Bears

Bears tackle Kyle Long named to third straight Pro Bowl

kyle-long-pro-bowl-insider-slide.png

Bears tackle Kyle Long named to third straight Pro Bowl

In the days before the 2015 game one against the Green Bay Packers, the Bears decided two-time Pro Bowl guard Kyle Long would suddenly become a tackle. Later in the season coach John Fox was clear: Kyle Long is a tackle.

The NFL apparently agrees, naming Long to his third straight Pro Bowl, this time as a tackle and replacing Philadelphia’s Jason Peters, who is out because of injury.

Long, who becomes the Bears’ sole representative in the Pro Bowl at this point, was surprised when his cell phone rang on Thursday and it was Fox calling, leaving a message to call him and it was “urgent.”

Long returned Fox's call and was treated to the news that, for all of his struggles at times in his “rookie” year at tackle, he was a Pro Bowl’er again.

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

“It just makes me realize how great a fan base we have and appreciative of the voters week to week, the guys around me on the team,” Long said. “I can’t say enough about the guys on the team and the coaching.”

Long had said privately before the season that his personal goal was to be the first guard to be named to Pro Bowls in his first 10 seasons. The 2013 Bears No. 1 pick, 20th overall, is still on track for his 10-goal, but this one comes at a position he admits he wasn’t all that keen on before the change came.

After strong play early against the likes of Khalil Mack from Oakland and Justin Houston of Kansas City, Long had his difficult moments as well in the closing weeks. But the overall is what the Bears, and ultimately he, wanted in the way of performance.

“I think I made a big sacrifice in my career and I think this was, in a roundabout way, a reward for it,” Long said. “Unfortunately I dealt with a lot of growing pains and I’ve owned it. It’s been part of the learning process and I’ve tried to be positive every day.

“It’s been a fun process this year and there’ve been tough times, but Hawaii’s going to be a lot of fun.”

Long is the first Bears offensive lineman ever to receive Pro Bowl honors in his first three seasons. He also is the first since Brian Urlacher (2000-2002) to be named to Pro Bowls in his first three seasons, regardless of position, and the seventh Bear of all time to achieve that honor.

[MORE: Interest in Bears staff a strong positive statement by NFL]

Three of the last four are in the Hall of Fame, and Urlacher will be eligible in 2018, part of a class that will include Ray Lewis.

Long started all 16 games for the Bears this season at right tackle and was a part of a Bears offense that ranked third in franchise single-season history in completion percentage (63.9) and interception percentage (2.3), fourth in gross passing yards (3,843) and third-down percentage (42.5), fifth in net passing yards (3,660) and sixth in passer rating (89.7) and total net yards (5,514). Long helped protect QB Jay Cutler who had a career-high 92.3 passer rating while blocking for Matt Fortè, who finished ninth in the NFL this season averaging 99 yards from scrimmage per game.

“I’m just really appreciative of this and it’s a blessing to be able to represent the Bears in the Pro Bowl again,” Long said. As far as assessing his season, “when you have some separation from the season and time off, you get a chance to dissect the things you want to improve on for next year.

“That’s been the biggest thing for me since the break.”

Bears named to Pro Bowls in each of their first three NFL seasons:

G/T Kyle Long, 2013-15

LB Brian Urlacher, 2000-02

RB Gale Salers, 1965-67

LB Dick Butkus, 1965-67

TE Mike Ditka, 1961-63

RB Rick Casares, 1955-57

WR Harlon Hill, 1954-56

Puppy Pick 'Em Puppy Walter makes his Week 7 picks for Bears-Saints

Puppy Pick 'Em Puppy Walter makes his Week 7 picks for Bears-Saints

When the Bears announced their 2019 schedule, we decided to have some puppies reveal the opponents. Now, we have taken it a step further. We have a puppy that will make weekly picks for the Bears games.

It is Week 7!

Walter's choices in Week 7 are a chance to go to Mardi Gras or a celebration of St. Patrick's day in Chicago. Bears fans should be excited about his decision in Week 7... and now we're all looking forward to St. Patrick's Day again!

The 12-week old dachshund was hand-selected by the scouts at NBC Sports Chicago and hails from One Tail at a Time rescue. He came from a shelter in Alabama and was transported to Chicago.  At just 7 weeks old and without his mom, he beat a deadly virus and spent some time in the doggie ER, where he healed and became strong again. 

Now, Walter is ready to rumble between the well-manicured lines of Sweetness Field. He is NOW adoptable via onetail.org and has two adorable sisters named Martha and Millie, who are already adopted. 

Walter will pick the games throughout the NFL season, including the playoffs and we hope that his nose follows the scent to the Bears every week, all the way to that magical game in Miami in February. Narrated by Jason Benetti, play-by-play announcer for the White Sox.  

It is time for Puppy Pick ‘Em presented by Nissan.

To learn more: www.onetail.org

Three keys and prediction: Bears vs. Saints

Three keys and prediction: Bears vs. Saints

1. Get production from receivers not named Allen Robinson. 

Robinson can expect to be followed all game by Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore, who’s limited opposing receivers to nine catches on 20 targets in his last three games (a sampling of those receivers: Amari Cooper, Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, D.J. Chark). So if Robinson isn’t open, it likely will have less to do with his own play and more the play of one of the better cornerbacks in the NFL. 

With that in mind, Sunday will be a significant test for the Bears’ other pass catchers. This team’s offensive identity was supposed to be steeped in an ability to spread the ball around to guys like Taylor Gabriel, Tarik Cohen, Anthony Miller, Cordarrelle Patterson and Trey Burton, but so far this season, the only thing the Bears have proven to do well is get the ball to Robinson. That absolutely has to change on Sunday. 

Miller feels primed for a breakout game after ditching his shoulder harness, while Gabriel is back from a concussion suffered on the final catch of his explosive three touchdown game in Week 3 against Washington. Those two guys need to show up, and the Bears need to better scheme plays for Cohen, who’s averaging 4.5 yards per touch — lower than his average in 2017 with Dowell Loggains calling the plays. 

Robinson still could have a productive day — he’s that good — but the Bears shouldn’t count on it.

2. Hold your own against the Saints’ front. 

The Saints are outstanding at affecting quarterbacks without blitzing, with their 76 pressures ranking second in the NFL — this for a team that’s only blitzing on 22 percent of its defensive snaps. And of those 76 pressures, 63 have come from defensive linemen. 

Marcus Davenport and Cam Jordan have been monsters this year, combining for eight sacks while consistently generating that pressure off the edge. Charles Leno Jr. and Bobby Massie will need need to have their best games of 2019 to keep them away from Mitch Trubisky, but the interior of the Bears’ line will have its hands full, too. David Onyemata, Malcom Brown and Sheldon Rankins all have at least one sack, putting an onus on Cody Whitehair, James Daniels and Rashaad Coward and/or Ted Larsen to keep those guys out of Trubisky’s face.

If not, Trubisky will have a difficult time getting comfortable and going through his progressions, which could lead to some forced/panicked throws...which could be jumped by Lattimore or another one of the Saints' defensive backs.   

3. Get game-wrecking plays on defense.

The thought here is Sunday’s game will be a tight defensive battle, with the game swinging on which team gets a turnover deep in its opponent territory. For the Bears, that means coming up with the kind of game-wrecking play (or plays) we’ve come to expect from this defense. 

Teddy Bridgewater has been sacked on only 16.7 percent of his drop-backs (24th, per PFF), though, with tackles Ryan Ramczyk and Terron Armstead among the best pass blockers at their position in the NFL. It’ll be a fascinating matchup for Khalil Mack, who will need to be at his best to beat the Saints’ best and “sack the football,” as he’s so good at doing. Or maybe Sunday is time for Eddie Jackson to get his first interception of the season (though he’s only been thrown at about two times per game, down from his average of nearly three times per game in 2018). 

However the Bears’ defense does it, they need to do it in a game in which their offense very well could struggle to move the ball. 

Prediction: Saints 13, Bears 9. 

While the Saints will be without future Hall of Fame quarterback Drew Brees, star do-it-all running back Alvin Kamara and reliable tight end Jared Cook, this is a team should have the advantage at the line of scrimmage on both offense and defense (the Bears, of course, will be without Akiem Hicks and might start a greenhorn at right guard in Coward). That advantage matters greatly in close games, in which grinding out a few yards here and there will become critical, especially in the fourth quarter.

And too, Sean Payton has built a strong coach of the year case for how he’s guided the Saints to an undefeated record without Brees. The Saints are playing a strong brand of complementary football, with a ball security-based offense and a defense that’s progressively got better this year (punter Thomas Morstead, for what it’s worth, is outstanding and shouldn’t be completely overlooked). 

So the Saints will arrive at Soldier Field undermanned, but with an advantage at the line of scrimmage and on the sideline. And those will be enough for New Orleans to emerge with a win, sending the Bears to 3-3 in the process. 

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Bears.