Bears

How will Bears O-line shake out against Falcons?

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How will Bears O-line shake out against Falcons?

Sunday, Sept. 11, 2011Posted: 10:30 a.m.

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com Bears Insider Follow @CSNMoonMullin
Its really kind of difficult to tell whether Jay Cutler is pleased with or has serious reservations about his offensive line going into a game that matters.

Were going to have a few bumps in the road, Im sure this year, with those guys, probably the first game, Cutler said. Just getting them settled down and comfortable. But I have all the faith in the world in them. Theyre a very talented group. Got some older guys and some younger guys. Theyre going to have to learn as they go.

But theyre all weve got, so we got to go with them.

Not a complete hug, but

In any case, you do have to love the simplicity of a rookie.

Gabe Carimi was the Bears No. 1 move since the end of last season to address the offensive line. The only move, really, other than signing backup center Chris Spencer.

Now Carimi is just a matter of hours away from starting to truly show whether the Bears money and first-round draft choice was well spent. Hell face Atlanta Falcons defensive ends John Abraham and Ray Edwards, who accounted for 21 sacks in 2010, Abrahams 13 with the Falcons and Edwards 8 with the Minnesota Vikings on the other end from Jared Allen.

As the Bears do with Israel Idonije and Julius Peppers, the Falcons flip-flop their ends. Carimi has a simple approach to his first NFL game, not obsessing with the details.

Im going to be cool and collected, Carimi said. Thats my plan.

Line coach Mike Tice would like the same mindset for his whole unit. The offensive line has been perhaps the most scrutinized area of the Bears since the middle of the 2010 season. It was during the draft, training camp and it still is.

The Atlanta offense has firepower, starting with quarterback Matt Ryan and including running back Michael Turner and receivers Roddy White and Julio Jones. But the Falcons, while ranking just 27th in passing yards allowed and rushing average, ranked fifth in the NFL in points allowed.

They play hard, play fast, and theyre really disciplined, said Chris Williams, at left guard now but at right tackle in 2009 when the Bears faced the Falcons.

Center Roberto Garza has more years of experience (10) than the other four offensive line starters combined (6). But the same five were intact for the opening snap of every preseason game except for Garza being given the night off against Cleveland.

Sick bay

The Bears had the good fortune last season to face a number of opponents who were without a key player or two. The Atlanta Falcons are without starting center Todd McClure Sunday, a situation that the Bears need to exploit to get disruption of the Atlanta run game and Matt Ryans pass protection.

Week 2 opponent New Orleans will be without No. 1 wide receiver Marques Colston after he suffered a broken collarbone expected to sideline him for at least four weeks.

But the Falcons will have the advantage of facing a Bears team without Marion Barber, No. 2 on the depth chart, but projected to be a crucial part of the Bears running game and red-zone offense.

Moneyball

Matt Fortes ears unquestionably perked up Saturday. The Minnesota Vikings agreed with running back Adrian Peterson on a seven-year contract worth potentially worth 100 million. More important, the deal reportedly includes 36 million guaranteed, according to ESPNs Adam Schefter.

Peterson, like Forte, was heading into the final year of his rookie contract. Forte has been offered a contract with more than 11 million guaranteed but that was not deemed adequate by the Forte camp. Now, after the deals for Peterson and Tennessees Chris Johnson (56 million, 30 million guaranteed), the market for Forte would appear to have taken a significant tick up.

Just mentioning

The Green Bay Packers are the gimme pick to do great things again in 2011. But the NFC has had 10 different champions in the last 10 years. As Im noted before, only four of the last 10 Super Bowl champions even won their division the following season

Fun to see this week that Rex Grossman was being named as the starting quarterback for the Washington Redskins. The last time the Atlanta Falcons played in Soldier Field (2005) marked the return of Grossman, whod missed the first 13 games of the season with an injury.

He replaced Kyle Orton at halftime, a move that a former Bear told CSNChicago.com the players were not behind, believing that Orton had gotten them to a good place even as a rookie, and some felt that the Bears wouldve done better than lose in the first round of the playoffs with Orton instead of Grossman.

Which also is a reminder that Lovie Smith and the Bears have had four winning seasons in the past six and done it with three different starting quarterbacks (Grossman, Orton, Jay Cutler).

And finally

The concern that the Bears cannot score with the apparent class of the NFC the Green Bay Packers, New Orleans Saints and, of more immediate relevance, the Falcons isnt a good enough reason to pick against a team that has traditionally opened its seasons well under Lovie Smith.

Too much attention is being paid to comparing the Bears offense to Atlantas, which is never completely relevant (Jay Cutler vs. Aaron Rodgers -- ? theyre never on the field at the same time). What is relevant to me is that running back Michael Turner, the No. 3 rusher in the NFC, was held under 50 rushing yards four times and the Falcons lost three of those games.

That isnt a guarantee of success, but it shows that one part of that offense can be shut down, and your chances of winning then rise exponentially.

The NFL has structured its game to support the pass; ironically, if the Bears approach a game with a pass-first mindset against a team with an offense like Atlantas, however, they will lose.

But more than one Bear, including quarterback Jay Cutler, has alluded to the understanding that balance worked for the Bears last year and is expected to again. The Lovie Smith Bears are good learners.

And so

BEARS 21 ATLANTA 20

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.

Three reasons why the Bears' offense should have success against the Patriots' defense

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USA Today Sports Images

Three reasons why the Bears' offense should have success against the Patriots' defense

Every team will try to scheme against what its opponent does best. Not every team does it as well as Bill Belichick consistently has in his Hall of Fame tenure as the coach of the New England Patriots. 
 
This is what Belichick is famous for, beyond the five Super Bowl trophies and historic partnership with Tom Brady. That thing your team’s offense does best? He’s going to take it away. 
 
That can create a mental challenge for an opposing coach during the week. Do you focus on doing something other than what your offense does best because Belichick is going to identify and scheme against it, or do you try to accentuate what you do best so it can’t be taken away? 
 
“That’s that whole chasing the cat’s tail thing,” Bears coach Matt Nagy said. “All of the sudden you start out-thinking to yourself, ‘What the heck?’ That’s the mystique, and that’s what they do. They’ve earned that over time because of the success they’ve had. 
 
“When you don’t go too crazy with that and balance it and control what you can control. Then in the end, win, lose or draw, no matter what, you at least feel good you approached it the right way, and you weren’t, ‘Oh shoot, I should have done this. Shoulda, coulda, woulda.’”
 
When Taylor Gabriel and the Atlanta Falcons faced the Patriots in Super Bowl LI, everybody on that team knew Belichick would do what he could to take Julio Jones out of the game. But that didn’t make preparations any easier. 
 
“We knew he was going to take away Julio, but we didn’t know how he was going to do it,” Gabriel said. “So it’s just just something you kind of have to adjust to when you get in the game.”
 
Jones only had four catches in that game, and the Falcons were able to quickly adjust to how he was taken away — though it wasn’t enough to keep them from a historic collapse and ultimate overtime loss. 
 
Tight end Dion Sims played New England eight times during his four years with the Miami Dolphins, and came away with a healthy respect for the scheme and the players on that defense. 
 
“They’re fundamentally sound, they got good coaching over there, a good staff,” Sims said. “You gotta be prepared because they come out and they play their ass off.” 
 
But what should give the Bears confidence they can mentally and physically beat New England’s defense?
 
1. The Patriots’ defense isn’t what it once was
 
The way Bears coaches and players have talked about New England’s defense this week has been with reverence and respect. But lately, the Patriots’ defense production hasn’t quite equalled its reputation. 
 
Maybe it started with Nagy’s Kansas City Chiefs launching 42 points and over 500 yards of offense against New England in 2017’s nationally-televised season opener. Maybe Super Bowl LII, in which the Philadelphia Eagles ripped off 41 points with a backup quarterback, was another turning point. Or maybe the Patriots’ 43-40 win over the Chiefs on Sunday night, which looked more like a Big 12 game than an NFL game, further chipped away at that mystique. 
 
New England’s defense heads to Chicago ranked 18th in points allowed (24.7) and has allowed 400 or more yards of offense in four of six games this year. They’re 19th in defensive DVOA, though Pro Football Focus’ grades do peg this group fourth, behind only the Bears, Rams and Eagles. 
 
What this defense does well is take the ball away, with eight interceptions and four fumble recoveries critical in propping up a defense that isn’t good on third down (44 percent conversion rate, 25th) or in the red zone (68 percent, 26th). But as long as the Bears' ball security is better than its two-turnovers-inside-the-five-yard-line showing in Miami on Sunday, an offense that scored 48 and 28 points in its last two games should be in good shape. 
 
2. Multiple weapons
 
How Belichick schemes against a Bears offense that’s been explosive and productive in its last two weeks will be fascinating to see on Sunday. Maybe it’ll be Tarik Cohen, who Belichick said is “a special player that you gotta know where he is at all times.” Maybe it’ll be making sure Taylor Gabriel doesn’t beat them deep (“The execution on that was like 99 out of 100,” Belichick said of Mitch Trubisky’s 54-yard deep ball to Gabriel against Miami). Or maybe it’ll be dropping seven or eight guys into coverage, spying Trubisky and forcing the second-year Bears quarterback to make good decisions and fit passes into tight windows. Or maybe it’ll be something else entirely. 
 
This goes back to the guessing game, though, and it’s one the Bears can’t allow themselves to play. 
 
“I think you can spend too much time on that,” Nagy said. “I look at that and I think I've said it before, it can be kind of like chasing the cat's tail. You've got to be careful of that and when you just start worrying about what you do — and of course here or there you might so something a little bit different — but if you just start doing things different because of one coach, now you've stopped worrying about just controlling what you can control and I haven't found too much success with that.”
 
The good news for the Bears, though, is they seem to have the multitude of weapons necessary to have success against a Belichick defense. Kansas City showed it on Sunday — when the Patriots took away Kelce, Kareem Hunt racked up 185 yards from scrimmage, while Tyreek Hill gouged New England for 142 yards on seven catches with three touchdowns.
 
So if the plan is to take away Cohen, that could lead to opportunities for Gabriel, or vice versa. Or if the plan is to drop seven or eight into coverage, that would give Jordan Howard an opportunity to carve out yards on the ground.  
 
“They utilize all their players, the backs, the tight ends, the receivers, the quarterback, they all have production, so if you take one away, they just go to the next guy, and that’s hard to defend,” Belichick said. “There are a lot of options on some of those plays, which guy is going to end up with the ball based on a quarterback’s decision, if it’s a check-with me type of play, bubbles and look passes and RPOs and things like that, it’s up to the quarterback to make the right decision and Trubisky’s done a good job of that. I think all those things, they keep getting better and they’re hard to defend.”
 
3. History repeating itself
 
In Nagy’s only meeting with New England as Kansas City’s offensive coordinator, his offense scored 42 points — and that’s a number that has resonated in the Bears’ locker room and practice fields this week.  
 
“You have to go into this game with confidence and know that we’re playing against a great group of guys who’ve been there, been to the Super Bowl and then they also have Tom Brady on the other side,” Sims said. “It’s important that we capitalize on everything and try to be mistake-free.” 
 
“What the defense is giving you is what the offense will take — what good offenses will do,” Gabriel said. “I feel like we have those type of minds up there in the booth and on the field with us to figure out what those guys are doing and how we want to attack it.”
 
The Bears’ offense is young, from the coach to offensive coordinator to most of the players that populate it. Beating New England, even if its defense isn’t what it used to be, would send a message around the league that the Bears are for real. Until the Patriots are dethroned in consecutive years, or even finish a season with fewer than, say, 12 wins, they’re still the Patriots.  
 
But while this team is young, it does have a handful of guys who’ve competed against New England on some of the NFL’s biggest stages. So expect guys like Gabriel, Burton and even Nagy to not allow this team to let facing the Patriots become daunting on Sunday. 
 
“It’s not difficult at all,” Gabriel said of avoiding thinking about that mystique. “Just like this team, we have the weapons to take advantage of those one-on-one matchups. I don’t care what defense you are, you’re going to have a one-on-one matchup somewhere unless you’re dropping everybody. So as long as you’re staying the pace and being confident in what you’re doing, I feel like we’ll be okay.” 

Bears return to Soldier Field as home underdogs against the Patriots

Bears return to Soldier Field as home underdogs against the Patriots

The Bears were getting used to life in the big chair. Chicago was favored in each of their last four games, but it all came crashing down at the hands of Brock Osweiler in overtime last week.

The Miami Dolphins pulled off the upset, and now the Bears return home to take on one of the best teams in the league.

Even if they had won in Miami, Chicago likely still would have been underdogs to the New England Patriots on Sunday, but as it stands, Bill Belichick and company are favored by three on most major sportsbooks, according to Vegas Insider.

The line initially opened at Patriots by 2.5, but it would seem that money placed on New England pushed the spread a little more in the Bears’ favor.

Vegas is expecting another higher-scoring game for both teams, with the over/under sitting at 49. Given that the Patriots have scored at least 38 points in each of their last three games, the Bears’ defense may have some trouble keeping this game low on the scoreboard.

In Week 6, home underdogs went 4-1 against the spread and 3-2 straight up. According to Bet America, home underdogs have covered in 20 of their 30 games this season, which bodes well for a Bears team facing a tough task at Soldier Field.