Bears step way up in class trying to stop Colts, Andrew Luck


Bears step way up in class trying to stop Colts, Andrew Luck

INDIANAPOLIS – The NFL is about matchups and the Indianapolis Colts are among the more difficult matchups the Bears could have drawn, preseason or otherwise. But it may at the same time be exactly what a still-forming team can use for all three phases of its game.

That was part of the perspective that the Bears took from their 27-10 game one win over the Miami Dolphins. Starters are expected to be played into the second quarter, ideally with more production that the No. 1’s delivered vs. the Dolphins.

“Every team has something to work on in the first preseason game,” said linebacker Christian Jones. “We need to make adjustments and do what we know to do.”

It will not be an easy process. The No. 1 offense is expected to have Matt Forte after the franchise running back was held out of the Miami game as coaches took an extended look at the options for his supporting cast. But Alshon Jeffery will be out again with a calf injury, Kevin White’s injured shin has him down until at the very least well into the regular season, and the Indianapolis game may be a preview of how the offense will have to function without the deep threat of White in the foreseeable future.

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“We've got to throw guys into game situations,” said coach John Fox. “We've had one game behind us, we learned some things and we adjust and move forward. It's a very fluid process. It's week-to-week.”

One specific goal will be a start that includes controlling the football for more than a handful of snaps on the first possession like the three-and-out vs. Miami.

“We got better from the first to the second drive [12 plays, 66 yards],” said tackle Jermon Bushrod. “We just need to start the way we know we’re capable of.”

The defense is starting another safety combination, this one with rookie Adrian Amos alongside Antrel Rolle. “[Amos] has been good, looks comfortable back there,” Rolle said. “There's a lot of communication between him and myself and we're only going to get better, that's the plan. He has an outstanding skills set, he hustles, he runs to the ball, he understands the defense and we're going to help each other. It's not only going to be me helping him, it's going to be him helping me, also.”

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The safeties and defense overall will need to be a lot of helping against Andrew Luck and what was the NFL’s most prolific passing offense last season (306 yards per game). The Colts thought enough of wideout T.Y. Hilton to sign him last week to a five-year extension worth potentially $66.5 million, and enough of Luck in the passing offense to use their No. 1 pick on speed receiver Phillip Dorsett and acquire longtime Pro Bowl wideout Andre Johnson this offseason.

The defense struggled in the first of the two days practicing against Luck but recovered to respectability on day two, earning compliments from the Pro Bowl quarterback.

“Very impressed,” Luck said. “I was fortunate enough to play under Coach [Vic] Fangio for a year or two at Stanford, which was really fun. Great guy. I learned a lot from him even though he was a defensive coach. Some studs on the Bears: Pernell McPhee, Jared Allen coming off the edge, a bunch of guys. Tim Jennings, I always had a lot of respect for him as a player.”

Special teams allowed the Dolphins a 42-yard punt return and an average of 25.3 yards on three kickoff returns. Both the Bears offense and defense could use all the field position their special-teams units can provide.

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.”