Colts' Andrew Luck makes big impression on Bears in very short time


Colts' Andrew Luck makes big impression on Bears in very short time

INDIANAPOLIS – The Indianapolis Colts are on the Bears’ preseason schedule (Saturday, 6:30 p.m.) but not on the regular-season slate. Ostensibly not having to face quarterback Andrew Luck when it counts is a good thing for the Bears and their still-forming defense. Not necessarily.

“I wish he was [on the schedule],” said linebacker Pernell McPhee, laughing. “Then I would get an opportunity to hit one of the best quarterbacks in the league today.”

Luck makes lots of defenses suffer, in different ways, and at many, many times over the two days of Bears-Colts joint practices, Luck made the Bears suffer, looking every bit one of the best quarterbacks in the league today. His mobility and intentional scrambling to force defenders to cover longer, his accuracy and the rest of the package gave the Bears a small dose of hands-on prep for some of what they will be facing opening day with Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers.

“Absolutely,” said cornerback Tim Jennings. “Because it was different, the receiver corps was different than what we see in practice, the quarterback… . It was a great quarterback that we played against, and the competition. So we were able to go out here and compete a little bit and see a different face and go out there and compete with a top offense like Andrew Luck and the Colts.”

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Luck had his way with the Bears’ defense on Wednesday but the Bears were able to break up a number of his passes on Thursday, led by cornerback Sherrick McManis with a deflection and later a strip of the ball from Luck’s receiver.

Luck and the Colts did finish with a flourish, shredding the Bears in a final two-minute drive that culminated with a Luck strike to wideout T.Y. Hilton in the left side of the end zone.

“We’re probably not as oiled up in two-minute drill as Indy is at this stage,” coach John Fox said. “But all in all, I was very pleased.”

[MORE: Could Bears practice with Colts in Bourbonnais next year?]

Like Rodgers, Luck routinely rolls himself out of the pocket late in plays, even without direct pressure. The result is a need to extend coverage a second or two longer, which Bears defenders remarked on this week.

But the immediate strongest single impression of Luck was not of his physical skills.

“He’s very smart,” McPhee stressed. He detailed an example, a third-and-one play in two-minute work Thursday in which the Colts were in an illegal formation. Luck did not want to spend a timeout or run the play and take a penalty. Instead he took it upon himself to improvise a hard count, the defense jumped, and the play was a do-over because of offsetting penalties.

“I don’t think the coach said a hard count and he [did a] hard count and the whole defense jumped and he got his third-and-one back,” McPhee said, shaking his head. “You feel me? You know he’s a very smart quarterback. He took all reads. He doesn’t try to get rid of the ball too fast. He’ll sit in the pocket and play football.”

Rob Gronkowski 'highly unlikely' to play Sunday against the Bears

Rob Gronkowski 'highly unlikely' to play Sunday against the Bears

Sunday's game against Tom Brady and the Patriots will be a tough test for the Bears, but it looks like they're going to receive a big break.

According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski didn't travel with the Patriots to Chicago and is "highly unlikely" to play Sunday.

Avoiding Gronkowski, who is one of Brady's favorite targets, would be a huge break for the Bears' defense. In six games this season, the tight end has 26 receptions for 405 yards and a touchdown; in 14 games last season, Gronkowski had 69 catches for 1,084 yards and eight touchdowns.

Gronkowski has not officially been ruled out yet, though time is running out for the Patriots to make a decision.

Meanwhile, Khalil Mack appears set to play Sunday despite dealing with an ankle injury. Between having Mack on the field and Gronkowski off of it, good news keeps coming for the Bears' defense.

Final thoughts: Cody Parkey quickly moves on from missed game-winning kick

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Final thoughts: Cody Parkey quickly moves on from missed game-winning kick

There’s, probably, only one position in sports that can match the you-had-one-job scrutiny of a placekicker attempting a critical field goal late in a football game. As in: If you make the kick, it was expected; if you miss it, well, you didn’t do the one thing you were brought on to do. 

The comparison here is a closer in baseball. The expectation is whoever is called upon with a one-to-three-run lead in the ninth inning will convert the save and win his team the game. 

But when a closer blows a save and is in the spotlight during baseball’s regular season, there’s always a game the next day or, at worst, in two days. The immediacy and pace of a Major League Baseball team’s schedule lends itself to closers having to “flush” a bad outing and move on to the next one, since it might be tomorrow. 

For Bears kicker Cody Parkey, though, he’s had to wait a week until he gets his next “meaningful” chance at making a field goal after missing a game-winning 53-yard attempt last weekend against the Miami Dolphins. But moving on from a critical missed kick has never, and is not, a problem for the fifth-year veteran. 

“(It takes) five minutes,” Parkey said. “You kick the ball, and if it doesn’t go in you’re not going to sit there and cry on the field, you’re going to continue to move on with your life. I don’t think there’s really much to it other than knowing you’re going to have to kick another one sometime throughout the season, next game, in the next week, you never know. You stay ready so you’ll be ready for the next week.”

Not allowing those missed kicks to fester is an important trait for a placekicker to possess. What helps Parkey quickly work through his misses is focusing on having a good week of kicking in practice, and also an even-keel mindset that’s been instilled in him since a young age. 

“I think I’ve always been pretty mellow,” Parkey said. “At a young age, my coaches told me never let the highs get to high, never let the lows get too low. And I’ve kind of taken that to heart. If I miss a game winner, make a game winner, I’m going to have the same demeanor. I’m just going to be super chill and knowing it’s a game, it’s supposed to be fun, we’re supposed to go out there and try our best. I put in a lot of work and I try my best on the field.”

That’s something, too, that special teams coach Chris Tabor sees in Parkey. 

“He's always been like that,” Tabor said. “He hit a good ball, his line was just off. In his career going in he was 7-of-8 over 50 yards. I'll be honest with you, I thought he was going to make it. And next time we have that situation, I know he will make it.” 

Age is just a number

Sunday will mark the 6th time in Tom Brady’s career that the 41-year-old has faced a head coach younger than him, but the first time it’ll be a coach other than Miami’s Adam Gase (who’s 40). Brady is 3-2 against Gase’s Dophins. 

Matt Nagy, meanwhile, is also 40. Brady just missed playing Kyle Shanahan (38) and Sean McVay (32), facing the San Francisco 49ers and Los Angeles Rams in 2016, a year before both those youthful coaches were hired. 

Meanwhile, the youngest player on the Bears — 21-year-old Roquan Smith — was three years old when Brady made his unassuming NFL debut on Nov. 23, 2000. 

They said it

A couple of amusing one-liners out of Halas Hall this week…

Nagy, when it was brought to his attention that Mitch Trubisky (105.6) has a better passer rating than Brady (98.2), chuckled: “You want to say that one more time?” 

Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, when asked if he’d ever heard of “Baby Gronk” Adam Shaheen: “(long pause)… Sometimes.”