Chicago Bears

Why Seahawks fans should pull for Chicago Sunday tonight

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Why Seahawks fans should pull for Chicago Sunday tonight

Given that Chicago defeated Seattle 24-17 in Week 2 one might expect Seahawks' fans to not be very fond of the Bears these days. 

But for one night only, Seattle fans should practice up their George Wendt and Chris Farley Chicago Superfans impersonations. Okay, they don't need to quite go that far, but Seahawks fans certainly should cheer on the Bears Sunday night when they host Minnesota in a pivotal NFC North Division battle.

Chicago (6-3) sits in first place in the division with Minnesota (5-3-1) in second. A Vikings' win would put them in first place and send the Bears to second place. Why would this matter to Seattle? Well, the Seahawks (5-5) are fighting for their wild card lives  and would much rather spend their time chasing Minnesota than Chicago given that the Bears hold the head-to-heat tiebreaker over Seattle, which hosts the Vikings on Dec. 10.  That game will give Seattle a chance to capture the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Vikings. Although, that likely won't matter much given that Minnesota has a tie and thus can only end up tied with another team that also has a tie. 

Seattle could make up ground on the Panthers next week at Carolina. Winning that game would certainly give the Seahawks a huge boost in the wild card race. But Seattle winning at Carolina appears to be far less likely than defeating the Vikings at home.

Playing into Seattle's favor in a race with the Vikings is that they have a tough schedule remaining with games at home against Green Bay, Miami and Chicago, and at New England.

If the season ended prior to Sunday's action, Carolina (6-3) and Minnesota would be the NFC's wild card teams. Every other team in the hunt other than Seattle is below .500.  For all anyone knows, one or two of those sub.-500 teams could catch fire. Philadelphia (4-5), Dallas (4-5), Atlanta (4-5) and Green Bay (4-5-1) all remain hopeful that they can get back into the race. 

Whatever happens on Sunday, Seattle will at worst be tied for third in the NFC wild card hunt. The Seahawks would like to end the day only a half of a game behind the Vikings rather than 1 1/2.

And that, my friend, will be determined by whether or not Minnesota can defeat a team tonight known as, Da Bears!

Even at 0-2, all is not lost for the Seattle Seahawks

Even at 0-2, all is not lost for the Seattle Seahawks

CHICAGO - Two weeks, two cities, two close losses and a litany of issues, yet still a feeling remains that all is not lost for the Seattle Seahawks, 0-2 after losing 24-17 to Chicago at Soldier Field on Monday Night Football.

That's the message the Seahawks delivered and part of that message stems from a late drive that at the very least demonstrated that this team has heart. So, let's embrace the positives before pounding the negatives. 

Seattle's offense stood in the south end zone at Soldier Field with the ball at its one-yard line, 2:42 remaining in the game and trailing Chicago, 24-10. Barring a miracle, the game was all-but lost, but the fight in a team remained despite 0-2 starring the Seahawks in the face. 

"I told those guys in the huddle, 'hey, I wouldn't want to play with anybody else,'" Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson said. "'Let's go as far as we can go in terms of making plays and let's find a way to score."

The offense responded with a 99-yard drive that ended with a Wilson touchdown pass from two yards out to rookie tight end Will Dissly with 14 seconds remaining. Seattle failed to recover the onside kick and that was that. A 24-17 loss went into the books. But that final drive, Wilson said, is emblematic of what this team could still become. 

"Most people would give in and give up," Wilson said. "But that's not us. That's going to pay off."

Okay. Maybe. But time is running out even though we're just two weeks into the season.

While it's too early to panic regarding Seattle's season, it is certainly reasonable to start feeling queasy about this team's prospects of making the playoffs. Seattle, 9-7 last year, has now fallen to two teams that each went 5-11 last season. Despite offseason efforts to improve the roster, there is no denying that the Seahawks remain mediocre, at best, and have now lost five of six regular season games dating back to the end of last season. 

The signs of life in the offense line that everyone witnessed during the preseason have been hit or miss. Actually, it's been mostly hits, as in hits on Wilson, sacked six times tonight after Denver notched the same amount last week during a 27-24 win. The running game, once again, looked poor. Just 74 yards on 22 carries with starter Chris Carson receiving six carries for 24 yards. 

Defensively, Seattle actually played well. The Seahawks can live with an opponent gaining just 271 yards with 86 on the ground, and scoring just 17 points, which is what the Bears managed despite owning time of possession at 34 minutes and 24 seconds to 25 minutes and 36 seconds for Seattle.

"Obviously guys are upset," Seattle safety Bradley McDougald said. "We've been grinding for a long time. We definitely expected a better start than this. But, I mean, it is what it is. We can't dwell on it too long."

The good news for Seattle is that the team will return home for the first time this season to host Dallas (1-1) on Sunday before traveling the following week to play at Arizona (0-2). Those are two matchups the Seahawks should be favored to win. Should they, Seattle would be 2-2. Lose one, and it's time to start thinking about next season. 

Furthermore, it can't be discounted that Seattle lost here tonight minus five starters, four of whom should be back next week. Right guard D.J. Fluker (hamstring) has yet to play in the regular season after having a strong preseason. Middle Linebacker Bobby Wagner (groin) and outside linebacker K.J. Wright (knee) were sorely missed tonight. Plus, rookie starting cornerback Tre Flowers (hamstring) was out. 

“All of those guys have a chance to come back next week," Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. "And we need them."

Star wide receiver Doug Baldwin (knee), Carroll said, is less likely to return.  

Adding at least four starters to the lineup will make this a different team next week than Chicago edged out tonight thanks to an ill-advised pass into the flat from Wilson to running back Rashaad Penny (lined up at wide receiver) that was intercepted by cornerback Prince Amukamara and taken 49 yards for a touchdown to make the score 24-10 in the fourth quarter. 

"He made a good play," said Wilson, who fumbled twice, losing one. "He put his foot in the ground and made a good play."

Seattle's two losses demonstrate how just a few plays here and there can be the difference. Seattle is not the dominant team it once was, and injuries, plus a questionable offensive line, could have Seattle at the wrong end of close games. But Wilson, at least, feels that this young team is destined to break through. 

"We're young," Wilson said. "We're going to be able to figure it out. You've got to take some punches and you've got to adjust through it all."

Said McDougald: "I definitely feel like were' close. It doesn't feel good to be close, but we're close."

With that, Seattle returns home in desperate need of a victory and support from a fan base that hasn't seen their team start a season 0-2 since 2011. 

"We're going to need the 12, a lot," Wilson said. "We're going to need that feeling. Winning is a habit. You've got to get that feeling. Once you get that first one, hopefully it rolls from there."

Highlights as Seahawks fall to 0-2 with 24-17 loss to the Bears

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Highlights as Seahawks fall to 0-2 with 24-17 loss to the Bears

The Seahawks are 0-2 on the season following a 24-17 in Chicago on Monday night. For the second straight week the Seahawks struggled to move the ball, struggled to hold on to the ball, and struggled to protect Russell Wilson. But even in defeat the Seahawks had some pretty sweet highlights. Let's take a look:

Shaquill Griffin, yeah, you shouldn't throw his way. 

The old man has still got it! Janikowski got Seattle on the board with this 56-yard boot!

Early in the fourth quarter Russell Wilson hit Tyler Lockett with this dart to cut the lead to just seven.

Russell Wilson should be a bowler or a pitcher, cause he throws strikes 

A dropkick! There's something you don't see every day 

Khalil Mack is coming for Russell Wilson

Khalil Mack is coming for Russell Wilson

The only time Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson has ever faced Khalil Mack in a game that mattered occurred in 2014 when the Chicago linebacker was a rookie for the Oakland Raiders.

The Seahawks won 30-24 in Seattle with Mack never sacking Wilson. In fact, Mack, the fifth overall pick in that year's NFL Draft, had just four sacks that entire season.

One defensive player of the year award (2016), three Pro Bowls, two All-Pro teams and 37 1/2 sacks later, Mack will get another crack at tacking down Wilson when the Bears (0-1) host Seattle (0-1) Monday night in Chicago. 

"I have a lot of respect for him and how he plays the game, he’s as tough as it gets," Wilson told reporters on Friday. "Watching the film from their Green Bay game and how he was really causing a storm was pretty impressive."

Mack, who held out all offseason for a new contract while with the Oakland Raiders, was traded to the Bears a week before the season opener Sunday night at the Packers. The Bears lost 24-23, but Mack had a strip sack and a pick-six., both in the first half. 

"You don’t really get to see that many defensive ends making the kind of plays he’s making and the things he’s doing," Wilson said. "I got a lot of respect for him and how he plays the game. I’ve gotten to know him over the past few years. He’s fun to watch and hopefully he won’t do too much in this game.”

It's difficult to imagine Mack not doing much against a Seattle team that allowed Denver to sack Wilson six times, three by linebacker Von Miller. 

Seattle coach Pete Carroll said Miller and Mack are different players and athletes. 

"But they’re both extremely effective and really difficult," Carroll said. "Khalil is just a stronger looking guy. He plays in a more at you (style and) brings the attack to you. Von’s all over the place. He’s so, so athletic and so quick. They’re just different style guys but their effect is very similar.”

Seattle offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer certainly has respect for Mack but he's also quite familiar with two other Chicago defensive players, rookie inside linebacker Roquan Smith and outside linebacker Leonard Floyd. Both were first-round picks out of Georgia where Schottenheimer was the offensive coordinator in 2015. The combination of Mack and Floyd on the outside, Smith in the middle of the Bears' 3-4 defense, and defensive end Akiem Hicks all under the coordination of Vic Fangio could be a problem for Seattle.

Plus, Wilson placed the blame for two or three sacks on shoulders because he tried to do too much by extending plays, resulting in unnecessary sacks for huge losses (one for 22 yards) when he could have thrown the ball away. If he does that against the Bears, someone will likely track him down in the same fashion. 

"It’ll be another great challenge for us, going in there Monday night, but we’re excited about playing," Schottenheimer told reporters. 'We know last week wasn’t good enough. We expect better and we expect it to happen this weekend.”

Carroll was asked how a team can combat elite players such as Mack and Miller, and said that there are a number of strategies that can be used.

“You can help with different players on the tackles, you can move the line (in) that direction, you can get the ball out real quick," Carroll said. "You can do a lot of stuff that’s kind of the classic stuff you do against special pass rushers, particularly guys on the outside."

Executing those strategies is the challenge. Sometimes, it doesn't matter what you do against such elite pass rushers. They are coming no matter what. Seattle must expect that on Monday and hope to 

"To be as good as he is, to be the player of the year in the league, you have to have all the attributes and he has them," Carroll said. "Speed, strength, explosion, savvy, motor – he has all that stuff. He’s just getting in shape too, so he’s going to get better.”

Preferably for Seattle, Mack holds off from becoming much better until Week 3. 

-- Aaron Fentress covers the Seahawks and the Oregon Ducks for NBCSportsNorthwest. You can follow him on Twitter , Facebook and Instagram.  

Pete Carroll laments "not enough" rush attempts in Denver

Pete Carroll laments "not enough" rush attempts in Denver

Seattle coach Pete Carroll continued to lament the fact that the Seahawks failed to run the ball well or much at all during Sunday's 27-24 loss at Denver, giving the team's top two running backs just seven carries apiece. 

"Not enough," Carroll told reporters. 

He pointed to the team going 2 of 12 on third downs and failing to convert a handful or third and short situations that would have provided more opportunities to run the ball.

"There was four 3rd-and-5 or less (plays) that, every one of them should’ve been conversions and that changes the complexion of everything about the game and the play-calling and all that," Carroll said.

However, one could argue that no matter what happened on third downs, the lack of rushing attempts came down to a lack of commitment to the run beyond simply not converting on third downs. Consider that Seattle handed the ball to Chris Carson and rookie Rashaad Penny 14 times out of 55 snaps. Even if Seattle threw the ball on all 12 third downs, that still would mean that the team gave the ball to the backs just 14 out of 43 other snaps, which still isn't a strong ratio for this team. Quarterback Russell Wilson had two carries for five yards. 

Penny didn't have a good game at all, gaining just eight yards on seven carries. But Carson gained 55 on his seven carries.

"I thought, looked really good," Carroll said of Carson. "He was really aggressive and did what could with the plays he had.

Penny, on the other hand, struggled, in part because he missed three out of four preseason games. 

"Rashaad looked a little rusty to me and when I visited with him about it – he really only had one good week of practice coming back (from his injury) and it wasn’t enough," Carroll said. "He needs more work and he wasn’t as responsive as he’s been earlier on, before he had to sit out for a while, so he’s going to work real hard to make sure that he’s ready to go and we’ll work him in."

Another factor that hindered calling more running plays was that Wilson played pretty well while most of hs completions came on first and second downs.

His 15-yard touchdown pass to tight end Will Dissly came on first down, as did the 66-yard connection between the two later in the first quarter. A 24-yard pass to Dissly came on second down and eight yards to go.  On back-to-back first downs in the second quarter, Wilson hit Carson for gains of 14 and 9 yards. The 51-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Lockett came on second down in the third quarter. 

However, two early sacks came on first down passing plays. 

So, one could see why offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer fell in love with the pass on early downs. The running game was inconsistent and Wilson was having success in the passing game. 

Still, for this team to win, it has to control the ball and that is best done with the running game and converting on third downs. Seattle failed in both areas at Denver. 

--- Doug Baldwin out

Seattle wide receiver Doug Baldwin (knee) will miss Monday's game at Chicago. Beyond that, Carroll wasn't sure. 

"It could be a couple weeks and we’ll find out," Carroll said. "He’s as tough as you get and we’ll need to wait. He’s getting his science back and we’ll find out in the next couple of days what that means.”

Carroll wouldn't confirm reports that Baldwin suffered a partial MCL tear in his right knee. 

“We didn’t report that. I don’t know where that came from," Carroll said. 

Either way, Carroll expects Baldwin to return and be ready to play. 

"He’ll be able to get back from this," Carroll said.  

--- K.J. Wright update 

Outside linebacker K.J. Wright appears to be close to returning after missing the Denver game with a knee injury. But that return still might not happen at Chicago. 

"We’re going to see what happens," Carroll said. "He is running and so he’s back to moving and all that. He’s had a really clean rehab in the short time he’s had. He’s very positive about it, but I can’t tell you what that means for the weekend. I don’t know that yet.”

-- Aaron Fentress covers the Seahawks and the Oregon Ducks for NBCSportsNorthwest. You can follow him on Twitter Facebook and Instagram.  

Former Ducks RB Royce Freeman scores again for Denver

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Former Ducks RB Royce Freeman scores again for Denver

Denver rookie running back Royce Freeman scored his second touchdown of the preseason Saturday night during the Broncos' game against Chicago. 

Freeman's touchdown came from four yards out in the second quarter. The former Oregon star and third-round pick finished the night with six carries for 20 yards and caught one pass for six yards. He is in competition for the starting job with Devontae Booker, who had 17 yards on four carries and caught one pass for 10 yards. 

Chicago won 24-23. 

Freeman scored on a 23-yard run last week against Minnesota when he rushed for 38 yards on four carries. 

Chicago Bears RB Ryan Nall leads all rushers in preseason game

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Chicago Bears RB Ryan Nall leads all rushers in preseason game

Chicago Bears running back Ryan Nall, out of Oregon State, lead all rushers with 95 yards on nine carries Thursday night during a 30-27 preseason loss at Cincinnati

Nall's long run covered 69 yards in the third quarter. Nall, an undrafted rookie free agent, broke loose along the right sideline and appeared to be gone for a touchdown before he was run down from behind by a Bengals' defensive back and dragged down at the Cincinnati 13-yard line. 

Nall also caught one pass for nine yards. 

Chicago's top three running backs, Jordan Howard, Tarik Cohen and Benny Cunningham, did not play. Nall has virtually no chance to crack the top three on Chicago's depth chart, but he could make the team's practice squad should he perform well on special teams. 

Nall carried the ball seven times for 13 yards during a loss to Baltimore last week. 

Former Oregon State RB Ryan Nall makes NFL debut with Bears

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Former Oregon State RB Ryan Nall makes NFL debut with Bears

Former Oregon State running back Ryan Nall made his NFL debut Thursday night with the Chicago Bears during the Hall of Fame preseason game against Baltimore in Canton, Ohio.

Nall carried the ball seven times for 13 yards with a long of four yards. He also caught one pass for five yards (he was targeted three times) and had one tackle on special teams. Chicago lost 17-16. 

Nall, signed by Chicago as an undrafted rookie free agent following the NFL Draft, is a long shot to make the Bears roster. 

He entered the game on offense in the third quarter and during one drive carried the ball five times with the final carry coming on fourth down with one yard needed to gain a first down. Nall was stopped for a one-yard loss at the Baltimore 28. One of Nall's carries on the drive was negated because of a holding penalty.

On the Bears' next drive, Nall carried the ball once for three yards and then later made a tackle following a Bears' fumble. 

31 Greatest NCAAF Players in PNW history: No.28 - Stephen Paea

31 Greatest NCAAF Players in PNW history: No.28 - Stephen Paea

All month we are counting down the Top 31 players from NW colleges to play college football. Make sure you check out the Giveaway Page for your chance to enter and win prizes! 

 

Who would have ever thought that a young man born in Auckland, New Zealand would one day end up in Corvallis, Oregon and become one of the greatest defensive players to ever wear the Orange and Black? That’s exactly what Stephen Paea did.

Paea landed in Corvallis in 2008 and made an instant impact. Paea recorded at least 40 tackles in each of his three seasons and ended his career at OSU with 14.0 sacks, 29.5 tackles for loss, and nine forced fumbles. He was also named an All-American in 2010 and was named Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year that same season.

Paea was drafted by the Chicago Bears in the second round of the 2011 NFL Draft and would play for the Bears, Redskins, Browns, and Cowboys before announcing his retirement in 2017.

Paea ended his NFL career with 129 total tackles (76 solo) and 14.0 sacks.

Mark Helfrich takes intriguing route toward reinvention with the Chicago Bears

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Mark Helfrich takes intriguing route toward reinvention with the Chicago Bears

Mark Helfrich's move to the NFL as the Chicago Bears new offensive coordinator hit the sports world today like an unblocked, blindside blitz. 

Bam!

Where did that come from?

Helfrich waited 13 months before jumping back into the coaching world after Oregon fired him in 2016 following a 4-8 season just two years after he had guided the Ducks to the national title game. During his hiatus, according to some close to Helfrich, he received interest from several college teams about becoming their head coach or offensive coordinator. Repeatedly, however, Helfrich rejected inquiries while instead choosing to keep his family in Eugene, take time off from coaching, work in television and consider his future coaching options. 

Now he's back in the coaching game, taking his quarterback developing and offensive coordinating skills to the NFL to work for a team in desperate need of an offensive overhaul.

It's an interesting move for Helfrich and one that smacks of a man attempting to completely reinvent himself as a coach. It's a move that could pay off big time should he find success.

The easy move for Helfrich would have been to join former Oregon coach Chip Kelly at UCLA as the Bruins new offensive coordinator. Kelly hired Helfrich for the same position at Oregon in 2009 and the results were the greatest run of offensive production and victories in program history before it all came crashing down in 2016, four seasons after Kelly departed for the NFL. 

But taking that rout would have placed Helfrich right back under Kelly's shadow. Had they been successful, all of the credit still would have gone to Kelly just as it did while the two were at Oregon. 

By heading to the NFL, however, Helfrich is taking a swing for the fences at the highest level the sport has to offer.  Helfrich will still be in the shadows of an offensive-minded head coach in Matt Nagy, hired by the Bears this week away from Kansas City.

Nagy has said that he will call the plays in Chicago, as Kelly did for Oregon, which means that Helfrich's heavy lifting will be done during the week while game planning, offering play call suggestions during games and, maybe most importantly, assisting in the development of quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. 

The irony here, of course, is that one of the more amusing takes from Helfrich haters has been that he failed to develop a quarterback while riding the coattails of Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Marcus Mariota to success for two years post Kelly. Of course, that's a complete contradiction given that Helfrich recruited and developed Mariota.  Helfrich also coached and developed Jeremiah Masoli and Darron Thomas, and he recruited, developed and coached Bryan Bennett and Justin Herbert. 

In the end, Helfrich's starters at Oregon were Masoli, Thomas, Mariota, Vernon Adams, Dakota Prukop and Herbert, a certain future NFL draft pick. That's one hell of a run for any coach, and it's one that current coach Mario Cristobal will be fortunate to duplicate, providing he remains at Oregon long enough to do so.  

But, because Jeff Lockie and Morgan Mahalak didn't work out, Helfrich has somehow labeled by some as having been a failure at developing quarterbacks. 

All of this nonsense also ignores the fact that long ago, while Helfrich was the quarterbacks coach at Boise State, he helped Bart Hendricks earn Big West Conference player of the year in 1999 and 2000. Later, Helfrich coached quarterbacks at Arizona State where he helped Andrew Walter set numerous ASU and Pac-12 record, and become a third-round pick in the 2005 NFL Draft. 

Both stints were under coach Dirk Koetter, a former Oregon offensive coordinator and the current Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach (more on that connection later).

In 2006, at the age of 32, Helfrich became the youngest offensive coordinator in the nation at Colorado. That run led to Kelly hiring him at Oregon in order to add Helfrich's pro-style acumen to Kelly's spread attack. 

Now Helfrich finds himself in the NFL as an offensive coordinator. The reality is this: Should he succeed in developing Trubisky and help Nagy turnaround the Bears' offense, Helfrich would then be in position to work his way toward becoming a head coach in the NFL. 

That's typically how these things work. The NFL is all about connections. Helfrich has a few, including Koetter. 

But, at the end of the day, Helfrich must produce. He must develop Trubisky. He must help Chicago's offense rise from its 2017 ranking of 30th in the NFL. Chances are that he will do just that. The guy can coach. He proved as much by going 33-8 over three seasons before that disastrous 2016 mess. He's also proven, despite inane beliefs to the contrary, that he can develop quarterbacks. 

Should Helfrich work that magic again, he could be will on his way to far bigger and better things than Oregon football.