Bears

Bears' spiral downward gathers speed in loss to Packers

Bears' spiral downward gathers speed in loss to Packers

GREEN BAY, Wisc. – Sometime last Sunday afternoon the wheels of the Bears 2016 season came off, in the form of the Bears losing 13-0 and 16-7 leads in a fourth quarter to the Jacksonville Jaguars. On Thursday night at Lambeau Field, whatever was left of the season went over a cliff.

The 26-10 loss to the Green Bay Packers, whom the Bears had defeated two of their last three times here, was just the final accounting. The Bears actually took a lead on the Packers when rookie linebacker Leonard Floyd sacked Aaron Rodgers on Green Bay’s third play of the second half, stripped the football and recovered it in the end zone for what was a 10-6 lead at the time.

The Packers (4-2) simply started from their 15 on the next series and drove 85 yards, converting four of four third downs, and reestablished their primacy. And in the process reestablished that any thought of Rodgers coming thudding down to earth was little more than wishful thinking as Rodgers, despite losing No. 1 running back Eddie Lacy and using wide receivers as running backs, threw for 326 yards and three touchdowns. No interceptions.

All of which went into the Bears’ sixth loss in seven games, the first time since 2000 (and 1997 before that) that the Bears have stumbled this wildly to start a season.

More than “a” season, however. Since upsetting the Packers last Thanksgiving, the Bears have lost 10 of their last 12, and this is before the Minnesota Vikings (5-0) come to Soldier Field to mercifully end the first half of a nightmare season.

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

The only hope, such as it is, lies in the eventual return of what now feels like half the starting lineups on both sides of the football. By the end of the first half, during which quarterback Brian Hoyer was lost with a broken left arm, the Bears were without their No. 1 quarterback (Jay Cutler), No. 2 quarterback (Hoyer), both starting guards (Kyle Long, Josh Sitton), and the NFL’s leading third-down receiver (Eddie Royal), not to mention their best defensive lineman in Eddie Goldman, still down with a high-ankle sprain.

“You lose your starting quarterback, it can be a little disruptive,” said coach John Fox by way of colossal understatement. Whether the weight of injuries had finally become too much, “nobody comes and rescues you,” Fox added.

Fox has directed two turnarounds in his second seasons with the Carolina Panthers (2002 into 2003) and Denver Broncos (2011 into 2012). This season is tracking with some of the worst in Fox’s coaching career. Fox teams have frequently gone into death spirals and pulled out – sort of – albeit not always resulting in trips to playoffs or even truly successful seasons:

Carolina Panthers

Year Developments Finish
2002 3-0 start, lose eight straight 7-9 (Fox's first year)
2004 1-1 start, lose six straight 7-9
2007 4-2 start, lose five straight 7-9
2009 0-3 start, 3-0 finish 8-8
2010 0-5 start, win one, lose seven straight 2-14 (Fox fired)

Denver Broncos

Year Developments Finish
2011 1-4 start, reach 8-5, lose last three 8-8 (playoffs)

Finding a finish anywhere near what Fox has done in previous dismal seasons is far less than unlikely.

“We are all we’ve got,” said Floyd, insisting, “We are buying into it and we will get ready for the next game.”

Pro Football Focus: Khalil Mack is NFL’s most valuable edge rusher

Pro Football Focus: Khalil Mack is NFL’s most valuable edge rusher

It didn’t take the Bears long to see how valuable Khalil Mack is to their defense, elevating the group from the moment he first stepped on the field.

He’s been among the league’s best outside linebackers since he first broke out in 2015, and the analytics back up the eye test.

He was the highest edge defender on Pro Football Focus’ list of the top 50 players in the NFL, and their “wins above replacement” metric shows why.

It’s Mack and Von Miller, then everyone else.

“Foremost, Mack is a slightly more complete player than Miller when it comes to defending the run,” PFF’s Ben Linsey wrote. “Yes, run defense is significantly less important than an edge rusher’s ability to disrupt the quarterback, but with so little difference between the players, everything gets put under the magnifying glass.”

Over the past four seasons, both players have exactly 49 sacks, although Mack missed two games over that span. The Bears outside linebacker has the edge in interceptions, forced fumbles and tackles for loss, most coming with a lower quality defense around him than what Miller has had in Denver.

It’s no surprise Ryan Pace was willing to trade multiple first-round picks to make Mack the highest-paid defensive player in NFL history. He’s the best in the league.

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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.