Bears

Facing uncertain future, Bears pay tribute to 'legend' that is Matt Forte

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Facing uncertain future, Bears pay tribute to 'legend' that is Matt Forte

As the final whistle blew and the Bears and Lions converged at the center of Soldier Field, only one player took off in the opposite direction.

Matt Forte jogged toward the south endzone to briefly thank fans for all their support over the years.

Forte - being the class act that he is - still made sure he had enough time to hustle back to the middle of the field to slap hands with his opponents.

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Facing an uncertain future, Forte knows this might have been his last game with the Bears.

"I was just kind of thanking the fans," Forte said after the Bears' 24-20 loss. "I wasn't able to get everybody, but I was able to slap a few hands and say 'thank you' or whatever just because if it this was the last game that I play in Soldier Field, I didn't want to leave without showing the fans that I appreciate them in person."

Forte said it was just another day of football for him and refused to acknowledge that his fourth-quarter touchdown carried any special significance.

But the eight-year veteran also admitted he spent some time just taking in the surroundings as he walked back to the huddle or stood on the sidelines.

If this is the end, the Bears sent Forte out right, despite the loss. They handed him 17 carries - his highest workload since Week 13 - and targeted him three times in the passing game.

[RELATED - Bears' home woes reach low point in finale: 'That's really bad']

In the locker room after the contest, Bears players and coaches gushed about Forte with a slew of overwhelming and emotional responses:

Jay Cutler

"It will be sad if we lose him. He's been here my entire career - an unbelievable teammate, unbelievable friend, a true professional in every sense of the word, on and off the field. It would be weird not having him, that's for sure. He gave a lot to this team and this city and he's still got some stuff left in the tank."

John Fox

"I appreciate him and have great respect for him and everything he gave us this season. ... He is a pro. I think he's been that for a long time before I got here. I got to witness it day-in and day-out, good times and bad times. He was a captain and he led a young group. I think a big part of their improvement was Matt Forte."

Kyle Long

"It's incredible. I was thinking about it as he was walking off the field as he was surrounded by people, 'I'm going to tell my kids about this guy; I'm going to tell my grandkids about this guy,' if they don't already know because he's going to be everywhere. He's a legend. He's somebody who should be in the same conversation with the greats. He's the best player I've ever played with."

Marc Mariani

"He's a legend, to me. I love him, man. As amazing of a football player he is, he's an even better guy. Anybody that's been around him for any amount of time can tell you that. To be able to suit up next to that guy and battle with him and just go to war with him every week, that was an honor for me. He's such a stud. I don't know if this is his last game as a Bear, but if it was, man, he's put on a show for a lot of years and it was nothing but an honor to play with him for a year-and-a-half."

Jeremy Langford

"It's hard to explain how much I've learned from him. I've learned a lot on how to be a professional, how to compete every game - in it or not - and how to finish, just like he did [Sunday]. I think he had a great game. I just wish the results were different. It felt good seeing [him get in the endzone], especially for us as a team, since it's been hard for us to score down in the red zone. To see him score really just put us in a position to win the game. It was fun to watch."

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

Forte didn't spend much time getting emotional in what may be his final postgame presser with the Chicago media, but he spoke with feeling when asked how he feels about his teammates' respect for him and hearing some of their comments.

"It means a lot," Forte said. "That's what you play the game for. You play the game to earn the respect from your opponents and also your peers, which are your teammates.

"For them to say that, reassures that you've been doing a good job and have been a hard worker during your career. So, I feel like I've been doing the right thing, and if I continue to do that, I'll be in a good place when I finish playing football."

Recalling moments in Tom Brady history ahead of his likely last meeting with Bears

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Recalling moments in Tom Brady history ahead of his likely last meeting with Bears

As Tom Brady approaches what in all reasonable likelihood will be his last game against the Bears and in Soldier Field, the first time this reporter saw Tom Brady comes very much to mind. Actually the first times, plural. Because they were indeed memorable, for different reasons.

That was back in 2001, when Brady should have started replacing Wally Pipp as the poster athlete for what can happen when a player has to sit out and his replacement never gives the job back. Drew Bledsoe, who’d gotten the New England Patriots to a Super Bowl, had gotten injured week two of that season. Brady, who’d thrown exactly one pass as a rookie the year before, stepped in and never came out, playing the Patriots into the AFC playoffs the same year the Bears were reaching and exiting the NFC playoffs when Philadelphia’s Hugh Douglas body-slammed QB Jim Miller on his shoulder.

After that the playoff assignments were elsewhere, including the Patriots-Steelers meeting in Pittsburgh for the AFC Championship. Brady started that game but left with an ankle injury and Bledsoe came off the bench to get the Patriots into Super Bowl.

Then came one of those rare moments when you are witnessing history but have the misfortune of not knowing it at the time.

The question of Super Bowl week was whether Bill Belichick would stay with Bledsoe’s winning hand or go back to Brady. Belichick of course waited deep into Super Bowl week before announcing his decision at 8 p.m. on a Thursday night, the second time that season Belichick had opted to stay with Brady over a healthy Bledsoe. And of course Belichick didn’t announce the decision himself (surprise); he had it put out by the team’s media relations director.

You did have to respect Belichick, though, going into his first Super Bowl as a head coach with a sixth-round draft choice at quarterback and leaving a former (1992) No. 1-overall pick with a $100-million contract on the bench. The Patriots upset The Greatest Show on Turf Rams in that Super Bowl, Brady was MVP, and Bledsoe was traded to Buffalo that offseason.

History.

That Super Bowl also included one of those performance snapshots the Bears envision for Mitch Trubisky but missed a chance to let him attempt last Sunday at Miami in his 17th NFL start. Brady took the Patriots on a drive starting at their own 17 with 1:30 to play and no timeouts, ending with an Adam Vinatieri field-goal winner.

If Belichick was all right letting his second-year quarterback in just his 17th start throw eight straight passes starting from inside his own red zone, the next time Matt Nagy gets the football at his own 20 with timeouts and time in hand, best guess is that the decision will be to see if his quarterback lead a game-winning drive with his arm instead of handing off.

It may not happen this Sunday. Brady is a career 4-0 vs. Bears, and if there is one constant it is that his opposite numbers play really bad football against him, or rather his coach’s defense. Bears quarterback passer ratings opposite Brady, even in years when the Bears were good: Jim Miller 51.2 in 2002, Rex Grossman 23.7 in 2006; Jay Cutler 32.9 and Cutler again in the 51-23 blowout in Foxboro. Cutler finished that game with a meaningless 108.6 rating, meaningless because Cutler put up big numbers beginning when his team was down 38-7 after he’d mucked about with a 61.7 rating, plus having a fumble returned for a TD, while the Bears were being humiliated.

A surprise would be if Trubisky bumbles around like his predecessors (New England allows an average opponent passer rating of 91.6), but whether he can produce a third straight 120-plus rating…. Then again, Pat Mahomes put a 110.0 on the Patriots last Sunday night, but Deshaun Watson managed only a 62.9 against New England in game one.

Trubisky will make the third of the three 2017 first-round QB’s to face the Patriots. The first two lost.

Brian Baldinger: 'I'm not so sure anybody could've seen the jump that Mitch Trubisky is making right now'

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Brian Baldinger: 'I'm not so sure anybody could've seen the jump that Mitch Trubisky is making right now'

On Thursday, Brian Baldinger released another video clip on Twitter for his #BaldysBreakdowns series, this one praising the recent play from Bears QB Mitch Trubisky.

Baldinger states that Trubisky is "making some kind of jump", referring to how impressed he was with Trubisky's play when compared to his rookie season. 

In the video Baldinger explains in the video how you expect franchise QBs to make a big leap from year one to year two, and a big part of that leap for Trubisky is being unafraid to make aggressive throws downfield.

Baldinger highlighted a play where Trubisky hit Taylor Gabriel 47-yards down the field, choosing to trust his wideout after he hit him with perfect ball placement despite tight coverage. He continued this theme later on in the video, showing Trubisky's TD strike to Allen Robinson, which was whipped right past a Dolphins defender. 

But Baldinger's video wasn't exclusively compliments for Trubisky. He discussed Tarik Cohen's effectiveness as a pass-catcher, saying that you "can't cover him" and comparing him to a Ferrari with his ability to go from first to fifth gear "about as fast as anybody."

He ended his video by showing Trubisky punishing the Dolphins for a blown coverage, hitting rookie Anthony Miller in stride for a 29-yard TD. Baldinger's point in including this clip was to show Trubisky's improved recognition, as he may not have spotted the blown coverage last year. Noticing when and how to take advantage of defensive sloppiness is one of the many things that seperate a "franchise QB" from a stopgap, and Trubisky is trending in the right direction. 

If Baldinger's breakdown is any indication, we should expect Trubisky to keep his incredible momentum rolling when the Bears take on the New England Patriots on Sunday. New England is 3rd worst in the league in passing TDs allowed, giving up 15 scores through the air in six games.