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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.

Ryan Pace says Bears are 'exploring every avenue' to upgrade tight end

Ryan Pace says Bears are 'exploring every avenue' to upgrade tight end

Bears general manager Ryan Pace didn't come across as a guy willing to go down in flames with his decision to sign tight end Trey Burton back in 2018 when he met with the media at the NFL Combine on Tuesday. Instead, he confirmed the Bears will be heavily invested in the tight end market this offseason, both in free agency and the 2020 NFL draft.

"We’re looking at it in free agency and the draft," Pace said of this year's available tight ends. "It’s deep in different areas. That’s an area of focus for us, I don’t think that’s a secret. This offense, a lot of it goes through the tight end, so we’re exploring every avenue."

It's hard to envision a scenario where Pace would be willing to travel down the big-money free-agent path again, but Falcons pass-catcher Austin Hooper could be too tempting to pass up.

Atlanta confirmed on Tuesday Hooper will be allowed to test the open market, and if he ranks high enough on Pace's wish list, we could be setting up to see a $10 million per year offer. It may seem like a waste of resources to tie that much money up in the tight end position (he and Burton would cost the Bears close to $20 million in 2020), but they experienced just how limited Matt Nagy's offense is without a capable playmaker at the position. Hooper would fix that.

The cheaper alternative for Pace to upgrade at tight end would be the draft, where several quality prospects will be on the board when the Bears pick at No. 43 and No. 50 overall. Players like Purdue's Brycen Hopkins, FAU's Harrison Bryant and Notre Dame's Cole Kmet could all be available when the Bears are on the clock, and all three of them would represent a marked uptick in talent for the depth chart.

Pace is being logical and rational when it comes to his evaluation of the tight end group. It's especially impressive considering the top two options currently on the roster -- Burton and Adam Shaheen -- were hand-picked by him and cost Chicago a top-of-the-market free-agent deal and a high draft pick (second round, 2017). 

Pace has a great opportunity to right his wrongs at tight end over the next couple of months.

How Matt Nagy's 'urgency' could foreshadow a Bears quarterback change

How Matt Nagy's 'urgency' could foreshadow a Bears quarterback change

INDIANAPOLIS — The Bears don’t look likely to sign or trade for a true starter to replace Mitch Trubisky, and Ryan Pace made clear he expects the 2017 No. 2 overall pick to be his starter in 2020. 

Let’s add an addendum to that, though, based on something Matt Nagy said: Just because Trubisky begins 2020 as the Bears’ starting quarterback does not mean he’ll hold on to that gig for the whole season, or even for half a season. 

In talking about the need to find an offensive identity in 2020, Nagy offered a response that leads you to believe job security won't be close to where it was in 2019:

“We got to figure out what our identity is and that's going to be an objective for us,” Nagy said. “And then last year you heard me say, sometimes it takes five or six weeks. I feel like personally that's always the case, but there's a sense of urgency for us going into this year. It needs to happen sooner.”

It needs to happen sooner. What happens if Trubisky doesn’t show any improvement through the first three or four games of 2020, and the Bears’ offense is lacking an identity at the end of September?

If there truly is a sense of urgency to find solutions on offense, then the Bears should consider something they didn’t last year: Changing quarterbacks. 

Chase Daniel was not on the roster to push Trubisky for playing time. He was brought in for his knowledge of the offense as “a little bit of an assistant coach,” as Nagy put it. The Bears figured surrounding Trubisky with as many resources as possible would help him thrive in Nagy’s complex offense. 

What the Bears need — and have indicated they want — is more competition in their quarterback room. That does not necessarily mean, again, luring someone like Teddy Bridgewater to Chicago to start. 

But it does mean adding someone to the roster who at least has a chance to be a better option than Trubisky, if Trubisky doesn’t show any improvement. 

Case Keenum could be that guy. Marcus Mariota, too (although Mariota sharing agents Bruce Tollner and Ryan Tollner with Trubisky could complicate any interest in him the Bears might have). Maybe there’s a trade to be made for Andy Dalton after all, if the Cincinnati Bengals are willing to bend to make the money work. 

A free agent signing along those lines and/or a draft pick — it doesn’t have to be a second rounder, either — would put someone on the roster who could be viewed as a legitimate replacement for an ineffective Trubisky. 

“If you're not creating competition around your whole roster, you're not pushing your own guys,” Nagy said.

The Bears didn’t do that at quarterback the last two years. 

But all signs are pointing to that changing in 2020. And while that may not mean an immediate change at starting quarterback, it means a switch during the season could become a real possibility. 

“If we all think that that’s what we want from (Trubisky), from last year, we’re fooling ourselves,” Nagy said. “He knows that and we know that. 

“But at the same time, we need to be real. What’s around him? And that’s where we’re at. I know it’s hard sometimes for all of us to understand that, and you see what’s going on with the instant gratification now, but there is a process for us. I do know that Mitch is very hungry. 

“He understands that we want him to play better, he understands that we want to coach better. So now we cannot worry and dwell about what happened last year. If you do that, you get stuck in the mud. We can’t do it. 

“It’s a clean slate. Now we’ve gotta get better for this year.”

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