Bears

Urlacher: Cam won't run over me like Culpepper

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Urlacher: Cam won't run over me like Culpepper

Thursday, Sept. 29, 2011
Posted: 8:54 a.m. Updated: 10:56 a.m.

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com Bears Insider Follow @CSNMoonMullin
Cam Newton looks pretty good but as far as Brian Urlacher is concerned, hes no Daunte Culpepper. At least Urlacher hopes hes not.

Urlacher, talking with Dan Patrick Thursday morning on The Dan Patrick Show on Comcast SportsNet, hasnt met the Carolina Panthers rookie, so he wasnt sure how big the new kid really is. Patrick surprised him with information that Newton was in the physical class of Urlacher at 260 pounds and likened him to former Minnesota quarterback Culpepper, a monster, in Urlachers opinion.

No disrespect to Cam but I dont think hes going to run me over like Daunte would, Urlacher said. Newton was last years Heisman Trophy winner and Urlacher joked that hed like a chance for a little fun with Newton.

I hope I get a chance to run with the football, Urlacher said, laughing, so I can give him the Heisman pose.

Urlacher did not agree that tackling is a lost art in the NFL, although didnt dispute that players had blow-up tackles and hits on their minds because it was a chance to be on highlight shows.

But rules changes have set up penalty and fine guidelines for an increasing number of actions, and Urlacher voiced irritation that the NFL seems preoccupied with defenseless offensive players but not with defenseless defensive players.

As far as how he tackles at this point in his career, I dont think about it at all, Urlacher said, adding, There was a time when a receiver leaned into me, head-butted me but he went backwards and I got fined.

I think proper tackling has to come back now because of how the rules are now... But the running backs and receivers are so good now, I just want to get them on the ground.

Urlacher played the Sunday after the death of his mother and said that, I think football was good for me, including being with teammates, who are among his most supportive friends. He didnt play any differently than he always has, just like shes watching me. Just go out there and make her proud.

The Bears are 1-2 and beginning to be left out of playoff talk. They shouldnt be, Urlacher is convinced.

Look at the first three teams we played, Urlacher said, referring to Atlanta, New Orleans and Green Bay, all three in the 2010 playoffs. I think we can get in there, Urlacher said.

Martz talk

On for the weekly visit with The McNeil and Spiegel Show, albeit without Spiegs whos off for the Jewish holiday, so Jay Zawaski and Ben Finfer were alongside Danny Mac for the day...

The focus is still seriously on Mike Martz and what exactly is going on after two games (New Orleans, Green Bay) that featured dismal performances from top to bottom, from game plan to execution. The question is, after replaying some of Martzs comments from Wednesday, what is the offensive coordinator looking at when he talks in positive terms about his offense, with the line playing well, the receivers playing faster and better, and so on.

No clear answers here. The line gave up zero sacks in the first half of the Saints game and zero in the first half of the Packers game, so the line is clearly doing some things pretty well, particularly with starters on the right side missing.

The only conclusions you come up with is that Martz is traditionally very supportive of his players, certainly in public, so the positive spin shouldnt be a complete surprise. And you get that Martz believes, perhaps to a fault, in his scheme and philosophy and is going to play it his way.

He and Jay Cutler were surprisingly defensive about scaling anything back, even though that appeared to work in 2010 when the Bears turned their season around. Maybe thats again a case of saying one thing publicly to send a message and then doing another when it matters. Thats to be seen.

Mac and the guys raised the issue of some fans hoping for a freefall situation unfolding so that at least GM Jerry Angelo gets fired. Personally, I dont get that, for lots of reasons. Someone hoping their team is abysmal is beyond me in the first place, and second, a bad season is no assurance that anything happens to Angelo anyway. Remember, the McCaskeys are not meddling owners and this is not a dire situation like the late 1990s when something had to be done with Dave Wannstedt.

The Walter Payton book had to come up, and Mac wondered how I felt about it or if I would want to write a book of that type. The second part is easy; not interested. Ive done four books, am working on another, and bringing someone down frankly seems like something that would get me down as well. I dont have any issue whatsoever with Jeff Pearlman writing the book, and Ill be reading it because its part of the job to check out things Bears. This is no commentary on Jeff, just my thoughts about me.

On another level, I dont really like rolling out all of the Walter stuff 12 years after his death. This isnt a protect-Walter thing at all; indeed, as I mentioned to the guys, a colleague once said that we in the media shouldnt write about the wife unless we were going to write about the girlfriend. Meaning: Dont chronicle a glowing picture unless you also were going to depict the other side, if there was one.

Walters status in Chicago and beyond has bordered on sports deification, so maybe this is some sort of cosmic balancing. Not for me to say. My assumption is that Jeff has done a very solid reporting job (I know the people he talked to and he was thorough), but its just not a story Im personally eager to dive into.

Will visit again with the guys next Thursday at 10 a.m.

Tarnished image

The Bears organization did not wait long to respond to stories in a new book by Jeff Pearlman that paints a troubled and troubling picture of franchise legend Walter Payton, including drug use and a deteriorating situation in his personal life:

The Chicago Bears had the unique honor and privilege of having Walter Payton as a part of our organization for over two decades as both a player and board member, the teams statement said. We believe his competitive spirit lives with us today. When we take the field each Sunday, we represent the great players like Walter who helped build the rich tradition of our organization. Nothing will change our feelings for a man we have the deepest respect for and miss having around Halas Hall to this day.

The NFLs Man of the Year award was renamed in Paytons honor after his death in 1999.

John "Moon" Mullin is CSNChicago.com'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.

Three reasons why the Bears' offense should have success against the Patriots' defense

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USA Today Sports Images

Three reasons why the Bears' offense should have success against the Patriots' defense

Every team will try to scheme against what its opponent does best. Not every team does it as well as Bill Belichick consistently has in his Hall of Fame tenure as the coach of the New England Patriots. 
 
This is what Belichick is famous for, beyond the five Super Bowl trophies and historic partnership with Tom Brady. That thing your team’s offense does best? He’s going to take it away. 
 
That can create a mental challenge for an opposing coach during the week. Do you focus on doing something other than what your offense does best because Belichick is going to identify and scheme against it, or do you try to accentuate what you do best so it can’t be taken away? 
 
“That’s that whole chasing the cat’s tail thing,” Bears coach Matt Nagy said. “All of the sudden you start out-thinking to yourself, ‘What the heck?’ That’s the mystique, and that’s what they do. They’ve earned that over time because of the success they’ve had. 
 
“When you don’t go too crazy with that and balance it and control what you can control. Then in the end, win, lose or draw, no matter what, you at least feel good you approached it the right way, and you weren’t, ‘Oh shoot, I should have done this. Shoulda, coulda, woulda.’”
 
When Taylor Gabriel and the Atlanta Falcons faced the Patriots in Super Bowl LI, everybody on that team knew Belichick would do what he could to take Julio Jones out of the game. But that didn’t make preparations any easier. 
 
“We knew he was going to take away Julio, but we didn’t know how he was going to do it,” Gabriel said. “So it’s just just something you kind of have to adjust to when you get in the game.”
 
Jones only had four catches in that game, and the Falcons were able to quickly adjust to how he was taken away — though it wasn’t enough to keep them from a historic collapse and ultimate overtime loss. 
 
Tight end Dion Sims played New England eight times during his four years with the Miami Dolphins, and came away with a healthy respect for the scheme and the players on that defense. 
 
“They’re fundamentally sound, they got good coaching over there, a good staff,” Sims said. “You gotta be prepared because they come out and they play their ass off.” 
 
But what should give the Bears confidence they can mentally and physically beat New England’s defense?
 
1. The Patriots’ defense isn’t what it once was
 
The way Bears coaches and players have talked about New England’s defense this week has been with reverence and respect. But lately, the Patriots’ defense production hasn’t quite equalled its reputation. 
 
Maybe it started with Nagy’s Kansas City Chiefs launching 42 points and over 500 yards of offense against New England in 2017’s nationally-televised season opener. Maybe Super Bowl LII, in which the Philadelphia Eagles ripped off 41 points with a backup quarterback, was another turning point. Or maybe the Patriots’ 43-40 win over the Chiefs on Sunday night, which looked more like a Big 12 game than an NFL game, further chipped away at that mystique. 
 
New England’s defense heads to Chicago ranked 18th in points allowed (24.7) and has allowed 400 or more yards of offense in four of six games this year. They’re 19th in defensive DVOA, though Pro Football Focus’ grades do peg this group fourth, behind only the Bears, Rams and Eagles. 
 
What this defense does well is take the ball away, with eight interceptions and four fumble recoveries critical in propping up a defense that isn’t good on third down (44 percent conversion rate, 25th) or in the red zone (68 percent, 26th). But as long as the Bears' ball security is better than its two-turnovers-inside-the-five-yard-line showing in Miami on Sunday, an offense that scored 48 and 28 points in its last two games should be in good shape. 
 
2. Multiple weapons
 
How Belichick schemes against a Bears offense that’s been explosive and productive in its last two weeks will be fascinating to see on Sunday. Maybe it’ll be Tarik Cohen, who Belichick said is “a special player that you gotta know where he is at all times.” Maybe it’ll be making sure Taylor Gabriel doesn’t beat them deep (“The execution on that was like 99 out of 100,” Belichick said of Mitch Trubisky’s 54-yard deep ball to Gabriel against Miami). Or maybe it’ll be dropping seven or eight guys into coverage, spying Trubisky and forcing the second-year Bears quarterback to make good decisions and fit passes into tight windows. Or maybe it’ll be something else entirely. 
 
This goes back to the guessing game, though, and it’s one the Bears can’t allow themselves to play. 
 
“I think you can spend too much time on that,” Nagy said. “I look at that and I think I've said it before, it can be kind of like chasing the cat's tail. You've got to be careful of that and when you just start worrying about what you do — and of course here or there you might so something a little bit different — but if you just start doing things different because of one coach, now you've stopped worrying about just controlling what you can control and I haven't found too much success with that.”
 
The good news for the Bears, though, is they seem to have the multitude of weapons necessary to have success against a Belichick defense. Kansas City showed it on Sunday — when the Patriots took away Kelce, Kareem Hunt racked up 185 yards from scrimmage, while Tyreek Hill gouged New England for 142 yards on seven catches with three touchdowns.
 
So if the plan is to take away Cohen, that could lead to opportunities for Gabriel, or vice versa. Or if the plan is to drop seven or eight into coverage, that would give Jordan Howard an opportunity to carve out yards on the ground.  
 
“They utilize all their players, the backs, the tight ends, the receivers, the quarterback, they all have production, so if you take one away, they just go to the next guy, and that’s hard to defend,” Belichick said. “There are a lot of options on some of those plays, which guy is going to end up with the ball based on a quarterback’s decision, if it’s a check-with me type of play, bubbles and look passes and RPOs and things like that, it’s up to the quarterback to make the right decision and Trubisky’s done a good job of that. I think all those things, they keep getting better and they’re hard to defend.”
 
3. History repeating itself
 
In Nagy’s only meeting with New England as Kansas City’s offensive coordinator, his offense scored 42 points — and that’s a number that has resonated in the Bears’ locker room and practice fields this week.  
 
“You have to go into this game with confidence and know that we’re playing against a great group of guys who’ve been there, been to the Super Bowl and then they also have Tom Brady on the other side,” Sims said. “It’s important that we capitalize on everything and try to be mistake-free.” 
 
“What the defense is giving you is what the offense will take — what good offenses will do,” Gabriel said. “I feel like we have those type of minds up there in the booth and on the field with us to figure out what those guys are doing and how we want to attack it.”
 
The Bears’ offense is young, from the coach to offensive coordinator to most of the players that populate it. Beating New England, even if its defense isn’t what it used to be, would send a message around the league that the Bears are for real. Until the Patriots are dethroned in consecutive years, or even finish a season with fewer than, say, 12 wins, they’re still the Patriots.  
 
But while this team is young, it does have a handful of guys who’ve competed against New England on some of the NFL’s biggest stages. So expect guys like Gabriel, Burton and even Nagy to not allow this team to let facing the Patriots become daunting on Sunday. 
 
“It’s not difficult at all,” Gabriel said of avoiding thinking about that mystique. “Just like this team, we have the weapons to take advantage of those one-on-one matchups. I don’t care what defense you are, you’re going to have a one-on-one matchup somewhere unless you’re dropping everybody. So as long as you’re staying the pace and being confident in what you’re doing, I feel like we’ll be okay.” 

Bears return to Soldier Field as home underdogs against the Patriots

Bears return to Soldier Field as home underdogs against the Patriots

The Bears were getting used to life in the big chair. Chicago was favored in each of their last four games, but it all came crashing down at the hands of Brock Osweiler in overtime last week.

The Miami Dolphins pulled off the upset, and now the Bears return home to take on one of the best teams in the league.

Even if they had won in Miami, Chicago likely still would have been underdogs to the New England Patriots on Sunday, but as it stands, Bill Belichick and company are favored by three on most major sportsbooks, according to Vegas Insider.

The line initially opened at Patriots by 2.5, but it would seem that money placed on New England pushed the spread a little more in the Bears’ favor.

Vegas is expecting another higher-scoring game for both teams, with the over/under sitting at 49. Given that the Patriots have scored at least 38 points in each of their last three games, the Bears’ defense may have some trouble keeping this game low on the scoreboard.

In Week 6, home underdogs went 4-1 against the spread and 3-2 straight up. According to Bet America, home underdogs have covered in 20 of their 30 games this season, which bodes well for a Bears team facing a tough task at Soldier Field.