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.

Revisiting Jimmy Graham's contract after George Kittle, Travis Kelce extensions

Revisiting Jimmy Graham's contract after George Kittle, Travis Kelce extensions

The tight end market has officially been reset. 

George Kittle (49ers) and Travis Kelce (Chiefs) each inked massive new extensions on Thursday that will make them the highest-paid players at their position by a wide margin.

Kittle signed a five-year, $75 million extension while Kelce put pen to paper on a four-year, $57 million deal.

Suddenly, Jimmy Graham's two-year, $16 million deal doesn't seem so bad. Then again, you get what you pay for, right?

Graham joins the Bears after a 2019 season in Green Bay that totaled 38 catches for 447 yards and three touchdowns. Compare those numbers to Kelce, who had 97 catches for 1,229 yards and five scores in 2019, and Kittle, who had 85 catches for 1,053 yards and five touchdowns, and it's easy to understand why they're nearly doubling Graham's annual average salary.

Does Graham have enough left in the tank to justify his $8 million per year paycheck? He's earning more than players like Jared Cook (Saints) and Darren Waller (Raiders), who each flashed more playmaking upside than Graham in 2019.

The good news for the Bears is that they'll be out of the tight end market for a while, assuming second-round pick Cole Kmet lives up to his scouting report. He'll be a cheap starter on a rookie contract for the next four seasons.

Hopefully, we'll be talking about Kmet as one of the highest-paid players at the position when his second deal rolls around. Until then, it's Kittle and Kelce who rule the tight end universe.

Bears were among worst teams on fourth-down decisions last season

Bears were among worst teams on fourth-down decisions last season

Matt Nagy's reputation for being an innovative offensive mind took a hit last season when the Bears finished the year ranked 26th in passing yards, 27th in rushing yards, and 27th in total touchdowns.

To make matters worse, Nagy was also among the league's worst decision-makers on fourth down, according to Pro Football Focus.

PFF used the following qualifiers to evaluate which teams made the most of their fourth-down situations last year:

To these aims, we looked at all fourth-down plays in the first three quarters during the 2019 season that met the following criteria: 1) there were four or fewer yards to go for a first down or a touchdown, and 2) the expected points when going for it were higher than when kicking a field goal (with 35 or fewer yards to go to the end zone) or punting (36 or more yards)

The Bears whiffed on 75% of their fourth-down calls and left 12 additional points on the board, according to PFF's metrics.

Chicago lost two games by three points or less in 2019, so it isn't like Nagy's failures on fourth down prevented this team from winning 12 games. That said, could the Bears have reached nine or even 10 wins and been in a better position to make the playoffs had they flipped fourth downs into points? It's possible.

There's another factor that has to be considered that extends beyond Nagy's playcalling, however. Let's face it, He didn't have the players needed to attempt fourth-down conversions with confidence. Mitch Trubisky was barely watchable and David Montgomery didn't get much help from his offensive line. The offense ranked as low as it did for a reason; it just wasn't very good.

I'd expect some positive regression with the Bears' fourth-down efficiency in 2020, which should mean more points and maybe, just maybe, more wins.

 

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