Bears

It's official: Bears are a running team...for now

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It's official: Bears are a running team...for now

Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2010
Posted: 4:25 p.m.

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

If you think the notion of the Bears becoming a running team was just a figment of Lovie Smith's imagination, not so -- it's true. At least for November.

The Bears had 136 rushing attempts and 121 pass plays (attempts plus sacks) for their four November games and were second in the NFL in run ratio, keeping it on the ground 52.9 percent of the time (56.3 of San Diego's plays were runs).

Not coincidentally, the Bears trailed only New Orleans and Green Bay in third-down conversions with first downs picked up on 31 of 59 "money" downs. Defensively, no unit is allowing a lower percentage of conversions than the Bears' 30.6.

The Bears defense is at No. 2 behind only Pittsburgh in the latest Aikman Ratings, the standard the Bears use for measuring defenses because of its inclusion of many different factors. Julius Peppers has 8 sacks and 4 forced fumbles in five career games against the Lions.

The honorable Jay Cutler

Jay Cutler's four TD passes and 146.2 passer rating in the win over Philadelphia has earned him another nomination as FedEx Air player of the week. Cutler won the award after week one when he completed 23-of-35 passes for 372 yards against Detroit.

In four career games against the Lions, Cutler has completed 66-of-103 passes, posted a 110.1 rating and thrown eight TD passes vs. just one INT.

His teams (Denver, Chicago) are 18-0 when Cutler puts up a passer rating above 100.

Nice

Comcast SportsNet President Jim Corno is being honored with a prestigious "Top Regional Player in Cable Award" at the CableFAX 100 event Dec. 9 in New York. Jim also was inducted into the Chicagoland Sports Hall of Fame this year.

Like what Comcast is doing in sports programming, digital and more? It starts at the top. Nice going, Jim.

Yikes I

Things have reached the point in the Motor City where Detroit Free Press writer Dave Birkett is doing a Monday look at where the Lions may or should be looking in next year's draft. The Lions are out of any playoff thought and at 2-9, you can forgive their fans for finding some Saturday games of more interest than the ones on Sunday.

For the draftniks out there, Dave notes that Carolina at 1-10 would pick first in this Wednesday's NFL draft, Detroit would have the No. 2 and Cincinnati, also at 2-9, comes in at No. 3, followed by Buffalo and Dallas.

Yikes II

Colleague Ray Didinger with CSNPhilly.com suggested today that hyped-out Eagles fans should relax and that there is no reason to panic. Good advice, Ray, because if you think Chicago can overreact to a Bears win or loss, consider the radio caller Ray cites:

"I should've known better," the man ranted. "This isn't a Super Bowl team. It isn't even a playoff team."

Well, all righty, then. ...

Stop a second ...

Walking back to my mother's cancer station at Advocate Lutheran Center for Advanced Care today during the Tuesday treatment, I passed a station where a young mother, maybe early 30s, was in the chair receiving her chemo IV. Her daughter, a little cutie probably 5 years old, was holding her hand.

My Mom is 85 and doing pretty well. So I've got a couple prayers I probably won't need for her, and I think I'm going to send 'em down the hall. If you've got one or two you're not using, there's someone somewhere who could use the kind thoughts, healing energy and support. That'd be a sweet Christmas gift that's never too early to give.

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.

After loss to Patriots, Bears' defense searching for answers — but not confidence

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USA Today

After loss to Patriots, Bears' defense searching for answers — but not confidence

A year ago, had the Bears come within one yard of tying the New England Patriots in a game in which they allowed two special teams touchdowns, the vibe in the Solider Field locker room might’ve been different. Sort of like, hey, that was pretty good that we were able to hang with one of the league's best teams and nearly tie and/or beat them despite our own mistakes. 

The operative term, then, after Sunday’s 38-31 loss to the Patriots may be confident frustration. The Bears know they’re a good team, better than they’ve had in recent memory. And that makes losing a game this team felt it was close to winning that much more frustrating. 

“We still had confidence last year that we could go in and win games (last year), but I would say this year we know what type of team we have,” defensive lineman Akiem Hicks said. “We know we got a quarterback that’s developing and throwing the ball down the field really well. We know we have a great wide receiver corps. We know we have rushers that can get to the quarterback. We have a really good team and we’re going to have to figure out how to capitalize on that big play momentum and finish games out.”

Perhaps this is a picture of a talented team still trying to figure out how to win. The Bears’ defense entered Sunday allowing an average of 8.8 yards per play in the fourth quarter and allowed 6.5 yards per play in the final 15 minutes Sunday, including a critical 96-yard touchdown drive. 

And while Mitch Trubisky’s Hail Mary to Kevin White came up one yard short, that the Bears were even in that situation to begin with was the problem. New England was able to chew up 3:49 off the clock before punting the ball back to the Bears' offense with 24 seconds remaining. Get a stop earlier and the Bears might not have to rely on a nearly-converted heave with time expiring to tie the game. 

“In games like this, your room for error is slim in all phases,” cornerback Kyle Fuller said. “No matter what we did (well), there are still a couple things that we have to clean up against a team like that."

The Bears’ defense is remaining confident despite scant pressure on Brady — he was sacked once (by Roquan Smith) and hit only three times (by Smith, Bilal Nichols and Roy Robertson-Harris). Khalil Mack barely showed up on the stat sheet, registering only one tackle while being dropped into coverage far more frequently than he made an impact as a pass rusher. How much he was affected by his injured ankle, or how much defensive coordinator Vic Fangio felt he had to gameplan around it, is unclear (Mack did not speak to the media following the game). 

Leonard Floyd, too, was picked on by Brady, who frequently got the ball out quick in a successful effort to mitigate a pass rush that’s struggled to make an impact after recording 18 sacks in four games to begin the year. But the confidence is still there, despite seemingly few reasons for optimism since the second half in Miami kicked off last weekend. 

“We definitely don’t feel like (we’ve hit a wall),” safety Eddie Jackson said. “That’s probably the greatest quarterback in the NFL right now. We just gotta come in, we left some things on the field, we left some plays on the field. Like I said, it’s tough trying to put this one behind you but, you know, it’s a long season. We’re not getting down on ourselves, we’re still going to play with confidence. That confidence is still there.” 

Games against two of the league’s worst offenses in the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills, then, should help the Bears’ defensive production match its confidence, if that line of thinking is to be believed. But as the first four games of the season get farther and farther in the rearview mirror, this is a defense that has to prove itself again in the coming weeks. 

“(The Patriots) came to play all together, and not saying we didn’t but we didn’t make the plays when we needed to make the plays,” outside linebacker Aaron Lynch said. “It’s on us. Defense, we got it though. We’re not worried about it. It’s another game we lost. We got how many other games, we got 10 games left? Yeah. I’m not worried about it. I don’t think anybody is.”

Bears set “a new standard here” even in 38-31 loss to Patriots

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USA TODAY

Bears set “a new standard here” even in 38-31 loss to Patriots

One yard. Less than one, really. That’s all that separated the Bears and the New England Patriots on Sunday, after Kevin White’s efforts to tug a Hail Mary into the Patriots end zone came up just that short in a 38-31 loss to the NFL’s greatest team over the better part of the past two decades.

And normally, a team under a first-time head coach (the Bears’ fifth coach since Bill Belichick and Tom Brady started their run in 2001) would feel good about nearly overcoming giving up two special-teams scores and two turnovers of their own, all against one of the NFL’s elites.

But feel-good was hard to find after a second straight loss of a winnable game to a good team.

“’Close’ doesn’t cut it,” said quarterback Mitch Trubisky, who set career highs in pass attempts (50) and rushing yards (81) on his way to two passing touchdowns and one rushing. However, Trubisky had his lowest passer rating (69.8) of the season after throwing two interceptions.

“There’s a new standard here, and coming up one yard short and not tying the game and going to overtime, that’s not good enough anymore.”

Perspective isn’t particularly easy with a young team that dropped to 3-3, still its best scorecard after six games since 2014. The Bears are now back behind Minnesota and idle Green Bay (both at 3-2-1) in the NFC North and are tied with Detroit (3-3). 

Still, with their best individual player (Khalil Mack) hobbled with an injured ankle and a pass rush that got virtually no pressure on Brady, the Bears did find themselves at the Chicago 45 with a chance to tie with two seconds to play.

Maybe the marvel was that they were even that close to the Patriots, after special teams allowed a punt-block return for a touchdown and a 95-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.

“We were right there. I think our offense is growing and I like where we are right now, I really do,” Nagy said.

More than that, as he told the players in the locker room afterwards, “With everything that happened to us and we were a yard away from tying the game. Take that and think about that a little bit.”

The ebbs and flows of the game notwithstanding – the Bears led 17-7 early in the second quarter, and were down 38-24 midway through the fourth – the game was arguably another small indicator that the Bears are the cliché’d “for real.”

Whatever that actually means.

The defense, which failed to protect leads in the fourth quarter in two of the Bears’ first four games, was unable to deliver a stop in the final minutes Sunday, allowing New England to drive 96 yards for score to go up 38-24 midway through the fourth quarter.

They “held” Brady and the New England offense to 24 points without Mack, the linchpin of their defense. But the Patriots were without Rob Gronkowski, the perennial Pro Bowl tight end and favorite target of Brady.

"I think it just comes down to knowing that if you are going against a good team, your room for error is slim, so you have to be on point the whole game," said cornerback Kyle Fuller, who intercepted his third pass in the past two games, “

And after some shaky handlings of in-game situations this season, Nagy was not out-coached by Belichick, who routinely takes an opponent’s strength away and who effectively took leading receiver Taylor Gabriel out of the offense. Nagy and Trubisky turned to tight end Trey Burton for nine catches for 126 yards and a touchdown.

Trubisky hurt himself and the offense with a handful of bad misses of open receivers, including Anthony Miller in the end zone in the first half. New England forced him into quick-react decisions with an array of blitzes alternating with eight-man zones, and Trubisky was able to make the Patriots pay with short and mid-range targets of Burton.

Accuracy cost Trubisky when he underthrew wideout Josh Bellamy, who was two steps behind cornerback Stephon Gilmore, in the third quarter for another missed touchdown opportunity. A subsequent sloppy throw on the run to Bellamy was intercepted when the ball was thrown to the defender’s side of Bellamy instead of toward the sideline, costing the Bears a chance at at least a field goal. A misplaced fourth-quarter pass toward Miller later in the fourth quarter was intercepted at the New England four-yard line.

But Trubisky’s 333 yards marked the third straight time he has passed for 300 or more yards, and Nagy cited a number of throws that Trubisky didn’t make as evidence of improved decision-making.

“I came away pleased with how he played,” Nagy said.

Added Gabriel: "He's a playmaker, man. A guy that wanted to win. You can see that out of him. He's the leader of this team and I would go to battle with Mitch any day."