Bears

Bears open season against defending NFC champion Falcons, check out full 2017 schedule

Bears open season against defending NFC champion Falcons, check out full 2017 schedule

Week 1: vs. Atlanta Falcons (Sunday, Sept. 10, 12 p.m.)

A very good team got stronger in its defensive core with addition of defensive tackle Dontari Poe to help one of NFL's worst run defenses. Super Bowl losers can struggle the next year and Falcons need to get past devastating loss to the New England Patriots.

Moon's call: L

Week 2: at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Sunday, Sept. 17, 12 p.m.)

The Bucs are difficult case study in what the Bears haven't been able to do over the past several seasons: get the franchise arrow pointing conclusively up. Tampa Bay was 2-14 in 2014 while the Bears were collapsing under Marc Trestman, got the quarterback thing right by selecting Jameis Winston No. 1 overall and have gone 6-10 and 9-7 the past two seasons, missing the 2016 playoffs only by a tiebreaker. The Week 10 game vs. the Bears last season was a Jay Cutler low point.

Moon's call: L

Week 3: vs. Pittsburgh Steelers (Sunday, Sept. 24, 12 p.m.)

One of two 11-win opponents (Falcons) for the 2017 Bears. The Steelers haven't been sub-500 since 2003 — when Ben Roethlisberger arrived — and reached the playoffs the past three seasons. May be toughest opponent on Bears schedule.

Moon's call: L

Week 4: at Packers (Thursday, Sept. 28, 7:25 p.m.)

Bears have produced surprises — good and bad — in Lambeau, including going up 10-6 early in the second half of their game in Green Bay last year with a defensive touchdown before losing Brian Hoyer and Kyle Long to arm injuries and collapsing defensively.

Moon's call: L

Week 5: vs. Minnesota Vikings (Monday, Oct. 9, 7:30 p.m.)

Jay Cutler's last Bears win was over the Vikings, who've shaken up their roster, signing new offensive tackles' Riley Reiff and Mike Remmers and running back Latavius Murray to improve the offense, and underachieving defensive end Datone Jones from Green Bay for the defensive line.

Moon's call: W

Week 6: at Baltimore Ravens (Sunday, Oct. 15, 12 p.m.)

A top-10 defense and a stable quarterback situation (Joe Flacco) make Ravens a consistent threat, and beating the Bears to sign safety Tony Jefferson upgrades their secondary. Credit Ravens for creative thinking, going by cruise ship to game in London rather than by airplane.

Moon's call: L

Week 7: vs. Carolina Panthers (Sunday, Oct. 22, 12 p.m.)

Another sufferer of the Super Bowl curse now looking to regain dominance, bringing back Julius Peppers and Mike Adams to defense. Head coach Ron Rivera and general manager Dave Gettleman can't afford another underachieving year with Cam Newton in place.

Moon's call: W

Week 8: at New Orleans Saints (Sunday, Oct. 29, 12 p.m.)

The Saints traded Brandin Cooks to the Patriots but Drew Brees, Bears GM Ryan Pace's template for a franchise quarterback, predicts Saints' rise despite being sub-.500 in four of the last five seasons. Coby Fleener is matchup problem for Bears, who haven't handled good pass-catching tight ends well.

Moon's call: W

Week 9: Bye

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Week 10: vs. Green Bay Packers (Sunday, Nov. 12, 12 p.m.)

The Packers underwent massive offseason changes, and new tight end Martellus Bennett adds a threat but the Bears simply need to end second-half collapses regardless of specific Packers on the field. As long as Aaron Rodgers dresses, the Bears remain underdogs.

Moon's call: L

Week 11: vs. Detroit Lions (Sunday, Nov. 19, 12 p.m.)

Matthew Stafford directed eight comeback wins in 2016 but the Lions lost their final three games and were blown out at Seattle in the wild-card round of the playoffs. Bears have lost seven of last eight to Lions. Turnover on the offensive line makes the Lions offense an unknown until the parts mesh.

Moon's call: W

Week 12: at Philadelphia Eagles (Sunday, Nov. 26, 12 p.m.)

Eagles made their big quarterback move in least year's NFL Draft (Carson Wentz) and handled Bears easily in Soldier Field. Now Bears have to deal with motivated Alshon Jeffery, presuming injury issues don't return for the talented wide receiver.

Moon's call: W

Week 13: vs. San Francisco 49ers (Sunday, Dec. 3, 12 p.m.)

"The Brian Hoyer Bowl" is probably a touch strong for this meeting of 2016 bottom-feeders, both making wholesale changes and owning top-3 picks going into the draft. The 49ers were the Bears' only victim over final eight games last season. Kyle Shanahan becomes fourth head coach in past four years in down-spiral since Jim Harbaugh.

Moon's call: W

Week 14: at Cincinnati Bengals (Sunday, Dec. 10, 12 p.m.) 

Bengals flop in playoffs but they get there under Marvin Lewis (6 of last 8 years). And 11 picks in the 2017 draft should add talent to a good core of defensive tackle Geno Atkins, quarterback Andy Dalton and wide receiver A.J. Green.

Moon's call: L

Week 15: at Lions (Saturday, Dec. 16, 3:30 p.m.)

Bears have lost four straight in Ford Field, the last two by field goals, including Week 14 last season when Josh Bellamy dropped a pass for a fourth-down conversion, all this after the Bears rallied from 10 down to lead 17-13 but could not stop a 76-yard go-ahead Lions drive.

Moon’s call: L

Week 16: vs. Cleveland Browns (Sunday, Dec. 24, 12 p.m.)

The Browns have lost 13 straight away from their lakefront as quarterback issues fester — cutting ties with Robert Griffin III and Josh McCown, The Browns have had 26 different starting quarterbacks since 1999. And now they have Brock Osweiler after his failed trip to Houston, plus an expected addition via the draft.

Moon's call: W

Week 17: at Vikings (Sunday, Dec. 31, 12 p.m.)

Bears haven't won in Minnesota since 2011 and their last two losses there were by 21 and 28 points, as Vikings have been on the rise and Bears on the decline both during recent seasons and as competitive franchises. Bears desperately need prove-it road win to start regaining relevance in NFC North.

Moon's call: W

Moon’s season prediction: 8-8

Tarik Cohen: 'Ya'll act like I don't know I'm short'

Tarik Cohen: 'Ya'll act like I don't know I'm short'

One of the few memorable moments from the Chicago Bears offense in Sunday's 36-25 loss to the New Orleans Saints was actually something running back Tarik Cohen, and vertically-challenged Bears fans across the country, would like to forget.

With less than five minutes remaining in the game, Cohen caught a pass out of the backfield that resulted in a short gain (no pun intended). To his credit, Cohen trucked Saints defensive back Chauncey Gardner-Johnson before being thrown to the ground and, as Cohen's known to do from time to time, began barking at New Orleans coach Sean Payton and those Saints defenders.

Gardner-Johnson responded by mocking Cohen's 5-6 frame.

Cohen, who's used the doubt about his size as a motivator throughout his career, seemed unfazed by it all.

It seems to me like Gardner-Johnson, who Cohen ran over and was the principle trash-talker, may have done so to salvage some of the pride that Cohen knocked from his bigger frame.

Kudos to Cohen for taking it all in stride and for continuing to be one of the Bears' most important players on and off the field. 

Bears grades: Inside the complete failure against the Saints

Bears grades: Inside the complete failure against the Saints

QUARTERBACKS: F

Even the most team-centric view of the Bears’ failures on offense has to acknowledge the quarterback play on Sunday was not close to good enough. Mitch Trubisky’s miss of a wide open Taylor Gabriel on a third-and-five pass in the first half was an early gut punch to anyone hoping the 2017 No. 2 overall pick’s issues were going to be fixed after a three-week absence. 

Trubisky’s decision-making looked scrambled when he couldn’t get the ball to Allen Robinson. There were scant few throws Trubisky seemed to make with conviction, and he played like a guy whose confidence is severely rattled. Before putting up some garbage time numbers, Trubisky averaged a horrendous 3.4 yards per attempt. 

The Bears have no choice but to ride things out with Trubisky. But outside of one good quarter against an atrocious Washington defense and two stat-padding possessions late in a blowout loss, Trubisky hasn’t shown any signs of consistency that’d offer hope going forward.

Because the only thing consistent about Trubisky’s play on Sunday, and for most of 2019, has been how suboptimal it’s been.

RUNNING BACKS: F

This group does not get a pass despite only being given the ball five times on handoffs. David Montgomery fumbled on the Bears’ first offensive play of the third quarter — this after the Saints marched downfield to take a nine-point lead — and then, on the Bears’ next possession, the rookie lost a one-on-one pass protection assignment to blitzing linebacker Demario Davis, who sacked Trubisky on second and four.

Montgomery, too, whiffed on a block on a sweep to Anthony Miller that resulted in a fumble being forced by the guy the rookie running back appeared to be assigned to block. He only had two carries, but the Bears needed more out of a guy they traded up to draft six months ago.

Cohen was stopped for one yard on the Bears’ first play of the game, a run that coach Matt Nagy admitted was a “gut punch” of sorts after the game. While he caught nine passes, he only gained 19 yards, becoming only the second player since World War II to average 2.1 yards per reception or fewer with at least nine catches.

Mike Davis, the free agent who the Bears thought was a good fit for Nagy’s scheme, did not play a single snap on offense Sunday.

WIDE RECEIVERS: D+

Robinson continued to be the Bears’ only viable offensive weapon, catching 10 of 16 targets for 87 yards with a touchdown (though that score, and some of that production, came in garbage time). Still, no one else on this offense is consistently making plays besides Robinson, which props this group’s grade up.

Miller fumbled on that aforementioned sweep and was sort of called out by both Nagy and Trubisky after the game for running the wrong release on a third down incompletion on which it looked like he might’ve been open. Taylor Gabriel was a non-factor in his return, catching one pass for six yards. An 11-yard first quarter catch by Cordarrelle Patterson was the best play a receiver not named Allen Robinson made until garbage time.

TIGHT ENDS: F

Trey Burton dropped what would’ve been a first down on second and two just after the two-minute warning of the first half — if he catches that ball, the Bears have possession around their own 45-yard line down by two with a fresh set of downs. Not that catching it would’ve definitely sparked the offense, but it wouldn’t have hurt.

Burton had two catches for 11 yards, bringing his season total to 13 and 68 yards in five games.

Adam Shaheen did not appear to be a factor in the Bears’ off week attempt at problem solving. He played 32 percent of the offensive snaps and was invisible until the Saints backed off late in the fourth quarter.

OFFENSIVE LINE: D-

It looked like this group still experienced some communication issues, like when nobody picked up Cam Jordan coming from the edge up the middle to sack Trubisky on a third and four in the third quarter. Nagy does not appear to trust this group’s run blocking ability given how quickly he abandoned the run.

Outside of a few of those communication issues, this group was generally fine in pass protection and did a good job to limit Marcus Davenport’s impact. Charles Leno Jr., in particular, played better (and cleaner, without any penalties) than he did before the off week. Rashaad Coward looked like he held his own at right guard in his first career start.

But offensive lines tend to operate as collectives, and this collective was not good enough, nor was given the opportunity to prove itself good enough in the run game.

DEFENSIVE LINE: D

Akiem Hicks’ absence was felt for the second consecutive game, as this group was handled by a good offensive line that consistently opened up holes for running back Latavius Murray. Bilal Nichols, Nick Williams, Roy Robertson-Harris and Adbullah Anderson (who had his first career sack) all made plays at times, but this group did not generate the consistent run-stuffing push we’ve been accustomed to seeing from it over the last few years.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS: D

The Saints made sure Khalil Mack would not beat them, with Sean Payton frequently committing two and sometimes three players to stop the Bears’ All-Pro edge rusher. Without Hicks on the interior to win matchups, and with Leonard Floyd only impacting a smattering of plays, the strategy proved sound. Mack, in turn, did not come up with a momentum-shifting fumble when provided chances on two Teddy Bridgewater scrambles. That may seem like a high bar, but Mack has set the bar high for his play while in Chicago.

INSIDE LINEBACKERS: F

It’s difficult to expect big games from inside linebackers when offensive linemen are climbing to the second level and blocking Danny Trevathan and Roquan Smith, but those two players share culpability for allowing Murray to carve up 119 yards with two touchdowns (it’s the second consecutive game in which the Bears have allowed a 100-yard rusher in regulation, something this defense did not do in 2018). Smith continued to fall well short of the All-Pro expectations placed on 2018’s eighth overall pick, while there appeared to be some communication errors that may fall in the lap of Trevathan.

CORNERBACKS: D+

Both Buster Skrine and Prince Amukamara did well to break up passes intended for Ted Ginn Jr. in the end zone, but Amukamara lost Ginn on a 45-yard deep ball that wound up sparking New Orleans to a second-half blowout (he probably needed safety help on the play, though — more on that in a bit). While Michael Thomas is one of the best receivers in the NFL, this is a unit led by a 2018 All-Pro in Kyle Fuller that should expect to limit Thomas better than it did Sunday (nine catches, 131 yards), especially with Alvin Kamara and Jared Cook out.

SAFETIES: D

It looked like Ha Ha Clinton-Dix bit too hard on play-action on that 45-yard heave to Ginn on the Saints’ first drive of the second half, leaving Amukamara exposed to try to keep up with the speedy veteran. Eddie Jackson has now gone six games without an interception, which may still be because teams are shying away from throwing his direction but has to be frustrating for the 2018 All-Pro (who’s due for a contract extension after this season).

SPECIAL TEAMS: C

Talk about a day of extremes here. The bad: The Saints blocked Pat O’Donnell’s first punt of the game, with O’Donnell smartly knocking the ball out of the end zone for a safety. And later, the Saints tipped one of O’Donnell’s punts, with Zach Line blowing up DeAndre Houston-Carson and getting a piece of the ball.

But the good was Patterson’s mesmerizing 102-yard kick return score, the Bears’ first since 2014 and the first at Soldier Field since…Patterson housed a kick with the New England Patriots in Week 7 of the 2018 season. 

Eddy Pineiro also connected on a 46-yard field goal, his longest at Soldier Field, and the Bears recovered an onside kick late in the game. How odd is it that seven games into the season, the literal least of the Bears’ concerns involve their kicker? 

COACHING: F

That the Bears were so flat, and so bad, after coaches touted all the self-scouting and answers found during the off week, was alarming. Whatever the Bears’ plan for running the ball was, it was abandoned after the 13:44 mark of the second quarter — which was when Cohen picked up nine yards on a first down in Saints territory.

Nagy had Trubisky drop back 13 consecutive times after that run — some of which, to be fair, were in two-minute situations — before Montgomery fumbled on the Bears’ first play of the second half. The seven rushing plays the Bears attempted were a franchise low, besting the eight called by Marc Trestman on Thanksgiving in 2014. And it’s generally not a good thing to be compared to Marc Trestman around these parts. 

Nagy, through six games, has lacked the kind of answers he was able to find for his offense in 2018. The growing theory is the NFL has adjusted to Nagy’s scheme — and Trubisky — and coach and quarterback have not found a counter-adjustment. If that doesn’t happen soon, this’ll be a lost season, one in which one of the worst offenses in the NFL cannot prop up a good, not elite, defense. 

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