Bears

View from the Moon: Big guys getting special notice

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View from the Moon: Big guys getting special notice

Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2011
9:33 PM
By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

Size does matter. The NFL knows it and now some of the big guys are getting special notice.

In a year of traditional cover boys like Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Peyton Manning being in the playoffs, Sports Illustrated picked New England Patriots massive nose tackle Vince Wolfork as the cover art for its Jan. 10 playoff preview issue with the headline Mass Obstruction.

One of the Bears big guys couldnt be happier, except that Sports Illustrated should be just the beginning..

There should be more fat guys on magazine covers, including myself, defensive tackle Anthony Adams declared. All of us unsung heroes, which usually are fat guys, we need more coverage.

And lets go beyond Sports Illustrated. Lets go GQ. Rolling Stone. We need to be on the covers of all those. Take our helmets off, smile. Big guys. We are the next big thing, literally and figuratively.

What you also have to like about Adams is that he knows something of the history behind his lot in Chicago. This is where William Perry made being a fat guy fun for the NFL on a Monday night in 1985 against the Green Bay Packers in Soldier Field.

Among Fridges accomplishments was catching a TD pass coming out of the backfield. And while the Bears likely will not radically alter their playbook, Adams wants the word out there that hes got some game as a receiver. The playoffs might just be that time to unleash him.

Or at least hell unleash himself on the imaginations of defensive coordinators preparing for the Bears.

Thats why we havent done it, Adams said of his deployment as a fullbackreceiver. Preseason, all that, you dont to show too many people because then theyll start game-planning for it and we dont want that.

Ive just got to make sure I report when I go in.

Shrinking margin of error

ESPN analystformer coachformer player Herman Edwards offered some succinct playoff points that bear directly on the heart of the Bears playoff chances.

Jay Cutler is one of the Bears who have never been to the playoffs. How a JMarcus Webb or Johnny Knox or Major Wright handle the pace, stresses and everything else of the postseason is important. Cutlers conduct in the playoff crucible determines all.

The most important thing is how does the quarterback handle it, Edwards said Wednesday. How does he handle the playoff atmosphere? Youre playing teams in the playoffs with double-digit wins, they do some things well that got them where they are.

Meaning that Cutler may have skirted disaster at times with performance gaffes against the Minnesota Vikings, Detroit Lions or the Dallas Cowboys. Chance of that happening now are minute.

It goes back to the quarterback, Edwards said The younger you are Cuitler is finishing his fifth NFL season, you dont want to put that much on him.. The little things that happen to you, that you maybe get away with in the regular season, you wont win those games in the playoffs.

Anything but THAT!

Wide receiver Earl Bennett and wife Rekeshia are expecting a baby arrival at any time and that gives him a little more anxiousness than thinking about the playoffs. Actually, its not the coming in general of his little one that has Bennett concerned.

Bennett has dealt with surly safeties, ill-intentioned linebackers and vicious cornerbacks but the thing that intimidates him: Hes prepared to do some diaper work with the baby but I cant change poop, Bennett confessed. Thats my only thing. I told my wife, Everything else, fine. But not that.

Well, then heres the deal, Earl. Youre going to have to negotiate.

Bennett, along with Cutler, Knox, Devin Hester and others, has grown a distinctive full beard. The group plans to keep the beards as long as the Bears play through the postseason.

The trouble is, Rekeshia doesnt like it at all, Bennett said. She doesnt like it. I told people that Im not going to cut mine for a year but well see how far that goes. Shes been trying to persuade me.

The beard for poop duty? Hmmm. I dont like Bennetts and the beards chances, but as a veteran of facial fuzz, Im pullin for ya, Earl.

Knox, Im not so sure. Cutlers beard is OK, kind of a rough-hewn thing that gives him a little chin character. Hester, pretty good too. Knox, though, has kind of Mennonite thing going, which isnt at all bad (Im a Pennsylvania guy so the Amish and Mennonite looks, very solid), except that hes a thin wisp of a guy from Texas. And he runs waaay too fast for a Mennonite.

Johnnys beard is ridiculous, Bennett said, then gave up a couple even less-fortunate mates. Devin Aromashodu and Rashied Davis, they cant grow beards.

And you have to think that somewhere, Rekeshia Bennett is smiling.

Love that time off

Center Olin Kreutz has been to postseasons, three times as a matter of fact, and each time (2001, 2005, 2006) hes had the luxury of the Bears enjoying the bye week. Kreutz was given a Veterans Day exemption from practice Wednesday, and, when you play as long as Ive played, Ill take a layoff anytime they got one, he said laughing.

CSNChicago.com and Comcast Sportsnet analyst Jim Miller, a former Bears teammate of Kreutzs, was at Halas Hall Wednesday and walked through the locker room on his way out. Did he walk? Kreutz said, laughing. He usually limps now, doesnt he?
Talking Bears

I'll visit with Mac and Spiegs on "The Danny Mac Show" on WSCR-AM 670 Thursday at 10 for our usual weekly Bears check-in.... Planning on a 4:40 p.m. appearance on "Bears Blitz" on Comcast Sportsnet Thursday, with old beat buddy Larry Mayer. Larry came on the Bears beat the same year (1992) that I did, meaning we've shared Da Coach and we both speak fluent Wannie. Larry does great work at ChicagoBears.com so should be a good time with Billy Jack and Jiggs tomorrow.

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.

Adam Schefter: Bears plan on Khalil Mack playing vs. Patriots

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USA TODAY

Adam Schefter: Bears plan on Khalil Mack playing vs. Patriots

Khalil Mack has yet to miss a game in his NFL career. He doesn’t plan on breaking that streak on Sunday.

ESPN insider Adam Schefter told the “Kirk and Callahan show” on WEEI in Boston that the Bears expect their star pass rusher to play this week against the New England Patriots.

Mack missed practice on Wednesday and Thursday with the ankle injury he suffered last week against the Miami Dolphins.

Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio indicated this week that the outside linebacker could potentially play even if he doesn’t practice due to the injury.

Assuming Mack does take the field on Sunday, he won’t be 100 percent, and it’s unclear how much of an impact he’ll be able to have.

Last week was his least productive game of the season, and he earned a career-low grade from Pro Football Focus, with two missed tackles and only one pressure generated on 33 pass-rushing snaps.

The Bears are going to need more from Mack to slow down Tom Brady and the Patriots offense that’s averaging nearly 40 points per game over the last three weeks.

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.”