NFL Combine: Bears, Pack shouldn't look past Lions


NFL Combine: Bears, Pack shouldn't look past Lions

Friday, Feb. 25, 2011
10:51 a.m.
By John Mullin
Nicely done
Kudos to NBC colleague Peggy Kusinski for her excellent job following up on some of the torment in the Dave Duerson tragedy. Sometimes the splash of a news event can overshadow the sad realities of the people involved and Peggy does a her usual tremendous job talking with Alicia Duerson about some of the difficulties swirling around DD. Its good to always remember that we dont cover or read about sports; we cover and read about people.

Doin well

These events are excellent for catching up with old friends and it was very good to see Randy Brown, former Bears kicking coach who was a factor with Jeff Jaeger back in the day and was the calming influence on Todd Sauerbrun (such as it could be).

Randy, the kicking coach for the Baltimore Ravens the last four years, still has a nice trace of a tan from his trip to Hawaii for the Pro Bowl, courtesy of Billy Cundiff. The Ravens signed Cundiff, an undrafted free agent out of Drake whod been with eight different teams over the years, including four seasons with Dallas before flaming out there. With Randys help, Cundiff tied a record for touchbacks (40) and responded by taking Randy and his wife with him to the Pro Bowl.

But the funny part of running into Randy and having some time to visit: He gives me his business card (the non-football one). And turns out hes mayor (no, really, he is) of Evesham Township in New Joisy, when hes from. We hung out a while before he had to run off to finish some Combine interviews and also get some work done on his township budget, due Tuesday.
FootstepsThe Bears and Green Bay Packers may be looking hard at each other as the team to beat in 11 but they probably dont want to look too far past a one-time doormat in the NFC North.

The Detroit Lions increased their win total from zero in 2008 to two in 2009 to six in 2010. The jump last season came with No. 1s Ndamukong Suh at defensive tackle and Jahvid Best at running back and significant signings in free agency, which wont be available to the Lions this year.

So the question was put to coach Jim Schwartz as to whether he thought the Lions could close the gap between themselves and the Bears and Green Bay Packers, the former being the division winners and the latter being the Super Bowl champions.

Schwartz bristled, appropriately, then provided a bit of Rex Ryan Lite in declaring that he and the Lions arent in business to close gaps with anybody. Theyre about the business of winning the NFC North.

For anyone just tuning in, Schwartz was kind enough to provide some 10 play-by-replay:

Split with the Pack and lost by four both times against the Bears. Obviously the opener, the way that ended, and then Drew Stanton had a three-point lead with I guess it was a few minutes left when Cutler was able to lead them to that last touchdown.

We need to win more games and we really dont take a whole lot of pride in having six wins or even having the last four. There werent many teams in the NFL that won four in a row. That stuff sort of makes you feel good, but you cant expect that to carry over. It is what it is, it happened in the past and how we do next year wont be because of what happened in last years game against the

Packers or last years game against the Bears, it will be how we do in training camp and how we do in everything else as we move forward.

John "Moon" Mullin is'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.

The Bears may not trust Eddy Piñeiro as much anymore, but they're not giving up on him quite yet


The Bears may not trust Eddy Piñeiro as much anymore, but they're not giving up on him quite yet

LOS ANGELES – Eddy Piñeiro didn’t have much to say. 

When asked about the first of his two missed field goals on Sunday night – a 48-yarder from the right hash – the Bears’ kicker offered a brief, three word explanation: 

“Just missed it,” he said. 

And the second? What went wrong on the 47-yard miss, in the same direction, a little over 10 minutes later? 

“Just missed it.” 

Piñeiro fielded questions for 80 more seconds before asking a Bears PR representative if the media session was over. He didn’t wait for a response before abruptly walking away.

It’s admittedly easy to understand his temperament after an 0-2 performance that has many wondering whether his job is safe when the Bears return to Chicago tonight. 

“You want to see field goals made,” Matt Nagy said. “You’re in a game like this, a defensive battle – points are at a premium. You want to be able to make those kicks.” 

The Bears’ troubles on opening drives have been well-documented, and both Piñeiro and Nagy lamented about how the early misses threw the Bears out of the rhythm that early turnovers from Roquan Smith and Eddie Jackson provided. Piñeiro’s field was clearly shortened after the second miss, as evident from Nagy’s decision to go for it on 4th-and-9 from the Rams’ 31 yard line only seven plays later. Later in the second quarter he also chose to punt from the Rams’ 39 yard line instead of giving Piñeiro a shot from 49. His longest kick on the year is from 52, and in similar conditions.

“I have no control over what Nagy does, because he’s the head coach,” he said. “I have no control.” 

Going into the bye week, Piñeiro was 8-10 on field goal attempts, perfect on extra points, and already had a road game-winner to his name. He’s only hitting at a 50% rate since then and hasn’t made a field goal since a 3-5 performance against the Chargers that included a missed game-winner. He said after the game that he still feels confident in his pregame routine, and that the ball doesn’t feel any different coming off his foot. 

Nagy threw water on the idea that Pineiro’s job is in jeopardy, only saying that “Eddy knows he’s got to make those.” 

With playoff chances all but mathematically gone, Nagy, Chris Tabor and company now have two months to figure out if someone who started the season looking like the kicker of the future will even end it on the team. 

“I’m not worried about anything right now,” Piñeiro said. “I’ve just go to keep making kicks in practice, go back and see what I did wrong, and just try to make kicks.” 

Bears 17-7 loss to Rams leaves character questions on top of confidence issues


Bears 17-7 loss to Rams leaves character questions on top of confidence issues

The inescapable feeling after 30 minutes of football Sunday night was that the game was over, both quantitatively and qualitatively. And really, the season, too, for that matter.

It wasn’t just that the Bears were down 10-0 to the Los Angeles Rams, or that they had been 0-4 this season when trailing at halftime. Not surprising when a team that was averaging 18 points per game (now 17), fails to gain 300 yards in nine of its 10 games, and had failed to score more than 16 in five of their first nine games, now six times in 10 games.

Sadly predictably, the Bears (4-6) could not seize a moment that the Los Angeles Rams (6-4) left lying around for them, falling 17-7 in a game in which the Bears pulled a clearly demoralized quarterback Mitch Trubisky late in the fourth quarter, reportedly because of a hip injury, and which represented a genuine chance to rejoin the NFC playoff discussion. The loss was the fifth in the Bears’ last six games.

But besides the quantitative/scoreboard heights that have lain beyond the Bears’ reach most of this season and much of the last half of 2018, “qualitative” issues were also beyond the Bears yet again.

A team that displayed a crisis of confidence over recent weeks now faces questions of character, certainly of winning character.

“I have ultimate trust in our guys,” Nagy stated. “They’re fighters… We’re just going through one of those tough deals… . I don’t ever want to question their effort.”

Sometimes it isn’t so much about effort, just not having that certain factor, that “it” factor, doing the right thing with that effort. Whether the Bears lack the talent or competitive character to win with a season on the line is difficult to determine from the outside.

But something is deeply wrong when this was the best the Bears can produce when the prize is right there in front of them.

That was disturbingly evident in the wake of last week’s win over the Detroit Lions, when coach Matt Nagy explained a risky decision to go for a fourth-down conversion as, “We needed a spark.”

That a team on the brink of a lost season “needed a spark” was concerning then. But even more so on Sunday: With the league leaving the playoff door ajar if the Bears could defeat a very beatable Los Angeles Rams team, the Bears showed nothing and delivered less.

“It’s been challenging,” Nagy said. “These close games we want to come out on top and we just haven’t done that.”

No spark. More to the point, why? Even as the Rams tried repeatedly to hand the game to the Bears with turnovers and brainless penalties; even with an impressive 80-yard touchdown drive on their first possession of the second half; even with the Rams gaining just 30 yards in the third quarter and going three-and-out on three of their first four second-half possessions...

No Bears spark enough to light a fire. All of which leaves unresolved whether the Bears actually do have that fire, and the answer has been increasingly evident over the last six games, five of which produced losses.

Blown opportunity

This game was an opportunity to draw even at 5-5, irrespective of tiebreakers, with, not one, not two, but three teams that had been ahead of them in the quest for a wild-card berth. Philadelphia came up just short against New England. Carolina was improbably crushed at home by the Atlanta Falcons. And the wobbling Rams were right there in front of the Bears for the taking.

Where there were as many as 10 teams ahead of them two weeks ago, suddenly the league was coming back to the Bears and effectively inviting them to join the party. Seattle and Minnesota still have a couple games in hand over the 5-5 crowd but the Bears, on the cusp of playoff oblivion just two weeks ago, held a large measure of their destiny in their own hands.

(And feet – the game began ominously with Eddy Pineiro missing a 48-yard field goal attempt at the end of the first Chicago possession, his fifth missed kick in 10 games. To prove that it wasn’t a fluke, Pineiro missed again later in the first quarter, from 47 yards).

The Rams did nothing less than all but hand the game to the Bears, turning the football over on a Todd Gurley fumble and Jared Goff interception, then handed the Bears a new set of downs by being offsides on a punt – all in barely the first 12 minutes.

But Piniero’s misses and a failed fourth-down conversion meant that a shaky Bears offense netted zero points out of possessions going nine, seven and 12 plays. Eventually the offense wilted, from 105 yards in the first quarter to a three-and-out and turnover in the first two possessions of the second.

What the Rams didn’t take out of the defense with a run-based offense, the offensive and special-teams failures took care of the rest. By the time Bears defenders made half-hearted efforts to stop Rams running back Malcolm Brown on a clinching five-yard TD run in the closing minutes, it was difficult to blame them.

“I thought the defense played well tonight,” Nagy said, after the defense held the Rams to 283 total yards and 3-of-10 on third downs. “We just gotta score more than seven points.”

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