Bears

Moon: There was no one more fun to talk with than Doug Buffone

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Moon: There was no one more fun to talk with than Doug Buffone

The hard thing thinking and writing about the death of Doug Buffone is that it’s such a sad exercise, and you just know that Doug would be extremely insulted if there was too much “sad” in anything having to do with him. Your day was always just a little more fun if it had some Doug time in it.

Doug was easily one of the most memorable and enjoyable individuals I have encountered in a quarter-century of covering the Chicago Bears. Period. One of the funniest, most honest, most interesting people – not just player – I have had the pleasure of meeting.

Recalling Doug (and just writing that, “recalling,” is just wrong) is in the form of snapshots, sort of Doug Moments. And just about every time doing my book on “100 Best Chicago Sports Arguments” a few years back, one of the “arguments” was whether Walter Payton or Gale Sayers was in fact the best-ever Chicago Bear running back.

[MORE: Bears legend Doug Buffone passes away at age 70]

The topic wasn’t an easy one, but the best way to answer it was: Call Doug. Not everyone realized that Doug played with both Gale and with Walter, meaning that he in fact spanned eras, and was himself a star in both.

(For the record, after probably a half-hour of chat that was both hilarious and beyond interesting, Doug cast his vote for Gale, just based on pure running ability.)

Seeing Doug at training camps was a highlight, and seeing how he was with people was its own nugget. This was one of the all-time great football players for one of the NFL’s truly great franchises, and if there was ever anyone who was less a “legend” around folks than Doug, I’d have to see it to believe it. He was the same guy walking along a line of fans, breaking into stories and laughs with them, as he was with any luminary or so-called distinguished individual.

Actually, Doug wasn’t just comfortable with royalty. Doug WAS football royalty.

[MORE: Mike Ditka on Doug Buffone: 'I loved him']

Doing a story last year on whether players from the NFL’s past could play in the modern NFL, I intentionally saved Doug until near the end of the interview process. Sort of saving the best ‘til last. And Doug was absolutely the best.

“What?!” Doug howled when I told him I was looking hard at whether the best of his time could play today. “Are you kiddin’ me?! Johnny, no way these guys today could play with us!!”

And of course, one of the points Doug threw out there was you had to compare apples to apples. “OK, Johnny, here’s the deal: These guys today have to smoke a pack of cigarettes a day, at least two cigarettes at halftime of games, and pound maybe a fifth of Jack Daniels during the week, maybe two. THEN we’ll see who can play when!”

And he’s both laughing the whole time and yelling at the same time, and spot on. And of course, Doug’s suggestion was, “Hey, come to think of it, some Jack Daniels sounds pretty damn good, doesn’t it?” And he’d laugh again.

That‘s maybe the punch line here. Doug didn’t do “sad” very well. It was maybe the only thing he didn’t do well.

Bears Inactives: Khalil Mack, Allen Robinson active for Bears vs. Patriots

Bears Inactives: Khalil Mack, Allen Robinson active for Bears vs. Patriots

Bears fans can breathe a collective sigh of relief. Chicago will have two of its top injured play-makers back on the field to take on the New England Patriots.

The teams announced their inactives for the game, and both Khalil Mack and Allen Robinson were good to go.

Mack missed two days of practice this week with the ankle injury he suffered against the Miami Dolphins and was questionable for Week 7. He was able to participate on a limited basis on Friday, and evidently that was enough for him to give it a go at Soldier Field.

He likely won’t be at 100 percent, but he’ll have a more favorable matchup facing the Patriots’ backup right tackle LaAdrian Waddle. Starter Marcus Cannon was ruled out this week with a concussion.

Robinson was also questionable with a groin injury that limited his week of practice. He was an unexpected addition to the injury report his week as his injury didn’t appear to affect him against the Dolphins,

He’s Mitchell Trubisky’s most-targeted receiver this season, and he'll be relied on against a New England defense that’s known for throwing a lot at young quarterbacks.

(Too) Bold Predictions: A big day for the Bears' running backs

(Too) Bold Predictions: A big day for the Bears' running backs

You've stumbled into (Too) Bold Predictions, a weekly column that is exactly what it sounds like! Here, we'll take nuanced, well-researched information and use to make wildly improbable predictions. Analysis! 

 

J.J. Stankevitz 

1. Jordan Howard will have his first 100-yard game of the year.
Hear me out: This happens if Bill Belichick’s strategy is to drop seven or even eight defenders into zone coverage, forcing Mitch Trubisky to make good decisions and fit passes into tight windows against a secondary that’s the strength of the Patriots’ defense. Or...Matt Nagy recognizes what’s in front of him and pounds the ball to Howard 15-20 times with plenty of success. Belichick, too, was extremely complimentary of Tarik Cohen on a conference call with Chicago media this week, and it wouldn’t be surprising if Cohen is the guy the future Hall of Fame coach tries to take away. Either way, it’s also worth noting here the Patriots allowed Kerryon Johnson to become the first Detroit Lions running back to have a 100-yard game since 2013 (!) in Week 2. And Howard still has shown flashes this year, like the 34 yards he gained on consecutive carries in overtime against Miami. 

 

2. Danny Trevathan or Roquan Smith will make a big play when it counts.
Given how good the rookie running back combo of Sony Michel (67 carries, 236 yards) and James White (23 receptions, 198 yards) has been recently, a lot of the Bears’ defensive success will hinge on the inside linebacking play of Trevathan and Smith. Trevathan has had an up-and-down year, playing outstanding ball in Weeks 2 and 4 but having some issues against the likes of David Johnson and Kenyan Drake/Frank Gore. Smith’s athleticism stands out but he’s still growing into Vic Fangio’s defense. Sunday will be a major test for both of them, and if the Bears are to win, it may come down to one of these two guys making a big-time play: A forced fumble, interception, run stuff on third down, etc. For the sake of a bold prediction, I’ll go with Smith making a play at the end of Sunday’s game that stands as the first big moment of the rookie’s pro career. 

 

Cam Ellis

1. Tarik Cohen's performance will garner the attention of national media 
Last Sunday night, Kansas City's Tyreek Hill had seven catches for 142 yards and three touchdowns. He averaged almost 21 yards per catch, thanks in part to a 75-yard touchdown score late in the 4th. The Patriots' defense clearly had no answer for Hill's speed. Now Cohen isn't a carbon copy of Hill, but he plays a similar role in the Bears' offense that Hill plays for the Chiefs. New England's linebackers lack and real speed -- especially on the outside -- which obviously bodes well for Cohen. Belichick is notoriously for creating game plans that take away the other team's best offensive players, but with the personell he has on defense, it's going to be tough to matchup with Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, Trey Burton, AND Cohen. The guess here is that Robinson and Gabriel have quiet games, but Cohen runs circles around the Pats. 

 

2. The Bears and Pats are tied heading into the 4th quarter
For a team with aspirations of an NFC North title (and more) this shouldn't be a bold prediction, and yet, it kinda feels like it? After a slow start to the season, the Patriots' offense have scored at least 38 points in each of the last three games. This Bears defense is the best they'll have played yet, so I don't expect them to get anywhere close to 38 today, especially with how the defense played last week in Miami. I think New England comes out of Chicago with a win, but the Bears will play them closer than people are predicting. A Cody Parkey-Stephen Gostkowski battle royale could be in play.