Bears

Bears-Vikings: And the winner is...

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Bears-Vikings: And the winner is...

Every game has “keys.” Commonly those are variations on a theme — stop the run, pressure the passer, avoid turnovers, the usual suspects.

But the keys to the Bears being successful are less specific to the Minnesota Vikings — stop Adrian Peterson, the usual — and more to what in a broader sense the Bears simply have not done well enough virtually this entire season.

The early fall-downs

In multiple games this season the result has gone in favor of whatever team scores last — Washington, San Francisco, Minnesota, Detroit, Kansas City, Oakland. The Bears bluntly and correctly declared that in losses to the Redskins and 49ers it should never have had to come down to Robbie Gould field goal tries.

Too often, however, the problem has been who has scored first. The Bears have been outscored in the first quarters of 10 of their 13 games, and they are 3-7 in those games. In some they have come back to tie scores or even go ahead, but those subsequent scores should have been building or padding a lead if the Bears had not spotted opponents the high ground in the first place.

[MORE BEARS: Vikings will be without Harrison Smith, Anthony Barr vs. Bears]

And against a Minnesota team that coach Mike Zimmer admitted had a confidence sag when they were flogged by the Arizona Cardinals (the Vikings’ third loss in the last four games), starting with authority potentially stands to fuel any shakiness the Vikings still feel.

Get a takeaway, any takeaway

The 2015 Bears defense has been respectable in spite of a litany of injuries and personnel losses in every echelon of the unit. Run defense has not allowed an average of fewer than 118 yards per game and was up to 128 per game after a Week 12 victory over the Green Bay Packers.

But the pass defense, while ranked No. 2 at 216 yards per game, is something of a mirage in perhaps the most game-turning area.

Only four teams have fewer than the Bears’ seven interceptions this season. And only three of those belong to defensive backs — two by Kyle Fuller, one by Tracy Porter. That matches the low of the past 20 years, when safety Marty Carter had two and cornerback Jeremy Lincoln had one.

The Bears had four in 2000 and 2002 — coincidentally (or not) seasons of 5-11 and 4-12, respectively.

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Bears fans!]

Jay Cutler has had a career year at taking care of the football — interception percentage 1.8 vs. his previous best of 2.9 percent for a season in which he has played 12 or more games.

The defense has not returned the favor. The Bears need to be able to commit numbers to stopping Peterson, with the secondary then taking the ball away from quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.

And the winner is...

Few teams have been as difficult to predict in 2015 as the Bears, with the resiliency and character to recover with road victories to close to within a game of .500, then failing completely at home against genuinely substandard teams in games with genuine playoff implications on the line.

The Bears and the Vikings come into Sunday having lost three of their last four. The Bears have been rallied to upset good teams already (Kansas City, Green Bay) but after the performances, top to bottom, against San Francisco and Washington, and a top-5 Minnesota rushing game going against one of the NFL’s poorest run defenses...

Prediction: Vikings 24, Bears 20        

Mike Trout says Browns will win more games than Bears in 2018

Mike Trout says Browns will win more games than Bears in 2018

Los Angeles Angels superstar Mike Trout is quickly becoming an icon in American sports. The two-time American League MVP is enjoying another dominant season batting .335 with 23 home runs and 48 RBI.

On Tuesday, he took a swing at what Bears fans may consider a shocking NFL prediction.

“I’ve got the Browns having a better record than the Bears,” Trout told a radio reporter, according to the Los Angeles Times. Trout's comments were made in response the reporter "talking up" Chicago.

Both the Browns and Bears have had productive offseasons that involved headline-grabbing acquisitions on offense. Cleveland drafted QB Baker Mayfield with the No. 1 overall pick, traded for WR Jarvis Landry, signed RB Carlos Hyde and drafted a backfield mate for him in Georgia's Nick Chubb. They added potential lockdown corner Denzel Ward with the fourth overall pick, too. Add all that to a motivated Josh Gordon ready to contribute for a full season, and there's good reason to be excited in Cleveland.

Still, it's hard imagining Trout can be that confident in a team that's won only one game over the last two seasons. And let's not forget what GM Ryan Pace has done this offseason, one that's been praised by analysts from all corners of the NFL universe. From new coach Matt Nagy to free-agent WR Allen Robinson and all the skill players in between, the Bears are ready to make a legitimate run in the NFC North.

Trout doesn't strike out much in the major leagues, but this prediction feels like it could be a back-straining whiff.

Is Matt Forte pushing for a coaching job with the Bears?

Is Matt Forte pushing for a coaching job with the Bears?

Is former Bears star Matt Forte going to be the team’s new running backs coach?

For now, that’s Charles London’s job, who was hired to head coach Matt Nagy’s staff earlier this year.

But on Tuesday night, Forte tweeted that he would like a coaching spot with Chicago sometime in the near future.

Serving as evidence, the now-retired running back responded to a tweet from ESPN’s Adam Schefter, which announced the Broncos’ hiring of former linebacker Demarcus Ware as a “pass-rush consultant on a part-time basis.” Forte tweeted at the Bears, saying that he is “available” to take on a similar role to Ware’s new Denver gig.

Forte’s tweet was relatively cryptic, and he never specified exactly what type of job he would want with the Bears. After finishing up a storied career this past season and solidifying his name as a Bears legend, Forte has proven that he could easily coach young running backs or even wide receivers at some point.

But isn’t this all just a joke?

Forte silenced the doubters by tweeting “I wasn’t joking” as a response to an article saying that his desire for a new occupation with the Bears was simply a gag. The former workhorse was also intrigued by a fan’s tweet asking “Coach Forte??”

The mere thought of having Forte back in Chicago with the Bears’ coaching staff sent fans on Twitter into a frenzy. In April, Forte came back to Halas Hall to ink his name on a one-day contract, successfully allowing him to retire as a Bear. Now, Forte wants a lengthier stay in the Windy City.

Ware’s role with Denver is not extensive by any means and, according to Schefter, he will work a pretty scattered schedule with Broncos players. What Forte’s role would look like with the Bears is completely unknown if his plan to coach becomes a reality.

Forte has the running back credentials to take on a coaching position. In eight seasons with the Bears, Forte racked up a combined 8,602 rushing yards, second to only the great Walter Payton. Forte’s 4,116 receiving yards as a running back, 12,718 yards from scrimmage, 24 games with 100 rushing yards and 25 games with at least 150 yards from scrimmage also ranks second behind Payton.

Maybe this will be a new development in Chicago’s offseason plans, but there is no real talk of bringing one of the team’s all-time leading rushers back to the team as of right now.

Last month, NBC Sports Chicago announced Forte will be joining the network as a Bears game day studio analyst for the upcoming 2018 NFL season. And we're not joking about that.