New leader of Bears defense Pernell McPhee on a 'playoff' mission


New leader of Bears defense Pernell McPhee on a 'playoff' mission

When Pernell McPhee left the Baltimore Ravens and signed a five-year deal with the Bears this past offseason, it took him from a perennial-playoff contender to a team which hasn't sniffed the postseason since 2010. 

The former Super Bowl champion has a long list of goals that he wants to accomplish in Chicago, including turning the franchise into a playoff team.

The Bears still aren't close to becoming one just yet, but they showed in Sunday's 22-20 victory over the Oakland Raiders that they may not be as far away as some people think.

"We just have to lock arms and just believe in each other," McPhee said following Sunday's win. "And I think we came out today and did that.

"When we lock arms we're going to win. We went out there today and locked arms. We need to make sure those arms stay locked the rest of the season. And I think we can do damage. That's what it's about. Us playing as a brotherhood. Going out there and fighting for each other."

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The Raiders came into Soldier Field on an offensive tear, averaging just over 450 yards of total offense and 32 points per game in their last two wins. Derek Carr, Amari Cooper, Latavius Murray and a young-and-upcoming Raiders offense was held to just 243 total yards and committed two turnovers in the loss. 

A suddenly resurgent Bears defense, that traded away veterans Jared Allen and Jon Bostic earlier this week, brought out some of the "dog" that McPhee has been talking about the unit needing to have since he came over from Baltimore.

And that lead dog, who clearly hasn't lose any motivation after cashing in on a $38.75 million contract with the Bears, was a big reason why against the Raiders. McPhee collected eight tackles on Sunday, continuing to prove his worth and fast becoming a player which opposing offenses have to gameplan for — something the Bears haven't had on defense since the likes of Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs, Julius Peppers and Charles Tillman. 

"I think Pernell McPhee's play has been really beneficial to our football team," Bears head coach John Fox said. "Not just today. I think he's brought a certain mindset to our team that was needed and is much appreciated."

The one area that will stick out on McPhee's stat line from Sunday is his first career interception, which fell right into his arms after Murray bobbled a pass late in the first half, but his biggest impact game on a crucial third down play in the fourth quarter.

[MORE: Injuries in win over Raiders fell two more Bears starters]

WIth the Raiders primed to milk the clock and get in position to kick a potential game-winning field goal they ran an inside hand-off to backup running back Roy Helu Jr. on third-and-2 from the Bears' 22-yard line. McPhee penetrated through the line and stuck Helu Jr. in the backfield for a two-yard loss. The impact play gave the Bears enough time to get the ball back and drive for an eventual-game-winning Robbie Gould field goal.

"I'm on a mission. That's my emotion. The mission is playoffs, win, turn it around," McPhee said.

The Bears have needed a guy to step up on defense and make an impact play in a crucial moment, which is something that has been missing from the team the past few seasons.

And while McPhee is making his presence felt on the field, his leadership off it and in the locker room isn't going unnoticed by his teammates.

The Bears outside linebacker motivated his teammates with a speech on Saturday night which helped propel them to an inspired performance against the Raiders.

"McPhee's message to us was that we're brothers," Outside linebacker Sam Acho said. "At the end of the day we're brothers. We're a unit and we're a family. When you love somebody like a brother you play that much harder for them. When you respect someone like you respect your brother, I have a little brother who plays in the NFL and I love him and I've known him my whole life.

"These guys in the locker room are my brothers and so when you're playing for your brother you're playing that much harder. It just adds to it. There's something deep down inside. You don't get it in a lot of places, but in an NFL locker room you get it."

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Bears fans!]

That Bears brotherhood that McPhee talked about stretches beyond just the defense.

"McPhee's speech wasn't an offense or defense thing," Bears tight end Martellus Bennett said. "It was a team thing. McPhee has been a great addition to this team this year. I'm very proud of him.

"He's my type of guy. I thought he motivated a lot of guys and told us what this season is all about."

Bears GM Ryan Pace isn't going to hit on every big free agent acquisition, but so far it looks like he hit the McPhee signing out of the park.

Trey Burton, Adrian Amos earn Bears’ top grades from Pro Football Focus for Week 7


Trey Burton, Adrian Amos earn Bears’ top grades from Pro Football Focus for Week 7

The Bears were not at their best against the New England Patriots on Sunday. They made plenty of mistakes on all three phases and gave Tom Brady too many opportunities to control the game.

It wasn’t all bad from Chicago, though. Trey Burton emerged as a new favorite weapon of Mitchell Trubisky, and the tight end was the Bears’ highest-graded player in the game by Pro Football Focus.

Burton had a career high 11 targets, nine catches and 126 yards with a touchdown, giving Trubisky a 144.7 passer rating when targeting his top tight end.

Seven of Burton’s targets and six of his catches traveled 10 or more yards in the air, according to PFF.

Defensively, safety Adrian Amos led the pack with a 74.6 overall grade. He did not miss a tackle after missing a career-high five last week, and he allowed only one catch for eight yards against the Patriots.

On the bottom of the scale, outside linebacker Leonard Floyd received the second-lowest grade of his career (38.9 overall) for his performance. He did not record any pressure on the quarterback in 13 pass rushing snaps, and he allowed two catches for 13 yards and a touchdown in coverage against running back James White.

Wide receiver Allen Robinson had a career-low grade as well at 44.9 overall. He was clearly limited by his groin injury, targeted five times with one catch for four yards and a dropped pass.

Overall, the Bears were able to stick with one of the top teams in the AFC while also leaving a lot of room for improvement. It’s a step in the right direction from where Chicago was in recent seasons.

NFL Power Rankings Week 8: Jags, Eagles, Bears all see stock fall

USA Today

NFL Power Rankings Week 8: Jags, Eagles, Bears all see stock fall

Take a look over the NFC landscape and try to find me a team that can compete with the Rams. 

Packers? Held back by Rodgers' knee and Rodgers' coach. Saints? Might not even win their own division. Washington? Does Alex Smith really scare anyone in the playoffs? 

The Rams have one of the easier paths to the Championship Round/Super Bowl that we've seen in some time. Will it likely stay that way? Probably not. But there's a difference between parity and mediocrity and right now the NFC is toeing the line HARD. 

Outside the NFC's "elite", how did your team do this week? 

You can take a look here and see where they landed.