Bears

Decision to go prevent drops defensive grades

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Decision to go prevent drops defensive grades

This is the classic one hand in the oven, one hand in the freezer and on average youre comfortable: The Bears allowed zero points on Denvers first 12 possessions, then points on each of the last three.

The defense held Denver without a first down in the third quarter and had the NFLs No. 1 rushing offense generally in check until the final four minutes of the game. Then the group that wants the game in its hands when it matters most gave up 10 points in those final minutes. No help from Marion Barber but the game was there for the defense to win.

Defensive line C-

The line got to Tim Tebow for five sacks, two by rookie Stephen Paea. But pressure was not consistent and all but non-existent in the closing minutes of the game. Julius Peppers dropped Tebow in the second quarter for his ninth sack of the season. Henry Melton led a pocket-collapse against Tebow to get his 7th sack of the season on the first possession. Israel Idonije was guilty of a knee-area hit on Tebow to give Denver a third-and-long conversion but Idonije provided strong work on the edges against the Denver run game and recovered a fourth-quarter Tebow fumble. Paea had a sack in the second quarter and added another in overtime.

Linebackers C-

Lance Briggs, Brian Urlacher and Nick Roach were overall strong at maintaining position and area control against the offensive varieties of Tebow. Denver had only two plays longer than 19 yards and Willis McGahee was thoroughly throttled with 34 yards on 17 carries. Denvers ability to march for those scores on the final three possessions was a team meltdown.

Secondary C-

Craig Steltz, in his fourth career sack, had a sack that forced a fumble on a safety blitz in the fourth quarter. Charles Tillman thwarted a first-quarter Denver drive with an acrobatic interception of a Tebow pass at the Chicago 24. The Broncos scored their one TD on a breakdown that allowed Demaryious Thomas to be left alone in the fourth quarter.

Coaching D

The decision to soften up the defense in the fourth quarter was and will be intensely debated. The scheme overall was working to stop the Denver offense when it was in a run-or-pass mode and shifting to playing more coverage against a generally inaccurate Tebow late never becomes an issue if Barber stays in bounds.

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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USA Today Sports Images

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.”