Bears' Week 1 in-foe: Pack Smack


Bears' Week 1 in-foe: Pack Smack

So said Bears Head Coach John Fox Monday approaching his first taste of the NFL's oldest rivalry, on Kickoff Sunday vs. the Packers. It came in response to counterpart Mike McCarthy's uncharacteristic proclamation at a civic event last week that his team would "kick Chicago's ass."

You can't blame McCarthy for feeling confident, with his team showing no signs of slowing down its dominance in the series, having won 11 of the last 13 meetings. But prior to that, McCarthy had been the classy victor. It makes one wonder if expectations, and pressure, in Green Bay may have factored into his chest-thumping. There was the NFC Championship meltdown in Seattle, which they'll host in a rematch in Week 2. There's the season-ending injury to Jordy Nelson. And there's the three consecutive seasons of 1-2 starts.

If the Bears are as healthy as possible, combine those factors with any tricks Vic Fangio may have up his sleeve with his new defense, and this could be as good a time as any to jump up and surprise the arch-rival. For what it's worth, McCarthy may have recognized the error of his potential bulletin board material (whether it matters or not) Monday.

"I don't really talk to our football team the way I talk to the Chamber of Commerce," the 10th-year head coach said. "It was all in fun, but I think it's really an example of why you shouldn't say things like that in public. ... I'm sure a lot of worse is said in private about opposing teams and so forth, but it's with great respect."

[MORE: 1-on-1 with John Fox: How Bears coach sees his team, 2015 season]

The Bears may not see it that way. The question is whether they can do anything about it, especially facing a quarterback who threw 10 touchdowns against them in two meetings a year ago, and reigning MVP Aaron Rodgers collected half of that total in a span of less than 16 1/2 minutes.

Fangio's defenses have never lost to Rodgers. But that was working with 49ers personnel, not the group he's trying to adjust to a new scheme, is without its best lineman, and features a safety tandem consisting of a fifth-round rookie and a veteran who struggled through the preseason.

After the Packers made the wise decision to re-sign free agent Randall Cobb, he'll be playing with a bum shoulder - if he plays at all - and 4/5 of an offensive line that started all but one game together a year ago were slowed by injuries late in the preseason. It's a group that's helped spring Eddie Lacy for over 2,300 yards rushing his first two seasons.

Still, Rodgers' weapons usually grow up faster than most teams (especially against the Bears), from second-year wideouts Davante Adams and Jeff Janis, to rookie third-round pick Ty Montgomery. And they brought back veteran James Jones Monday after the Raiders released him following a 73-catch campaign and the Giants did the same after a 15-catch preseason. If there are any health or production issues with the Bears' wide receivers Sunday, the sting will be deeper if Jones has a good game.

Dom Capers has certainly had answers for Jay Cutler and the Bears since taking over the Packers' defense the year Cutler arrived here. Can Adam Gase find ways to counter that with the weapons he has? And what weapons will he have as the wide receiver health mystery stretches into Wednesday's injury report? How will Cutler be protected, and by whom? If Kyle Long's kicked outside to tackle, is he ready for Julius Peppers? If he remains inside, B.J. Raji is back, though the Pack's line is weakened somewhat by suspensions to fellow tackle Letroy Guion and end Datone Jones.

[RELATED: Bears’ front seven mix points to need for Vic Fangio creativity]

Then there's always an eye, and an answer, needed for Clay Matthews.

General manager Ted Thompson invested his top two draft picks in defensive backs after allowing two of his top three cornerbacks to get paid elsewhere in free agency, but Sam Shields, Morgan Burnett, and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix remain in place.

Remember Ron Zook, Illini fans (who probably would've taken him back over Tim Beckman)? He now runs special teams up north after McCarthy cut loose good friend Shawn Slocum after the late Seattle meltdown in January. Those units struggled in general throughout the preseason.

But in the end, if there are any designs of overcoming the four-time reigning NFC North champs, Ryan Pace and Fox will have to match what Thompson and McCarthy do best: draft. A remarkable 43 of the 53 players on the roster through Monday were there at season's end on that long ride home from the NFC title game. Thompson also wasted no time acknowledging his mistakes on the final roster selections this past weekend, cutting 2014 third- and fourth-rounders Khyri Thornton and Carl Bradford.

The Bears are about to embark on a season of learning what the coaching staff can compensate for and develop what it has, and what it cannot. There's perhaps no greater measuring stick than the first team they face.

[NBC SHOP: Gear up for the season ahead, Bears fans!]


A moment, now, for a couple of events for your attention this Thursday night, September 10 (if you don't feel like watching the start of the Tom Brady Revenge Tour against the Steelers).

The Bears are continuing a busy Back to Football Week with their Second Annual Super Bears Shuffle 5K, starting at 6:30 p.m. at Soldier Field. If you feel like some exercise with some of the fellow Faithful, there's still room to register. Get more info here.

If you're in the southern suburbs, you can attend a very worthwhile cause from 6 to 11 p.m. at CD & ME in Frankfort. An event that started in the backyard of a friend four years ago to raise money to help build custom-built "smart" homes for catastrophically-disabled veterans has grown to a dining and live music experience that could draw upwards of 1,000 people Thursday night, tentatively including Governor Bruce Rauner. Our fellow citizens who've paid a heavy price serving our country are subject to lengthy waiting lists and astronomic costs for their daily needs to be addressed.

The Bears and other Chicago sports teams have chipped in with auction items. If you buy a ticket and join in on the fun, maybe I'll see you out there. But any assistance for our bravest brethren goes to a wonderful cause. You can learn more here.

Mitch Trubisky jersey sales trending in right direction

Mitch Trubisky jersey sales trending in right direction

Positive press about the Chicago Bears' offseason is having a strong impact on the jersey sales for the team's highest-profile player, Mitch Trubisky.

According to Dick's Sporting Goods, Trubisky's No. 10 is the fifth-most popular jersey among offensive players over the last 30 days. He's No. 6 among all players, regardless of position.

The Bears' offseason has been full of superlatives since their aggressive approach to free agency. The signings of Allen Robinson, Trey Burton and Taylor Gabriel put the spotlight on Trubisky and the potentially surging passing game. The second-round selection of Anthony Miller and word of Kevin White's offseason emergence has turned positive momentum into higher-than-anticipated expectations for Trubisky this season.

For Chicago to have any chance at meeting those expectations, Trubisky, who's entering his first full season as a starter with a new head coach and offensive system, has to thrive. Fans must be confident that he will, considering the investment they're making in his jersey.

Trubisky ended his rookie season with four wins in 12 starts, throwing for 2,193 yards with seven touchdowns and seven interceptions. He completed 59.4 percent of his passes. He should have a much more productive season in 2018 with his new arsenal of skill players and an innovative coaching staff, led by coach Matt Nagy and offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich.

These four Bears will be featured on 'Meet the Rookies' series

These four Bears will be featured on 'Meet the Rookies' series

The Chicago Bears will kick off the fourth season of "Meet the Rookies" on June 25, a series that profiles four of the team's 2018 draft picks for a behind-the-scenes look at their journey to the NFL.

The four-episode series will air on at 7:00 p.m from June 25 - 28 and will feature one rookie per night. 

Monday's episode will cover the Bears' first-round pick, Roquan Smith. Selected with the eighth-overall pick, Smith is expected to become an instant-impact player on defense. He's expected to make an impact off the field, too, as a high-character leader. Smith's linebacker-mate Joel Iyiegbuniwe is the focus of Tuesday's episode, with Anthony Miller (Wednesday) and James Daniels (Thursday) rounding out Season 4.

For a deeper dive into what's in store in "Meet the Rookies," check out this description.