Bears

Moon's Gameday Blog: Bears get banged up

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Moon's Gameday Blog: Bears get banged up

Sunday, Sept. 18, 2011
Posted: 11:32 a.m. Updated: 6:40 p.m.

By JohnMullin
CSNChicago.com BearsInsider Follow@CSNMoonMullin
New Orleans -- The Bears made it through 2010 with minimal injuries. They are making up for that in record speed, unfortunately.

By the end of Sundays third quarter the Bears were without two wide receivers, both starting safeties and two starting offensive linemen. And this is only week two.

With running back Marion Barber still out with a calf injury and Roy Williams inactive with a groin strain, sick bay filled in earnest Sunday. Wide receiver Earl Bennett left with a chest injury early in the game after catching a quick slant from Jay Cutler then a big hit to the midsection by a Saints tackler. Bennett held onto the ball for a nine-yard gain but was down for several minutes and had to be helped off the field.

Rookie right tackle Gabe Carimi was lost with a knee injury late in the second quarter and was gone from the sideline in the second half. Right guard Lance Louis already was on the inactive list with an ankle injury from the Atlanta game.

And the deep secondary took a scary hit late in the third quarter when safety Major Wright, struggling already in coverage against the speed and size of the Saints receiver corps, was down for 5 minutes with a head injury, had to be helped off the field and was out for the remainder of the game. Starter Chris Harris already was on the inactive list with a hamstring injury.

We lost a couple guys, coach Lovie Smith said. Were starting to get a few injuries but were feeling good about the 53-man roster so other guy will get an opportunity. But today give the Saints credit. They played better than we did, made critical plays were we didnt.
Smart throws

The Bears reached the New Orleans 20 on their first drive of the second half and netted just three points on a Robbie Gould field goal. But while it may have appeared to be just another red-zone settle-for, Cutler's throws on three incompletions at that point were smart, all three in places where either his receiver or no one was going to make the catch.

The result was avoiding a devastating red-zone interception, something Cutler too often in the past committed in efforts to force passes places they didnt belong.

The Saints were the better team today. Cutler said. They rushed me hard and forced our offense to do things we didnt want to do.

Safety First
The safeties were badly burned on a third-and-12 situation when Major Wright appeared to misjudge the speed of New Orleans wideout Devery Henderson, who blew past Wright for a 79-yard touchdown, the kind of disaster play that reverses game momentum.

Rookie Chris Conte, coming over from the opposite side, couldnt get there in time but the problem was Wright. Instead of a possible stop on third-and-long, turning the ball back to the offense, the play gave New Orleans a touchdown and forced the offense to start its next drive after a kickoff into the end zone.

You have to be on your toes at all times because thats a high-powered offense we were playing against, said linebacker Brian Urlacher. We gave up a big touchdown early and that never helps.

Rostering
Matt Toeaina started again in place of Anthony Adams and appears to have supplanted Adams with the No. 1 unit.
Receiving end

Dane Sanzenbacher continues to be a nugget in the offense. As he has done on more than one occasion, Sanzenbacher forced a holding call from the defense before working his way open in the back of the end zone three plays later to give the Bears a 7-3 lead in the first quarter.
Who's in? Who's out?

As expected, the starting lineups took some hits due to injuries, Williams (groin) down for the game and Johnny Knox starting at wide receiver. Brandon Meriweather will start at free safety and Wright goes to strong safety, where Harris is on the inactive list with a hamstring problem.

Corey Wootton still isnt far enough back from his knee surgery so hes again inactive. But the need to get edge pressure on Drew Brees clearly is a priority and the actives this week not only include Nick Reed, coming off a good game against Atlanta, but also undrafted rookie free agent Mario Addison. Both are speed rushers and should be factors on the artificial turf.

But right guard Lance Louis is active after missing practice this week with the ankle sprain suffered in the first half of the Atlanta game. Also inactive: defensive tackle Stephen Paea, quarterback Nathan Enderle and running back Marion Barber, who hasnt been able to play since his calf injury in the Tennessee preseason game.

The Saints will be without wide receiver Marques Colston (broken collarbone). But No. 2 wideout Lance Moore is active despite limited practice 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.

Bears' Anthony Miller earning Mitch Trubisky’s trust at the right time

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USA Today

Bears' Anthony Miller earning Mitch Trubisky’s trust at the right time

With Mitch Trubisky playing tentatively at times this season, the automatic assumption was that the problem was entirely with the Bears quarterback.

That’s not entirely true.

“Don’t surprise your quarterback” is a wide-receiver commandment, and the fact is that Trubisky was hampered early this season by his receivers’ poor routes, drops or both all too often. That led to sacks, incompletions and interceptions.

Anthony Miller, for instance, was called out for running an improper route against the Rams in Week 10 that resulted in an interception. That was, however, the moment when a light appeared to go on for the second-year receiver. His subsequent increase in targets indicates that Trubisky is trusting him more. Miller was targeted 30 times over the season’s first nine games, 37 times over the past four. In the Bears’ win over Detroit on Thanksgiving, Miller was targeted a season-high 13 times. He caught nine of those throws for 140 yards.

“I think with every receiver, the timing and the trust comes with experience,” head coach Matt Nagy said going into the Dallas game. “There's a little bit of trust that gets earned over time. So the more plays you have with that guy, the more trust you'll get in particular routes.”

Miller’s emergence over the past month has offset Taylor Gabriel’s diminished presence due to concussion issues. Plus, the early success of newfound tight ends J.P. Holtz and Jesper Horsted has given Nagy more play-calling options.

And all the Bears’ pass catchers are doing a better job of, well, catching passes. Every one of the team’s nine main pass receivers has a catch percentage 60 percent or higher. Last year Trubisky’s targets included Josh Bellamy (56 percent), and star receiver Allen Robinson was sub-60 (58.5 percent).

“Going back to last year, it was our first year in this offense,” Nagy said. “All these routes and the different coverages you get take time. So, yeah, there's a little bit of trust that gets earned over time. It's starting to develop more and more with more receivers on our team.”

None more than with Anthony Miller.

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Wild-Card Race: What Bears fans should be watching in Week 15

Wild-Card Race: What Bears fans should be watching in Week 15

The Bears didn't get the help they needed in Week 14 from teams like the Lions (against the Vikings) or Seahawks (against the Rams), but they did win their game against the Cowboys and improved to 7-6 on the season.

As a result, Chicago is still alive entering Week 15's game against the Packers. Green Bay's win over the Redskins, one which improved their record to 10-3, all but ended the slim hopes that the Bears could make a run for the NFC North, but it doesn't lessen the importance of Sunday's rivalry game.

You know the story by now. Chicago needs to win out in order to have any chance at a post-season berth. And even then, their chances aren't great. They're hovering around 5%, depending on which source of playoff odds you use.

Here's the thing: If the Bears just keep winning, their playoff odds will keep going up. They'll need some help, and they'll need the Rams and Vikings to slip up along the way, but all Matt Nagy, Mitch Trubisky and Khalil Mack can control right now is winning this Sunday.

In the meantime, here are the other games Bears fans should keep a close eye on.

Minnesota Vikings (9-4) vs. Los Angeles Chargers (5-8)
3:05 p.m. CST
CBS

The Vikings and Bears play in the season finale but Chicago needs Minnesota to lose at least one more time before Week 17 to give the game any meaning. If the Vikings enter that game with five losses and the Bears do their part to topple Kirk Cousins and the rest of Minnesota's cast of characters, they'll own the head-to-head tiebreaker for the sixth and final wild card.

Unfortunately, the Chargers don't inspire much confidence that that fifth and necessary loss will come on Sunday. But as Phillip Rivers proved in Week 14's 45-point output against the Jaguars, there's always a chance for Los Angeles to outplay their record.

Los Angeles Rams (8-5) at Dallas Cowboys (6-7)
3:25 p.m. CST
FOX

The biggest blow to the Bears' playoff chances in Week 14 may have happened in Los Angeles where the Rams defeated the Seahawks in a game many assumed Seattle would win. Now 1.5 games ahead of Chicago, L.A. has a very winnable game in Dallas against a team that's spiraling out of control. This, combined with the Rams' finding their offensive mojo once again suggests another victory for Los Angeles.

If they secure the win, the Bears would need Jared Goff and Aaron Donald to lose their final two games and end the year at 9-7. If the Rams end the season with the same record as Chicago, they'll own the head-to-head tiebreaker because of their win over the Bears in Week 11.

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