Bears

Moon: This game is more than just another game

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Moon: This game is more than just another game

Sunday, Oct. 2, 2011
Posted: 12:01 a.m.

By JohnMullin
CSNChicago.com BearsInsider Follow@CSNMoonMullin Ron Rivera will not be on the playing field Sunday but make no mistake: He will be a key figure in the game between the Bears and his Carolina Panthers.

Rivera was let go after the 2006 season despite the Bears reaching the Super Bowl. Exact reasons are always difficult to discern -- he and Lovie Smith had increasing differences over schemes; Smith grew tired of Rivera in an annual hunt for a head-coaching job; Rivera was becoming too much of a media darling for a defense that ultimately was Smiths purview.

Where the truth ultimately lies doesnt matter at all at this point. And it does not diminish the regard in which he is still held by his former players.

He was the ultimate players coach, said linebacker Brian Urlacher. You could talk to him about anything.

He wasnt a bitch coach he didnt bitch at you. He would relay his message to you but not where it was demeaning to you. And you definitely got his message.

Rivera has been successful at every stop in his NFL career. He was a member of the 1985 Bears, a second-round pick in the 1984 draft. When he moved into coaching, he was a success with the Philadelphia Eagles (1999-2003), the Bears (2004-2006) and the San Diego Chargers (linebackers coach first, then defensive coordinator). Taking over the woeful Panthers, he already has achieved one-half the victory total for Carolinas full 2010 season.

Lance Briggs was moved from strong-side to weak-side linebacker after Smith and Rivera arrived in 2004, a change that opened the career path for Briggs.

For me, Ron Rivera was just someone who would tell me how difficult it is to make a play, but at the same time, if I can make that play 'we'll shut this play down and you will help our team to win this game,' Briggs said. He had a way of explaining things to a player, to inspire him, and it also let me know that he was there.

He'll tell you, 'That's not an easy play for anybody to make, but if you can make that play, you will shut this play down.' For me, that helps in a lot of ways. I've gone through life with a lot of coaches who say, 'Just do it this way because I told you to do it.' Everybody kind of felt the same way about him."

The feelings are mutual. And this game is more than just another game.

Personally, it means a lot, because its Chicago, Rivera said. Its a great city and the citys been very good to me. The organizations been outstanding. Its kind of a homecoming. I was there for 17 years and its been outstanding.

And Ive told the players, Hey, Chicagos a great city and its been good to me. Im looking forward to coming back and being at Soldier Field.

Run-checking

The Panthers are with the Bears among the bottom-feeders at rushing the football, averaging just 3.3 yards per rush vs. the Bears 3.2.

Ironically, teams can win without being a dominant rushing team. The Detroit Lions average 2.8 yards per carry and are 3-0. San Francisco has gotten to 2-1 despite stumbling along at 2.5 yards per rush. And the Tennessee Titans, with franchise back Chris Johnson, also is at 2-1 despite a 2.4-yard average.

One big difference, however: The Lions have averaged 28 rushes per game, the 49ers 28 and the Titans 22. The Bears average 17.

We have to run and we will, offensive coordinator Mike Martz said. Thats one thing we can do: we can run the football. Well get that right. I have confidence in our ability to run the ball.

The big fella(s)

One of Urlachers assignments often was to spy a mobile quarterback, which he did with a Michael Vick and others. Those also included Minnesota Viking Daunte Culpepper, who was a size-match for Urlacher and then some.

Cam Newton is perhaps a better all-around athlete than Culpepper but he doesn't engender the kind of impact, literally, that Culpepper did.

Hes not like Daunte Culpepper, Urlacher said. Hes not that big. Daunte was big, thick. I dont see Cam as being thick. But theyre all big. Peyton Manning is 6-6, theyre all tall. Its not a big deal.

Were pretty tall, too.

Walter-watching

The firestorm has not abated around Jeff Pearlmans new biography of Walter Payton, Sweetness: The Enigmatic Life of Walter Payton, as chronicled by ProFootballTalk.com (http:tinyurl.com4yadbww).

Former Payton agent and attorney Bud Holmes declared via TMZ that Payton was not hooked on drugs, did not abuse drugs or use illegal drugs. Holmes is quoted in the book as saying Payton was pounding his body with medication.

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 won't be playing in the 2020 Pro Bowl

Khalil Mack won't be playing in the 2020 Pro Bowl

If you're one of the 48 people who plan on watching the Pro Bowl this weekend, you and your 47 friends won't be seeing Khalil Mack. 

It was announced on Tuesday morning that the Bears' star pass rusher will again miss the annual "showcase" with an unspecified injury. While he's been elected to 5 Pro Bowls, this is the second time in two years that he's missed the event since being traded to Chicago.

Replacing Mack will be Green Bay's Za'Darius Smith. Smith had 13.5 sacks this season, which was 6th-best in the NFL. It was the most sacks in anyone's first season in Green Bay since 1982, as well as the fifth most in a single season in Packers' history (since 1982), per the team's press release. 

By comparison, Mack had 8.5 sacks this season, the lowest mark since his rookie year in 2014. It was also the first time since that season that he failed to reach double-digits. The Bears will still have three representatives in Orlando this weekend: Eddie Jackson, Kyle Fuller, and Cordarrelle Patterson. 

Eric Ebron interacts with Akiem Hicks' NFC Championship tweet, causing free agency speculation

Eric Ebron interacts with Akiem Hicks' NFC Championship tweet, causing free agency speculation

Just as Bears fans were finally coming to terms with their disappointing 8-8 season, Akiem Hicks decided to pour some salt on the wound and take to Twitter, imagining what it would’ve been like if the Bears had made it to the NFC Championship game.

While we were all imagining how indeed “lit” it would’ve been to see the Bears play in the post-season at Soldier Field, Indianapolis Colts tight end Eric Ebron decided to quote tweet Hicks with a thinking face emoji. Curious behavior.

Ebron has played for the Colts since 2018, when he had a stellar first season in Indianapolis, scoring 14 touchdowns. In 2019, Ebron’s season ended after 11 games due to an ankle injury. He scored three touchdowns, reeling in 31 catches for 375 yards. Colts GM Chris Ballad has said that the organization is likely to move on from Ebron in 2020, meaning he would be available in free agency.

Tight end is one of the positions on the Bears long offseason do to list, and Ebron seems he could be a potential fit. Judging by their Twitter interactions, Akiem Hicks and Tarik Cohen seem to think so.

Hicks replied to Ebron telling him he could hear Bears fans calling his name. Cohen echoed this sentiment in his own tweet, albeit more cryptically.

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