Bears

Webb motivated by Packers' draft day snub

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Webb motivated by Packers' draft day snub

Friday, Sept. 23, 2011
Posted: 1:16 p.m. Updated: 5:38 p.m.

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com Bears Insider Follow @CSNMoonMullin Sick bay

The Chicago offense will be without two starters receiver Earl Bennett and tackle Gabe Carimi but there is officially a 50-50 chance they will have several key figures back for the Green Bay game on Sunday.

Officially.

Guard Lance Louis (ankle) and running back Marion Barber (calf), who did not practice last Friday and did not play after being listed as doubtful on the week-end injury report, finished this week listed as questionable. Also in that group was wide receiver Roy Williams (groin), expected to play Sunday but not certain as to whether or when he returns to the starting lineup.

Safety Chris Harris (hamstring) also went from doubtful and not practicing last Friday to questionable, although he is expected to give way to Craig Steltz in the starting lineup for this week. Brandon Meriweather, who started at free safety in New Orleans alongside Wright, will stay in that job in what is likely to be a permanent move.

A key indicator: Barber, Harris, Louis and Williams all went through full practices, albeit on Friday when practices are not the full-pads sessions of a Wednesday.
Major Wright, listed as questionable, practiced on a limited basis but the Bears will not rush a player with a head injury back onto the field.

The Packers will be without safety Nick Collins (neck, out for season), defensive end Mike Neal (knee) and linebacker Frank Zombo (shoulder). All other Packers are listed as probable, including starters Chad Clifton (knee), Clay Matthews (quad) and Charles Woodson (foot) who either sat out of practice or were limited.

Duly noted

The Bears under Lovie Smith are 8-7 against the Green Bay Packers. All seven losses came when the Bears failed to score more than 15 points.

If the Bears have managed to hold the Packers and Aaron Rodgers to lower point totals, the Packers have been positively inhospitable to Jay Cutler. In the five games played with Cutler against the Packers, the Bears have scored just 15, 14, 20 (with a Devin Hester punt return for a TD), 3 and 14 points, an average of 13.2 points. And all 14 of the points in the NFC Championship game were Caleb Hanie productions.

The Bears offense under Mike Martz in three Green Bay meetings is averaging 10 points per game. In 12 Green Bay games with Ron Turner as offensive coordinator, without adjusting for defensive or special-teams scores, the Bears averaged 18.8 ppg. with quarterbacks Rex Grossman, Chad Hutchinson, Kyle Orton and Brian Griese.
The chip's in place

Bears great Jay Hilgenberg made it a career mission to take the measure of No. 1 draft choices whenever he faced them. The seven-time Pro Bowl center had been an undrafted free agent and used the draft-day slight for motivation.

JMarcus Webb knows the anger.

Webb at least had the relief of being drafted in 2010 but not until the seventh round. That passed-over feeling was there in a rookie year that saw him win the starting job at right tackle before moving to left tackle this offseason.

Of course it bothers me, Webb said. There is definitely a chip on your shoulder to prove to those teams and yourself that youre better than they thought you were. Youve got to have that competitive mindset as well.

If he wants motivation in the form of No. 1s, the Packers will have rush linebacker Clay Matthews (2009 first round, No. 26 overall) and nose tackle B.J. Raji (2009 first round, No. 9 overall) in their front for him.

A more direct diss for Webb: Green Bay also thought tackle Bryan Bulaga was worth a No. 1 pick last year, 23rd overall, and didnt think enough of Webb to make a move on him in any of the next five rounds, either.

But being a veteran in his second NFL season has mellowed Webb. Or so he says. It was something I definitely thought about a lot last year, he said. This year I think its more about myself and how I can get better, how to help my team.

One way: dominate some former No. 1 pick.

Numbers-gaming

The Bears under Lovie Smith are 42-9 when they hold a team to 17 or fewer points, the standard defensive point target. That fact is particularly relevant when the opponent is the Green Bay Packers.

Eight of the 15 times Smiths Bears played the Packers, Green Bay scored those 17 or fewer. The Bears are 7-1 in those games.

Meaning: Whatever the Bears do, they cannot turn the game into any kind of scoring fest and need desperately to shorten the game by consuming time, and also by keeping Aaron Rodgers watching.

That will not be easy.

Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy is 6-0 in road openers, and this is the Packers road opener. Worse for the Bears, the Packers have won 14 of the last 19 games played in Soldier Field.

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.

Wild-Card Race: What Bears fans should be watching in Week 15

Wild-Card Race: What Bears fans should be watching in Week 15

The Bears didn't get the help they needed in Week 14 from teams like the Lions (against the Vikings) or Seahawks (against the Rams), but they did win their game against the Cowboys and improved to 7-6 on the season.

As a result, Chicago is still alive entering Week 15's game against the Packers. Green Bay's win over the Redskins, one which improved their record to 10-3, all but ended the slim hopes that the Bears could make a run for the NFC North, but it doesn't lessen the importance of Sunday's rivalry game.

You know the story by now. Chicago needs to win out in order to have any chance at a post-season berth. And even then, their chances aren't great. They're hovering around 5%, depending on which source of playoff odds you use.

Here's the thing: If the Bears just keep winning, their playoff odds will keep going up. They'll need some help, and they'll need the Rams and Vikings to slip up along the way, but all Matt Nagy, Mitch Trubisky and Khalil Mack can control right now is winning this Sunday.

In the meantime, here are the other games Bears fans should keep a close eye on.

Minnesota Vikings (9-4) vs. Los Angeles Chargers (5-8)
3:05 p.m. CST
CBS

The Vikings and Bears play in the season finale but Chicago needs Minnesota to lose at least one more time before Week 17 to give the game any meaning. If the Vikings enter that game with five losses and the Bears do their part to topple Kirk Cousins and the rest of Minnesota's cast of characters, they'll own the head-to-head tiebreaker for the sixth and final wild card.

Unfortunately, the Chargers don't inspire much confidence that that fifth and necessary loss will come on Sunday. But as Phillip Rivers proved in Week 14's 45-point output against the Jaguars, there's always a chance for Los Angeles to outplay their record.

Los Angeles Rams (8-5) at Dallas Cowboys (6-7)
3:25 p.m. CST
FOX

The biggest blow to the Bears' playoff chances in Week 14 may have happened in Los Angeles where the Rams defeated the Seahawks in a game many assumed Seattle would win. Now 1.5 games ahead of Chicago, L.A. has a very winnable game in Dallas against a team that's spiraling out of control. This, combined with the Rams' finding their offensive mojo once again suggests another victory for Los Angeles.

If they secure the win, the Bears would need Jared Goff and Aaron Donald to lose their final two games and end the year at 9-7. If the Rams end the season with the same record as Chicago, they'll own the head-to-head tiebreaker because of their win over the Bears in Week 11.

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Would you believe J.P. Holtz and Jesper Horsted are keys to resurgent Bears' O?

Would you believe J.P. Holtz and Jesper Horsted are keys to resurgent Bears' O?

One obvious question hovering in the afterglow of the Bears’ breakout offensive performance against the Dallas Cowboys last Thursday is: Where has THIS been? Quarterback Mitch Trubisky and coach Matt Nagy looked more in sync than at any other time in recent memory.

So here’s a deeper question: How did that happen? The answer may be as simple as finally getting impact play from the tight end position, something the Bears haven’t had all season.

The impact plays by J.P. Holtz and Jesper Horsted (7 combined targets, 7 combined catches, 92 combined yards) represented the runaway best 2019 day for Bears tight ends. Against the Cowboys, Holtz actually led the team in receiving yards with 56. He and Horsted figured in the run game and screen game, bringing something to the offense that filled an enormous void.

While tight ends Trey Burton (calf) and Adam Shaheen (foot) are now on injured reserve, even when they were on the field they were largely ineffective, contributing only a combined 23 catches for 158 yards.

That left the Bears digging deep to find some production at the position. Holtz, who’s spent time on the Browns’ and Redskins’ practice squads, was claimed off waivers in September. Horsted, an undrafted free agent from Princeton, spent much of the season on the Bears’ practice squad.

“It’s a little bit of rhythm,” Nagy said. “[Holtz and Horsted] are so new to us as coaches and not knowing exactly what their strengths and weaknesses are. The other thing is that you had two other guys in Trey and Adam that were a little bit beat up and hurt physically. They weren’t 100 percent.

“You have two other guys that come in and are 100 percent and they have different types of talent. So we’re trying to figure out the best way to use them. I want to credit them, especially J.P. Holtz. Here’s a kid that’s come in here and done everything we’ve asked. He’s helped us out at that ‘Y’ [blocking tight end] position.”

Consider what’s been missing at the position for most of this season. Last year Burton was the fourth most-targeted Bear by Trubisky and caught 75 percent of the balls thrown to him. Shaheen did little with his playing time (he was inactive until game 10), but he did catch 83 percent of the balls Trubisky threw to him, and the Bears were 5-1 when he played.

Trubisky hasn’t had that security receiver this season. Burton slumped to a 58 percent catch-percentage before going on IR, Shaheen pulled in 9 of his 13 targets (69 percent), and Ben Braunecker 6 of 11 (55 percent).

So far Horsted and Holtz have caught 11 of the 12 passes directed to them. The one incompletion was to Holtz, from backup QB Chase Daniel vs. Oakland. That means that every pass Trubisky has thrown to the new TE duo has been caught.

“Tight ends are big in any offense,” Nagy said. “They help out in the run game. And then they help out in the pass game in certain areas. It’s just a benefit when you don’t always have to throw to wide receivers.”

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