineup holes left by injuries – Bryce Callahan (2 games missed), Kyle Fuller (8), Eddie Goldman (6), Lamarr Houston (6), Pernell McPhee (6), Danny Trevathan (2) – the Bears finished the first half of a disappointing season still ranked in the top half of the NFL in yardage allowed (12th), rushing average (10th), third-down defense (8th), sack percentage (13th).

[MORE BEARS: Bears' sick-bay list encouraging as practice begins for Tampa Bay]

Notably perhaps, the Bears did not deteriorate into a group expecting something to go wrong, which has happened within some past Bears teams that were battered by one injury or misfortune after another.

“Anytime you are playing well it is going to create confidence,” said defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. “Good play, good execution, fuels emotion more so than any speech could. So if you are out there experiencing good things, you feel better about yourself as an individual and as a unit. I am sure the fans even felt a little better.”

Feeling better is certainly a good thing. Feeling nasty is more the internal objective, however, and that is part of the program for a team that believes it has turned a corner and now doesn’t want to back-slide.

“Today, yesterday, Monday, I told the guys the main thing was to stay pissed off, know where we are and where we can go,” McPhee said. “The sky’s the limit; only thing we’ve got to do is stay focused.”

Raiders prepping to set the market for Tom Brady in free agency

Raiders prepping to set the market for Tom Brady in free agency

If the Bears have any interest in signing soon-to-be free-agent quarterback Tom Brady this offseason, they may have to be willing to commit beyond just the 2020 season for him.

According to longtime NFL writer Larry Fitzgerald, Sr., the Las Vegas Raiders are prepping to offer Brady a two-year, $60 million deal.

It's a steep price to pay regardless of Brady's resume largely because of his age; he'll be 43 at the start of next season. It's highly unlikely Ryan Pace would be interested in a multi-year deal for a player as close to the end as Brady, but the market will ultimately dictate what needs to be offered by teams who are serious about acquiring TB12.

If Brady wants to play beyond 2020 and is looking for a commitment from a team that extends into at least the 2021 season, his list of potential suitors is likely to shrink. But all it takes is one club willing to meet his asking price, and with Raiders coach Jon Gruden's affinity for established veteran quarterbacks, it seems like a logical match for both sides.

The Bears are expected to be aggressive in the quarterback market this offseason, whether it's via trade for someone like Bengals veteran Andy Dalton or in free agency with players like Marcus Mariota (Titans) and Teddy Bridgewater (Saints) presenting as attractive options.

Former second overall pick Mitch Trubisky has largely been a disappointment over his first three years in Chicago and is facing a make-or-break season in 2020. There's a chance he won't even begin training camp as the starter, depending on who the Bears court in free agency and the promises they make in order to sign him.

NFL free agency could be ‘potential chaos’ for available quarterbacks

NFL free agency could be ‘potential chaos’ for available quarterbacks

A plethora of NFL quarterbacks are set to hit the open market in the next few weeks in Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Dak Prescott, Philip Rivers, Teddy Bridgewater, Jameis Winston, Ryan Tannehill, Marcus Mariota and Case Keenum.

With at least nine in-demand signal-callers, the NFL could see a quarterback shakeup unparalleled in recent NFL history. According to NBC Sports’ Mike Florio, there may be “more butts than seats.”

“In this looming game of quarterback musical chairs, I still don’t think we know whether when the music stops, there’s gonna be more butts than seats, or more seats than butts,” Florio said on NBC Sports’ PFT Live. “And there’s a chance that there’s gonna be a team that is left — because they wanted too long to have something lined up — they’re gonna be left looking around saying ‘Who the hell’s our quarterback for 2020?’”

Based on that list of quarterbacks, teams that could have a QB vacancy to fill this winter include the Patriots, Cowboys, Saints, Buccaneers, Chargers and Titans. There are nine quarterbacks on that list, though Mariota and Keenum may be viewed more as backups by prospective suitors. Therefore, you could have six teams in need of a quarterback and seven on the open market.

The former figure could increase if teams like the Bears or Raiders look to upgrade the quarterback position in free agency. In that case, perhaps there are more “chairs” than “butts” this offseason, meaning some teams may find themselves without a starting quarterback entering the NFL draft.

In that scenario, a team may be inclined to trade for a QB, such as Bengals’ Andy Dalton. How this chaotic situation plays out will determined in the coming weeks, but what’s already certain is this offseason’s free agency could be a frenzy.

“We’ve never had anything even close to this, by way of potential chaos for quarterbacks in free agency and really through the draft,” Florio said. “Who knows how it’s all gonna play out? There’s gonna be a major, major shakeup, potentially. It’s gonna be somewhere between nothing changes and complete and total chaos, but I think it’s gonna be closer to complete and total chaos.”