Random News of the Day: Punt it away


Random News of the Day: Punt it away

Thursday, Aug. 12, 2010
12:32 PM

By Joe Collins

The lead up to football season kind of reminds me of those chocolate calendars that circulate around the holidays. Anybody ever see those things? As a kid, I remember that I would open up the December 1 tab, and it would always have a ridiculous eyedrop-sized piece of chocolate. And it was usually stale. But hey, it was still chocolate. Day by day, the chocolates would get bigger. The Super Bowl of that chocolate calendar would be opened on December 24th. It was usually a bulky, warped, half dollar-sized chocolate Santa Claus, which looked more like David Crosby than Kris Kringle. It was still stale, but given the fanfare around the holiday it tasted pretty good.

Football training camp would be tantamount to, say, the first week of December of that calendar. We get a little taste of what lies ahead in the preseason, regular season, playoffs and all of the sweetness that makes up the Super Bowl. And even though the chocolate still tastes stale at times, we still eat it up like were at a Vegas buffet. Certain parts of the NFL have become stale, too. I dont want to rock the boat too much, because a bad day with football is usually much better than a good day without it. But there are a few items in the NFL that are facing 4th and long. Its time to drop back and punt a few of these annoyances away:

Just Get Rid Of Two Preseason Games Already: As we know, each team gets four preseason gamesusually two on the road and two at home (or one at a neutral site). NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has already gone on the record in favor of the 18-game schedule, saying by taking one of the home preseason games and converting it into a regular season, youre improving the quality of what youre doing. Thats value. Some critics oppose, saying that an 18-game schedule could open the door to more player injuries and a diminished product later in the year. Pssh. Come on. With all of the new rules, like no horse-collar tackles and other rules that protect the quarterback, I dont buy the injury argument. Players are treated like glass dolls today. Come on, this is football. An 18-game schedule would bring more fan interest, increased ratings, and thus, more moneysomething that the NFL likes to make out with all the time. Get it done.Do What College Football Does About Overtime: We all know that football revolves around big TV ratings, big dollars and big hype. Why not take a page out of college footballs scrapbook and put their overtime procedures in place for the NFL? Each team gets a possession at the 25 yard line. You keep going until one team scores more on their possession than the other. Imagine the hysteria on a Bears-Packers game that is in the 4th OT with the score tied at 55. Heck, you would even draw in the figure skating viewers from other networks. Plus, it eliminates the clammy tie games that gunk up the playoff scenarios towards the end of the season. Stop Giving Raiders-Chiefs Games To Gus Johnson: Im not exactly sure why CBS puts Gus Johnson, one of the most exciting voices in sports, on the fourth-tiered (or lower) game of the week. Seeing Gus Johnson broadcast a game between a couple of 3-10 teams is like listening to a Master Of Puppets-era Metallica play in a mall food court. Sure, its still Metallica, but everything else around it just reeks of bad cheddar. Forget network seniority. Give this man the microphone in a game that means something. Wait, now that I think about it, Gus can make a Raiders-Chiefs game sound like the Super Bowl hopped up on Jolt Cola. Might have to rethink that one a little.Give Coaches A Pulse: The NFL is great, but its getting way too Wal-Mart-like: too much sterility, not enough personality. End zone celebrations are penalized, taunting is penalized and cookie-cutter, cyborg-like personalities are welcomed. And damage control is a core class in the NFL school of higher learning. The majority of NFL head coaches today are far too sensitive in their appearance and demeanor, especially in press conferences. Everything is squeaky clean and by the book. Just once, I would like to see a coach go on a postgame tirade and start throwing chairs like its a Maury Povich show. Then, the camera can follow the coach away from the podium for a during the break reaction. Fun! Best of all, promise the coach that he doesnt have to produce a mundane, forced apology the next day. Wouldnt that be a nice change of pace?The Pro Bowl: Footballs version of an all-star game is like Thanksgiving at your Aunt Sylvias. The sly ones that arent there turned in their get-out-of-jail-free cards weeks in advance. And the ones that are there are mailing it in more than the U.S. Postal Service. We all go through the motions in fake-liking holiday parties. The athletes in the Pro Bowl are no different. But can you blame them? This game is played by junior high football rules (no blitzing, etc). And putting the contest a week before the Super Bowl isnt going to help draw much more interestfrom players and fans alike. Heres a crazy idea: put the Pro Bowl on the same day of the Super Bowl, with the winning Pro Bowl team securing the coin-toss win for their representative team in the Super Bowl. Think about it, your Super Bowl pregame show loses the sappy 11-minute feature stories and gets legitimate interest. Only issue would be that if the site happened to be an outdoor facility, and it were to rain, the field would get ripped to shreds for the real game hours later. Orjust get rid of the Pro Bowl entirely.Look, the NFL is still 98 fun to me. But Piniella-isms aside, a few changes can make the league even sweeter.

It might even taste as good as that chocolate at the end of December. Especially if the Bears win a few games here and there.

Or something like that.

Bears grades: A closer look at Mitch Trubisky's night against a good defense 

USA Today Sports Images

Bears grades: A closer look at Mitch Trubisky's night against a good defense 

Matt Nagy and the Bears are already on to Thursday afternoon’s game against the Detroit Lions, meaning their work at Halas Hall on Monday did not involve watching the film of Sunday night’s 25-20 win over the Minnesota Vikings. 

“The No. 1 thing is to make sure these guys are taken care of, see where they’re at physically and then mentally they’ll be good,” Nagy said. “But really just send home the message of ‘here we go.’ It’s right back at it. Enjoyed it last night. It was fun. It was a great win. Proud of the guys. Heck of a team we played against. Great coaches, great players. But just like that it’s on to the next one.” 

So in that spirit, we’re going to do grades a little differently this week. This mostly will be a breakdown of Mitch Trubisky’s game, with more rapid-fire reactions to the rest of the team’s units:


Mitch Trubisky’s final stat line does and doesn’t tell the story of his performance Sunday night. He completed 20 of 31 passes for 165 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions, and rushed 10 times for 43 yards. 

We’ll start with the negatives: Perhaps the worst throw and decision Trubisky made didn’t result in one of his two interceptions. Midway through the fourth quarter, with the Bears up by eight and facing a third-and-three near midfield, Trubisky tried to float a pass toward Allen Robinson instead of trying to juke defensive tackle Tom Johnson (who was bearing down on him) and throw the ball away, or even just taking a sack. 

The result was a throw that Vikings cornerback Xavier Rhodes should’ve intercepted. Had he not dropped it, it would’ve been a sure-fire pick six and given the Vikings a chance to tie the game with a two-point conversion. 

“There was some man-zone concepts in there and both (Robinson) and Mitch were a little bit off base on what they thought the coverage was,” Nagy said. 

Nagy, though, wasn’t frustrated by the two decisions and throws Trubisky did make that were intercepted by safety Anthony Harris. 

The first one came when Trubisky took a shot downfield on a play the Bears had worked on in practice, and wound up throwing the ball into an area in which Taylor Gabriel was surrounded by three Vikings defenders. Tarik Cohen appeared to be open had Trubisky checked down, but Nagy wasn’t disappointed his quarterback didn’t make that shorter throw. 

“He thought maybe he could squeeze it on in there,” Nagy said. “We’ve made that throw a few times in practice. (Harris) made a great play. When you look at it in the end, you see three guys corralling around the football, but again to the safety’s credit, he made a nice catch. And then the 20-20 hindsight is it looks wide open when you check it down, but I can’t fault him for that.”

Trubisky’s second interception was the result of Robinson not being able to fight his way open, leading to Trubisky throwing right into the hands of Harris. To Trubisky’s right on the play, though, was tight end Ben Braunecker with no one around him. 

“You never want to force throws,” Nagy said. “I don’t think they were forced throws. I think they were a little more aggressive, and I’m OK with that. We just have to learn from it and respect the plays they made.”

Trubisky, though, did some good things — his running ability again shined with a slippery nine-yard run on third and seven on the Bears’ first possession, sparking a drive that ended in a field goal. He made some excellent throws to convert third downs, too, to Gabriel and Robinson — with that throw to Robinson becoming critical in sealing the five-point win. He converted both two-point attempts, too, with good throws to Josh Bellamy and Adam Shaheen. 

Trubisky himself didn’t sound all too pleased with how he performed after the game Sunday, but it’s also worth putting his game into some context: This is a Vikings defense that held Drew Brees to 120 yards with one touchdown and one interception a few weeks ago, and tormented Jimmy Garoppolo (15/33, 261 yards, 1 TD, 3 INTs) in Week 1. While Trubisky made some plays that allowed the Vikings to keep the game close, he also made some plays that helped the Bears finish off a five-point win over a good division opponent. 

“He never got rattled,” Nagy said. “Not at all. He continued to stay very composed, next play mentality, nothing changed, never got too high, never got too low.” 

On to the rest of the grades:


Jordan Howard had his best half of the season in the first 30 minutes, rumbling with power and conviction for 46 yards on 10 carries. His second half was considerably quieter, with only 17 yards on eight carries, while Tarik Cohen lost a fumble that resulted in the Vikings getting a field goal. Cohen, though, did make a few nice plays — his 21-yard run on a second-and-21 was outstanding, and he managed to juke Harrison Smith out of blowing up a screen. 


This may not have been the most productive game for this unit, but each active member of the Bears’ wide receiver corps came up with at least one critical play. Six of Taylor Gabriel’s nine touches went for first downs, including three on third down. Anthony Miller scooped Trubisky’s under thrown pass off the end zone grass for an 18-yard touchdown. Allen Robinson hauled in a critical third-and-long conversion late in the fourth quarter. And Josh Bellamy caught the first of the Bears’ two successful two-point conversion attempts. It wasn’t all clean — Bellamy dropped a pass and Robinson got tied up on Trubisky’s second interception — but what this group lacked in big-time numbers it made up for in high-leverage plays. 


Shaheen’s return gave the Bears’ running game an early boost with some good blocking, and he bodied up Rhodes to haul in Trubisky’s two-point conversion toss. Otherwise, it wasn’t a productive game for this unit, with Trey Burton and Braunecker each catching only a single pass. 


Charles Leno delivered two excellent blocks to help spring Cohen’s 21-yard run, and the Bears’ offensive line largely kept Trubisky upright against a defense that brought Matthew Stafford down 10 times the last time it played. The run blocking early was solid, too, even if it waned a bit in the second half. 


Akiem Hicks had five tackles for a loss and he, Eddie Goldman and Bilal Nichols were critical in holding Dalvin Cook and Latavius Murray to a combined 17 yards on 13 carries. That turned the Vikings’ offense into a one-dimensional group, and Hicks was able to drop Kirk Cousins for a sack, too. For Hicks, it was the kind of game that should finally get him into the Pro Bowl for the first time in his career. 


Khalil Mack thoroughly wrecked the first half, as his impact was felt even when he didn’t physically pressure or hit Cousins (the bizarre interception Cousins threw at the end of the first half seemed to be the result of his internal clock speeding up). Leonard Floyd had an impactful game, too, consistently delivering pressure and making plays against the run. 


Danny Trevathan and Roquan Smith only combined for eight tackles, and Smith allowed 42 yards the six times he was targeted (with four catches, per Pro Football Focus). Smith missed a tackle on Stefon Diggs that allowed the Vikings receiver to gain about 25 more yards on a play, too. Trevathan, though, blew up a screen to Cook for a loss of five in the second quarter and delivered a hard hit on a Cousins scramble late in the fourth quarter.


Eddie Jackson’s pick-six was massive — without it, the Bears may not have won, or at least won fairly comfortably, on Sunday. Adrian Amos had another solid game, too, with his second interception of the year. Prince Amukamara, Kyle Fuller and Bryce Callahan, though, didn’t have their best games, combining to allow 20 receptions on 27 passes thrown their way, per Pro Football Focus — but perhaps that’s more a function of the Vikings’ offense being good at completing throws to Diggs and Adam Thielen. 


Cody Parkey hit all three of his field goals, including a 48-yarder that effectively sealed the Bears’ win. He did have a kick go out of bounds, though, and the Bears only had 10 players on the field for a punt return midway through the third quarter. 


Nitpick some of Nagy’s play calls if you want, but the Bears finished a win over an NFC North contender with offense, defense and special teams all making critical plays in the fourth quarter. The Vikings, meanwhile, were taken out their comfort zone early by the Bears dictating what they wanted to do, not the other way around. That’s a massive win for a young head coach going against a veteran in Mike Zimmer. 

Neat Tweets: Statement wins are the neatest type of win

Neat Tweets: Statement wins are the neatest type of win

The Bears wins just get more and more neat. It's hard not to be when you're thoroughly dominating your toughest divisional opponent, at home, in those neat orange jerseys, in front of a raucous crowd that's been drinking enjoying their tailgate all day. 

Not only were the Tweets again neat, but they were all seen in primetime and everyone's engagement numbers were also probably very neat. Way to go, all. Here's what they were saying: