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Bears prepare for Jets, wonder if they're true 'closers'

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Bears prepare for Jets, wonder if they're true 'closers'

Sunday, Dec. 26, 2010
10:05 a.m.

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com
Few weeks of the 2010 season have passed without at least one question being raised or answered by the Bears performance. Its just been that kind of year.

So the question going into Sundays meeting with the New York Jets (10-4) is there:

Are the Bears true closers yet?

The elite teams in the NFL typically seize true opportunities when they are before them. The Bears have flirted with elite status at times, only to slip back and leave themselves open to doubt, sometimes within their own locker room.

That the Bears (10-4) are a good, even very good, team they have never doubted. But elite has been another matter.

So among the usual tactical questions going into a game is the one as to whether the Bears can finish off a good opponent when the stakes are a step toward a vitally important goal such as the No. 2 seed in the NFC playoffs and earn a bye through the first round of the postseason.

Things have been a little lighter, obviously, since we played on Monday night and this has been a short week, said linebacker Lance Briggs. For us, weve got to keep getting better. Weve got a lot of fight for the rest of the season and into the playoffs so this game is very important to us just securing things in the playoffs.

To take that step toward being the kind of closer that wins championships means taking several specific smaller steps.

Get on the Mark

Mark Sanchez is expected to start for the Jets despite some shaky practice days because of an injury to his right (throwing) shoulder. That could be good news for the Bears, who have gotten some of the best coverage play from their secondary in decades.

Three Bears defensive backs Chris Harris, D.J. Moore, Charles Tillman have 4 interceptions. No other team in the NFL has three DBs with 4 and no Bears team since the 1983-86 teams have had three with that kind of production.

On the other side is Sanchez not throwing a touchdown pass in his last 106 attempts and none in his last three games, two of them losses in which the Jets managed just 9 total points.

Before the last two games before the Pittsburgh game, I wouldve said Im making better decisions., using my legs a little more, sliding a lot better, getting rid of the ball, getting to my check-downs a lot faster, Sanchez said. But those two weeks we didnt play very well, I reverted back to some of those poor decisions, not having two hands on the ball and just got sloppy with my fundamentals.

The Bears have two edge rushers in Israel Idonije and Julius Peppers who are 6-6 and 6-7, respectively, and both with 8 sacks. No team has more than the Bears 21 sacks over the last seven games, six of them wins, and that may be enough to help Sanchez get sloppy again with his fundamentals.
New identity?

The problem is in the run game. The last three opponents each have gained more rushing yards and the last four averaged more per carry than the Bears, a disturbing trend for a team that had allowed 100 rushing yards in just two of the previous six games.

What has changed, however, is any belief that the Bears will go only as far as their defense takes them.

I disagree with that, linebacker Brian Urlacher said. Were known as a defensive team, but our offense scored 40 points last week. I know special teams scored seven of them, but it still goes to the offense.

I disagree with that. I think were a good team, all-around. The offense has been there for us the last eight or nine weeks. Theyve been playing better. Once they figured out the offense, and how to run stuff, theyve been playing well.

They carried us in the Philly game. Detroit; we didnt play well. They carried us. There have been a few games here lately where we needed them and they came through for us

John "Moon" Mullin is CSNChicago.com's Bears Insider, and appears regularly on Bears Postgame Live and Chicago Tribune Live. Follow Moon on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bears information.

Here's where Allen Robinson ranks on list of 2021 NFL free agents

Here's where Allen Robinson ranks on list of 2021 NFL free agents

Bears wide receiver Allen Robinson still doesn't have his contract extension. The COVID-19 pandemic is an obvious explanation for the delay in re-signing Chicago's most important offensive weapon to a multi-year deal, but as the calendar inches closer to the start of the 2020 regular season, the odds of inking A-Rob to a new contract get worse.

At some point, Robinson might decide it's better to play out the final year of his contract and improve his open-market value in 2021. The addition of Nick Foles should be a boon to Robinson's production, assuming he takes the field at some point this season. Robinson had nearly 100 catches and more than 1,100 yards catching passes from a devolved Mitch Trubisky and duck-and-chuck backup, Chase Daniel. Just imagine the kind of numbers Robinson would put up with steady quarterback play.

And with more production comes more cash.

READ: Todd McShay has Bears taking a QB in latest NFL Mock Draft

The Bears have to be very careful with their handling of Robinson. If they allow him to hit the open market, he won't be back. Teams will line up for his services and the bidding will get out of control. In fact, Robinson would command a contract that would put him at or near the top of the wide receiver market.

And this isn't just a Bears-biased opinion of Robinson. He's already regarded as one of the top players scheduled to hit free agency next winter, according to NFL.com.

7. Allen Robinson 

Robinson, who turns 27 later this month, would be known as one of the 10 best receivers in football if he played with better quarterbacks.

Ryan Pace has proven during his tenure in Chicago that he isn't afraid to pay his own players. He already did it this offseason with Eddie Jackson when he signed the Pro Bowl safety to a four-year, $58.4 million deal.

It isn't time to panic yet. Pace tends to take his time with these transactions and is infamous for getting big-money extensions signed by his guys on the eve of the regular season. Maybe Robinson will be the next guy in line.

He better be.

 

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NFL Mock Draft 2021: Todd McShay has Bears taking a quarterback

NFL Mock Draft 2021: Todd McShay has Bears taking a quarterback

ESPN NFL Draft analyst Todd McShay published his first mock draft of the 2021 NFL draft cycle on Wednesday, which is exactly what all football fans need after the Big 10 and Pac 12 conferences announced they're delaying football until the spring. The remaining Power 5 conferences could follow suit in the coming days. Draft season is already here, folks.

McShay's mock draft was a mix of chalk and surprises. Trevor Lawrence (QB, Clemson) was the first pick to the Jaguars, which almost every draft analyst assumes is a lock at this point. Lawrence is a franchise-changing quarterback prospect and whoever owns the first overall pick is going to take him. You can safely move on to the second pick, which is where McShay's first major curveball came.

At No. 2 overall, McShay has the Washington Football Team selecting Alabama cornerback Patrick Surtain II. 

Surtain is a surefire first-round pick but it isn't a slamdunk that he's the top cornerback in this year's draft class, let alone a top-five player overall. Instead, that distinction should go to Oregon offensive tackle Penei Sewell and Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields, who McShay has off the board at the third and fourth overall picks to the Bengals and Panthers respectively.

READ: 4 reasons to feel optimistic about the Bears in 2020

As for the Bears, McShay is one of many who are buying into the quarterback narrative. Chicago is expected to be one of the teams on the shortlist of clubs targeting a passer in Round 1 next April (assuming the draft is in April). In this mock, McShay sends the Bears Trey Lance, the North Dakota State star who enjoyed a 41-touchdown, zero-turnover season as a passer and runner in 2019.

"Lance is big, athletic and tough, and he absolutely dominated the FCS last season," McShay wrote of the Bears' pick at No. 14 overall. "He threw zero interceptions on nearly 300 pass attempts in 2019 and offered dual-threat production, rushing for 50-plus yards in nine of his 16 games. The Bears need a guy they can build around, and they can't afford to whiff this time around.

"Chicago's thoughts on Mitchell Trubisky were made clear when it didn't give him his fifth-year option and signed a soon-to-be 32-year-old Foles who is coming off an injury-plagued, poor 2019 season. Lance is a third-year sophomore with some questions still to be answered -- including whether he'd want to declare for the draft at all -- but the Bears would love to get this talented signal-caller in the middle of the first round based on his ceiling."

Lance will be a fascinating player to monitor over the next few months. He, unlike some of the other top prospects from bigger programs, needs another season of tape to solidify his grade as an early first-round pick. It doesn't look like he's going to get it.

RELATED: Is Mitch Trubisky the Bears' biggest liability this season?

Lance is making a jump from a lower level of competition at the game's most complex position. He only has 288 pass attempts on his collegiate resume. Compare that to Trubisky, who entered the NFL with 386 college pass attempts and was considered inexperienced and raw during the 2017 draft cycle.

Can Ryan Pace (or whoever is the Bears' general manager during the 2021 draft)  roll the dice on another quarterback who has just one season as a starter? It seems like an easy answer (which is 'No' in case you're wondering). 

Buckle up. It's going to be an extremely long draft season with dozens and dozens of mock drafts between now and April. Players like Lance will move up and down the first round, and pundits will cycle through names for the Bears' first-rounder like Chicago's gone through kickers in recent years. 

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