Bears

Facing great quarterbacks is common for Bears

Facing great quarterbacks is common for Bears

Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2010
7:55 PM

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

Very good quarterbacks are not a new experience for the Bears in 2010. When they faced the Philadelphia Eagles, they were going against the NFL's No. 1 passer in Michael Vick, now No. 2. They have seen Aaron Rodgers, now No. 4.

This is different. Tom Brady is different.

Brady is now the NFL's No. 1-rated passer (109.5). But Brady is also arguably the NFL's No. 1 quarterback as well.

Vick is having the finest year of his NFL career. Brady does this sort of thing every year. Five of Brady's last seven seasons have been better, passing, than Jay Cutler's best-ever year prior to 2010. And Brady has come up in Halas Hall conversation long before New England became next-up on the Bears' schedule.

"We've talked about it many times this year," Cutler said. That's the mark of a good team or good player is being consistent. He's been very, very, very consistent throughout his career. So he's fun to watch. We watched the Monday night game when Brady destroyed the New York Jets. Just seeing how much in command he is of that offense, you can tell that everything is going to go through him.

Everything except opponents, that is.

Maybe it's the focus. Brady was just named AFC offensive player of the week for the second time this season and was asked about how he felt this season was going for him. It was as if the question simply didn't even register.

"I think the Chicago Bears are a good team, and we got to play well this week," Brady said, not even attempting to transition from question to answer. "I'm excited for the challenge. It's a short week for us. I think we've really got to prepare well. We're quite a few days behind the Bears after playing Monday night. That's individual statistics really the last thing on my mind."

He is, to be very sure, not the last thing on the Bears' minds.
Oh, really?

Cutler rarely exhibits excessive emotion off the field and Wednesday was no exception.

In perhaps and indication that Cutler was not as inclined as some to write off Ndamukong Suh's forearm to the back of Cutler's head in last Sunday's Detroit game, he made exactly zero attempt to excuse the Detroit defensive tackle's actions as just part of the game. So when the NFL hit Suh with a 15,000 fine Wednesday, "I'm not surprised by that," was all Cutler had to say.

And out in Denver, the Broncos reversed course and fired head coach Josh McDaniels after a recent declaration by ownership that McDaniels would be in place this year and next. Daniels was the one at the heart of the issues that saw Cutler traded to the Bears but Cutler had no even superficial concern for McDaniels.

"You know," Cutler said, "none of my concern. I'm worried about the Patriots."

He apparently is not worried about the Bears' quarterback, and hasn't been. Listing reasons for the recent 5-0 turnaround from a 4-3 point, "the offensive line is playing well," Cutler began. "The receivers are on top of it. I think everyone's a lot more comfortable with the system. Mike Martz has done a good job of dialing stuff up for us. So there's a lot of things that go into it."

Sick bay

Linebackers Nick Roach (hip) and Pisa Tinoisamoa (knee) did not practice Wednesday and running back Chester Taylor (knee) was also held out of practice. Tinoisamoa had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee two weeks ago and is not being ruled out of the New England game.

"Ideally we would like for Pisa to practice but we know a little bit about what he can do," Lovie Smith said. "If he can practice by Friday a little bit, or if he gets up Sunday and says, 'I can go,' we'll look at our options and go from there."

Quarterback Brady (shoulderfoot) and nose tackle Myron Pryor (back) were limited in practice for the Patriots. Cornerback Jonathan Wilhite (hip) and defensive lineman Mike Wright (concussion) did not practice.

Rostering

The Bears signed offensive lineman Herman Johnson off the Arizona Cardinals practice squad and onto the active roster, replacing defensive end Barry Turner who was waived. The Bears also added linebacker Marcus Buggs to the practice squad along with wide receiver Jeff Moturi.

To make room the Bears terminated the practice-squad contracts of tackle James Marten, wide receiver Freddie Barnes and defensive end Ervin Baldwin, who was re-signed to the practice squad late Wednesday.

Johnson was a fifth-round pick by the Cardinals in the 2009 draft, coming out of LSU at 6-7, 364 pounds. He was an All-SEC first teamer at guard but projects as a right tackle, where JMarcus Webb has won the starting job but has continued to have difficulties in pass protection.

John "Moon" Mullin is CSNChicago.com's Bears Insider, and appears regularly on Bears Postgame Live and Chicago Tribune Live. Follow Moon on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bears information.

Should the Bears sign free agent running back Devonta Freeman?

Should the Bears sign free agent running back Devonta Freeman?

Former Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman remains unsigned after being released earlier this offseason following a 2019 season that totaled 14 games and a career-low 3.6 yards per carry.

Freeman, who earned back-to-back trips to the Pro Bowl in 2015-16, was at one time considered one of the NFL's top dual-threat running backs. His best season came in 2015 when he ran for 1,056 yards and 11 touchdowns while adding another 578 yards and three scores as a receiver. In 2016, he ran for a career-best 1,079 yards and 11 scores.

Injuries derailed what was a promising start to his career. He hasn't played a full 16 games in any of the last three years and in 2018, he missed 14 games with foot and groin injuries. 

Are Freeman's best days behind him? Maybe. Running backs tend to decline the closer they get to 30 years old, and at 28, Freeman is inching closer to the end of his career than its beginning. But that doesn't mean he doesn't have value for a team like the Bears, who lack any semblance of depth behind starter David Montgomery.

Chicago's running back depth chart is void of any real NFL talent behind Montgomery and Tarik Cohen, and let's face it, Cohen is more of a satellite weapon than he is a true running back.

So what's stopping the Bears from pursuing Freeman? Money.

Freeman is holding out for a reasonable payday that, apparently, involves demands beyond what the Seahawks offered in May (one-year, $4 million). The Bears, who still have in-house business to take care of, including an extension for wide receiver Allen Robinson, aren't going to offer Freeman a contract in that range. And they shouldn't. Montgomery is the unquestioned starter and that won't change even if a player like Freeman is added. As a result, he'll get a contract consistent with what's paid to a backup with starter's upside.

Remember: Freeman signed a five-year, $41.2 million extension with the Falcons in 2017, and like most players who believe they still have a lot left in the tank, he doesn't appear willing to lower his value by such an extreme amount.

Still, the market will determine Freeman's next deal. And if he's still hanging around and unsigned as training camp approaches, the Bears could find themselves in a favorable position to land an extremely talented running back at a mega-discount.

Chicago's offense will hinge on how productive the running game is in 2020. It would make sense to improve its chances of success by adding more talent. Freeman could be that guy, at the right price.

What would 1985 Chicago Bears look like if they played in 2020?

What would 1985 Chicago Bears look like if they played in 2020?

“We’re gonna do the shuffle then ring your bell,” sang Gary Fencik back in 1985. 

The updated lyrics in 2020 would be: “We’re gonna do the shuffle then get a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty.” 

Football today is a largely different game compared to when the Bears won their only Super Bowl in franchise history. You’ll see that when Super Bowl XX is aired on NBC this Sunday at 2 p.m. CT. But as I went back and watched some highlights ahead of catching the full game on Sunday, I wondered: What from the ’85 Bears would still work in the NFL today?

MORE: 10 crazy stats about the 1985 Bears

Talent, of course, transcends eras. Walter Payton would still be a great running back in 2020. Richard Dent would still be one of those pass rushers offenses have to gameplan around. Mike Singletary’s versatility, toughness and instincts would make him one of the league’s top linebackers. But that’s not what I was wondering. 

The Bears’ first offensive play of Super Bowl XX — on which Payton lost a fumble — came with two wide receivers, one tight end, one running back and one fullback on the field, otherwise known as 21 personnel. There was nothing odd about it back then. 

Only 8 percent of the NFL’s plays in 2019 used 21 personnel. 

The San Francisco 49ers and Minnesota Vikings were the only two teams to use 21 personnel on more than 20 percent of their plays, and both teams made the playoffs. Jimmy Garoppolo, remember, threw eight passes while the 49ers throttled the Green Bay Packers on their way to the Super Bowl back in January. 

Payton and Matt Suhey would’ve been just fine in today’s NFL running from under center quite a bit. But consider this: Jim McMahon’s passer rating in 1985 was 82.6, good for seventh-best in the league. Mitch Trubisky’s passer rating in 2019 was 83.0, ranking him 28th. 

How about Buddy Ryan’s 46 defense? 

I dug up this video we did a few years ago with Rex Ryan explaining his dad’s defense — which, while it turned out to be great at stopping the run, was actually designed to put more pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Check it out:

The Bears’ defense in 1985 is, arguably, the best in NFL history. The Bears held opponents to 3.7 yards per carry and 12.4 points per game, the lowest averages in the league. Dent led the NFL with 17 1/2 sacks and, maybe the most mind-blowing stat of all: The Bears’ defense allowed 16 passing touchdowns and had 34 interceptions. 

But putting eight guys in the box doesn’t seem like a sound strategy in today’s pass-happy, 11 personnel-heavy league — a league that often forces defensive coordinators’ base packages to be in nickel. To wit: San Francisco’s Tevin Coleman faced the highest percentage of “loaded” boxes in 2019, with 40.2 percent of his 137 rushing attempts coming with eight or more defenders near the line of scrimmage. 

The Bears’ defense only had to defend multiple backs (i.e. a running back and a fullback) on 120 plays in 2019. 

So the 46 defense might not work in 2020. Then again, who would doubt Ryan’s ability to coordinate a good defense against today’s modern NFL landscape?

This is all building to my overarching feeling thinking about the 1985 Bears: They'd be fine in today's NFL. Greatness can transcend era. It might take a few tweaks and they wouldn't look the same as you'll see on NBC Sports Network on Sunday afternoon. 

But who am I to say one of the greatest teams of all time wouldn't be great in any era? 

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Bears.