Bears

Players bought into the motivation

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Players bought into the motivation

The news of the New Orleans Saints having a 'bounty system' that paid bonuses for injuring players on opposing teams shocked the NFL world on Friday. Former Saints' defensive coordinator Gregg Williams and the team could be facing major penalties by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.

Former NFL safety and CSNChicago.com Contributor Matt Bowen played for two seasons with the Washington Redskins under Williams and checked in on SportsNet Central on Saturday to discuss this issue with Chris Boden.

"I was involved in it and I'm not saying it's right, but I also know how it works. It's going to get a little embellished over the next couple days, couple of weeks.

Bowen continued: It's a practice that's been going on for a long time. I would say if you question all 32 teams you would find a little of this in every NFL city."

Bowen talked about the players deserving the blame just as much as the coaches.

"It was mostly player run. I'll take the heat myself as a player. It was something we organized mostly ourselves. I don't think it's a good practice, but I bought into it. It was a motivational tool, all those things are motivational tools; try to get a pick, try to get a big hit and you got rewards for that on the field."

Boden brought up a good point and asked Bowen: If Greg Williams was a great motivator than why were bounties even necessary?

"The bottom line here is I think we all bought into the motivation. From coaching to the players, we all thought about it as more as a way to get more production on the field. Whether that was that big hit, a game changing interception, whatever it was. We used it that way and we kind of advanced the motivation ourselves."

With concussions and season-ending injuries running rampant in the NFL, Bowen explained how violent the game is and how everyone's jobs are the line.

"I don't think it has any place in youth football, high school or college. Defensive football, whatever level you're playing at, you have equipment on. You're going to go after people. You tackle hard, you hit hard, you finish ball carriers to the ground, that's how you play and if you got a little extra incentive in the NFL, so be it. That's how it works."

"Live I've said many times before. This isn't a very nice game. It's a violent game, it's controlled violence, but there are those situations where as a player you kind of toe that line a little bit because it's the business of winning. That's what it is. This isn't everyone gets a trophy, this is win or you lose your job, coaching staffs lose their job as well."

In Week 2 against the Saints, the Bears saw Earl Bennett leave the game with a chest injury. Bennett would go on to miss the next five weeks. In that same game, Gabe Carimi was lost to a season-ending injury. Bowen gave his input on if he thought New Orleans targeted any of the Bears' players.

"No, because I wasn't down in New Orleans. I don't know if they were still doing it or not. Now I do. Now I look back, I'm sure there were guys that were targeted. Target wide receivers, go after Jay Cutler a little bit."

Finally, Bowen was asked if he had any idea what the punishment for Williams, former teams and current players that participated would be.

"I think the NFL is going to come down hard and I agree with them. Coach Williams is going to have to stand up and take the punishment. You might see a loss of draft pick, suspension, fine, whatever it may be, the NFL is going to try to make an example of it and I don't blame them. They need to correct this and this a good way to do it."
Do you agree with Bowen's comments? What do you think the punishments for the Saints and Gregg Williams should be? Let us know in the comment box below.

Final thoughts: Cody Parkey quickly moves on from missed game-winning kick

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USA Today Sports Images

Final thoughts: Cody Parkey quickly moves on from missed game-winning kick

There’s, probably, only one position in sports that can match the you-had-one-job scrutiny of a placekicker attempting a critical field goal late in a football game. As in: If you make the kick, it was expected; if you miss it, well, you didn’t do the one thing you were brought on to do. 

The comparison here is a closer in baseball. The expectation is whoever is called upon with a one-to-three-run lead in the ninth inning will convert the save and win his team the game. 

But when a closer blows a save and is in the spotlight during baseball’s regular season, there’s always a game the next day or, at worst, in two days. The immediacy and pace of a Major League Baseball team’s schedule lends itself to closers having to “flush” a bad outing and move on to the next one, since it might be tomorrow. 

For Bears kicker Cody Parkey, though, he’s had to wait a week until he gets his next “meaningful” chance at making a field goal after missing a game-winning 53-yard attempt last weekend against the Miami Dolphins. But moving on from a critical missed kick has never, and is not, a problem for the fifth-year veteran. 

“(It takes) five minutes,” Parkey said. “You kick the ball, and if it doesn’t go in you’re not going to sit there and cry on the field, you’re going to continue to move on with your life. I don’t think there’s really much to it other than knowing you’re going to have to kick another one sometime throughout the season, next game, in the next week, you never know. You stay ready so you’ll be ready for the next week.”

Not allowing those missed kicks to fester is an important trait for a placekicker to possess. What helps Parkey quickly work through his misses is focusing on having a good week of kicking in practice, and also an even-keel mindset that’s been instilled in him since a young age. 

“I think I’ve always been pretty mellow,” Parkey said. “At a young age, my coaches told me never let the highs get to high, never let the lows get too low. And I’ve kind of taken that to heart. If I miss a game winner, make a game winner, I’m going to have the same demeanor. I’m just going to be super chill and knowing it’s a game, it’s supposed to be fun, we’re supposed to go out there and try our best. I put in a lot of work and I try my best on the field.”

That’s something, too, that special teams coach Chris Tabor sees in Parkey. 

“He's always been like that,” Tabor said. “He hit a good ball, his line was just off. In his career going in he was 7-of-8 over 50 yards. I'll be honest with you, I thought he was going to make it. And next time we have that situation, I know he will make it.” 

Age is just a number

Sunday will mark the 6th time in Tom Brady’s career that the 41-year-old has faced a head coach younger than him, but the first time it’ll be a coach other than Miami’s Adam Gase (who’s 40). Brady is 3-2 against Gase’s Dophins. 

Matt Nagy, meanwhile, is also 40. Brady just missed playing Kyle Shanahan (38) and Sean McVay (32), facing the San Francisco 49ers and Los Angeles Rams in 2016, a year before both those youthful coaches were hired. 

Meanwhile, the youngest player on the Bears — 21-year-old Roquan Smith — was three years old when Brady made his unassuming NFL debut on Nov. 23, 2000. 

They said it

A couple of amusing one-liners out of Halas Hall this week…

Nagy, when it was brought to his attention that Mitch Trubisky (105.6) has a better passer rating than Brady (98.2), chuckled: “You want to say that one more time?” 

Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, when asked if he’d ever heard of “Baby Gronk” Adam Shaheen: “(long pause)… Sometimes.”

Three keys and prediction: Bears vs. Patriots

Three keys and prediction: Bears vs. Patriots

1. Good games from Roquan Smith and Danny Trevathan. Here’s a sampling of Pro Football Focus grades for primary middle/inside/will linebackers against New England this year: 

Reggie Ragland (KC): 60.1
Anthony Hitchens (KC): 30.2
Zaire Franklin (IND): 48.6
Najee Goode (IND): 47.1
Kiko Alonso (MIA): 63.9
Raekwon McMillan (MIA): 62.5
Christian Jones (DET): 59.7
Jarrad Davis (DET): 29.8
Telvin Smith Sr. (JAX): 64.1
Myles Jack (JAX): 61.0
Bernardrick McKinney (HOU): 68.7
Zach Cunningham (HOU): 43.2

Think what you will of Pro Football Focus’ grades, but the average here is 53.2. Interestingly, though, the average grade for these 12 players over the course of the 2018 season is 51.5. So maybe the issue is the Patriots have faced a bunch of mediocre-to-bad linebackers, allowing them to take advantage of those soft spots with Sony Michel running the ball and James White catching it. Smith’s PFF grade is 62.3; Trevathan’s is 64.3, so by this measure, they’re better than any of the interior linebackers the Patriots have faced but still are the weak spot in the Bears’ defense (only Jonathan Bullard has a lower PFF grade among players with 100 or more snaps). 

How Smith and Trevathan play will be key in determining how quickly Brady is able to get the ball out (with passes to White), and how many times they get into third-and-less-than-five situations (with Michel running it). Both those factors will be critical for the Bears’ pass rush, which brings us to our next point.

2. Pressure Tom Brady without blitzing. Brady is a master of beating blitzes, completing 23 of 31 passes for 314 yards with three touchdowns, no interceptions and only one sack when blitzed, per PFF (that’s good for a 138.4 passer rating). When he’s under pressure, though, he has his lowest passer rating — which is still 87.2 — but the point here is that the Bears can’t afford to have to send blitzes to try to get pressure on Brady. The Bears were one of the best teams in the league at pressuring opposing quarterbacks without blitzing before the trip to Miami, and how healthy Khalil Mack really is will be a critical determining factor in those efforts. But when the Bears do earn their pass-rushing opportunities, as Akiem Hicks put it, they need to at least affect Brady and not let him comfortably sit back to pick apart their defense. 

3. Convert red zone opportunities into touchdowns. This was a point Taylor Gabriel made this week about the state of the NFL in 2018: You can no longer afford to settle for three points or, worse, come away from a red zone possession with no points. Scoring is up league-wide, and the Patriots have scored 38, 38 and 43 points in their last three games. One of the biggest reasons the Bears lost that shootout in Miami was two turnovers from inside the five-yard line (Jordan Howard’s fumble, Mitch Trubisky’s interception). Stopping New England’s offense will be difficult, and the expectation should be for Sunday to be a high-scoring afternoon. If that’s the case, the Bears will have to get in the end zone every opportunity they get. The good news: New England’s defense is allowing a touchdown on 68 percent of their opponents’ possessions inside the red zone. 

Prediction: Patriots 31, Bears 27. The Bears’ defense sounded properly motivated after getting gouged by Brock Osweiler in Miami last weekend, but that only goes so far when one of the best quarterbacks of all time rolls into town. This winds up being a back-and-forth affair, but the guy with 54 game-winning drives in his regular season and playoff career makes it 55 late in the fourth quarter at Soldier Field. A close loss to the Patriots wouldn’t dampen the positive vibes around the Bears, so long as they respond with wins against the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills in the next two weeks.