Bears

Plenty of local flavor in Bulls' home opener

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Plenty of local flavor in Bulls' home opener

When people talk about the city of Chicago breeding guards, they arent kidding. Three of the four starting guards in the Bulls New Years Day home opener against the Grizzlies hail from the Windy City.

In addition to reigning league MVP Derrick Rose for the home team, Memphis boasts a starting backcourt of two Chicago Public Schools products, shooting guard Tony Allen and point guard Jeremy Pargo, who has replaced the injured Mike Conley in the starting lineup.

Allen went to Crane High School, blocks from the United Center, before heading to junior college and leading Oklahoma State (which also featured Bulls reserve John Lucas III) to a Final Four. His younger brother, Ryan Allen, a senior on the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukees mens basketball team, also happens to be one of Roses best friends.

Hes a tough competitor. He can really play. Hes had some injuries in his career, but whenever hes gotten extended minutes, hes played really well. Hes as good as a defender as youll find in the league. Terrific cutter, slasher, can put it on the floor, can score, can play off people. If you turn your head, hes great at moving without the ball, said Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau of Allen, who inspired Memphis Grit and Grind themed playoff run last postseason. I had the opportunity to coach him in Boston and hes a winner. Tough guy. When he got the opportunity to play last year, he played great.

Pargo, the younger brother of erstwhile Bulls guard Jannero Pargo, now with the Atlanta Hawks, grew in the same Englewood neighborhood as Rose. However, like his brother (who played in junior college before playing at Arkansas with current teammate Joe Johnson), he took the long route to the NBA, excelling overseas before making it to the league after the lockout ended.

Its another game. Youve got to come out and be prepared, and do whatever it takes to help your team win, said the younger Pargo, who estimated that he had 20 well-wishers at the game. Rose is a great player. Ive got to come out and be focused and ready, and when the opportunity presents itself, try to take advantage of the opportunities and the moments.

During the lockout, I had no idea what the expectations would be or should be. It was a tough time and fortunately, we were able to come through it, continued the Robeson High School graduate, who starred collegiately at Gonzaga before playing professionally in Israel. Its something that I wanted to do, play ball at the highest level and Ive been given an opportunity, so Im going to do whatever I can to help the team and take full advantage of the opportunity.

Under Center Podcast: Bears lose 38-31 to the Patriots

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Under Center Podcast: Bears lose 38-31 to the Patriots

Matt Forte, Lance Briggs and Alex Brown join Laurence Holmes to break down the Bears 38-31 loss to the Patriots. What happened to the Bears defense over their bye week, and how did the special teams struggle so bad against New England? Plus – the guys debate Mitchell Trubisky’s decision making in the red zone and Matt weighs in on how the Bears should play his former team – the New York Jets – next week.

0:35– Special teams to blame for loss?

4:12– Where did the Bears pass rush go? 

5:27– Bad tackling followed Bears from Miami

7:25– Are the coaches to blame for the defense after the bye?

10:10– Evaluating Mitchell Trubisky’s game

11:55– Agree with Matt Nagy on Mitch’s “mental” game?

13:30– Trubisky’s red zone decision making

17:10– Are the Bears giving away games so Mitch can learn?

18:00– Bears need to run the ball more

21:04– Matt Forte scouts his former team, the New York Jets

Listen to the full podcast here or in the embedded player below.

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Just how well did Mitch Trubisky play against New England?

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USA TODAY

Just how well did Mitch Trubisky play against New England?

Nothing Mitch Trubisky did in the Bears’ 38-31 loss to the New England Patriots on Sunday shook the confidence of his coaches or teammates in the long-term outlook for their franchise quarterback. If anything, most of what he did continued to show those guys his development is trending in the right direction.

“Mitch is a good-ass quarterback,” right tackle Bobby Massie said. “He’s got ability to do a lot of things. He’s young, but he’s going to be a special player. You see glimpses of that last year, and you see more of it this year. In years to come he’s going to be a hell of a player.”

Trubisky’s final stat line is deceiving in some respects, though. He completed 26 of 50 passes, good for a completion percentage of 52 percent, for 333 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions and a passer rating of 69.8. He’s now thrown for over 300 yards in three consecutive games, joining Josh McCown and Brian Hoyer as the only quarterbacks to do that in franchise history.

While taking away the last-ditch drive and completion to White — that got the Bears about a yard away from tying or winning the game — shouldn’t be completely ignored in the overall evaluation of Trubisky’s game, he completed 22 of 45 passes for 254 yards before New England’s defense sat as far back as they could with 24 seconds left.

Trubisky’s accuracy was uneven during the game, which Nagy chalked up to something that happens with a young quarterback having to throw so frequently.  

“When you throw the ball 50 times, there's going to be some that are inaccurate,” Nagy said. “This is this kid's second year in the NFL, and this is his first year in our offense. So not everything is going to be dead on. He had a good game today.”

It wasn’t good enough for the Bears to win, though, which is what ultimately counts. Yes, two special teams touchdowns were backbreaking, and the defense struggled with the Patriots’ ability to get the ball out quick and efficiently do the simple things right.

But Trubisky threw two interceptions, one when he tried to make a play on third and long and the ball appeared to bounce out of the arms of Josh Bellamy and into the waiting hands of Patriots cornerback J.C. Jackson.

The other, though, came when Anthony Miller had a step on safety Jonathan Jones. Instead of leading Miller into the end zone, Trubisky under threw the ball a touch, turning what could’ve been a touchdown throw into a 50-50 ball.

Jones made a spectacular play to intercept the pass, and New England engineered a 96-yard scoring drive after it that put the Bears down 14 in the fourth quarter.

“I thought I could have put it out there a little further,” Trubisky said. “I loved Anthony's route he ran, and I threw it a little later than I wanted to because I had to check protection to make sure I gave a slide call to make sure we could pick up the blitz that they brought through, and I just bounced back to the other side, so it was a little later than I wanted to be.

"But I thought he ran a great route, loved how he took it high, and I just got pushed out there a little further, but it was a 50/50 ball, and he had a chance to get it, and the other guy had a chance to get it, and the other dude made a great play.”

The Patriots’ defense did well to take away Taylor Gabriel — who had been Trubisky’s favorite target over the last few weeks — by shading a cornerback to the receiver’s inside shoulder and playing a safety over the top consistently. Allen Robinson was hampered by a groin issue and didn’t make an impact (five targets, one catch, four yards).

What the Bears liked from Trubisky, though, was how he switched to relying on Trey Burton (11 targets, nine catches, 129 yards, one touchdown) and stuck with Tarik Cohen (12 targets, eight catches, 69 yards, one touchdown).

Trubisky was outstanding running the ball, scrambling over 70 yards for an eight-yard touchdown and deftly extending a run into a 39-yard gain in the third quarter. His team-best 81 rushing yards on six attempts were an effective counter-punch to what Belichick threw at him.

But Trubisky threw two passes in the end zone that could’ve — and probably should’ve — been picked off. Those two throws were concerning given Trubisky threw a momentum-shifting interception in the end zone last week in Miami.

“He forced one in the end zone that everyone is holding your breath when he throws it, and that can happen sometimes with a young quarterback,” Nagy said. “But that was one of the ones that he knew right away 'I shouldn't have done that.'”

The highs and lows are all part of the long-term development of a young quarterback paired with a first-time coach. That’s a critically-important backdrop with which to evaluate Trubisky, Nagy and the Bears’ offense.

But the Bears still have plenty to prove in 2018, with this at the top of the list: Can this team be a playoff contender with a quarterback trending in the right direction, but still going through the growing pains of inexperience?

“It’s early in the year, still a lot of games left, a lot of ball to be played and we’re a good-ass team,” Massie said. “There’s no need to be like oh, woe is me. We’re still gonna make a run at this thing. We gotta fix what needs to be fixed and we’ll be good.”