Jeremy Langford flashes potential as Bears rally to beat Colts


Jeremy Langford flashes potential as Bears rally to beat Colts

As was the case in last week's preseason opener, the Bears opened the second half trailing, but Jimmy Clausen and his depth chart brethren rallied and finished things off in the 23-11 win over the Colts, to improve to 2-0 on the preseason.

The biggest post-intermission star was Jeremy Langford. The under-the-radar fourth-round draft pick was squarely on the radar on a pair of second half-opening touchdown drives. On a fourth consecutive carry, after gaining two tough yards on a third-and-1, Langford used his toolbox on a 46-yard run: strength, vision, balance, and second-level speed to help set up a Clausen 12-yard touchdown pass on third down to Josh Bellamy, who tightroped the sideline and dove in to cap off a 10-play, 88-yard drive and put the Bears on top for good, 16-11.

While Bellamy scored the touchdown, another wideout made a couple of important plays earlier: Northwestern product Rashad Lawrence, who had a 12-yard catch-and-run to get the Bears out from inside their own 10. He then took a quick toss from Clausen on the next play for a five-yard gain on third-and-3.

[MORE: Cutler, Gould highlight Bears first half against Colts]

Lawrence would also deliver an important block early on the next scoring drive, allowing Cameron Meredith a 13-yard gainer. Important stuff in the wake of the Kevin White, Alshon Jeffery, and now Marquess Wilson injuries.

Langford was then the workhorse to finish the drive: runs of 15 and two yards to get the offense down to the Colts' 2-yard line. The rookie then bounced off would-be Colts tacklers at the line to spin outside and win a race to the end zone for a 23-11 lead. At that point, the Bears' rushing attack had 156 yards on 29 carries (5.4 average). Exactly the kind of production you only hope could translate into the regular season, albeit against a middle-of-the-pack Colts defense, playing its backups. Langford finished with nine carries for 80 yards.

Defensively, Sam Acho made an impact play for the second straight week, a strip-sack of Matt Hasselbeck while getting low and using leverage to beat a lineman, and the ball rolled into the arms of rookie Eddie Goldman, who had another positive showing throughout the night.

We mentioned Willie Young helping Will Sutton with a first half sack (which was credited fully to Sutton), and Lamarr Houston also saw his first game action since a serious injury of his own. He showed burst and explosiveness at outside linebacker - a little too much on an offsides call.

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David Bass had a sack and a pass defended, as well.

While it's preseason, I think most Bears observers are looking for steps in the right direction, week by week. Who knows how this game would've turned out if it were the regular season.

But the first-string offense and defense took those steps Saturday night, and the special teams was overall solid, establishing field position in the first half, and utilizing the running game to eat some clock. It sounds like a formula that'll work when it starts for keeps in three weeks. And the roster competition is on.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Can the Bears pull off an upset at home against Tom Brady and the Patriots?


SportsTalk Live Podcast: Can the Bears pull off an upset at home against Tom Brady and the Patriots?

Chris Emma, Matt Zahn and Gabe Ramirez join David Kaplan on the panel.

0:00- NBC Sports National NBA Insider Tom Haberstroh joins the panel to discuss the Bulls’ terrible defensive performance as well as Zach LaVine’s impressive season debut.

11:35- Khalil Mack is listed as questionable for Sunday’s game against the Patriots. Can the Bears pull off the upset against Tom Brady?

23:50- NBC Sports Boston Patriots insider Tom E. Curran joins Kap to talk about how New England views the Bears and discuss how Matt Nagy’s team can exploit the Patriots’ weaknesses.

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below.


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.