Bears

Two days, zero turnovers for Bears’ 'O'

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Two days, zero turnovers for Bears’ 'O'

BOURBONNAIS, Ill. — No one is keeping score just yet but unofficial observations report two straight days of practice without a Bears quarterback throwing an interception or receiver or running back losing a fumble.

It’s training camp, no one is in pads, but after Jay Cutler led the NFL in turnovers last season, any day without turnovers is a day with offensive sunshine in Chicago.

[MORE: Bears defense settling in with impact plays early]

Quarterback

Jay Cutler may not have Brandon Marshall any longer but he is taking his connections with Alshon Jeffery to a next level, enhanced by Eddie Royal filling in while No. 1 pick Kevin White recovers from a shin injury. Cutler shook off strong pressure from a number of rushers (Pernell McPhee, David Bass, Cornelius Washington) to make throws that stretched the defense. Cutler’s deep throw along the right sideline to Royal was the highlight completion of Thursday’s session… .

Jimmy Clausen threw with more consistent accuracy than Thursday. For the second straight day he connected with Marc Mariani with a precise throw out of reach from coverage. Clausen was victimized by an excellent pass deflection by cornerback Al Louis-Jean and cornerback Tracy Porter did have a near-pick.

[RELATED: Not a good day for high Bears draft choices]

Running back

Matt Forte emphasized speed training in his offseason regimen and while he is approaching age 30 (Dec. 10), he is doing anything but slowing down. Forte turned the left side of his line, then left cornerback Alan Ball grasping air with a double-move and a 20-yard gain.

“My 40-time coming out of college was 4.5-something and I ended up running in the low 4.4s, so I used to go back a lot of times in the postseason every year,” Forte said. “I missed last year, I didn’t go, and I felt the effects of my burst going through the holes and stuff like that or just accelerating after catching the ball. So I went back and did that type of training and got a lot better. I got a benefit out of it.”

Rookie Jeremy Langford ran a precise underneath route out of the backfield but Jimmy Clausen’s pass was a little too far behind him to make the catch… .

[MORE: Bears free of contract disruptions as camp heats up]

Receiver

Martellus Bennett made several strong catches against tight coverage, one on cornerback Alan Ball and one despite a fast close and interception-try by cornerback Sherrick McManis. Bennett also has shown particular quickness getting into his blocks, beginning in drill sessions and carrying over into team running plays. “Last year’s offense we weren’t asked to drive block,” Bennett said. “It was a lot of zone and position blocking. So it’s just a different technique thing that we had to learn. I come from a background where it’s always been power, smash-mouth football—early in my Cowboys days and even while I was with the Giants—that’s just the style of blocking that I learned. The last two seasons transitioning to positioning and the scheme was totally different from what we were—we weren’t downhill; we were more of a shoot-the-gap type shotgun-type offense running”… .

Alshon Jeffery handled a laser throw from Cutler between good coverage by Ball and linebacker Christian Jones… . Eddie Royal drew the days biggest crowd roar and also some complements from the opposition, making a leaping catch against cornerback Tim Jennings for a 40-yard completion from Cutler. Safety Antrel Rolle came over to offer kudos, almost making Royal late back for the offense’s next play… .

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Bears fans!]

Offensive line

Left tackle Jermon Bushrod missed much of the offseason getting over a back issue but provided one of the day’s best blocking performances, handling McPhee one-on-one and standing the rush-linebacker up cold to protect Cutler’s blind side… . Charles Leno, earning complements from coaches through the offseason, delivered a strong effort against Sam Acho, handling the outside linebacker’s speed rush without help… .

Bears offensive lines have had difficulties against 3-4 defenses in the past, and run-blocking assignments appear to be still sorting out against a number of creative looks already being shown by the scheming of coordinator Vic Fangio.

Recalling moments in Tom Brady history ahead of his likely last meeting with Bears

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Recalling moments in Tom Brady history ahead of his likely last meeting with Bears

As Tom Brady approaches what in all reasonable likelihood will be his last game against the Bears and in Soldier Field, the first time this reporter saw Tom Brady comes very much to mind. Actually the first times, plural. Because they were indeed memorable, for different reasons.

That was back in 2001, when Brady should have started replacing Wally Pipp as the poster athlete for what can happen when a player has to sit out and his replacement never gives the job back. Drew Bledsoe, who’d gotten the New England Patriots to a Super Bowl, had gotten injured week two of that season. Brady, who’d thrown exactly one pass as a rookie the year before, stepped in and never came out, playing the Patriots into the AFC playoffs the same year the Bears were reaching and exiting the NFC playoffs when Philadelphia’s Hugh Douglas body-slammed QB Jim Miller on his shoulder.

After that the playoff assignments were elsewhere, including the Patriots-Steelers meeting in Pittsburgh for the AFC Championship. Brady started that game but left with an ankle injury and Bledsoe came off the bench to get the Patriots into Super Bowl.

Then came one of those rare moments when you are witnessing history but have the misfortune of not knowing it at the time.

The question of Super Bowl week was whether Bill Belichick would stay with Bledsoe’s winning hand or go back to Brady. Belichick of course waited deep into Super Bowl week before announcing his decision at 8 p.m. on a Thursday night, the second time that season Belichick had opted to stay with Brady over a healthy Bledsoe. And of course Belichick didn’t announce the decision himself (surprise); he had it put out by the team’s media relations director.

You did have to respect Belichick, though, going into his first Super Bowl as a head coach with a sixth-round draft choice at quarterback and leaving a former (1992) No. 1-overall pick with a $100-million contract on the bench. The Patriots upset The Greatest Show on Turf Rams in that Super Bowl, Brady was MVP, and Bledsoe was traded to Buffalo that offseason.

History.

That Super Bowl also included one of those performance snapshots the Bears envision for Mitch Trubisky but missed a chance to let him attempt last Sunday at Miami in his 17th NFL start. Brady took the Patriots on a drive starting at their own 17 with 1:30 to play and no timeouts, ending with an Adam Vinatieri field-goal winner.

If Belichick was all right letting his second-year quarterback in just his 17th start throw eight straight passes starting from inside his own red zone, the next time Matt Nagy gets the football at his own 20 with timeouts and time in hand, best guess is that the decision will be to see if his quarterback lead a game-winning drive with his arm instead of handing off.

It may not happen this Sunday. Brady is a career 4-0 vs. Bears, and if there is one constant it is that his opposite numbers play really bad football against him, or rather his coach’s defense. Bears quarterback passer ratings opposite Brady, even in years when the Bears were good: Jim Miller 51.2 in 2002, Rex Grossman 23.7 in 2006; Jay Cutler 32.9 and Cutler again in the 51-23 blowout in Foxboro. Cutler finished that game with a meaningless 108.6 rating, meaningless because Cutler put up big numbers beginning when his team was down 38-7 after he’d mucked about with a 61.7 rating, plus having a fumble returned for a TD, while the Bears were being humiliated.

A surprise would be if Trubisky bumbles around like his predecessors (New England allows an average opponent passer rating of 91.6), but whether he can produce a third straight 120-plus rating…. Then again, Pat Mahomes put a 110.0 on the Patriots last Sunday night, but Deshaun Watson managed only a 62.9 against New England in game one.

Trubisky will make the third of the three 2017 first-round QB’s to face the Patriots. The first two lost.

Brian Baldinger: 'I'm not so sure anybody could've seen the jump that Mitch Trubisky is making right now'

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Brian Baldinger: 'I'm not so sure anybody could've seen the jump that Mitch Trubisky is making right now'

On Thursday, Brian Baldinger released another video clip on Twitter for his #BaldysBreakdowns series, this one praising the recent play from Bears QB Mitch Trubisky.

Baldinger states that Trubisky is "making some kind of jump", referring to how impressed he was with Trubisky's play when compared to his rookie season. 

In the video Baldinger explains in the video how you expect franchise QBs to make a big leap from year one to year two, and a big part of that leap for Trubisky is being unafraid to make aggressive throws downfield.

Baldinger highlighted a play where Trubisky hit Taylor Gabriel 47-yards down the field, choosing to trust his wideout after he hit him with perfect ball placement despite tight coverage. He continued this theme later on in the video, showing Trubisky's TD strike to Allen Robinson, which was whipped right past a Dolphins defender. 

But Baldinger's video wasn't exclusively compliments for Trubisky. He discussed Tarik Cohen's effectiveness as a pass-catcher, saying that you "can't cover him" and comparing him to a Ferrari with his ability to go from first to fifth gear "about as fast as anybody."

He ended his video by showing Trubisky punishing the Dolphins for a blown coverage, hitting rookie Anthony Miller in stride for a 29-yard TD. Baldinger's point in including this clip was to show Trubisky's improved recognition, as he may not have spotted the blown coverage last year. Noticing when and how to take advantage of defensive sloppiness is one of the many things that seperate a "franchise QB" from a stopgap, and Trubisky is trending in the right direction. 

If Baldinger's breakdown is any indication, we should expect Trubisky to keep his incredible momentum rolling when the Bears take on the New England Patriots on Sunday. New England is 3rd worst in the league in passing TDs allowed, giving up 15 scores through the air in six games.