Bears

Moon: Musings from around the league

Moon: Musings from around the league

Monday, Sept. 26, 2011Posted: 10:45 p.m.

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com Bears Insider Follow @CSNMoonMullin
Around the NFC North

The division is in danger of slipping irretrievably away from the Bears (1-2) after their loss to the Green Bay Packers and the continuing ascendancy of the Detroit Lions. Losing to both New Orleans and Green Bay has the Bears two games down in any tiebreaker in the NFC and the pressure is building for a winning streak, not just winning one game.

Detroit (3-0) goes to Dallas next and if the Lions have exceeded expectations, the Cowboys and Tony Romo are the dictionary definition of over-hyped. An early guess is that the Lions will be a head-shaking 4-0 when the Bears see them in Detroit on Monday night Oct. 10. The Lions started 6-2 in 2007 and proceeded to lose seven of their last eight. Their offensive coordinator then was Mike Martz. QB Matthew Stafford put up a passer rating of 108.8 despite taking 5 sacks.

Green Bay (3-0) was the class of the division coming into 2011 and has done nothing to lose that distinction. The Packers have won a division game on the road and are 3-0 in the NFC. If something jumps the tracks at some point (the Packers wont go 16-0), they are building up an edge with head-to-heads over two potential playoff contenders in the Saints and Bears. Aaron Rodgers leads the NFL with a passer rating of 120.9.

With all of the passing firepower the Packers possess, Green Bay has handed the ball to both Ryan Grant and James Starks 32 times, tied for 28th in the NFL. Matt Forte is down at No. 26 with just 35 total carries in three games.Cam Newton has 25 carries, Michael Vick 24.

The Bears are not the only division team with bizarre decisions in the run game. Minnesota Vikings coach Leslie Frazier gave the ball to Toby Gerhart for a fourth-down, fourth-quarter run against the Lions instead of Adrian Peterson, and despite the Vikings taking a 20-0 lead into halftime, Peterson got exactly five carries in the second half. If Christian Ponder is not the Vikings starting quarterback by the time the Bears get Minnesota in Soldier Field on Oct. 16, something is wrong. Ponder was the No. 12 pick of the draft and Cam Newton is putting the lie to the notion that quarterbacks are useless in their rookie years.

Fun look

Longtime bud Peter King over at Sports Illustrated, as always, has a Monday Morning Quarterback thats worth a look. Peter takes a peek at Henry Melton, a former running back at Texas who switched to the defensive line and has 3 sacks this season, his first as a starter. The numbers are a little misleading from a distance because Melton was invisible in the New Orleans loss and was ineffective too often at gap control vs. the Green Bay running game.

Peter mentions a Tweet by Tom Crabtree as the Packers tight end was leaving on the team buses from Soldier Field after Sundays game. Via @TCrabtree83: Sad to see all these folks in Chicago missing every finger except the middle. I think theyre trying to wave to us.

Around the schedule

Something to keep in mind is that no team in the NFL played a tougher first three games than the Bears three playoff teams in Atlanta, New Orleans and Green Bay. The reality is that anything less than an excellent early burst was going to be trouble and not a lot of analysts had the Bears a lot better than the 1-2 they are after playing three teams with a combined 34-14 record.

Michael Vick is taking more of a beating in Philadelphia than Jay Cutler is in Chicago, and he had something to say about officiating that has allowed him to be a target of hits that would draw roughing flags if they were against a lot of other NFL quarterbacks. Dream Team because of a bunch of free-agent signings? Ummmm.

The Panthers were less a concern when Cam Newton was throwing for 400-plus yards in his first two games than when he managed the weather and engineered a comeback win over Jacksonville. Newtons passing total was a modest 158 yards but highlight after highlight was of him fighting off pressure and getting the ball to his playmakers rather than over-relying on his athleticism to tuck it and run.

Kyle Orton is under pressure (still, always) after Denvers 1-2 start and now the Broncos have to go to Green Bay. Orton is just 4-12 as a starter since leaving the Bears and a surprise will be for the Bears to see him under center when they go to Denver Dec. 11. John Fox inherited a quarterback controversy between Orton and Tim Tebow when Fox took over as head coach and he has no investment in either.

The Bears have been anything but dominant against the run after seeing all three of their 2011 opponents rush for at least 100 yards against them. They can look ahead to seeing the NFLs No. 1 and No. 2 runners on the dance card in the persons of Oaklands Darren McFadden (131 yards per game, 6.4 yards per carry) and Philadelphias LeSean McCoy (115 yards per game, 6.1 yards per carry). Before those two, they have Adrian Peterson, No. 6 at 98.7 yards per game and 5.1 per carry.

Rooting interest
Members of the media arent supposed to be fans and I usually dont have a rooting interest in outcomes (I do have a favorite team but Ill keep that to myself). But there are individuals you like to see do well and Rex Grossman is one of those.

Rex endured more abuse in Chicago than just about any player I have ever covered, yet was unfailingly personable and accommodating even to some of the worst abusers. A decent person and one of those people you privately want to see do well, not because he was good to the media, but just because thats what should happen.

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.

What's changed about Mitch Trubisky? Nothing, and the Bears are thrilled

What's changed about Mitch Trubisky? Nothing, and the Bears are thrilled

Guess they weren’t lying after all.

All year, the Bears have been telling us that Mitch Trubisky’s as even-keeled as they come. It’s about the only sound bite that comes up every Sunday, regardless of the outcome.

“It's confidence. Mitch is confident back there,” Taylor Gabriel said back in June. “So I feel like, like I said, it's just a drastic change from last year.”

Six months later, and Trubisky would have every reason, and then some, to be having a crisis of confidence. The Bears – then presumptive NFC favorites – kicked off the NFL’s 100th birthday party by scoring three points at home. He then sprained his shoulder in Week 4, ending the game in a sling on the sideline as he watched backup Chase Daniel once again look more comfortable operating the offense. Things got even WORSE when he came back, and the Bears’ historically-bad offense was booed early and often during their midseason four-game losing streak.

People called for Cam Newton, and Andy Dalton. People even called for Eli Manning! The city of Chicago 'Irish Goodbyed' the Bears’ franchise quarterback and it didn’t change him for a second. At least, not from where the head coach is sitting.  

“You know, even within our team and our offense, you can go through some struggles,” Matt Nagy said on Wednesday. “And you feel that – and confidence is a part of that. Whether it’s individually how you’re playing, same thing.”

So has there been any change in his demeanor, now that a thousand Daves from Winnetka aren’t constantly on-the-line yelling for his replacement?

“Not really, no,” added Nagy. “It hasn’t.”

Quarterbacks coach Dave Ragone acknowledged the expectations facing Trubisky and pointed to his knack for playing well late in the game, or in important moments. To Ragone, it's the sign of a quarterback who has the skillset to make it as, as he calls it, a “Top Gun.” Trubisky will only be 25 when his fourth NFL training camp begins next July, and the Bears are thrilled with the leadership qualities they’ve seen from the 13th-youngest player on their roster.

“Obviously your play on the field is hugely important to you continuing to be the face of a franchise, but there’s a lot more that goes into playing quarterback in the National Football League than just throwing a slant route on time,” Ragone said. “Hopefully you can grow into it, and I think you see as a kid who came in here when he was 22, and is now 25, he’s maturing not just as a player, but as a person.”

As for Trubisky himself, the quarterback mentioned that if this season has taught him anything, it’s how to better stay unaffected by the media narratives he was so infamously hearing around Halas Hall. Like, for instance, when Green Bay cornerback Tramon Williams talked about how the Packers’ plan to beat the Bears in Week 1 mainly involved “forcing [Trubisky] to play quarterback.” Trubisky was unspectacular (26-45, 228 yards) in that loss, and on Wednesday, if you can believe it, mostly (mostly) wasn’t biting on the Revenge Game narrative – just like the Bears like it.

“I got enough motivation from the outside, and I guess that’s even more motivation,” he said. “I didn’t hear that. I don’t really care.”

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First and Final Thoughts: The Bears head to Lambeau with the season on the line

First and Final Thoughts: The Bears head to Lambeau with the season on the line

Not unlike Matt Nagy and Mitch Trubisky, it's Year 2 of First and Final Thoughts. Insider JJ Stankevitz and producer Cam Ellis talk about what's on their minds between games. J.J.'s on Paternity Leave, so Bulls producer Rob Schaefer is filling in. 

Final Thoughts on Week 14

Rob Schaefer: The Bears took care of their business last Thursday against Dallas. Unfortunately, when the Sunday and Monday slate of games had concluded, they weren’t any closer to the playoff berth they — somehow — found themselves within shouting distance of entering Week 14. In fact, they’re now further away. 

Perhaps the Rams and Vikings felt the Bears nipping on their heels, because both teams were dominant on Sunday. The Vikings (behind three Danielle Hunter sacks) made David Blough look like… well, David Blough, in a 20-7 victory over Detroit. Expected, but a gut-punch nonetheless. Even more concerning was the Rams returning to their early-2018 offensive form in beating down the surging Seahawks 28-12. Per FiveThirtyEight, the Bears enter Week 15 with a 2% chance of making the playoffs.

Still, you have to feel good about the way the defense responded against Dallas after losing Roquan Smith (on top of the starters they were already missing), and Mitch Trubisky’s four-touchdown (three by air, one by ground) performance, moving forward. Even if they don’t make an appearance on Wild Card weekend, the Bears can still salvage something from the end of the 2019 season if Trubisky and others continue to progress.

Cam Ellis: Lots of players were good against Dallas, but the only real thought I've had that's lingered since last week's win is this: good for Trubisky. Beating the Cowboys doesn't – or shouldn't – change how the Bears feel about him as their long-term solution, but it was great seeing him have his first real, positive moment of 2019. For what it's worth, the loudest Soldier Field got all night was when Trubisky scored on that 23-yard scramble. Let's watch it! 

The place erupts when he's still 20 yards out. Who knows what happens at quarterback after these next three games, but given the type of guy the Bears say he is, and how hard he works, it was nice to see him succeed in a big moment. 

First Thought on Week 15 

Schaefer: Green Bay’s defense started the year stingy, but has faded against premier competition as the season has worn on (they’re currently 20th in in league in defensive DVOA). If the Bears can’t pull this one out (or those competing with them for the last wild card spot continue to win), the first place to look for silver linings will be Trubisky. Improvement on his stat line from opening night (26-of-45, 228 yards, 0 TDs, 1 INT) is requisite to taking anything positive from this game.

Ellis: Imagine if the Bears had literally anything but the hardest remaining schedule in the NFL. The good news is that the Bears get the toughest one over with first? They've won at Lambeau twice in 10 years, although if you've scrolled down this far I imagine I don't need to tell you that. It's hard to decide whether getting Akiem Hicks back is better for this team's performance or their attitude – he'll probably be at least somewhat limited physically, but just having him out there, especially without Danny Trevathan or Roquan Smith, gives the Bears that returning-cavalry vibe that always adds a little extra juice this time of year. Aaron Rodgers has gutted them too many times to not expect it as this point, but if the Matt Nagy Era Bears have shown anything, it's that they tend to rally well in these type of situations. They'll be a tough out at worst.