The Three Bears Necessities: Pass-rush must step up vs. Rodgers


The Three Bears Necessities: Pass-rush must step up vs. Rodgers

Keep that rocket in the pocket

So, how many times have you seen Aaron Rodgers keep plays alive with his feet while his receivers run down the street, turn left at the hydrant, twist around the parked car on the opposite curb, then come back for the ball? A pass rush that produced just 15 sacks the first nine games got "home" five times last week. But Rodgers is not Brock Osweiler, who found a way to beat them nonetheless. The Bears' front seven must have its best game of the season pressuring the quarterback. This quarterback doesn't get rattled very easily.

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Burn, baby, burn

As in the clock. Ease the defensive stress versus Rodgers by winning the clock. With Matt Forte expected back, keep the running backs fresh, but the offensive line must win its battles, whether it's getting out in front for Forte or Jeremy Langford. The offense's best ground game this season came in the opener. Their per-game average is at 111. The Packers allow 114. But when the time came last Sunday in Minnesota, they shut down Adrian Peterson (13 carries, 45 yards).

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Slippery when wet

The dreaded "wintry mix." That's the forecast for Thanksgiving night in Green Bay. We're well aware of Jay Cutler's 1-to-2 touchdown-to-interception ratio in his Bears career versus the Packers. Rodgers simply doesn't turn it over, and the Packers own a plus-eight turnover ratio this season. Cutler's protection plan slipped a bit last week, but it didn't cost his team any points. If you can't win the turnover battle, don't dare lose it.

Get all you need ahead of Sunday's 7:30 p.m. kickoff on Comcast SportsNet with "Bears Pregame Live" at 6:30 p.m.  Jim Miller, Lance Briggs and Dan Jiggetts break down the matchup with Chris, along with Kip Lewis and John Mullin from Lambeau Field. When the second quarter ends, log on here at as Jim and Chris break down the first 30 minutes and go over adjustments on "Bears Halftime Live." And as soon as the game goes final, flip back to CSN for the only place you'll get live press conferences, locker room interviews, reaction and analysis for 90 minutes on "Bears Postgame Live."

Rob Gronkowski 'highly unlikely' to play Sunday against the Bears

Rob Gronkowski 'highly unlikely' to play Sunday against the Bears

Sunday's game against Tom Brady and the Patriots will be a tough test for the Bears, but it looks like they're going to receive a big break.

According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski didn't travel with the Patriots to Chicago and is "highly unlikely" to play Sunday.

Avoiding Gronkowski, who is one of Brady's favorite targets, would be a huge break for the Bears' defense. In six games this season, the tight end has 26 receptions for 405 yards and a touchdown; in 14 games last season, Gronkowski had 69 catches for 1,084 yards and eight touchdowns.

Gronkowski has not officially been ruled out yet, though time is running out for the Patriots to make a decision.

Meanwhile, Khalil Mack appears set to play Sunday despite dealing with an ankle injury. Between having Mack on the field and Gronkowski off of it, good news keeps coming for the Bears' defense.

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

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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.”