Young Bears plan to 'shock the world' vs. Packers


Young Bears plan to 'shock the world' vs. Packers

Sometimes you just gotta enjoy the spirit of youth.

The Bears kept just five hand-on-the-ground defensive linemen on their current roster. One (Eddie Goldman) is a rookie, two (Ego Ferguson, Will Sutton) are second-year players and a fourth (Cornelius Washington) has played a total of 15 NFL games, mostly on special teams, over his first two seasons. If Jeremiah Ratliff were on the roster instead of suspended, he would have played twice as many NFL seasons (10) as the kids have games.

No matter. Intimidated by Aaron Rodgers? Mmm, not really.

“I’m just ready to get out there Sunday and show the world,” said Ferguson, then corrected himself: “Shock the world.”

He laughed, then reset reality: “But it’s just talk now. We have to do it on Sunday.”

[MORE BEARS: Martellus Bennett calls Adam Gase's offense 'empowering']

Do not mistake youthful bravado for lack of perspective, however.

The talk around any defense preparing for the Green Bay Packers is what if any coping mechanisms it can employ against Rodgers. The Bears have Rodgers in their mission statement, but it is another Packer who is causing concern among members of a front seven that is still in its formative stages.

Two Packers, actually. Running backs Eddie Lacy and James Starks.

What Rodgers has done to the Bears is the stuff of legend. Sutton brought up the fact that the Packers lost four regular-season games last year. Three of them were games where they failed to rush for 100 total yards, failed in fact to reach 90. Lacy and Starks were non-factors. And in the fourth loss, to Buffalo, Lacy and the run game netted 158 but Rodgers was 17-for-42 for 418 yards but with a passer rating of 34.3 owing to a pair of interceptions versus zero touchdown passes.

[MORE BEARS: For Bears D, beating Rodgers, Packers starts with confidence in Vic Fangio]

“We know who ‘12’ is and what he can do,” Sutton said “But before we can get to him, our main thing is stopping the run. They’re a well-balanced offense and people get so caught up in ‘Aaron Rodgers, Aaron Rodgers,’ but Eddie Lacy is out there.

“You have to earn the right to rush the passer.”

If there is a specific prove-it point in the Bears’ newborn 3-4, it is whether an undersized group of linemen can stand up to the Lacys, Starks, Marshawn Lynches and Adrian Petersons.

Ferguson dropped from 315 pounds last season to 295. Sutton, once thought to be too small for a 3-4 needing linemen capable of responsibility for two gaps, has added bulk up to 304. Washington, moving from 4-3 end to playing over tackles in a 3-4, added muscle and is keeping it but at just 280 pounds. Nose tackles Goldman (334) and Jarvis Jenkins (315) are as close as the Bears have to traditional “run stuffers.”

“It’s all about technique, leverage,” Ferguson said. “Weight really doesn’t mean so much if you’re in the right position, right hand placement and using the right leverage.

“The reason why we’re so light is that a lot of us play positions and we want to be effective no matter where we’re lined up.”

And no matter where they’re lined up, “we pretty much have to play a perfect game in terms of technique,” Sutton said.

Is Bears “D” in “football shape?” Lacking ability to finish? Fourth-quarter fades raise questions

USA Today

Is Bears “D” in “football shape?” Lacking ability to finish? Fourth-quarter fades raise questions

During the critical fourth-quarter Oakland Raiders drive for a game-winning touchdown, one former Pro Bowl’er and NFL observer remarked to this writer that he was surprised to see a lot of hands on hips and mouth-breathing by members of the Bears defense – two common signs of being gassed.

Critiquing conditioning – or lack of – is problematic the way judging pain tolerance is. And if the Raiders score were an isolated incident, the question likely doesn’t come up.

But something is amiss. While the Bears defense remains among the NFL’s best, at least statistically, a shadow of concern is falling over the defense and its ability to close out games that it has within its reach.

The Bears held fourth-quarter leads over Denver and Oakland and allowed go-ahead touchdowns. They were rescued by Eddy Piñeiro’s 53-yard field goal in the final second. No such rescue in London.

Fully half of the eight touchdowns scored by Bears opponents in 2019 have come in fourth quarters. (The Bears themselves have not scored a single TD in any fourth quarter this season, but that’s a separate discussion.) By contrast, last season the defense did not allow a fourth-quarter touchdown in any of the final five regular-season games.

The temptation is to look only at the numbers, which are in fact positive. Even with the 24 points the Raiders scored against them in London, the Bears ranked second only to New England in scoring stinginess (13.8 ppg.) and fifth in yardage allowed (312 ypg.).

But the Bears have 17 sacks as a team; only three of those have come in fourth quarters.

Opposing quarterbacks have passed at an 81.3 rating in first halves; they are throwing at a 91.4 clip in second halves.

The defense has allowed 16 first downs in first quarters; 21 in seconds; 20 in thirds.

In 2019 fourth quarters, 34 first downs allowed.

Pulling the camera back for a wider view, extending back to include the disturbing 2018 playoff loss:

Vs. Philadelphia
Eagles drive 60 yards in 12 plays and nearly 4 minutes to score game-winning TD with :56 remaining. Cody Parkey’s double-doink overshadows fact that Bears defense forces Eagles into only two third downs and allows winning score on a fourth down.

Vs. Green Bay
With the Chicago offense sputtering all game and in need of a short field, Packers go on a 10-play, 73-yard drive that consumed 6:33 to set up a field goal to go up 10-3 deep in the fourth quarter.

At Denver
Inept Broncos offense scores 11 points in the fourth quarter to overcome a 13-3 Bears lead, driving 62 yards in 12 plays, converting two fourth downs and a two-point conversion. Denver’s second-half drives: 41 yards, 56 yards, 84 yards, 62 yards.

Vs. Washington
Bears build 28-0 lead before one of NFL’s worst offenses scores a pair of largely meaningless second-half TD’s.

Vs. Minnesota Vikings
Drive 92 yards in 13 plays for TD before Bears stiffen to stop two-point PAT and next Minnesota possession.

Vs. Oakland (London)
Raiders win game with 92-yard drive that includes fourth-down conversion on punt fake run despite Bears leaving No. 1 defensive unit in, anticipating fake.

Guess which highly-paid NFL kicker is only making 58% of his field goals?

USA Today

Guess which highly-paid NFL kicker is only making 58% of his field goals?

Remember that time when the Bears tried out like 47 kickers and put them through a wide variety of arbitrary tests all while fan favorite Robby Gould was using the team's desperation as leverage to become the NFL's highest-paid kicker? Classic! 

It's been like three months since those totally-sane summer days, and reader, things have not gone so hot for Gould: 

Meanwhile, Eddy P is not only 8/9 on the season, but is already well on his way to becomming a fan favorite. We're already calling him Eddy P! After 5 games! 

That said, we won't truly know if the Bears made the right decision until Piñeiro beats out several Hall of Famers -- including someone credited for literally starting the NFL -- on the path to winning an offseason bracket-style fan vote.