Bears

Boden: Will 'bold' work for the Bears, too?

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Boden: Will 'bold' work for the Bears, too?

The 49ers and Ravens punched their Super Bowl tickets Sunday. But that route to New Orleans got a shot in the arm during the season with two bold, some would say controversial, moves that couldve rocked each team and blown up this eventual ride.

Oh, those Harbaugh boys.

As the Bears well know, Jim rolled the dice with the Colin Kaepernick-for-Alex Smith swap at quarterback right before that mid-November Monday Nighter. Nine starts later, hell be on the sports biggest stage. Smith was the safe route. The sophomore signal-caller from Milwaukee via Nevada had the higher ceiling. Only Harbaugh seemed to know how quickly he was capable of reaching it. And he probably hasnt yet, but hes gone high enough to get the Niners back in "The Big One."

In early December, John didnt like what he saw in the Ravens offense, either. His move didnt involve Joe Flacco but the (get this, Bears fans) the offensive coordinator. With three games left, Cam Cameron was out, and ex-Colts head coach Jim Caldwell was in. Now, the return to health of Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs, and adjustments to injuries in the secondary are certainly a huge factor, but Flaccos found another level under Caldwell.

Two moves by the Harbaughs to get the most out of their quarterbacks has wound up getting the most from their respective teams.

Rather than look back and debate whether moving Jay Cutlers trusted coach Jeremy Bates into a play-calling position above Mike Tice wouldve saved the season, lets look ahead and talk about Phil Emerys bold decision last week.

His hand-picked man over 13 or 14 other interviewees - Marc Trestman was not even interviewed by any of the other clubs looking for a new head coach. If not for Emery, Trestmans likely preparing for a sixth season running the Montreal Alouettes.

A season wasnt on the line like it was in San Francisco and Baltimore, but Emerys positive reputation (so far) as general manager is, for the NFLs charter franchise. Bears players are publicly buying in to the new man in charge but privately, they have to be wondering why no one else was interested in Trestman, and why hes been MIA from the NFL the past eight years, save for one season advising Sean Payton in New Orleans. Trestman was interviewed in Indianapolis a year ago for the job that eventually went to Chuck Pagano.

Bruce Arians would have been the safer candidate with the more recent proven track record in the league. These Bears can see what he did with the Colts and Andrew Luck, and prior to that, Ben Roethlisberger. But Trestman won the interview sweepstakes with Emery, and hell have to win the Lovie-lovin Bears players over, through OTAs and minicamps before they even report to Bourbonnais. And well see if Emerys bold, reputation-staking hire is the right one.

That brings us to next season. The Bears that got Lovie Smith fired won 10 games. Would fans - and the organization view anything less in 2013 as a disappointment? Would missing the playoffs again be more acceptable if noticeable offensive strides are made under Trestman, but a defense facing turnover at certain spots (while generating fewer turnovers) cant match what it did this year? That wouldve been difficult even if Smith, Rod Marinelli, and that staff remained intact.

But its something Bears fans should probably begin grasping. First-year turnarounds arent uncommon these days. The Harbaughs did it in their first seasons in Baltimore and San Francisco. Is that what youre expecting after Emerys bold decision? And is that fair? Thatll no doubt be Trestmans goal, but how much rope will you give the man if hes like every other first-year Bears coach since George Halas, and fail to make the playoffs?

What will you be saying and thinking a year from now if thats what happens?

Is Bears “D” in “football shape?” Lacking ability to finish? Fourth-quarter fades raise questions

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USA Today

Is Bears “D” in “football shape?” Lacking ability to finish? Fourth-quarter fades raise questions

During the critical fourth-quarter Oakland Raiders drive for a game-winning touchdown, one former Pro Bowl’er and NFL observer remarked to this writer that he was surprised to see a lot of hands on hips and mouth-breathing by members of the Bears defense – two common signs of being gassed.

Critiquing conditioning – or lack of – is problematic the way judging pain tolerance is. And if the Raiders score were an isolated incident, the question likely doesn’t come up.

But something is amiss. While the Bears defense remains among the NFL’s best, at least statistically, a shadow of concern is falling over the defense and its ability to close out games that it has within its reach.

The Bears held fourth-quarter leads over Denver and Oakland and allowed go-ahead touchdowns. They were rescued by Eddy Piñeiro’s 53-yard field goal in the final second. No such rescue in London.

Fully half of the eight touchdowns scored by Bears opponents in 2019 have come in fourth quarters. (The Bears themselves have not scored a single TD in any fourth quarter this season, but that’s a separate discussion.) By contrast, last season the defense did not allow a fourth-quarter touchdown in any of the final five regular-season games.

The temptation is to look only at the numbers, which are in fact positive. Even with the 24 points the Raiders scored against them in London, the Bears ranked second only to New England in scoring stinginess (13.8 ppg.) and fifth in yardage allowed (312 ypg.).

But the Bears have 17 sacks as a team; only three of those have come in fourth quarters.

Opposing quarterbacks have passed at an 81.3 rating in first halves; they are throwing at a 91.4 clip in second halves.

The defense has allowed 16 first downs in first quarters; 21 in seconds; 20 in thirds.

In 2019 fourth quarters, 34 first downs allowed.

Pulling the camera back for a wider view, extending back to include the disturbing 2018 playoff loss:

Vs. Philadelphia
Eagles drive 60 yards in 12 plays and nearly 4 minutes to score game-winning TD with :56 remaining. Cody Parkey’s double-doink overshadows fact that Bears defense forces Eagles into only two third downs and allows winning score on a fourth down.

Vs. Green Bay
With the Chicago offense sputtering all game and in need of a short field, Packers go on a 10-play, 73-yard drive that consumed 6:33 to set up a field goal to go up 10-3 deep in the fourth quarter.

At Denver
Inept Broncos offense scores 11 points in the fourth quarter to overcome a 13-3 Bears lead, driving 62 yards in 12 plays, converting two fourth downs and a two-point conversion. Denver’s second-half drives: 41 yards, 56 yards, 84 yards, 62 yards.

Vs. Washington
Bears build 28-0 lead before one of NFL’s worst offenses scores a pair of largely meaningless second-half TD’s.

Vs. Minnesota Vikings
Drive 92 yards in 13 plays for TD before Bears stiffen to stop two-point PAT and next Minnesota possession.

Vs. Oakland (London)
Raiders win game with 92-yard drive that includes fourth-down conversion on punt fake run despite Bears leaving No. 1 defensive unit in, anticipating fake.

Guess which highly-paid NFL kicker is only making 58% of his field goals?

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USA Today

Guess which highly-paid NFL kicker is only making 58% of his field goals?

Remember that time when the Bears tried out like 47 kickers and put them through a wide variety of arbitrary tests all while fan favorite Robby Gould was using the team's desperation as leverage to become the NFL's highest-paid kicker? Classic! 

It's been like three months since those totally-sane summer days, and reader, things have not gone so hot for Gould: 

Meanwhile, Eddy P is not only 8/9 on the season, but is already well on his way to becomming a fan favorite. We're already calling him Eddy P! After 5 games! 

That said, we won't truly know if the Bears made the right decision until Piñeiro beats out several Hall of Famers -- including someone credited for literally starting the NFL -- on the path to winning an offseason bracket-style fan vote.