Bears

Moon: Bears touched by 911 tribute

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Moon: Bears touched by 911 tribute

Sunday, Sept. 11, 2011Posted: 11:30 a.m. Updated: 8:00 p.m.

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com Bears Insider Follow @CSNMoonMullin

Roy Williams caught all four of the passes thrown to him Sunday as a Chicago Bear. Something also caught him, on the inside.

It was his own emotion choking him up during the singing of the National Anthem. Players and coaches joined with police officers, firefighters, soldiers and others to unfurl and hold a giant American flag that covered the playing field as Cornelison sang.

Williams had heard Cornelison sing the Star Spangeled Banner in his time as a Detroit Lion, but when youre holding that flag, the land of the free, thats the part that hit me, Williams said.

I didnt want to be the only one in tears but it was very, very tough when you think of the people who died on 911 and their families. You hear so many stories of people that day and it was a touching moment.

Jay gaming

Jay Cutlers passer rating was 107.8 for Sundays game. The Bears are now 23-0, including the Seattle divisional playoff win, when Cutler has a 100 rating. Cutler has had 100 ratings in six of the last nine games.

Why this is more than just an interesting stat is that the Bears lost all three of the games when he was a sub-100 passer (New England, Green Bay twice and the NFC Championship).

But as far as feeling all warm and furry about a 312-yard passing game with 2 TD passes and 23 points tallied by the offense against an Atlanta defense that was fifth-best in points allowed in 2010, nope.

"We left some points out there, Cutler said, referring to two missed TD opportunities in three red-zone trips. We started off pretty good but we just have to get better in the red zone. We just have to hammer out some of these details because we left points on the board.

Duly noted
Right guard Lance Louis was in a plastic walking cast for his injured right ankle, which forced him out of the game in the first half. Chris Spencer took over at right guard, but that leaves questions:

Will Louis be ready in time for New Orleans? If not, would Spencer stay at right guard or flip-flop with Roberto Garza, since Spencer is a natural center and Garza a veteran at right guard?

Defensive end Julius Peppers and tackle Henry Melton switch positions on occasion and have going back into last season. Whats notable is that the two players make the decision themselveswell, sort of. Peppers was asked if Melton tells him to go on the inside and he, Meltonll play end? Peppers smiled the oh-I-dont-think-so smile.
Matt Toeaina found out Sunday morning that he was starting at nose tackle instead of Anthony Adams. A preseason calf injury kept Adams out of full practice until late in the week and a final decision was not made until Adams was put through drills Sunday morning. The decision was made to use him only in spot duty, taking less risk of re-injuring his calf.

The Atlanta Falcons surprised the Bears with a no-huddle offense but Bears defensive linemen felt that their conditioning and speed ironically gave them an edge over the bigger, slower Atlanta offensive linemen.

Hurry up, Devin

Devin Hester may be one of the fastest Bears and receiver-mate Williams, downfield blocking on Hesters 53-yard catch-and-run that saw him chipped out of bounds at the Atlanta 1-yard line. I thought he was gone, Williams said, then deapanned, I wouldve scored.

QB Hits

The game featured a pair of crushing hits on quarterbacks by defensive ends wearing No. 90.

Cutler was blasted by Lawrence Sidbury, coming around a missed block by tight end Kellen Davis, in the third quarter and was slow to get up after the hit.

Peppers, who had three sacks and other hits on Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan, pursued Ryan out of the pocket along the right sideline. He caught the Atlanta quarterback and delivered a sweeping hit that sent Ryans helmet rolling away on the ground.

Nice guy

After Matt Spaeth caught his one-yard TD pass in the third quarter, his first as a Bear, the tight end bee-lined for the first row of the north end-zone stands to hand the ball to his mother and aunt. Head equipment manager Tony Medlin traditionally takes the balls from significant plays and cleans them up.

New guy

Brandon Meriweather, signed last weekend from the New England Patriots, saw his first work at free safety in the third quarter, stepping in for Major Wright.

Peppers slid down inside to defensive tackle in some nickel alignments, with tackle Melton moving outside to end. The two combined for that kind of flip-flop last season, with good effect.
Ouch

Spencers better position is center but he was needed at right guard in the second quarter after Louis limped off with an ankle injury. When Louis suffered an injury in Game 4 last year, that ended his starts at right guard.

Remember him?

Hester -- rather than Johnny Knox -- was back as the kickoff returner for the Bears. Knox took the first snap at wide receiver on the first possession but Hester was back at his No. 1 spot on the start of the second series.

Knox was a Pro Bowl alternate as a returner in 2009 but slumped to less than 23 yards per return last season.
our flag was still there

With the words of the National Anthem sung by Jim Cornelison echoing across Soldier Field, players on both teams joined with police, fire fighters and others unfurling a United States flag that covered the entire playing surface.

When Cornelison pointed to the flag atop the stadium as he sang that our flag was still there enough said.

Lockout? What lockout?

So much for the lockout making it significantly more difficult for newcomers to break onto NFL rosters. Not only have the Bears built this years roster with 18 new players out of 53, but the active roster the Bears fielded for Game 1 included six rookies and one first-year player, fullback Tyler Clutts, playing his first NFL football after stints in the UFL.

Rookie Bears playing Sunday: Gabe Carimi, Chris Conte, Dane Sanzenbacher, Dom DeCicco, Winston Venable, Kyle Adams.

Rostering

Adams was active after missing most of the preseason with a calf injury but Toeaina was inserted as the starting nose tackle.

On the inactive list were running back Marion Barber, quarterback Nathan Enderle, guard Edwin Williams and defensive linemen Mario Addison, Stephen Paea and Corey Wootton. Special teams took a hit with receiver Sam Hurd on the inactive list and still recovering from an ankle injury in preseason.

The Falcons were without center Todd McClure and defensive tackle Corey Peters in their starting lineups.

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.

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: