Bears

Bears tackle Kyle Long named to third straight Pro Bowl

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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

Recalling moments in Tom Brady history ahead of his likely last meeting with Bears

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Recalling moments in Tom Brady history ahead of his likely last meeting with Bears

As Tom Brady approaches what in all reasonable likelihood will be his last game against the Bears and in Soldier Field, the first time this reporter saw Tom Brady comes very much to mind. Actually the first times, plural. Because they were indeed memorable, for different reasons.

That was back in 2001, when Brady should have started replacing Wally Pipp as the poster athlete for what can happen when a player has to sit out and his replacement never gives the job back. Drew Bledsoe, who’d gotten the New England Patriots to a Super Bowl, had gotten injured week two of that season. Brady, who’d thrown exactly one pass as a rookie the year before, stepped in and never came out, playing the Patriots into the AFC playoffs the same year the Bears were reaching and exiting the NFC playoffs when Philadelphia’s Hugh Douglas body-slammed QB Jim Miller on his shoulder.

After that the playoff assignments were elsewhere, including the Patriots-Steelers meeting in Pittsburgh for the AFC Championship. Brady started that game but left with an ankle injury and Bledsoe came off the bench to get the Patriots into Super Bowl.

Then came one of those rare moments when you are witnessing history but have the misfortune of not knowing it at the time.

The question of Super Bowl week was whether Bill Belichick would stay with Bledsoe’s winning hand or go back to Brady. Belichick of course waited deep into Super Bowl week before announcing his decision at 8 p.m. on a Thursday night, the second time that season Belichick had opted to stay with Brady over a healthy Bledsoe. And of course Belichick didn’t announce the decision himself (surprise); he had it put out by the team’s media relations director.

You did have to respect Belichick, though, going into his first Super Bowl as a head coach with a sixth-round draft choice at quarterback and leaving a former (1992) No. 1-overall pick with a $100-million contract on the bench. The Patriots upset The Greatest Show on Turf Rams in that Super Bowl, Brady was MVP, and Bledsoe was traded to Buffalo that offseason.

History.

That Super Bowl also included one of those performance snapshots the Bears envision for Mitch Trubisky but missed a chance to let him attempt last Sunday at Miami in his 17th NFL start. Brady took the Patriots on a drive starting at their own 17 with 1:30 to play and no timeouts, ending with an Adam Vinatieri field-goal winner.

If Belichick was all right letting his second-year quarterback in just his 17th start throw eight straight passes starting from inside his own red zone, the next time Matt Nagy gets the football at his own 20 with timeouts and time in hand, best guess is that the decision will be to see if his quarterback lead a game-winning drive with his arm instead of handing off.

It may not happen this Sunday. Brady is a career 4-0 vs. Bears, and if there is one constant it is that his opposite numbers play really bad football against him, or rather his coach’s defense. Bears quarterback passer ratings opposite Brady, even in years when the Bears were good: Jim Miller 51.2 in 2002, Rex Grossman 23.7 in 2006; Jay Cutler 32.9 and Cutler again in the 51-23 blowout in Foxboro. Cutler finished that game with a meaningless 108.6 rating, meaningless because Cutler put up big numbers beginning when his team was down 38-7 after he’d mucked about with a 61.7 rating, plus having a fumble returned for a TD, while the Bears were being humiliated.

A surprise would be if Trubisky bumbles around like his predecessors (New England allows an average opponent passer rating of 91.6), but whether he can produce a third straight 120-plus rating…. Then again, Pat Mahomes put a 110.0 on the Patriots last Sunday night, but Deshaun Watson managed only a 62.9 against New England in game one.

Trubisky will make the third of the three 2017 first-round QB’s to face the Patriots. The first two lost.

Brian Baldinger: 'I'm not so sure anybody could've seen the jump that Mitch Trubisky is making right now'

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Brian Baldinger: 'I'm not so sure anybody could've seen the jump that Mitch Trubisky is making right now'

On Thursday, Brian Baldinger released another video clip on Twitter for his #BaldysBreakdowns series, this one praising the recent play from Bears QB Mitch Trubisky.

Baldinger states that Trubisky is "making some kind of jump", referring to how impressed he was with Trubisky's play when compared to his rookie season. 

In the video Baldinger explains in the video how you expect franchise QBs to make a big leap from year one to year two, and a big part of that leap for Trubisky is being unafraid to make aggressive throws downfield.

Baldinger highlighted a play where Trubisky hit Taylor Gabriel 47-yards down the field, choosing to trust his wideout after he hit him with perfect ball placement despite tight coverage. He continued this theme later on in the video, showing Trubisky's TD strike to Allen Robinson, which was whipped right past a Dolphins defender. 

But Baldinger's video wasn't exclusively compliments for Trubisky. He discussed Tarik Cohen's effectiveness as a pass-catcher, saying that you "can't cover him" and comparing him to a Ferrari with his ability to go from first to fifth gear "about as fast as anybody."

He ended his video by showing Trubisky punishing the Dolphins for a blown coverage, hitting rookie Anthony Miller in stride for a 29-yard TD. Baldinger's point in including this clip was to show Trubisky's improved recognition, as he may not have spotted the blown coverage last year. Noticing when and how to take advantage of defensive sloppiness is one of the many things that seperate a "franchise QB" from a stopgap, and Trubisky is trending in the right direction. 

If Baldinger's breakdown is any indication, we should expect Trubisky to keep his incredible momentum rolling when the Bears take on the New England Patriots on Sunday. New England is 3rd worst in the league in passing TDs allowed, giving up 15 scores through the air in six games.