Bears

Bears Grades: Cutler leads Bears to another comeback win

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Bears Grades: Cutler leads Bears to another comeback win

After a decidedly pedestrian first half, including 0-for-3 in the second quarter, Jay Cutler exploded on the Kansas City Chiefs in a fourth quarter that saw him complete 11 of 21 passes for 114 yards, shake off two potentially devastating drops by his receivers, and direct touchdown drives of 88 and 67 yards for an 18-17 victory that rocked even his own locker room.

Cutler finished with 26-for-45 passing for 252 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions for the first time in 2015. Cutler absorbed two sacks but stayed on track with a passer rating of 88.4. It marked the second straight fourth-quarter comeback for the Cutler Bears and 23rd of his nine-year career, only four coming over the previous two seasons combined.

But Cutler was directing the praise elsewhere.

[MORE: Cutler, Bears stun Chiefs with fourth-quarter comeback]

“I feed off those guys [teammates],” he said. “Honestly I have a lot of pride but I didn’t really feel good about the first half. But at that quarterback position you have to count on those guys and you have to count on everyone to do their job.”

The win, which also included Cutler directing an 11-play drive for 73 yards and a third-quarter Robbie Gould field goal, was accomplished with Cutler dropping in perfect passes to Marquess Wilson for 22 yards and a touchdown, followed 3 minutes later by Cutler managing to pick up a low snap and recover to feather a seven-yard throw to Matt Forte for the winning points with 18 seconds remaining.

Both throws were in the ideal of being where either Cutler’s receivers or no one was going to make the catch.

“It was an amazing throw,” Wilson said of his ball, landed between two Kansas City defensive backs. “He put it exactly where it needed to be, right on the money. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like that. He threw that before I even got out of my break… . It was a phenomenal throw.”

But it was what Cutler did in the days leading up to Sunday that arguably was nearly as important big-picture as what he did to the Chiefs. Cutler cajoled, encouraged, berated and otherwise coached up his group of inexperienced receivers in ways that domino’ed into a win that an evolving team and players needed for their confidence.

[NBC SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

“I think Adam [Gase, offensive coordinator] and Mike [Groh, receivers coach] put a lot of trust in the quarterbacks just to help coach these guys up,” Cutler said, then smiled. “Coaches can only go so far. At some point you’ve got to tune them out and players need to take some ownership.”

On Sunday, Cutler also made a conscious effort to quicken the pace in the second half in order to minimize the think-time for young players like center Hronis Grasu and left tackle Charles Leno.

With a receiver group that included Wilson and Josh Bellamy starting at wideouts, Cutler had few easy throws to wide-open receivers, yet took the lead himself with a run on a read-option, a second called run when he dove for a first down and avoided turnovers other than a sack-fumble in the first quarter that the Chiefs recovered in the end zone for a touchdown.

“I just need to hang onto the ball and avoid the safety,” Cutler said.

Moon's Grade: A

Projected lineups for Eddie Jackson’s charity softball game

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USA Today

Projected lineups for Eddie Jackson’s charity softball game

Eddie Jackson is hosting a charity softball game this Saturday, June 15th at Schamburg Boomers stadium at 5:05pm. It’ll be offense vs defense so let’s take an early look at what these lineups might look like for both teams.

Defense

1. Eddie Jackson

Has home run hitting ability in the leadoff spot and a flair for the dramatic. This rising star puts the pressure on the opposing pitcher from the very first pitch. Plus it’s his game, so of course he’s batting first.

2. Kyle Fuller

Tied for the NFL interception lead in 2018, Fuller’s combination of speed, instincts and film study  at the top of the lineup helps set the table for the big bats.

3. Akiem Hicks

As Ed O’Bradovich said at the 100 year celebration this past weekend, Khalil Mack “is a man-eater, but (Akiem Hicks) is the man who makes it happen.” It’s long been said you put your most important hitter in the 3-hole.

4. Khalil Mack

The quintessential cleanup hitter. Who else would you want in this spot?

5. Danny Trevathan

Provides world champion protection behind Mack in the likely event that the opponent tries to pitch around #52.

6. Roquan Smith

Just when an opponent think they’ve gotten thru the heart of the lineup, the 2018 rookie who came up just shy of Brian Urlacher’s franchise tackling mark is there to “break a man,” as he said right after his Bears intro press conference.

7. Ha-Ha Clinton Dix

Sliding this new addition into the 7-hole takes some of the pressure off of him to make an immediate impact, while also trapping pitchers into thinking they might get a break against a guy who has shown big play ability in the past.

8. Bilal Nichols

One of the most underrated players in the entire league is perfectly fine lurking at the bottom of the order. A second cleanup hitter, he’s happy consistently performing and making his teammates better. Everyone in this lineup knows how valuable he is.

9. Leonard Floyd

Still in a bit of a prove it spot, but if he consistently plays the way he’s shown shown flashes of, he could not only be dangerous in this spot, but he could climb up the lineup pretty quickly.

10. Prince Amukamara

Veteran who knows he’s there to do a job and turn the lineup over. His speed and ball skills make him a threat.

11. Buster Skrine

Another newcomer, let’s see what he’s got at the bottom of the order.

Offense

1. Taylor Gabriel   *Anthony Miller

We can all agree there’s no reason for Miller, a guy who dislocated his shoulder multiple times to be swinging a bat amiright?? Miller has the Willie Mayes Hayes swag you want from the leadoff man when healthy tho.

As for ‘Turbo’ Taylor Gabriel, of course you’re putting a guy who’s been clocked at 23 mph at the top of the lineup.

2. Tarik Cohen

Perfect spot for the swiss army knife of the offense. Could lay down a bunt and beat it out, move the runner, or even hit one to the gap and clear the bases.

3. Mitch Trubisky

The obvious spot for the leader of the offense and Akiem Hicks’ pick (outside himself) to win the home run derby part of this event. Let’s just hope he breaks out the punky QB headband and sunglasses look again this weekend.

4. Kyle Long

The most veteran member of the offensive line is there to protect the QB. Whether or not he’s even in the lineup, if anyone goes high and tight on # 10, better believe they’ll answer to #75.

5. Cody Whitehair

Some more muscle in the middle of the order. Has made it clear he’s good with moving around the lineup if the coaches think it’s best for the team.

6. Allen Robinson

Based on what we saw in the playoff game, he could be on his way to putting up big numbers anywhere in the batting order. Definitely a guy you want up late with the game on the line.

7. Charles Leno

Flies under the radar at one of the most important positions in football. If a pitcher thinks he’s in the clear after getting past Robinson, Leno will be there to throw a big block into that thinking.

8. Trey Burton / Adam Shaheen

When healthy, they provide some pop towards the bottom of the lineup. Let’s have Anthony Miller ready as the designated runner if these guys can get on base.

9. Bobby Massie

The ultimate team guy as he showed by signing a team friendly deal to stay in Chicago much earlier in the offseason than he had to.

10. James Daniels

As the new man in the middle on the offensive line, the burden falls on him to turn the lineup over and set the table for the speedy top of the order.

11. Mike Davis

Good spot to start for this new addition. Could easily see him towards the top of the lineup if he produces the way Matt Nagy & company thinks he can.

The defense has been ahead of the offense for pretty much the entire Pace/Nagy regime. But if Matt Nagy is involved, there’s sure to be no shortage of hidden ball tricks, squeezes and other trick plays with awesome names, so I might have to give a slight edge to the offense in this game.

The Bears are on summer break for the next 5 weeks. So what exactly will they be up to?

The Bears are on summer break for the next 5 weeks. So what exactly will they be up to?

For the second time in 2019, a field goal attempt sent the Bears on vacation.  

This time it was off the feet of Eddy Pineiro and Elliot Fry, both hitting kicks that wrapped up the team’s three days of veteran minicamp. Don’t tell them there weren’t stakes, either.

“They both nailed two 40-yard’ers down the middle so our guys got out of gassers, which was nice,” said Matt Nagy. “So if you heard any cheering, that’s why. Our guys think I’m nice and that if they would’ve missed it, they weren’t going to run anyway. But they were going to run.” 

And now, the Bears go on vacation for the next five weeks -- as mandated by the NFL -- before heading down to Bourbonnais in late July to start the highly-anticipated Year 2. 

What happens next depends on who you ask. For the Bears’ outside corners, coincidence or not, it’s off to bask in the arid heat of southwestern summers. 

“I like to go down to Arizona, where I’m from, and train at my high school,” Prince Amukamara said. “I’m probably not going to do any traveling, but I’ll train and probably get my mind off it a little bit.” 

“I like to get away somewhere a little bit quieter,” Kyle Fuller added. “I go to Arizona ... I play a lot of golf. That’s really it.” 

If you can believe it, Fuller won’t be the only professional football player hitting the links during his down time. For wide receiver Taylor Gabriel, who just recently picked it up, the next month or will be all about tinkering his swing. 

“I'm going to do a lot of golfing this little break,” Gabriel said. “I'm decent, I'm not that good, not just yet. Just two months in, give me a little time.” 

The sense around Halas Hall (and realistically most of the NFL’s other halls) is that the next five weeks will act more as a mental break than a physical one. For example: defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano requested that his unit watch just one hour of film per day. After two weeks of practices in which, on more than one occasion, Nagy had to tell the team to dial back the intensity, the goal is now to find whatever mindset is needed before The Grind starts. For some, that means radio silence. 

“Right now I'm about to go into my shell and I'm going to be hard to reach and hard to talk to,” said Akiem Hicks. “The only person that gets through is Mom.” 

Not everyone will go MIA, though. Trey Burton will stick around Lake Forest while he continues to rehab and get treatment for a sports hernia surgery he underwent this offseason. Mitch Trubisky has no plans to take it easy, either. 

“I’m not thinking about going home, I’m thinking about getting out here to practice in a little bit,” he said. “This is what I love to do, this is what we look forward to do.

“For me, you get to relax and take care of your body for a little bit, but I’m always thinking about football.”

For others, it means soaking up the much-needed time around loved ones that can prove to be elusive for 8 months of the NFL year. Eddie Jackson goes home to Florida to train with “the guys I started with, from when I was little.” Matt Nagy eschews his Bears visor for his Dad Hat, which presumably is also a visor. 

“I personally think it’s important that I make sure I’m still a good dad, a good husband, and during the season you don’t get any of that,” Nagy said. “And that’s your obligation. We’ll be going some places with my family and I’ll put football aside for a little bit, because that’ll make me better if I do that, and better in the season.”