Prince Amukamara

It might be Bear Weather, but Sunday's forecast complicates things for Nagy and Co.

It might be Bear Weather, but Sunday's forecast complicates things for Nagy and Co.

The high temperature in Green Bay on Sunday is going to be 18 degrees. That won’t come until 2-3 p.m., though – when the Bears and Packers kick off two hours earlier, temperatures will be floating in the low teens. Of course, considering windchill, that feels more like five or six. It took 15 weeks and a 200 mile drive north, but the 2019 season is finally getting some Bear Weather.

“You’re talking about two teams here in Chicago and Green Bay that are kind of used to it,” Matt Nagy said on Wednesday. “I would say [the weather is an issue] probably more so if you’re dealing with teams from the West Coast, or more from the warmer weather coming into this.” 

It’s shaping up to be the type of game where 1000 photos of the linemen’s breath scatter the internet, and someone will *absolutely* use the phrase black-and-blue, or bare-knuckle-brawl to describe the matchup. It wouldn’t be Bears-Packers canon without a frostbite warning, but as fun as it is to show up to the frozen tundras dangerously underdressed and maybe overserved, the cold may end up being the Bears’ biggest adversary not wearing #12. 

“What I’ll say is this – I’ve heard from older family members that when it’s cold outside, you feel a little something when you’ve had an injury in the past,” Akiem Hicks said. “But hopefully I don’t have to feel anything like that. Pray for me”

Hicks is one of two defensive starters that should return to action on Sunday, frost forgiving. Cornerback Prince Amukamara, who missed last Thursday’s game with a hamstring injury, was a full participant in practice all week, and will be out there with the starting 11 again this weekend. 

“It’s big because with some of the things they do schematically, the wide receivers they have, Prince brings a lot of experience,” Nagy said. “So having that experience out there against such a quality quarterback in Aaron, that’s huge.” 

Another issue? The kicking game. While he’s quietly kicked well over the Bears’ three-game win streak, Eddy Pineiro has been open about how he’s still learning how to adjust to kicking in cold weather. He’s struggled at times with how the ball comes off his foot differently when the temperatures dip, and he’s worked – primarily outside – with special teams coordinator Chris Tabor to get a better feel for the environment. 

“We really don't talk about it to be honest with you,” Tabor said. “To be honest, the weather is the weather. We have zero control over it. Obviously, it won't travel as far but he just has to go up and hit his football. I mean we went outside and kicked yesterday, that was an awful cold day and he did just fine. So that was good."

A third issue? (Don’t you feel great at this point?) There have apparently been concerns this season about Lambeau’s turf, which historically has been considered one of the best. Add a bad field to frigid conditions, and all of a sudden that 10-3 result from Week 1 doesn’t seem so far-fetched anymore. 

“It affects every position. I mean, we’ve looked at the tape, there’s guys in previous games on that field where there’s long snappers that are slipping,” said Nagy, who then credited Bears’ equipment manager Tony Medlin for having a full plan in place for if players start slipping and sliding. 

“... our guys will be prepared, but obviously the skill positions – the guys that are breaking and cutting, running deep--DBs, wide receivers – is probably where you see it the most. Sometimes, you can see it with edge rushers as they go to cut the corner, you can see some slipping and falling. So we want to be smart.”

Takeaways: Mitch Trubisky shines, defense locks up in season-saving victory over Dallas Cowboys

Takeaways: Mitch Trubisky shines, defense locks up in season-saving victory over Dallas Cowboys

Three thoughts on the Bears keeping their season alive with a 31-24 victory over the Dallas Cowboys at Soldier Field:

1. ‘The Hunt’ is officially...on

The Bears entered this game needing a near-perfect end of the season (and a ton of help) to pull off an unlikely run to the NFC’s No. 6 seed. With a 31-24 victory over the Cowboys, they’ve gained a modicum more control of their destiny.

The win draws them to within 0.5 games of the Rams, who would be the first team out if the postseason began today, and 1.5 games of the Vikings, the current occupant of that No. 6 slot. Now, let the scoreboard watching begin. The Bears — remember — will need to jump a full game in front of the Rams in order to edge them out, after a 17-7 loss in Los Angeles three weeks ago. They get a chance to clinch their tiebreaker with (or potentially pull cleanly in front of) the Vikings in Week 17. 

All of that is to say, the battle ahead is still an uphill one (the eventual NFC East second fiddle of Cowboys/Eagles will also be hot on their heels). But they’ve got more than a glimmer of hope, and now, the stretch run of the season will be for more than merely evaluating the existing talent on the roster. A month ago, that would have felt impossible.

2. A recipe for Mitch Trubisky (and the rest of the offense) to succeed

The Dallas Cowboys do not appear to be a very good football team. Regardless, they’re stiffer competition than the Lions and Giants, and Mitch Trubisky put together another solid performance against them in a blowout victory, completing 23 of 31 passes for 244 yards (7.9 yards per attempt), four total touchdowns and a pick. He deserves credit for that.

Matt Nagy, for his part, also deserves credit for putting Trubisky in positions to succeed all night. The offensive attack was balanced — the Bears ran the ball 34 times and passed 31. And Trubisky’s legs, which haven’t been enough of a factor in the Bears’ gameplan this season, were consistently pumping — he finished the game with 63 rushing yards on 10 attempts. Some were designed RPOs, some were improvised scrambles. All of them made the Bears offense more dynamic and more unpredictable. 

Trubisky’s 23-yard touchdown run (off a designed option) to put the Bears up 31-14 early in the fourth quarter seemingly put the Cowboys’ comeback bid to bed and sent Soldier Field into a frenzy. A 14-yard, on-the-run completion to Jesper Horsted on a third-and-10 late in the fourth — a play that Nagy might not have trusted Trubisky to execute earlier in the season — finished the job for good.

When he did throw the ball, Trubisky was hardly stationary in the pocket for more than a split second. His sharpest throws of the night — the two Allen Robinson touchdowns and a dart up the seam to J.P. Holtz on the team’s first drive spring to mind — were quick hits, and he was decisive in delivering them. Tonight served as a glimpse into Trubisky’s fullest potential, and in spite of all his struggles this season, the upside of being a productive football player still appears to be there.

His only significant blunder came on a rollout when — you guessed it — he held the ball a little too long and fired a pretty inexplicable interception into no-man's land to stymie the Bears’ first drive. Other than that, it was a clean game for Trubisky, and the Bears as a whole — refreshing given their recent propensity for penalties at inopportune times.

3. Roquan Smith left the game in the first quarter, and the Bears’ defense smothered the Cowboys anyways

The Cowboys offense rushed out of the gates — no pun intended — with a methodical 18-play, 75-yard first drive that ate up nearly the entire first nine minutes of the first period. On that drive, Ezekiel Elliott rushed eight times for 33 yards, punched in the game’s first touchdown, and the Cowboys converted all four of their third-down attempts. 

And to make matters more dire, the Bears lost Roquan Smith for the rest of the game to a pectoral injury. When Trubisky capped the Bears’ subsequent opening drive with a bad interception deep in Dallas territory, the night was shaping up to be a long one.

But the Bears’ defense bounced back in a big way.

The only points they ceded for the rest of the game came on a short-field possession for Dallas (off a David Montgomery fumble) and two last-ditch, near-garbage-time drives. Even with Smith gone, the Bears’ front seven won the battle in the trenches for long stretches, getting under Dak Prescott’s jersey routinely and batting balls down at the line of scrimmage (Prescott looked out of rhythm all night). Khalil Mack had a pivotal sack late in the third quarter to a raucous ovation. Elliott mustered only 48 rushing yards after that opening drive, and much of those came on a 31-yard run midway through the second quarter.

Prescott finished the night 27 of 49 for 334 yards and one touchdown (though much of that came with the game out of reach). Chicago’s secondary was largely lockdown — working in concert with the front seven — not letting much of anything develop for Dallas down the field. 

The Bears’ defensive surging as the Dallas offense shrunk throughout the game served as a reminder of just how far this team has come. Even if a playoff run doesn’t come to fruition, the way they played tonight is a sustainable way to win football games for the rest of this season and beyond.  

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Bears-Cowboys Inactives: Prince Amukamara is OUT against the Cowboys

USA Today

Bears-Cowboys Inactives: Prince Amukamara is OUT against the Cowboys

The Bears' inactives are out, and while there are no surprises, there's not much good news either: 

It's Amukamara's first missed game of the season. The veteran corner hurt his hamstring late in the Bears' win over Detroit. For what it's worth, the Bears have been preparing most of the week with the assumption that he won't play. 

Yeah we have a couple guys there that could have an opportunity to go if Prince can’t," Nagy said on Tuesday afternoon. "Kevin Toliver and some other guys. That’s one of those deals where if Prince is not able to go or whoever it is on the team can’t, we feel like we have pretty good depth." 

If Tolliver starts, it'll be his first since last year's win over Tampa Bay. There were no real surprises on the Cowboys inactive list either: 

Bears-Cowboys kicks off at 7:20.