Bears

Bears who stepped forward, backward, and sideways vs. Bengals

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Bears who stepped forward, backward, and sideways vs. Bengals

This 21-10 Bears loss in Cincinnati wasn't quite the humiliating defeat they suffered in last year's dress rehearsal in Seattle.  There are clearly issues, from health, to performance.  There's also playing with the hand you're dealt, and between the injuries at wide receiver and some vanilla play-calling, perspective's needed in the offensive evaluation.  Perhaps more discouraging was the (presumably) starting defenders being unable to get off the field.

Injuries to nose tackles Jeremiah Ratliff (ankle) and Eddie Goldman (concussion) becomes the latest health storyline to follow, particularly for Goldman, since he'll be eligible to play in two weeks.  Coming out of that, however, was Will Sutton continuing to make noticeable plays, even after sliding into that nose spot despite not having the prototypical body for it.

Senorise Perry also continued to impress on kick returns, appearing to seal a roster spot, if there was a question.  But he'd limp off the field in the second half with no immediate word on his injury.

[RELATED: Boden's first-half thoughts on Bears-Bengals]

Rashad Lawrence and Joshua Bellamy may end up both making the final 53, if only for insurance for the recuperating trio of Alshon Jeffery, Eddie Royal, and Marquess Wilson.  If the staff decides to roll the dice at that position, they may be pitted against each other, and neither particularly distinguished himself Saturday night.  No one gained on them either.

Like that position, it will be interesting to see if the either wave of roster cuts over the next week provides an alternative at right tackle, because Jordan Mills and Charles Leno, Jr. continued making mistakes.

It was not the best of nights for Dante Rosario, either, but perhaps his history with John Fox, his special teams experience, and the fact another tight end hasn't stepped up behind Martellus Bennett helps his cause.  The backup running back competition remained status quo.

Terrance Mitchell wasn't mistake-free, but still made a couple of nice stops and recovered a fumble, so he just might be penciled-in already, especially after Tracy Porter reinjured a hamstring and simply cannot stay on the field.

Shea McClellin was a step behind his man in coverage, getting beaten consistently over the middle, while Lamarr Houston and Willie Young made a couple of nice plays as their recoveries continue, albeith versus second- and third-stringers.  Sam Acho did not play due to illness, but it was another awfully quiet night for Jonathan Bostic.  Brock Vereen had a bad moment on a short touchdown run in the first half, but filled a gap nicely to make a play after intermission.  Adrian Amos was most noticeable when he accidentally hit Goldman's helmet, causing his fellow rookie's exit.

Rosters need to be reduced to 75 by Tuesday.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Can the Bears pull off an upset at home against Tom Brady and the Patriots?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Can the Bears pull off an upset at home against Tom Brady and the Patriots?

Chris Emma, Matt Zahn and Gabe Ramirez join David Kaplan on the panel.

0:00- NBC Sports National NBA Insider Tom Haberstroh joins the panel to discuss the Bulls’ terrible defensive performance as well as Zach LaVine’s impressive season debut.

11:35- Khalil Mack is listed as questionable for Sunday’s game against the Patriots. Can the Bears pull off the upset against Tom Brady?

23:50- NBC Sports Boston Patriots insider Tom E. Curran joins Kap to talk about how New England views the Bears and discuss how Matt Nagy’s team can exploit the Patriots’ weaknesses.

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below.

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Khalil Mack appears set to play Sunday with Tom Brady, Patriots looming

Khalil Mack appears set to play Sunday with Tom Brady, Patriots looming

Khalil Mack appears in line to play Sunday with Tom Brady, Patriots looming

Khalil Mack participated in the Bears’ final practice of the week on Friday, clearing the way for the edge rusher to play Sunday against the New England Patriots. 

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported earlier Friday that the Bears expected Mack, who hasn’t missed a game in his career, to play after suffering an ankle injury early in Week 6’s 31-28 loss to the Miami Dolphins. Mack is officially questionable for Sunday’s game at Soldier Field. 

Mack had little interest in discussing his ankle with the media on Friday, passing on answering questions about his readiness for New England. Coach Matt Nagy, though, said he thought Mack “looked pretty good” during practice on Friday. 

Mack didn’t record a sack against Miami and was held to just one pressure, per Pro Football Focus. The Dolphins’ gameplan was to commit plenty of resources to stopping Mack, but he wasn’t effective even when he had one-on-one pass rushing opportunities as the game went on. 

“He was (affected),” defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said. “I can't put a percentage on it, but he definitely was.”

Having Mack available — even if he’s not full strength — will be critical for the Bears’ defense to have a chance at keeping Tom Brady from lighting up the scoreboard. The key for the Bears will be to generate pressure on the 41-year-old quarterback without blitzing, which is something Fangio’s defense was successful at prior to Sunday’s wacky loss to the Dolphins. 

Brady’s passer rating is 138.4 when he’s blitzed, per Pro Football Focus, while when under pressure his rating is 87.2. That’s still pretty good, but it’s worth noting that all of the six interceptions he’s thrown this year have come when he hasn’t been blitzed. And only one of the eight sacks he’s taken has come when he’s been blitzed. 

The point being: If the Bears feel like they have to start blitzing to generate pressure, they can expect Brady to pick them apart.  

“You could say all of that but ultimately (Brady’s) a gamer,” Mack said. “He’s going to take those hits, and you gotta be able to deliver them but also have coverage over the top. It’s going to be real important for us.” 

The good news for the Bears, perhaps, is that New England’s tackles have struggled at times this year. Left tackle Trent Brown has allowed 17 pressures in 234 pass blocking snaps, per Pro Football Focus (about one in every 14 snaps). And starting right tackle Marcus Cannon is out with a concussion, giving way for backup La’Adrian Waddle, who’s allowed eight pressures in 78 pass blocking snaps (about one in every 10). 

So the opportunities will be there for Mack, Leonard Floyd, Akiem Hicks and the Bears’ pass rush to affect Brady on Sunday.

A bigger injury concern?

While cornerback Prince Amukamara (hamstring) was a full participant in Friday’s practice and will play Sunday, slot corner Bryce Callahan suffered an ankle injury during Thursday’s practice and did not participate Friday. He’s officially questionable for Sunday. 

Callahan “did his ankle,” Nagy said, toward the end of Thursday’s practice, and he felt worse as the day went on. Nagy characterized Callahan’s absence from Friday’s practice as “precautionary.”

Callahan’s availability may be more of a pressing concern than Mack’s, given how well the Patriots’ offense has played since slot receiver Julian Edelman returned from a four-game suspension to begin the season. While his numbers aren’t eye-popping (11 catches on 16 targets, 111 yards, 1 TD), New England’s offense has scored 38 and 43 points in his two games back. 

“Brady has always had a guy in the slot that he’s comfortable with; whether it be (Wes) Welker, (Danny) Amendola or Edelman,” Fangio said. “It’s a big part of their offense. They haven’t missed a beat, but I really think it’s helped their offense and played a big part in them basically averaging 40 points in the last three weeks. I really appreciate and respect how good of a player he is and has been.”

If Callahan isn’t available, Sherrick McManis could be the next man up at slot corner.