Bears task: Weather Chargers QB Philip Rivers’ inevitable big plays


Bears task: Weather Chargers QB Philip Rivers’ inevitable big plays

Given an either-or, one-for-one choice, who would you choose as your team’s quarterback (leave Fantasy Football out of it for now): Philip Rivers or Jay Cutler?

Think carefully before you answer. And read all the way to the bottom.

Rivers’ career body of work even impresses Cutler: “Over the years, I’ve gained a lot of respect for his game and the way that he plays,” Cutler said. “He’s been a staple in the league for a long time and has put up huge numbers year-in and year-out.”

[MORE: Bears will be without three offensive starters for MNF vs. Chargers]

Indeed, the Bears face one of the most prolific passers in the NFL Monday night in Rivers, who has thrown the San Diego Chargers to the No. 1 ranking in passing yards per game. But the Chargers have little to show for it where it matters (two wins) and scarcely more than that in the next-most-important category: points.

But in a league where the bromide “pass to score, run to win” still holds some sway, the Chargers are neither scoring nor winning. They go impressively up and down the field, then score less than 85 percent of the time they get inside opposing 20-yard lines (the Bears score on 90 percent, New England 100, Arizona 97).

San Diego is one of four teams in the top 10 in passing yardage per game that are also mired in mediocrity or worse when it comes to getting into the end zone. All are losing teams:

Team Passing Scoring Record
San Diego 1st 14th 2-6
Houston 6th 19th 3-5
Detroit 8th 30th 1-7
Cleveland 9th 25th 2-6

The answer is not as simple as assuming that losing teams pass more because they are so often behind. Passing-yardage teams New England (2), Arizona (4) and Cincinnati (7) are a combined 21-2 and lead their respective divisions.

No, the Chargers’ problems lie elsewhere.

[MORE: Chances growing that Bears lose OC Adam Gase after this season]

Rivers is completing nearly 70 percent of his passes, has thrown for 340 more yards than the NFL’s No. 2 yardage thrower (Tom Brady), and stands seventh in passer rating (102.1), meaning among other things that he does throw excessive interceptions (seven in 348 passing attempts — 2.0 percent).

He isn’t even being overly sacked; the Chargers rank a respectable 15th in sacks per pass play.

But for all of the apparent firepower, Rivers is a pedestrian 19th in third-down passing (rating: 81.3), the down that sustains scoring drives. Rivers has been good in fourth quarters but that has served more to bring the Chargers back from deficits — they have trailed after three quarters in six of their eight games.

[NBC SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

By comparison, Cutler has been nothing if not consistent. His overall passer rating is 87.5; his rating in fourth quarters is 86.7; but on third downs, Cutler is throwing at a 107.5 clip, better at this point than Aaron Rodgers, Teddy Bridgewater and Andy Dalton.

All of which means that Bears players, particularly defensive backs, need to accept that Rivers and the Chargers are going to put up big plays. Period. It will happen. How the Bears respond, however, is the key.

“I think just with football there's a lot of ups and downs, there's going to be plays you get beat,” said coach John Fox. “If you haven't been beat in this game you haven't played, so I think that's a pretty general understanding they have and we're learning and understanding and when you play a high-powered offense, sometimes they do move the ball pretty well between the 20s.

“I think what's critical is not giving up explosive plays, getting pressure on the quarterback, making some plays — it is more of a high-risk proposition from their standpoint, trying to create turnovers — and then playing well in the red area.”

Postcard from Bears camp: Not a great Mitch Trubisky day but another good one for rookie CB, plus Peter King’s look at the ’18 Bears

Postcard from Bears camp: Not a great Mitch Trubisky day but another good one for rookie CB, plus Peter King’s look at the ’18 Bears

 BOURBONNAIS, Ill. – Dear Tolliver clan:
I think most of you were there at practice today in your “Toliver II 33” T-shirts, including the three little guys in their “K. T. II Cousin” T’s. That’s pretty amazing support for an undrafted rookie free agent cornerback out of LSU, so you know I just had to intercept another pass for you guys, after the two yesterday. This one was off Tyler Bray throwing a ball to Anthony Miller, a rookie wide receiver who’s playing like anything but a rookie. Miller has amazing speed and is catching balls all over the field and having fun with the crowd. He stopped short of the end zone after one long catch, fans started yelling for him to score, so he backtracked fast and broke the plane of the goal line. Fans loved it.
Anthony made a diving catch 45 yards downfield off a throw from Chase Daniel (I won’t say against whom) and Mitch Trubisky and I think half the offense sprinted downfield to give him high-fives. Lotta energy on that side of the football. 
And we had some great defensive moments, too. Prince Amukamara broke and nearly intercepted at Mitch pass to Kevin White, and Bryce Callahan broke up one to Josh Bellamy one play later.
Meanwhile, the fans loved just about everything, this being the first practice the public could watch. They were even cheering completions in drills, especially Tarik Cohen, who seems like everybody’s favorite. They loved it (and so did the players) when tight ends coach Kevin Gilbride was up tight on guys to simulate press coverage and got faked right off his feet by Trey Burton working his release. But it was all in good fun, and Trey is a tough cover for us DB’s, let alone a coach.
Speaking of “coach,” coach Nagy said some nice things about me after practice, saying I’d flashed a few times and gotten turnovers, and “we stressed takeaways on defense and having interceptions is important. [Kevin’s] done that now the last couple of days. Kevin’s a big kid. He’s a tall, rangy, lengthy corner that really almost looks like a safety. So for him to be able to move around out here, it’s about getting confidence. So any time he gets some interceptions, you’re going to build confidence.”
Coach Nagy said he needs to see me do it in pads, and we go in pads tomorrow for the first time. The hitting’ll really start then.
[signed] Your favorite family cornerback,

Wanted: QB accuracy
Improving on the 59.4-percent completion rate he posted as a rookie was a prime directive for quarterback Mitch Trubisky, but Saturday’s session was not a step in the right direction. Trubisky completed less than half of his throws in two 7-on-7 sessions that normally favor the quarterback and receiver. His accuracy rate was no better in the first full-team session but in the second he completed eight of 10, two for touchdowns.
Whether the issues were throwing accuracy, route-running or combination of elements wasn’t easily apparent, and coach Matt Nagy did not seem concerned.
“There’s going to be a lot of mistakes made out here; that’s what training camp’s all about,” Nagy said.
*                          *                          *
Sick bay
Guard Kyle Long, coming back from multiple surgeries, was given the first of his scheduled days off on Saturday. Veteran Earl Watford stepped in at right guard. Linebacker Danny Trevathan remained out with a hamstring issue, as did cornerback Sherrick McManis.
More concerning was the absence of outside linebacker Aaron Lynch, who injured a hamstring in Friday’s relatively light practice. It marked the third time this offseason that Lynch has been sidelined with injuries, following ankle and hamstring problems through OTA’s and minicamp.
*                          *                          *
It could happen….
Legendary NFL writer Peter King, who joined NBC Sports full time this year after nearly 30 years with Sports Illustrated, dropped by training camp as part of his annual “North American tour” and sat down for chats with this writer, which was a chance to recall some good times and stories as far back as Platteville. Peter and I did a little podcast that includes some Brian Urlacher, Mike Ditka and other tales, as well as Peter’s assessment of the Bears’ situation.
Interestingly, Peter does not rule out a season with as many as 10 W’s, despite being in one of the NFL’s toughest divisions with a first-year combination of coach-quarterback-system.
It could happen…..


Training Camp Daily: Peter King Talks Bears Upside


Training Camp Daily: Peter King Talks Bears Upside

Training camp Daily: Peter King joins the Under Center Podcast on Day 2 of practice in Bourbonnais. King and John "Moon" Mullin talk Trubisky year 2, Trubisky comparison, Bears upside this season and Urlacher's Hall of Fame Induction.

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded link below: