Bears

Moon: Cleaning out the notebook the day after...

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Moon: Cleaning out the notebook the day after...

Monday, Nov. 29, 2010
10:14 a.m.

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

Any doubt about the absolute importance of the Bears running the ball often as much as well, hopefully in Mike Martzs mind, should be forever dispelled after what the offense did to the Philadelphia Eagles.

Matt Forte ran for 117 yards on 14 carries and now has a rushing average of 4.2, something that has been the case too seldom in his two-plus year career. But Sunday was his seventh 100-yard rushing game, it was the first 100-yard rushing game against Philadelphia this season, and the Bears are 7-0 in games when Forte runs into triple figures.

Dont for a moment dismiss the yardage total because 61 of the yards came on one run and 28 on another, meaning that Forte averaged 2.3 on the other 12 runs. Big runs come because they have enough chances to happen and Martz is giving his tailback enough chances.

And also dont dismiss entirely the lack of production from Chester Taylor, who had minus-3 yards on 6 carries. The 6 carries and pass protection were contributions and thats what the Bears need from their backs. The yards will come, either passing or running, if the offense shows it can and will do both.

Nice calls

Compliments to old buddy Jay Glazer, NFL maven for FOXSports.com, who told CSNChicago.com back in training camp that the Bears were his NFC darkhorse. Glaze also had the Miami Dolphins as a quiet one to watch in the AFC. The Dolphins problem is being stuck in an AFC East with the New England Patriots and New York Jets, but thats a team that is 5-1 on the road and managing to play with huge injury issues at quarterback.

Lets not be too hard on another good friend, Peter King, for still ranking the Green Bay Packers (No. 4) ahead of the Bears (No. 5) in his excellent Monday Morning Quarterback". Peter still has doubts about the Bears offensive line, which is reasonable. But Peter somehow doesnt seem to have significant questions about Green Bays ability to run the football and he still sees the Packers playing in the NFC Championship game.

Peters in-depth look at the goofy Josh McDaniels-videoGate situation in Denver, plus Ron Riveras great job in San Diego, are definitely worth looks.

Stat-ing

On the subject of handling the football

Martz called 16 pass plays in the first half vs. 7 handoffs to Forte and Taylor. Jay Cutler was sacked four times and ran twice. In the second half, with a run game established in the form of Fortes 61-yard excursion, Martz had Cutler throw 11 times vs. Forte, Taylor and Devin Hester (handoff from Wildcat QB Earl Bennett) running ball 14 times. Cutler wasnt sacked, although he did set off on runs five times, which ultimately takes a toll on defensive linemen forced to pursue and put that threat in the minds of opposing secondaries.

Of those 11 second-half passes, five went to other than wide receivers, who were the only targets in the first half. Tight ends were 2-for-2 with Greg Olsen scoring on his one catch and Brandon Manumaleuna creating a first-and-goal with his. Forte was targeted three times in the second half, meaning that Cutler threw six times to wideouts in the second half and five times elsewhere. Good distribution.

Cutler morph

Jay Cutler has been a passer throughout his career. What he has become over the past four games is a quarterback. Theres difference, a huge one.

As Ive stated previously, Cutler is in no way a game manager, which has wrongly been assigned a negative connotation by some. (No one calls Tom Brady or (usually) Peyton Manning a game manager but are there any better ones?) Kyle Orton wasis a game manager and the Bears went 10-5 behind him in 2005 so thats not a bad thing necessarily.

But Cutler becoming a quarterback is without question the most significant development of 2010, bigger even than the signing of Julius Peppers. Taking a 15-yard unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty in Sundays fourth quarter for continuing a rant at an officials non-call was beneath stupid and beyond immature. But Cutler has grown up as a football player as this season has gone on. And if he can grow up as a football player, finally, the suspicion would also be that he can grow up as a person as well, which is what being a quarterback and a leader is all about.

Hell be back?

Could Brett Favre be swayed into coming back for one more year one more time? Theres suddenly a little buzz coming out of Minnesota with the elevation of class guy Leslie Frazier to head coach and all Favre ever seems to need is a little buzz from somewhere.

Frazier earned a Gatorade shower (the invention of the 1984 Bears, by the way, not the New York Giants) with the Vikings win over Washington. Next they have the Buffalo Bills coming, a probable win in the first of three straight home games. After that they host the New York Giants and finally the Bears on MNF.

The Minnesota answer doesnt lie in Tavaris Jackson. I dont see Frazier or any more teammates traveling to Mississippi to beg Favre back this time, but Favre leaving on a down note (which his 010 has been) somehow doesnt seem like the gimme it did a little while ago with Brad Childress there.

Ya never know, ya know?

Hell be back!

A little bit of your football heart has to go out to Buffalo Bills wideout Steve Johnson, who has been nothing short of an emerging star playing to the limit for a team with nothing to play for each week. Johnson had and dropped what would have been a game-winning touchdown against none other than the Pittsburgh Steelers Sunday and was near tears standing up to the questions afterwards.

Ill never get over it, said Johnson, who burned the Bears for 11 catches and 145 yards up in Toronto. Ill never get it. Ever.

Just guessing, but Johnson will. And you want him to. Hes never stopped caring and thats a good thing.

Oooops

Still think the Bears should have gone after Randy Moss so they could finally have a true No. 1 receiver (whatever that is)? Call the Tennessee Titans; you can probably still get him. Moss line: three games, all losses, 4 receptions, zero TDs.

Sad story

Sympathies go out to those close to the young man who died in a fall at Soldier Field Sunday. Police were still investigating late Sundayearly Monday but regardless of circumstances, that puts a sad pall over the day.

Lez talk

Probably one or two things to e-talk about tonight on the Monday night chat, 7-8 p.m. on CSNChicago.com. Let me know what you think.

Will check in about 4:40 p.m.with Larry and Don and central Illinois on SportsRadio 1450 WFMB-AM in Springfield for our weekly Bears catch-up. Always fun with the guys and that area of BearsNation.

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.

Chicago Bears planning a run at free-agent tight end Austin Hooper

Chicago Bears planning a run at free-agent tight end Austin Hooper

The 2020 NFL Combine is revving up off the field as much as it is on the field. Quarterbacks, wide receivers and tight ends kicked off the workouts at Lucas Oil Stadium, but it's what's going on inside the bars and restaurants in Indianapolis that should have Bears fans interested.

According to Jason Leiser of the Chicago Sun-Times, the Bears are preparing to make a run at prized free-agent tight end, Austin Hooper. The Falcons playmaker is the top free-agent tight end on the market this year and according to Atlanta's general manager Thomas Dimitroff, he'll be given the opportunity to find out what his market value is.

That number is likely to come close to $10 million per season, which seems like an impossible price to pay for a Bears team that's already up against the salary cap. But with a new CBA on the horizon, everything we thought we know about the salary cap could soon change.

Hooper would instantly provide the Bears with the kind of second-level threat the passing game's been lacking since, well, forever. Or, since Martellus Bennett left town in 2016.

Ryan Pace has to be careful, however. He's swung and missed on two free-agent tight ends since becoming the Bears GM. First, it was Dion Sims in 2017. Then came Trey Burton in 2018. 

Sims lasted just two seasons in Chicago. He totaled 17 catches as a Bear. Burton, who's battled injuries over his first two years in Chicago, had just 14 catches in 2019.

Pace doesn't really have a choice but to pay up at this point. If he hits on Hooper, the misses on Sims and Burton will be quickly forgotten.

These 3 tight ends improved their stock at the 2020 NFL Combine

These 3 tight ends improved their stock at the 2020 NFL Combine

Chicago Bears general manager Ryan Pace said earlier this week that he is going to explore every avenue when it comes to upgrading the team's tight end group. The 2020 NFL Draft will be a great place to look for the pass-catcher Matt Nagy's offense needs at the position, and three prospects elevated their draft stock at the 2020 NFL Combine.

Stephen Sullivan, LSU

Sullivan, the wide receiver-turned-tight end, was one of the most impressive players at the 2020 Senior Bowl, and he continued his rise up the draft board with a strong showing in Indianapolis.

Sullivan, who weighed in at 6-5, 248 pounds, ran a 4.66 40-yard dash, which tied for second-fastest among all tight ends. His 36.5-inch vertical jump is an elite number, too.

He was smooth in the on-field drills and showcased his effortless catching style. 

Sullivan won't be an early-round prospect. He's probably going to slip into Day 3. And if he does, the Bears have to give him a long, hard look. He has a chance to be the biggest sleeper in the draft (regardless of position) who can become an impact playmaker in the NFL.

Brycen Hopkins, Purdue

Hopkins, like Sullivan, ran a 4.66 and looked every bit the part of a move tight end. He was smooth on downfield routes and caught the ball cleanly (for the most part). One of the concerns surrounding Hopkins is his tendency to double-catch. He did a nice job quieting that worry just a bit.

Albert Okwuegbunam, Missouri

Albert 'O' was the big winner with his blazing 4.49 40-time, which ranks among the 10-best 40-times for a tight end since 1999, per the Mock Draftable database.

'O' is coming off a very disappointing season when he totaled just 26 catches for 306 yards and six touchdowns. But he lost his quarterback from 2018 -- Drew Lock -- and never got into an offensive rhythm in 2019.

It wasn't a perfect day for him, however. He loafed the gauntlet drill and continued the narrative around his game that suggests he doesn't give 100% effort on every down. But it's impossible to ignore his speed at 6-5, 258 pounds.