Report Card vs. Seattle: Stong grades for victory

Report Card vs. Seattle: Stong grades for victory

Sunday, Jan. 16, 2011
5:48 PM

By John Mullin

The quality of opponent in 8-10 Seattle will be questioned but the Bears put up 28 straight points with consistent execution in a game that needed momentum for them early. Playoffs are about great plays but first they are about avoiding mistakes, and the Bears made few of them in allowing their talent advantage to carry the game.

Quarterback: A

Jay Cutler began his NFL playoff resume with a 58-yard TD strike to Greg Olsen and supplemented it with a 6-yard TD run early in the second quarter. He finished with two TD passes, two TD runs, passing effectiveness to the tune of a 111.3 rating in his first postseason appearance and threw zero interceptions while completing 15 of 28 passes for 274 yards.
Running backs: A

Chester Taylors 1-yard TD run put the Bears up 14-0 in the first quarter. Matt Forte tossed an interception out of a wildcat formation, a curious play call in the game situation unless it was to give the Packers something to think about. But Forte rushed for 80 yards and caught three passes for 54 more. Taylor broke several strong runs to finish with 44 yards on 11 carries.

Receivers: A

Greg Olsen burned the Seahawks for a TD on the Bears third play from scrimmage and set up the second TD with a 33-yard catch, finishing the first half with a career-best 113 yards. Johnny Knox led the Bears with four catches and tight end Kellen Davis added a TD on one of his two catches. Receivers struggled to get open at times but provided solid downfield blocking to add yards on runs by Cutler and the running backs.

Offensive line: A

The Seahawks sacked Cutler three times and were credited with four additional hits but the protection overall was outstanding, with the sacks resulting primarily from coverage by the Seattle secondary rather than breakdowns up front, which had been the problem in the teams first game. The Bears controlled the ball more than 37 minutes largely because the OL controlled the point of attack and minimized Seattle penetration.

Defensive line: B

Tommie Harris collected two sacks of Matt Hasselbeck and two tackles for loss, and Julius Peppers pressured Seattle LT Russell Okung into a pivotal first-quarter holding penalty. But no other defensive lineman had high-impact plays with any regularity. DT Anthony Adams provided some pressure up the middle but the defense overall let down in the fourth quarter, understandable given the way the offense was playing and Seattle wasnt, but the group was not at top playoff level.
Linebackers: A-

Brian Urlacher was credited with a team-high seven tackles, all solos, and had one for a loss. Lance Briggs was second to Urlacher with six as the Bears filled gaps and stuffed the Seahawks with 34 total rushing yards on 12 carries, 13 of the yards coming on one end-around to Golden Tate.

Secondary: A-

Charles Tillman was strong in a one-on-one matchup vs. Mike Williams, with Williams catching just four of the 13 passes on which he was targeted and managing just 15 total yards on his catches. Chris Harris went out with a hip pointer and rookie Major Wright filled in with a pass breakup and two tackles. Nickel back D.J. Moore finished with five solo tackles and Tim Jennings broke up two passes.

Special teams: B

Brad Maynard dropped three of his five punts inside the Seahawks 20, helped by Corey Graham downing two punts inside the Seattle 5-yard line and recovered a Seahawks on-sides kick in the fourth quarter. But kickoff coverage allowed a 62-yard return by Leon Washington, who finished with a 28.6-yard average on five returns.

Coaching: A

Adjustments were made to prevent Seattle from establishing any sort of rhythm early and aggressive play-calling produced big plays early to take the heart out of the Seahawks. The Bears were mentally prepared after their season-ender in Green Bay and what clearly was a well-focused bye week. Schemes were kept simple to have the Bears playing fast against an out-manned team and the Bears played under control without allowing Seattle big plays to recover momentum.

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.

Prince Amukamara and CDW surprise teens at MSI event


Prince Amukamara and CDW surprise teens at MSI event

This past Saturday, Prince Amukamara provided a great surprise when he showed up during a graduation ceremony to honor high school seniors who had been a part of the Museum of Science and Industry's (MSI) "Welcome to Science" initiative.

Students listened to brief speeches from CDW Vice President of Networking, Digital Workspace and Security Solutions, Bob Rossi, a number of Bears employees and Amukamara. 

Students engaged in open discussions on how they can further their dreams with science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).  And through a donation from CDW’s Tech Fore! Kids program, students got perhaps the biggest surpise of all, as they were provided new laptops. CDW continues to help enable the MSI the opportunity to work with youth and further their interaction with STEM.

CDW Tech Fore! has done previous work with Chicago Bulls College Prep, and other schools and Boys and Girls clubs over time. The MSI's program looks to provide a diverse array of teens the chance to dive deeper into what it takes to have a career in science. On top of this, students are able to collect service leearning hours while simultaneously furthering their leadership and public speaking skills. 

Three compulsories loom as make-or-breaks for Mitch Trubisky Bears 'installation'


Three compulsories loom as make-or-breaks for Mitch Trubisky Bears 'installation'

The popular focus of the Bears offseason has been on a new offensive coaching staff phasing in a radically different system and playbook, integrating new “weapons” brought other teams and other schemes, and fusing them all together around a trigger/detonator in the person of quarterback Mitch Trubisky.

More than any of that, however, is Trubisky himself, the real linchpin “weapon.” All of the offseason additions, beginning with coaching staff, projects to make only marginal more impact than Dowell Loggains, Josh Bellamy, Dontrelle Inman and Kendall Wright if Trubisky himself is not much, much better than he was last season.

In three primary areas.

In figure skating and diving, the obligatory must-do’s were called “compulsories” – basic skills at which competitors were required to demonstrate proficiency. For Trubisky, improvements in three specific compulsories are the keys to this young quarterback’s development.

Trubisky is in his own molten state, still a raw, largely unknown with fewer NFL starts (12) than all but four projected starting quarterbacks (Jimmy Garoppolo, Pat Mahomes, AJ McCarron, Deshaun Watson) for 2018, but the poorest record (4-8) of any other anticipated starter, those four included. “Work in progress” is an understatement.

The Trubisky “installation” is in fact massive. Beyond the specifics of scheme, RPO’s and all the rest, Trubisky will go to training camp with precious little shared game experience with virtually any of his chief so-called weapons. Trey Burton, Taylor Gabriel and Allen Robinson weren’t Bears last year. Kevin White worked chiefly with Mike Glennon and the No. 1 offense while Trubisky was primarily with the 2’s. Anthony Miller was in Memphis.

But the Trubisky developmental group – coach Matt Nagy, coordinator Mark Helfrich, quarterbacks coach Dave Ragone, backup Chase Daniel – has three chief points of attention with what was drafted to be the foundation of the franchise:

Rediscover accuracy

For all of the positives coming out of his abbreviated rookie season, Trubisky completed just 59.4 percent of his passes – not good enough for an offense based in significant part on ball control with the pass. Substandard receivers account for some of the accuracy issues for a quarterback who completed 68 percent in his one year as a college starter. But Mike Glennon completed two-thirds (66.4 percent) of his throws in his four games throwing to largely the same group.

More to a larger point, the Bears were 2-4 when Trubisky completed less than 60 percent of his throws. His completion rate is nothing short of pivotal in keeping possessions sets of downs and entire possessions on schedule, converting third downs and resting his defense.

Nagy dialed back the offense at one point during OTA’s, Trubisky played faster “and you saw completions out there,” Nagy said, “and that's what it's all about.”

Only the Carolina Panthers reached the playoffs with a quarterback (Cam Newton) completing less than 60 percent of his passes. Slightly better statistically, Philadelphia quarterback Carson Wentz (60.2) was leading the MVP discussion before a season-ending knee injury, and Blake Bortles (60.2) had Jacksonville a fourth-quarter away from the Super Bowl. But the Eagles and Jaguars were top-five in both scoring offense and scoring defense. And Nick Foles got the Eagles to a Lombardi Trophy completing 72.6 percent in the postseason filling in for Wentz.

Tom Brady completed 63.9 percent as a rookie and never below 60 percent in 17 years as a starter. Aaron Rodgers, never below 60 percent in 10 years as a starter. Drew Brees, 15 of his 16 seasons at 60-plus, including the last 14 straight. Ben Roethlisberger, 12 of 14 seasons at 60-plus percent. Peyton Manning, 15 of his 17 seasons at 60-plus percent. Those five account for 17 Super Bowl appearances.

Trubisky was drafted to be that echelon of quarterback. Reaching that level begins with completing passes.

Stay the ball-security course

Trubisky may not have been dominant in any area as a rookie, but he bought into the emphasis placed on ball security by John Fox and coordinator Dowell Loggains. He ranked 12th with a very respectable 2.1-percent interception rate. Of the 11 passers rated ahead of him, only Jacoby Brisset in Indianapolis failed to get his team to .500, and eight of those 11 were in the playoffs. Ball security matters.

And it is something to watch through training camp and preseason. Adam Gase made ball security the No. 1 objective with Jay Cutler when Gase arrived in 2015. Cutler went a dozen straight practices and his 33-pass preseason without throwing an interception. The carryover was obvious; Cutler had the best season (92.3) and second-best interception rate of his career in 2015.

The same is expected, and needed, from Trubisky for the new offense, and the “old” defense, to work.

“He had, I think was a three-to-one or maybe even a four-to-one touchdown to interception ratio in college,” Helfrich said. “That works. That’s a good thing. We need to continue that. We can’t put the defense in a bad situation, our team in a situation, because there’s times in the NFL they’re going to get you and I think a quarterback kind of has that innate ability to take care of the football versus turning it over when he, for lack of a better word, panics.” 

Trubisky lost two fumbles in the span of 12 games. Very respectable and a strong starting point for his year two.

Get the ball off on time

Trubisky in 2017 tied for fourth in percentage of pass plays sacked (8.6), a problem that might be laid at the feet of an offensive line forced by injuries into seven different starting-five combinations. Might, but far from entirely.

Nagy’s passing offense is rooted in timing. Receivers during practices have precision drilled into them, meaning being exactly where they’re supposed to be at precisely the instant they’re supposed to be there. Trubisky’s tutoring has stressed plays being on time.

Only the Buffalo Bills reached the playoffs with a quarterback (Tyrod Taylor, 9.9) taking sacks at a rate higher than 6.6 percent. Alex Smith went down at a rate of 6.5 percent running the Kansas City offense under Nagy and coach Andy Reid.

Trubisky’s mobility is an obvious asset for extending plays. But getting the ball out of his hands is the goal, and his decision-making and execution will be key in how long his line has to sustain blocks. Trubisky early on evinced a grasp of balancing the reward of rescuing a play under pressure against the risk of taking a sack.

“Ball security is very important so I'm just trying to take care of the football,” Trubisky said not long after taking over for Glennon last season. “But at the same time you want to stay aggressive and you could say the sacks are a result of that.”