Bears

Bears tumble to new lows, into an abyss, in loss to Vikings

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Bears tumble to new lows, into an abyss, in loss to Vikings

MINNEAPOLIS – About this time a year ago the Bears were leaving TCF Bank Stadium having lost 13-9 to the Minnesota Vikings, failing a final time under Marc Trestman and leaving questions as to whether Trestman, GM Phil Emery or team president Ted Phillips - or some combination thereof - might be relieved of their duties (Phillips was not).

Coach, general manager and president didn’t leave TCF this time in any job jeopardy. But few Bears (5-9) likely could say the same after the embarrassing 38-17 loss to the Minnesota Vikings (9-5) that finally extinguished the playoff thoughts the Bears have all but snuffed out the past two Sundays.

In something befitting BizzaroWorld, the team that slunk out of Minneapolis last year played a better football game than the one that left late Sunday afternoon. This one has lost four of its last five, this game by more points (21) than the combined margins (17) of all five losses since seemingly righting themselves after the 0-3 start to the season.

“Other teams are wanting it more than we do, and that’s the end of the story,” said linebacker Pernell McPhee. “When you want something, you go and take it. Right now, everybody’s not trying to take it; everybody’s just trying to fill it out.

“Me and everybody else has just got to look in the mirror and point at ourselves. We can’t point at each other. What can we have done better to help our team win. That’s what it all about.”

[MORE: Bridgewater scores five times as Vikings fly past Bears]

The Bears were in search of an identity for much of the early season. They thought they’d established one as fighters and finishers after the rebound wins over Oakland and Kansas City. Those have become hollow, distant echoes, the exceptions rather than the rules.

The Bears have on an almost weekly basis in John Fox’s first year to be a team few would confuse with fighters or finishers, or even an average football team at this point.

Their identity now?

“We’re going to find out,” said quarterback Jay Cutler, “We're going to find out. We’re going to find out where we’re at with two games left. We’ll find out who in that locker room has character and wants to finish and who doesn’t.”

Sunday's catastrophe may have answered some of those "find outs," and the answers were ominous. Players already had pegged the last four games as a collective test of character; the Washington loss was one, this was another.

This loss was one thing; the Vikings right now are a better football team than the Bears. It was the manner of the loss, the things that a seemingly demoralized team did and didn’t do after the stunning losses to San Francisco and Washington.

In another in a string of these kinds of games, the Bears destroyed themselves, this time taking what was left of their season with it.

Three times the Bears had chances this season to reach .500 and position themselves for a genuine playoff push. All three times they lost. Sunday was a situation in which the Bears could not be eliminated from the playoffs if they won the game; they did not.

For all of the progress shown by Jay Cutler, the game marked the 12th time in 14 games the offense has been unable to score more than 23 points. The defense has been unable to prevent demoralizing long opening touchdowns in six of the last nine games.

The offense had the football at midfield to start the first and third quarters by virtue of exceptional special teams plays: a 49-yard return of the opening kickoff, a recovered surprise onside kick for the second. Both those possessions were undone by sacks, with a holding penalty on center Hroniss Grasu nullifying a 35-yard run by Matt Forte on the Bears’ first snap of the game; somehow fitting.

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Bears fans!]

That missed chance to wrest momentum from the outset was exceeded in the third quarter when right tackle Kyle Long was beaten on a straight rush by defensive end Brian Robison, whose strip-sack of Jay Cutler cost the Bears the football and yet another platinum opportunity to do more than just play out the string, in a game or this season.

If there were a need to choose two possessions emblematic of the 2015 seasons, start with those.

A familiar and deadly pattern began almost immediately Sunday in what has become something of a defensive template for Bears failures as this season has wound down: the inability to stop numbing, morale-sapping long drives on opponents’ first possessions.

Besides surrendering a touchdown after the lost fumble to start the half – which combined with the squandered field position to put the Bears down 24-7 instead of perhaps standing 17-14 – the defense allowed the Vikings methodically, almost effortlessly, to go 93 yards in 13 plays for their first touchdown.

That made the Vikings the sixth Bears opponent in the last nine to drive at least 68 yards on their first possession for a touchdown. They also became the 11th of the Bears’ 14 opponents to outscore them in the first quarter, with the Bears 3-8 in those games and now very much a team not good enough, or tough enough mentally or physically, to take the game back.

“It doesn’t matter who we were going to play today,” Cutler said. “We weren’t going to win with our offensive football.”

Cutler need not have limited himself only to the offense.

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,
 
Kevin

 
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

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USA TODAY

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: