Bears

Jay Cutler, Jeremy Langford impress but Bears fall to Patriots

Jay Cutler, Jeremy Langford impress but Bears fall to Patriots

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) -- Tom Brady sat out his second straight preseason game, while the guy that will replace him at the start of the regular season continued to make progress.

Brady did not go through pregame warmups Thursday night and never made it to the field for the New England Patriots' 23-22 win over the Chicago Bears. He had been expected to make his debut after missing last week's game to attend memorial services for a family member.

Jimmy Garoppolo will start the first four games of the regular season while Brady serves his "Deflategate" suspension, and he made the most of the extra playing time.

Asked about a report that Brady accidently cut his hand pregame, coach Bill Belichick said it was his call to only play Garoppolo and rookie Jacoby Brissett.

"I made the decision for him not to play tonight," Belichick said.

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

Garoppolo threaded a 16-yard touchdown pass in the back of the end zone to A.J. Derby late in the first half for his first TD pass of the preseason. He played the entire first half and one series in the second half, finishing 16 of 21 for 181 yards.

Jay Cutler and Chicago's offense started the game with a lot more pep following an anemic effort in the opener last week.

The Bears gained 78 yards of offense in the first half of their 22-0 loss to Denver last week. Chicago gained 59 yards in its first drive Thursday and surpassed last week's total in its second possession.

Cutler played three series, completing 8 of 12 passes for 83 yards. Jeremy Langford also had a nice game, rushing eight times for 55 yards and a touchdown.

The Patriots are away for their final two preseason games, so Thursday marked Brady's last opportunity to play in Foxborough until at least Oct. 16. His four-game suspension ends Oct. 3, but New England plays at Cleveland on Oct. 9 in what is expected to be Brady's regular-season debut.

Khalil Mack appears set to play Sunday with Tom Brady, Patriots looming

Khalil Mack appears set to play Sunday with Tom Brady, Patriots looming

Khalil Mack appears in line to play Sunday with Tom Brady, Patriots looming

Khalil Mack participated in the Bears’ final practice of the week on Friday, clearing the way for the edge rusher to play Sunday against the New England Patriots. 

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported earlier Friday that the Bears expected Mack, who hasn’t missed a game in his career, to play after suffering an ankle injury early in Week 6’s 31-28 loss to the Miami Dolphins. Mack is officially questionable for Sunday’s game at Soldier Field. 

Mack had little interest in discussing his ankle with the media on Friday, passing on answering questions about his readiness for New England. Coach Matt Nagy, though, said he thought Mack “looked pretty good” during practice on Friday. 

Mack didn’t record a sack against Miami and was held to just one pressure, per Pro Football Focus. The Dolphins’ gameplan was to commit plenty of resources to stopping Mack, but he wasn’t effective even when he had one-on-one pass rushing opportunities as the game went on. 

“He was (affected),” defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said. “I can't put a percentage on it, but he definitely was.”

Having Mack available — even if he’s not full strength — will be critical for the Bears’ defense to have a chance at keeping Tom Brady from lighting up the scoreboard. The key for the Bears will be to generate pressure on the 41-year-old quarterback without blitzing, which is something Fangio’s defense was successful at prior to Sunday’s wacky loss to the Dolphins. 

Brady’s passer rating is 138.4 when he’s blitzed, per Pro Football Focus, while when under pressure his rating is 87.2. That’s still pretty good, but it’s worth noting that all of the six interceptions he’s thrown this year have come when he hasn’t been blitzed. And only one of the eight sacks he’s taken has come when he’s been blitzed. 

The point being: If the Bears feel like they have to start blitzing to generate pressure, they can expect Brady to pick them apart.  

“You could say all of that but ultimately (Brady’s) a gamer,” Mack said. “He’s going to take those hits, and you gotta be able to deliver them but also have coverage over the top. It’s going to be real important for us.” 

The good news for the Bears, perhaps, is that New England’s tackles have struggled at times this year. Left tackle Trent Brown has allowed 17 pressures in 234 pass blocking snaps, per Pro Football Focus (about one in every 14 snaps). And starting right tackle Marcus Cannon is out with a concussion, giving way for backup La’Adrian Waddle, who’s allowed eight pressures in 78 pass blocking snaps (about one in every 10). 

So the opportunities will be there for Mack, Leonard Floyd, Akiem Hicks and the Bears’ pass rush to affect Brady on Sunday.

A bigger injury concern?

While cornerback Prince Amukamara (hamstring) was a full participant in Friday’s practice and will play Sunday, slot corner Bryce Callahan suffered an ankle injury during Thursday’s practice and did not participate Friday. He’s officially questionable for Sunday. 

Callahan “did his ankle,” Nagy said, toward the end of Thursday’s practice, and he felt worse as the day went on. Nagy characterized Callahan’s absence from Friday’s practice as “precautionary.”

Callahan’s availability may be more of a pressing concern than Mack’s, given how well the Patriots’ offense has played since slot receiver Julian Edelman returned from a four-game suspension to begin the season. While his numbers aren’t eye-popping (11 catches on 16 targets, 111 yards, 1 TD), New England’s offense has scored 38 and 43 points in his two games back. 

“Brady has always had a guy in the slot that he’s comfortable with; whether it be (Wes) Welker, (Danny) Amendola or Edelman,” Fangio said. “It’s a big part of their offense. They haven’t missed a beat, but I really think it’s helped their offense and played a big part in them basically averaging 40 points in the last three weeks. I really appreciate and respect how good of a player he is and has been.”

If Callahan isn’t available, Sherrick McManis could be the next man up at slot corner. 

The Way We Hear It: Khalil Mack will probably play after all

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USA Today

The Way We Hear It: Khalil Mack will probably play after all

The Bears are back in Chicago and Tom Brady and the Patriots are in town! With a week of practice wrapping up today, here's what's been happening in the lead up to Sunday's Bears-Pats matchup: