Bears

Moon: It's more than just beating the Packers

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Moon: It's more than just beating the Packers

Saturday, Jan. 1, 2011
1:19 p.m.
By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com
There is only one real objective when the Bears face their most storied rival Sunday in Green Bay. Lovie Smith set forth that target way back in 2004 when he succeeded Dick Jauron as Bears coach.

It is not to defeat the Packers. The Bears have done that more often than not under Lovie Smith, including in a nationally televised Monday night game in week three of this season.

It is not to win the NFC North. The Bears have done that already. It would be an accomplishment for the Bears to go 6-0 in the division, something they have never done under Smith. They were 5-0 twice before, in 2005 and 2006, but basically chose to rest starters and lost last games to the Minnesota Vikings and the Packers in successive years.

No, the only meaningful target now is the Super Bowl, Smiths third stated goal from 2004 and one which can only be accomplished by advancing in the playoffs. And that now is the only objective that matters when the Bears visit Lambeau Field.

The debate has been whether or not to rest key players ranging from Jay Cutler to Brian Urlacher. Actually, rest is not the mission statement so much as play it safe so the Bears stay as healthy as they have been.

But more important is to lay in a course based on playoff preparation, whatever that is determined to be. Nothing else matters.

Beating the Packers does carry some significance. The Bears are all too familiar with what Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay defense are capable of, and they would not like the prospect of the Packers showing up in front of them again in something like the NFC Championship game, which could happen if Green Bay wins, qualifies for the playoffs as the No. 6 seed and wins two games.

The Packers are a great team, and I dont want to keep facing the Packers, said receiver Devin Hester. So Im hoping we can go out and eliminate another great team, because I do give them credit. They are a great team, and Id hate to see them three times in one year.

Limited exposure

The Bears are expected to pull selected starters as Sunday plays out. One scenario is to look at the Green Bay game as a form of third preseason game that counts: a game in which the No. 1 units overall need to play for purposes of continuing development but not at the expense of health or getting in-game experience for reserves who may be called upon due to injuries in the playoff run.

Hester does not need extra punt returns for developmental purposes. Nor does Matt Forte need work on his receiving or cuts. They and others will be among No. 1s who will see some cutbacks in playing time Sunday.

Receiver Earl Bennett (ankle) and linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa (knee) are expected to be on the inactive list in order to give them two full weeks of rehab and recovery.

Weve asked our players to get better each week, said offensive coordinator Mike Martz. Thats how we coach; thats how we play. Thats what were going to try to do this week. This is a very important game for us, pure and simple.
Take it away

The primary interest and concern for the Bears is turnovers. It was their undoing last season when Jay Cutler couldnt stop committing the. It is the key to their 2010 postseason if the defense cannot resume creating them at a level that had the Bears among the league leaders in turnover ratio.

Now they are a pedestrian 10th with a plus-4 largely because the defense has forced zero or one takeaway in five of the last six games. By comparison, only once in the first nine games did they have fewer than 2 takeaways.

As far as getting it back, one of the things that we havent been pleased with is just the amount of takeaways, Smith said. This time of the year, that turnover ratio is big. We havent taken the ball away enough. Hopefully we can get back to that this week.

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.

Chargers' Anthony Lynn says Mitch Trubisky reminded him of Aaron Rodgers

Chargers' Anthony Lynn says Mitch Trubisky reminded him of Aaron Rodgers

Imagine, for a moment, what this Bears team would be like if it had Aaron Rodgers under center, leading the offense, with a defense captained by Khalil Mack. It seems nearly impossible to picture it, but according to Los Angeles Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn, it wouldn't have been as difficult back in 2017 when Trubisky was a highly-touted draft prospect.

Lynn, during his conference call with reporters Wednesday, said Trubisky reminded him of the future Hall of Famer back when he was coming out of North Carolina.

"He made throws. He had a quick release. He reminded me sometimes of Aaron Rodgers," Lynn said. "The way he moved around. If he ever got in a bind, he could create. I just thought he had the total package."

Trubisky's final season as a Tar Heel feels like ancient history, but Lynn's assessment isn't far off. Trubisky completed 68% of his passes for 3,748 yards with 30 touchdowns and only six interceptions. His 5-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio is an elite stat, and his ability to create with his legs made him that much more appealing to NFL general managers. He was so desired that GM Ryan Pace infamously traded up one spot (from No. 3 overall to No. 2) to draft him.

What may have been overlooked, however, was the offense Trubisky operated in at UNC. It was a very basic, quick-hitting system that didn't require much "quarterbacking" from the now-struggling pro. And while it's still too early to say Trubisky will never become a franchise passer, it's pretty clear he isn't destined to be in the elite tier.

Through five games (four if you factor in his early exit against the Vikings in Week 4), Trubisky's completed 64.4% of his passes for 839 yards, five touchdowns and two interceptions. Sadly, more than 250 of his yards and two of his touchdowns came in what Matt Nagy admitted was garbage time in Week 7's loss to the Saints.

General managers, coaches and scouts will often hold onto scouting reports way too long. Maybe it's a pride or ego thing. Maybe it's a failure to accept reality. But with Trubisky, it's pretty clear his college scouting report was flawed, and it's on Pace and Nagy to make sure they know if his issues are correctable. If not, they can't hold onto hope that a Rodgers-like breakout will suddenly (and miraculously) occur.

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In a way, Roquan Smith's recent struggles mirror the Bears' larger defensive issues

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USA Today

In a way, Roquan Smith's recent struggles mirror the Bears' larger defensive issues

It’s wild to think about how, only two months ago, Bears’ linebacker Roquan Smith was wrapping up a month of training camp where – on more than one occasion – he looked like the best player on the team. Hyperbole reigns in Bourbonnais, but given his stellar rookie season, expectations for Smith’s second season were through the roof. 

Fast forward six games, and Smith’s season has looked far closer to a worst-case scenario than the All-Pro campaign that many (including yours truly) had him locked in for. Personal issues aside, Smith’s performance on the field hasn’t lived up to the standard he set last year, when he led the team in total tackles (122). 

“He can definitely play better,” Matt Nagy said on Tuesday. “And he knows that. That’s where we’re at right now. And he’s gonna. I think he will. We all know exactly what we’ve all done together in the last couple weeks.” 

Nagy wouldn’t speculate on whether Smith is still finding his form after missing some time with an off-field issue that was never disclosed. Last Sunday he was only on the field for 54 of 78 snaps, and seemed to be subbed out on 3rd down more frequently than in the past. When he has been on the field – especially in the last two games – the tape hasn’t been kind. 

Per Pro Football Focus, here’s how Smith graded out, and where it ranked among all linebackers, after his rookie season: 

Overall Def: 65.0 (71)
Run defense: 55.1 (137) 
Tackling: 73.9 (69)
Pass Rush: 72.8 (28) 
Coverage: 67.8 (41)

And now, this season: 

Overall Def: 48.0 (117) 
Run defense: 50.3 (113)
Tackling: 77.5 (31)
Pass Rush: 47.2 (131)
Coverage: 50.7 (95)

“He’s doing everything he can,” Nagy added. “None of it is because of lack of effort or want or any of that. And none of it is because of the lack of couldn’t. We all look at each other. We all want to help each other out. And we feel like we all can coach and play better.”

In some ways, Smith’s issues are a good microcosm of what’s plagued the Bears’ defense over the last month. Eddie Jackson said that side of the ball has lost some of their swagger, and even a casual eye test can see that the team isn’t playing with quite the same physicality that became their calling card under Vic Fangio. 

“Well, I would agree with that,” Nagy added. “There hasn’t been that physicality. They know that. Again, none of it is because of a lack of want. A lot of it just comes down to there are certain plays and certain parts of the game that it’s not getting done, and it was before.” 

Losing Akiem Hicks obviously doesn’t help. The Bears’ defense still has plenty of talent at all levels, however, and no one inside Halas Hall (and certainly no one outside it) is feeling sorry for themselves. 

“I think it’s preparation,” Nagy replied when asked how the defense could get back to an elite level. “Then there’s reactionary skills, of when it happens, you’re prepared, you saw what happened and you can react. That’s probably the biggest thing. That’s something you would have to ask each and every player because they’re all different on how much they prepare and how well they prepare.”

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