Bears

Bears No. 1 'D' wobbles in shakedown cruise

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Bears No. 1 'D' wobbles in shakedown cruise

The first unit had breakdowns and penalties, allowing a 14-play drive on Miami’s first possession, but after that, very little, with backup units producing four takeaways.

“We misplayed our linebacker alignment, that was for plus-27 [yards],” Bears head coach John Fox said. “We weren’t very crisp on third down. There were a couple conversions we had called for a penalty to give them a first down on a third-down situation. So it wasn’t as clean as we like but first preseason game with a new staff usually isn’t.”

Defensive line

The first requirement of the line was to control at the point of attack. The “wave” concept that Fox spoke of in camp was quickly evident Thursday, with a starting down-three of Jarvis Jenkins-Jeremiah Ratliff-Ego Ferguson but Eddie Goldman was in at nose tackle on Miami’s first drive. The Bears also showed a lot of rush packages with just two down-linemen, beginning with Ferguson and Ratliff, flanked by hybrids Jared Allen and Pernell McPhee. Allen nearly stopped the first Miami drive with a pass deflection.

[MORE BEARS: Bears win over Dolphins allows seeing just what you want to see]

Goldman was a force with surprising middle pressure on Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill and was given a heavy dose of playing time.

Will Sutton played extensively through the final three quarters and was able to be disruptive in spots.

Linebackers

Sam Acho made a push to regain his spot in the first unit. For most of training camp Acho was the outside linebacker opposite McPhee. But Allen, having a strong camp, turned up as the starter on the depth chart Wednesday and against Miami. The reason appeared to be pass rush, with Allen getting steadily better rushing out of a stand-up, two-point stance, while Acho was getting too often locked up in pass rushes and not putting sufficient pressure from a position where it is demanded. Acho was able to record the Bears’ first sack with a second-effort move coming around Miami right tackle Donald Hawkins.

Acho helped put the game effectively out of reach with a leaping interception in the fourth quarter that led to a Robbie Gould field goal.

[MORE BEARS: Fox Era begins for Bears with preseason win over Dolphins]

Rookie John Timu gave the Bears a second takeaway when he deflected a McLeod Bethel-Thompson pass up in the air and made the interception falling on his back. The offense converted the takeaway into a touchdown run by Ka’Deem Carey.

Secondary

Sherrick McManis made the defensive play of the game with a strip of the football from Dolphins running back Mike Gillislee in a fashion that takeaway legend Charles Tillman would have been proud of. He then recovered the ensuing fumble to set the offense up in Miami’s end of the field early in the third quarter. McManis also broke up a third-down slant pass to stop Miami’s second possession, and used perfect technique to go under a blocker and record a stop on a first-half Dolphins sweep.

At the other end of the grade book, Brock Vereen opened at free safety but was critically late getting over to cover Jarvis Landry on an out route from the 2-yard line for Miami’s first touchdown. Without knowing assignments and calls, it is difficult to completely critique, but Vereen was too deep when the play started and too late getting to an open receiver in a short-yardage goal-line situation where that simply cannot happen.

[MORE BEARS: Bears rookies letting things come to them in first game action]

Vereen was on the bench after the first possession, replaced by Ryan Mundy in a move that could be permanent. Al Louis-Jean allowed LaRon Byrd to get behind him for a 34-yard completion in the second quarter.

Cornerback Terrance Mitchell, who has been strong in coverage through camp, broke up a third-down pass with a hit as the ball arrived. Mitchell had to be helped off the field after a helmet-to-helmet collision making a tackle.

Rookie Adrian Amos was in on kick coverage and also at safety where he was decisive in run support and made stops with solid tackles. Cornerback Alan Ball added to the penalty count with a holding penalty to allow a second-quarter first down. He disrupted a throw into the end zone later.

[NBC SHOP: Gear up for the season, Bears fans]

Special teams

Marc Mariani, inserted as a wide receiver with the first unit in selected packages, made his bid for the job of punt returner with a 28-yard return in the second quarter. The run was called back when Demontre Hurst was called for a block in the back but Mariani got quickly to the second level, using his blocking effectively.

Gould raised some eyebrows with some uncharacteristic inaccuracy during last Saturday’s Soldier Field practice but was good from 48 and 23 yards in his only two tries against the Dolphins.

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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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.”