Bears

Moon: Seahawk'ing while waiting for Eagles - Pack

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Moon: Seahawk'ing while waiting for Eagles - Pack

Sunday, Jan. 9, 2011
3:28 p.m.

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

If the Philadelphia Eagles get past the Green Bay Packers, the Bears will have to deal with Michael Vick and that Eagles offense for a second time since Thanksgiving. Until that happens, and I dont think it will, lets think Seahawks:

The Bears had beaten Seattle three of the last four times the teams met before this seasons stumblefest in Soldier Field.

Victories are usually turning points in seasons but the Seattle game was one of the turning points in the Bears season because that and the Washington game that followed forced Mike Martz and Jay Cutler to make changes in the planning and the execution of the offense, respectively.

Against a Seahawks team that was in the bottom third of the NFL in rushing yards allowed, Martz called exactly 12 running plays combined for Matt Forte and Chester Taylor. Less than two weeks after Cutler was given a concussion by the New York Giants, Martz called 45 pass plays. Cutler was sacked six times and completed less than half of his throws.

That debacle was followed by Cutlers 4-interception performance against Washington, a game in which he also was sacked four times. In the off week, high-level discussions resulted in a dramatic shift in the balance of the offense and the season, along probably with a lot of jobs beginning with Lovie Smiths, was saved.

Seattle ran the ball 31 times for 111 yards and a modest 3.6 yards per carry. The Bears averaged 4.4 per rush, yet Martz called on Forte and Taylor just those 14 times. Matt Hasselbeck and Cutler each threw for yardage in the 240s but Cutler was sacked those six times and Hasselbeck went un-sacked.

Thats how you lose to a team with a new head coach and a roster with 200-some changes since the end of last season. If it does end up being the Seahawks at the end of Sunday for the Bears in their division-round game, Bears will advance to the NFC Championship game for the second time under Smith.

Saints ain't
If the Seattle Seahawks did nothing else, they disabused the myth of the New Orleans Saints. Well, maybe not entirely a myth, because myths do not win Super Bowls.

But the question was raised to me on repeated occasions last week as to what team represented the most acute threat to the Bears. The one I saw as the least dangerous, from among Seattle, New Orleans, Green Bay and Philadelphia, was New Orleans. The reason wasnt any sort of clairvoyance; if I had that, Id be writing this from aboard the S.S. Moon from somewhere south of, oh, maybe the Southern Cross.

No, so much of the NFL is about matchups. The Bears as constructed by Jerry Angelo and Lovie Smith put down the Saints annually from 2005-08, four straight wins and the last three of which were in Soldier Field, which is where this years game would have been played.

The Seahawks did to the Saints about what I thought the Bears would have.

Resume Boost

The Bears defense is looking even better as the Green Bay Packers roll out to a 14-0 lead on Philadelphia. Thats the same Packers offense that was kept in check, in Green Bay, by the Bears, held to 10 points in a true must game for Aaron Rodgers and an offense that was averaging 25 ppg.

Keys to the Game

If the weekly keys to the game from coaches like Lovie Smith sound repetitive, its because they are, and should be. Turnovers. Giveaways. Takeaways. And they come in different forms.

Green Bay handed away a touchdown with the dropped ball by James Jones late in the first half and then handed Philadelphia a re-admit ticket to the game with Aaron Rodgers fumble early in the third quarter that the Eagles turned into a touchdown.

The fumble was forced. The muffed TD was not.
Bear-talkin'

I'll check in Monday about 6:05 a.m. with long-time pals at WGN-AM 720 and see what we think about the way this divisional round will set up....

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.

Is Marcus Mariota the most logical QB target for the Bears?

Is Marcus Mariota the most logical QB target for the Bears?

Chicago Bears fans are sick and tired of the quarterback conversation surrounding this team as we enter the most important two month stretch of the offseason. My Twitter timeline (and vicious replies) are evidence of that. 

Duly noted.

That said, it's an unavoidable truth that GM Ryan Pace has no choice but to do something at quarterback in free agency or the NFL Draft. The most diehard Mitch Trubisky fan has to admit that. The former second overall pick hasn't developed into a franchise player through three seasons under center, and while the optimist would argue there's still time for him to become that guy, the realist is who must prevail when it comes to roster construction.

Marcus Mariota may be the perfect compromise. He doesn't have a resume that will immediately threaten Trubisky in 2020, but his sneaky upside combined with his youth and overall skill set is an ideal combination that could make him a long-term answer if Trubisky fails in the short-term.

According to Sports Illustrated, Chicago -- and coach Matt Nagy -- would be an ideal destination for Mariota, even if there's an inherent conflict of interest because both Mariota and Trubisky are represented by the same agent.

There are coaches out there—cough, Chicago, cough—who could slide him in easily under the guise that Mariota is a high-quality backup and develop him into a weapon under center who could take over when the starter falters.

Mariota, like Trubisky, hasn't lived up to the hype that he entered the NFL with back in 2015 when he was the second overall pick of the Titans. He's logged 61 starts and a career record of 29-32. He's completed just under 63% of his 1,110 career pass attempts and has 76 touchdown passes to 44 interceptions.

His stat sheet isn't impressive. His on-field play, at times, hasn't been, either. But he'd be an ideal reclamation project that the Bears can sell as the perfect backup even if the hope is for him to emerge as a starter.

There’s an advantage for QB-needy teams here who don’t want to deal with the public courting of Tom Brady, who don’t want to sacrifice mobility by signing Philip Rivers, who don’t want to roll the dice on every snap by signing Jameis Winston, and who don’t have the trade capital or cap space to go after someone like Nick Foles or Derek Carr.

Chicago won't be able to get into a bidding war for the bigger names like Tom Brady or even Teddy Bridgewater because of their limited cap space. Mariota won't command nearly as much to sign, and he's likely to get nothing more than a one-year commitment from a team hoping he can be like the guy who replaced him, Ryan Tannehill.

Of all the quarterbacks who've been pegged as a possible option for the Bears, Mariota feels like the most logical and, more importantly, cheaper targets who realistically could be lining up as the Chicago's starter by Week 4 of the 2020 season.

Tributes to Kobe Bryant, city of Chicago highlight memorable All-Star Sunday

Tributes to Kobe Bryant, city of Chicago highlight memorable All-Star Sunday

The specter of Kobe Bryant was omnipresent throughout All-Star weekend. Too often, it felt that the city of Chicago was not. 

But both took center stage at the All-Star game itself on Sunday night. The result was poignant, powerful and downright enthralling.

Magic Johnson set the tone early with a eulogy to Bryant that elicited multiple, impassioned ‘Kobe!’ chants from the crowd. That gave way to South Side native Common seamlessly weaving a cadenced monologue dedicated to Chicago, Bryant and daughter Gigi, as images of city legends from Barack Obama to Michael Jordan to Hebru Brantley flashed across the screen. The United Center rippled with emotion from start to finish.

For Bryant, the homage was a culmination. For Chicago, it was an essential re-centering to cap a weekend that saw only one Bull participate in an event — Zach LaVine, who exited after round one of the 3-point shootout. After 32 years since last hosting, this city deserved its moment in the sun. That one delivered.

“Chicago held it down,” Anthony Davis said. “I think they showed the league and everyone around the world about our Chicago history, about the city. I think everyone enjoyed it and respects Chicago a little bit more.”

Of course, there was a game to play, too — and embedded within were moments of pure symbolism.

On the surface: Members of Team Giannis and Team LeBron donned No. 24 and No. 2, respectively, in honor of Bryant and Gigi. The final quarter of the game went untimed, a slog to 157 (24 points more than the 133 Team Giannis entered the period with, per the league’s new Elam-inspired format). 

Chicago charities — Chicago Scholars ($400,000) for Team LeBron, After School Matters ($100,000) for Giannis — also received a cumulative $500,000 over the course of the game. Seventy-nine assists between the two teams means $79,000 will go towards STEM research in the greater Chicago area, too.

But now, let’s get a little nebulous. 

That fourth quarter, after a familiarly lackluster previous three, was electric. The offenses were legitimately running plays, the defenses were scrapping. There was controversial officiating, sweat dripping, and charges and clutch blocks galore. By the end, you could cut the tension with a knife.

“It felt like playing in the league in a playoff game,” Davis said.

Forgive me this contrivance, but how fitting a finish to commemorate both this city and Bryant. A true grind-it-out, scratch-and-claw affair. And as epic a pickup run as you’re like to find.

Most poetic, then, was the winning bucket. Yes, it was a free-throw — an anticlimactic ending to a memorable night — but the man that took it, Davis, was both born and bred in Chicago, and currently reps the same purple and gold Bryant did for 20 seasons as a member of the Lakers. 

“It was a great feeling, to be back home,” Davis said. “And I’m happy I was able to be the one to knock down the free throw to seal the game.

“For our side to get a win, for Kob (Kobe), this whole weekend was honoring him. And I think the league did a great job of doing that.”

Davis went on to congratulate Kawhi Leonard, who tonight took home the first ever Kobe Bryant All-Star game MVP award. His 30 points led all scorers in the game.

“It’s very special,” Leonard said. “I had a relationship with him (Bryant). Words can’t explain how happy I am for it. Able to put that trophy in my room… And just to be able to see Kobe’s name on there. It just means a lot to me. He’s a big inspiration in my life. He did a lot for me.”

On Thursday, normalcy will return to the United Center in the form of the Bulls and Hornets. But this was a night no one will soon forget. Thank you, Chicago. Thank you, basketball.

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