Bears

Mullin: Where will Bears-Vikings play next week?

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Mullin: Where will Bears-Vikings play next week?

Monday, Dec. 13, 2010
9:12 AM

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

Morning after cleaning out the notebook...

Or in this case, flushing it out...

Adecision on locale for the Bears-Vikings game next Monday night will becoming in the next couple of days as they sort through a handful ofsituations and considerations. Metrodome officials believe thecollapsed dome can be fixed in time for the game, but whether the NFLor anyone else wants to commit to that course and put 60,000 peopleunder it next Monday.... Would you?

And if the course is indeedset for the dome, what if then another snow load, even modest, isdumped on it between decision time and game time? Changing directionagain late in the week is something not ideal for anyone involved.

TheUniversity of Minnesota's TCF Bank Stadium is available but does nothave near the capacity of the Metrodome, meaning some ticket issues forthe Vikings, already dealing with a few. NFL officials also toldCSNChicago.com that it is far from a simple deal to set up a stadiumfor an NFL game. Things like the replay system alone are majoroutfittings.

Indianapolis and the Lucas Oil Dome is closer thanDetroit and obviously is NFL ready. But that tilts the situation evenfurther in the Bears' favor as far as fan presence.

For thatmatter, however, Detroit will be a Bears home game, based on more noisecoming from Bears fans than Lions fans in recent Ford Field encounters,and that's with the Lions fans having a horse in the race.

Stay tuned....

Optimism for Bears fans?

If you are a Bears fan looking for some cause for optimism, it might be that the New England Patriots have twice been involved in losses by a team in a regular season that subsequently went on to defeat that other team in a Super Bowl, which is where the Bears see themselves. (No, really, they do.)

One was the 2001 team that fell to 5-5 after a loss to Mike Martzs St. Louis Rams and then won the rematch in the Super Bowl. And the 2007 Patriots, who set the NFL record for single-season scoring (589 points), got past the New York Giants in the final game of their 16-0 regular season, then lost to the Giants five weeks later.

But if your uncertainty about the 2010 Bears simply received a massive booster shot with Sundays 36-7 humiliation, you probably know that the Patriots and Giants both at least showed glimpses of some positives in their regular-season losses. The Bears showed absolutely none yesterday.

And not to add to the darkness, but no Lovie Smith team has lost three home games in a season and still made the playoffs. No Jay Cutler team has ever had a winning record in December, either.

Weather or not mostly not

The silly notion of Bear weather can hopefully be forever banished from anything. Given the numbers of players from Florida, Texas, Alabama, California, New Mexico, Arizona and any number of warm places (including a coach from Texas), my sense of true Bear weather was always 95 degrees-95 humidity anyway. Frankly, training camp was more Bear weather than anything on the lakefront in December or January.

Bear weather for most fans traces to Wilbur Marshall (a Floridian) picking up a Rams fumble in the swirling snow in an NFC Championship game and gliding down the field for a touchdown. If youre as far superior to others as that team was, and the Patriots currently are, any weather is your weather.

(Very) bad matchups

No surprise then that the Bears as they are currently constituted on defense, a one-gap, speed-based group built more for fast tracks, struggled against a team like New England whereas the widebodies in New Englands 3-4 wasnt going to be moved.

I feel like if youre a fast defense, you play better on turf or a fast surface, said Texan Tommie Harris. With their defense is a 3-4 where guys stand up, stand around, so really traction coming off the ball is not a problem if you stand there.

To his credit at least, Harris added, But thats no excuse.

No, it is definitely not. And it inadvertently points fingers at the Bears offense, which allowed one of those supposed big fat guys to sack Cutler and force a fumble inside the Chicago 10.

Harris also was in effect pointing fingers at his secondary, as if it wasnt embarrassed enough already, and possibly at the coaching staff for not using more man-to-man coverage on a day when reacting to the ball was exponentially more difficult than on a dry surface. The Bears do not usually play their Cover-2 scheme more than about a third of the time, but it does have them in zone coverage, and against the New England offense, anything that gave Tom Brady and his bunch a window to throw through was potentially lethal.

And then the secondary and linebackers couldnt tackle the receivers once they did have the ball.

The craziest thing about their system is that most teams and quarterbacks do check-downs to secondary receivers and you usually can tackle them right there, said Harris, back in the starting lineup for the first time since Week Two. But Wes Welker and (Danny) Woodhead, those are YAC guys. They catch that ball and they go bananas with it.

Sometimes youve just got to admit when someone outplays you and they outplayed us.

And a couple more things...

He wasnt particularly interested in talking about stats (he never is) but Julius Peppers ran his sack total to 8 with a late takedown of Tom Brady, who was then pulled by Patriots coaches. Peppers has had sacks in four straight games...

Lost in the carnage wrought by Brady and the New England passing offense were the 124 rushing yards by a unit that has more than one running back that is arguably better than anything the Bears have.

While Matt Forte and Chester Taylor were foundering (Taylors one net yard in three carries was his TD run), BenJarvus Green-Ellis was averaging 4.1 yards on his 21 carries. Ultra-smurf Danny Woodhead averaged 3 yards and scored a TD, and old Fred Taylor, the guy the Jacksonville Jaguars settled for back in 1998 instead of Curtis Enis when the Bears wouldnt deal on draft day, calmly added 16 yards to a career rushing total 16th in NFL history...

Rodgers concussed

The fate of Aaron Rodgers and his concussion will be topics of interest to Bears fans this week. Best guess is that Rodgers will not be allowed to play after this, his second concussion of the season, suffered in the 7-3 loss to Detroit Sunday.

A class guy and a total team guy. Here's hoping that he's also a total smart guy.

Nothing to say?

It likely wont be fun to noodle over this one but well have our regular Monday chat tonight from 7-8 on CSNChicago.com. And Ill hop on with the guys at WFMB-AM 1450 SportsRadio in Springfield at 4:40 this afternoon.

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.

There’s no easy fix for the Bears’ running woes, but does it matter?

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USA Today Sports Images

There’s no easy fix for the Bears’ running woes, but does it matter?

Here are two valid statements about the 2018 Bears:

1. They’ve never been better at scoring points, averaging 29.9 per game — the franchise’s highest in the Super Bowl era. 

2. Their running backs haven’t ran the ball with much, if any consistency. 

Jordan Howard is the Bears’ leading rusher, with 137 carries generating 460 yards — good for 3.4 yards per carry. Only five times in the Super Bowl era (since 1966) has the Bears’ team leader in rushing attempts had an equal or lower yards-per-carry average than Howard’s 3.4: 

Anthony Thomas (2002): 3.4 yards/carry
Ken Grandberry (1974): 3.3 yards/carry
Lewis Tillman (1994): 3.3 yards/carry
Neal Anderson (1993): 3.2 yards/carry
Curtis Enis (1999): 3.2 yards/carry

The difference in those five years: The Bears, in total, averaged 15.5 points per game in those five seasons — about half what they’re averaging in 2018. That doesn’t mean the Bears aren’t searching for a solution to their run game woes, though. 

“You can’t go through this thing and be one-dimensional,” coach Matt Nagy said. “It’s just too easy for defenses.”

The Bears offense, of course, would be better if Howard and Tarik Cohen were more consistently effective — behind a more consistently effective offensive line and with more consistently effective playcalling. But re-watching the film from Sunday’s 34-22 win over the Detroit Lions, it’s not clear if there’s an easy fix — or a fix at all — to what’s ailed the Bears’ ground game. 

There were some plays in Howard’s 11-carry, 21-yard afternoon on which the running back didn’t appear decisive enough. There were others where the blocking wasn’t there, be it from the offensive line or guys like fullback Michael Burton. On a few of them, the play design didn’t seem conducive to picking up yards. And then there were some where Detroit’s defensive line — led by solid run-stuffers in Damon “Snacks” Harrison and A’Shawn Robinson — would’ve beaten the best-blocked, best-executed or best-called running play. 

“We’re not going to stop until we get it figured out,” Nagy said. “And for what we did yesterday, that’s not good enough. In my opinion, it’s up to us as coaches to lift every stone possible to figure out what do we need to do. Yeah, it is about players and it is about execution, but we need to do our job too and figure out, okay, what’s best for the Chicago Bears run game, what is it. 

“In the passing game, we’re slowly starting to figure that out — we’re not there yet. But in the run game, we have a ways to go and we’re trying to get through that. Now as we get further on in the season here, we gotta get it fixed so we’re not one-dimensional.”

Nagy has to say and believe that last sentence, of course. And for the Bears’ offense to truly fulfill its potential, it’ll need a good running game, as evidenced by what Nagy’s former team, the Kansas City Chiefs, are able to do with Kareem Hunt averaging 4.7 yards per attempt in his standout year and a half in the NFL. 

But the 2018 Bears can’t acquire a Hunt-like talent or different offensive line personnel at this point. Nagy can try to do some things differently to get the running game going, but perhaps he’s on a schematic tightrope: This a team that’s fifth in the NFL in points per game, after all, and has already scored more points (269) than it scored with Howard rushing for over 1,000 yards in 2017 (264). 

Putting too much emphasis on trying to kick-start Howard’s season could have an overall negative effect, if it impacts the rhythm Trubisky and the passing game have found at times (and even when that rhythm isn’t there, this offense has managed to put up points, like the 31 it did against New England with Trubisky completing only 52 percent of his passes). 

While the Bears’ run-pass ratio isn’t completely out of whack (55 percent pass, 45 percent run), perhaps better in-game balance could lead to more running success. The Bears have (including Trubisky scrambles) rushed 72 times against 64 passes in the first quarter, but only attempted 106 rushing plays compared to 166 passing plays in the second and third quarters. Those numbers revert in the fourth quarter, with the Bears having four multi-score wins to close out, to 71 rushing attempts against 59 passing attempts. 

But Nagy also isn’t going to force it. 

“When you run the ball and it’s first and 10 and you get second and nine, (or) it’s first and 10 and you get second and 12, that’s hard,” Nagy said. “So it’s — our guys all understand that. To me, this is a challenge. This is why I’m a coach, this is why we all coach, is to get these answers, figure it out. And we’ll do everything we can — we’re not going to stop trying until we get this thing right.”

Still, Howard’s two least-productive games by yards per carry came against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2.3) and Detroit Lions (1.9)…which stand as the Bears’ two best offensive games of the season. 

Long term, the Bears will need to find a solution to their issues running the ball with running backs. But for the last seven games of 2018, Nagy may not need to find that solution to make the playoffs. 

Power Rankings Roundup: The Bears are apparently back to being For Real this week

Power Rankings Roundup: The Bears are apparently back to being For Real this week

Nothing warms a city's soul through their first stretch of real winter weather like a long-overdue divisional win. 

After a thorough whoopin' of the Lions, Bears stock is in high-demand once again. They're even *whispers* climbing into the NFC Elite's tier. 

How did they get ranked? Outside of Sports Illustrated, who kept them at 13 (?!) after this week's win, people are IN on da Bears:

Ours: #8, up 3 - 
They're good! Trubisky probably isn't a bust! It's an exciting week to be in Chicago. 

NBC Sports: #8, up 1- 
This space is normally reserved for Khalil Mack’s greatness. We’d have motivation after he two more sacks this week. Nope. This is all about Mitchell Trubisky, who has officially turned a corner working under Matt Nagy. The Bears are the real deal.

NFL.com: #9, N/C - 
Nobody wants to give the Bears any respect, citing their schedule. But for two straight weeks, Chicago has essentially dominated the game, even if the win over the Lions on Sunday wasn't as raucous as the shellacking of the Bills in Week 9.

ESPN: #7, up 3 -
The Bears have forced 24 turnovers. Chicago's defense, which had three takeaways in its 34-22 victory over Detroit, is an opportunistic bunch with playmakers at every level. Entering Week 10, the Bears led the NFL with 82 points off turnovers.

Washington Post: #8, up 2 - 
The Bears are for real. Khalil Mack celebrated his return to the defensive lineup Sunday with a two-sack performance in the win over the Lions, and second-year QB Mitchell Trubisky continued his rapid development with another good outing. The Bears aren’t on the level of the Saints or the Rams, but they are a viable playoff team.

CBS Sports: #8, up 2 - 
Mitch Trubisky and the offense are improving each week. They face a stiff challenge against that Minnesota defense this week.

Chicago Tribune: #10, N/C - 
Mitch Trubisky was dialed in with 355 yards passing, three touchdowns and one rushing score in a blowout of the Lions.

Sporting News: #10, N/C - 
The Bears excel at beating up on bad teams, which is important on the road to become a good playoff team. The surprise NFC North leaders have a shot to go totally legit vs. Minnesota on Sunday night.

Sports Illustrated: #13, N/C 

USA Today: #8, up 4  

SB Nation: #7, up 1