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Posts Tagged ‘Brian Urlacher’

Chicago Bears Beat Themselves, Green Bay Packers Are Beneficiaries

Posted by sportsmaven on September 14, 2009

Chicago Bears fans, welcome to the Jay Cutler era.  Don’t you wish you had QB Kyle Orton today?  It is incredibly easy to put all the blame on the horrific play of QB Jay Cutler, but he had plenty of help from his teammates and the coaching staff tonight in a 21-15 loss to the Green Bay Packers.  This truly was a total team effort.  The Bears made key mistakes on offense, defense, and special teams.  There was bad playcalling, missed blocking, tackling and coverage assignments, dropped balls, receivers quitting on routes.  The expectation is that no team in the NFL plays an entirely perfect game, but the totality, timing, and magnitude of the mistakes is startling and alarming.

(AP Photo/Jim Prisching)

(AP Photo/Jim Prisching)

The Bears dominated the Packers statistically tonight, but overcoming the many mistakes that were made tonight proved to be beyond the realm of the Bears performance tonight.  Glaring mistakes include:

  1. Cutler’s 4 interceptions — pick one, they were all devastating
  2. CB Nathan Vasher’s blown coverage on Packers WR Greg Jennings 50-yard touchdown, inexcusable
  3. Upsnap from long snapper Patrick Mannelly — the boneheaded play of the game, giving the Packers an easy FG with the Bears leading by 2 points
  4. WR Johnny Knox and TE Desmond Clark quitting on routes — dumbfounding
  5. Game management, especially in the 2nd half, burning timeouts including one on a ill-fated challenge on the failed upsnap play.
  6. TE Greg Olsen — where were you?

I don’t want to take anything away from the Packers, they had to capitalize on the errors the Bears were making.  They didn’t capitalize on every mistake, but the Bears kept them in the game, giving the Packers opportunities time and time again to convert, and I don’t think any Bears fan was comfortable when the Bears kicked the last field goal to take the lead 15-13 with 2:36 left in the game.

So what did the Bears do right?  I liked a number of things:

  1. Receivers played better than expected.  WR’s Devin Hester and Earl Bennett had nice games.  Knox had a good game minus the bailout on the slant pattern
  2. The Bears have a pass rush!  Defensive Line coach Rod Marinelli gets a game ball for getting this group of lineman to constantly pressure Packers QB Aaron Rodgers into an average night (until the last, late TD pass)
  3. Tackles Orlando Pace and Chris Williams were blowing people off the ball with their strong play
  4. SS Al Afalava had a strong game, with 4 tackles and a sack.  Afalava has a nose for the ball and plays big, something the Bears defense needs
  5. P Brad Maynard punted out of his mind tonight, pinning the Packers with bad field position, with 4 punts for 49.5 yard average with 2 punts inside the 20.  Maynard is definitely a weapon for the Bears.

So what do you think the Bears (we hope) learned tonight?  Hopefully plenty:

  1. Jay Cutler can’t win games all by himself.  He needs help and didn’t get much from his receivers (especially the TE’s), early play-calling, and early blocking from a OL that came out of the gate creaky.  Cutler’s bad decisions led to disaster tonight.
  2. Nathan Vasher is not nearly the same player that he was in his 2005 Pro Bowl season.  He is back-up material at best.  Get CB Zackary Bowman in there, early and often.  The Bears secondary leaves Green Bay with the same questions it had going in to Green Bay.
  3. Receivers can’t quit on routes and need to get on the same page with Cutler pronto.  There play wasn’t good enough tonight, especially Olson and Clark.  Clark quitting on that pass in the end zone in the first half was absolutely inexcusable.  He keeps running, easy TD.
  4. Even coaches need to work on fundamentals.  Bad offensive play calling through most of the first half, the ill-advised challenge in the second half on the upsnap play marked and the general look of unpreparedness that seemed to hover around the team, especially the offense.

The Bears play their home opener next Sunday against the defending Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers and may have to play without the heart and soul of their defense, LB Brian Urlacher, strong side LB Pisa Tinoisamoa, and backup CB Trumaine McBride.  The offense needs to step it up three notches and the defense another notch to compete with the Steelers.  Only time will tell if that is realistic, or if the Bears move through the toughest part of their league’s easiest schedule with more blemishes.

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Lovie Smith Puts His Chicago Bears Legacy Directly In The Crosshairs

Posted by sportsmaven on January 29, 2009

Change had to come. You knew it, the guy next to you knew it too.  If you’ve watched the Chicago Bears all season, especially on the defensive side of the ball, there was an air of change swirling, rustling the leaves, blowing wildly in the wind.  The offense was an early and pleasant surprise that slowly morphed into what we all thought it would be, but the cornerstone unit of this franchise, the defense, was like the two year recession of the American economy.  Something had to change.

Bears head coach Lovie Smith takes over Chicago Bears defense

Bears head coach Lovie Smith takes over Chicago Bears defense

The media’s favorite fall guy was Bears defensive coordinator Bob Babich, but he was just a front man.  The real finger pointing started the day Bears head coach Lovie Smith announced the departure of then defensive coordinator Ron Rivera and naming linebackers coach Babich his replacement.  Smith followed that up with a plea for people to trust him when it comes to the welfare of his Chicago Bears football team.  When the argument resorts to pulling a “Trust Me” card, that’s was a sure sign to run away, don’t buy it, red-flag warning.

Something had to change after two years of sub-par performance of a unit paid like the elite, but performed very unordinary and uninspired.   Just like the legacy of President Barack Obama, who will forever live on his phrases of more accountability, “Yes, we can” and personal responsibility, Lovie Smith’s legacy will live on his most memorable words too, “Trust Me”.

His legacy will also be square in the crosshairs of his decisions concerning the coaching staff, bringing in former Lions head coach Rod Marinelli to coach the defensive line (and take the title of Asst. Head Coach), moving Babich back to linebackers coach (retaining the defensive coordinator title in name only), where he actually experienced great success with LB’s Lance Briggs and Brian Urlacher garnering regular Pro Bowl appearances under his tutelage, and hiring veteran defensive backs coach and ex-Chicago Bear defensive back Jon Hoke to coach the secondary for the Bears.  The biggest move, however, is the announcement that Smith, himself, will be calling the defensive plays next season.

Smith was arguably one of the best defensive coodinators in the NFL, leading a defense that took the St. Louis Rams to Super Bowl XXXVI in 2002.  Smith’s defense was known for being an aggressive defense, forcing 38 turnovers and 4 defensive TD’s.  Smith taking over primary play calling duties from Bob Babich is seen as a strong positive move for restoring the bite in the Bears defense.  One way or another, it definitely will be the move that cements his Chicago Bears legacy, for good or bad.

Posted in Chicago Bears | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Chicago Bears 9-7 Season Clouds Failures In Judgement

Posted by sportsmaven on December 29, 2008

The Chicago Bears are not the Detroit Lions, but at the completion of today’s play, they have gotten as far as the Lions did this season, which to say, is out of the playoffs.  That comparison is certainly extreme, as the Bears do not have the same amount of holes that the Lions have, but a 9-7 finish that surprised many have clouded severe failures of judgement made by the football leadership of this team.

(AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

(AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Perhaps the most glaring failures are with a Chicago Bears defense that opened the season very motivated in a win over the Indianapolis Colts, but sunk to maddening lows in crushing defeats by the Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings amongst others.  Bears head coach Lovie Smith was asked about replacing defensive coordinator Ron Rivera shorly after the Bears loss to the Colts in Super Bowl XLI.  This is where Love broke out his now infamous “Trust Me” speech.

“You should trust me as a head football coach to put us in the best position to win football games,” Smith said. “It’s as simple as that.”

And that was Lovie’s reasoning to why he chose to replace Ron Rivera with BFF Bob Babich.  Since Rivera was replaced, the Bears defense has plunged to embarassingly low depths in both prestige and performance.  In 2006, teams feared and respected the Bears defense.  Ask the Arizona Cardinals, despite then-Coach Dennis Green’s post-game rant.  Now, teams just run over the Bears defense.  Case in point:

  • The Houston Texans racked up 455 yards of total offense and 31 points in a Week 17 victory.
  • The Packers ran the Bears for 427 yards and 37 points in Week 11 pasting of the Bears.
  • The Vikings racked up 439 yards and 41 points in a Week 7 loss to the Bears.
  • The Tampa Bay Buccaneers ran up 454 yards and 27 points  in a Week 2 Bears debacle.

These are numbers that nearly all Chicago Bears fans find unacceptable.  It should be unacceptable to Lovie Smith as well, but somehow, it isn’t, which leads back to the Trust Me speech and the fact that I can no longer trust Lovie Smith to make correct decisions when he has yet to acknowledge that the two biggest staff decisions of his coaching tenure were complete and utter failures (remember the Terry Shea mess?)

Secondly, the Bears personnel decisions and evaluations are skeptical at best and leave even casual fans wondering if the Bears are able to effectively evaluate talent.  Consider the players the Bears kept:

  • WR/KR Devin Hester signed a $40M contract extension and was made a WR, neutering his return skills (0 TD’s)
  • LB Brian Urlacher was given a lucrative contract extension for 88 tackles, no sacks, and no Pro Bowl selection
  • DT Tommie Harris signed a large contract extension only to play about a half season due to injury/ineffectiveness
  • WR Earl Bennett was drafted to compete for a starting position; he ends up catching 0 passes for the season.

and the players the Bears decided to let go:

The Bears have also missed on numerous players in the draft as well, as noted in past posts.  The level of talent on the Bears has receded dramatically since the 2006 Super Bowl season, which means that the Bears braintrust has not made moves in personnel and coaching to build off their success.  Now Bob Babich is on the hot seat.

The Bears clearly need to admit that they made severe errors in judgement in replacing Ron Rivera with Bob Babich.  They need to admit that they made errors in personnel and they need to correct these errors in the offseason.  A 9-7 record is something to build from, but if the failures of judgement are not corrected, this may be the best it will be under Jerry Angelo and Lovie Smith.

Extras:

Posted in Chicago Bears | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Top 5 Issues for Chicago Bears Success This Season

Posted by sportsmaven on August 6, 2007

The Chicago Bears have what seems to be a very interesting problem:  too much depth.  Now, I know what you’re thinking, how can a team have too much depth?  But that’s what the Bears have, so much so that they have traded last year’s starting SS Chris Harris to the Carolina Panthers and are looking to move another, reserve CB and special teams standout Dante Wesley.  I will be the first to admit that I was very hard on Bears GM Jerry Angelo in the early days, but the last 3 years, he has proven that he has not only grown into the job, but has been one of the most shrewdest GM’s in the game in that period.

Cedric Benson at Bears training camp

(Tribune photo by Scott Strazzante)

Angelo has wisely locked up core young talent early at a lesser price then they would have commanded in the open market, has drafted very wisely (has any GM drafted better from rounds 4-7?  If so, I want to know who that person is) and has built a roster that is arguably the strongest in the NFC from top to bottom.

The Bears are trying to defy recent history by returning to the Super Bowl a year after losing the Big Game, only a return is not the goal.  Winning the Super Bowl is the goal and it seems as though Bears head coach Lovie Smith has every man clearly focused on that goal once again.  For the Bears, 5 things have to happen in order to have a chance at returning to the Big Game:

1.  Avoid injuries at all cost — having the best bench depth in the NFC (and maybe in the league, west of New England) is definitely an asset, but you need your best players playing in top form all season.  If LB Brian Urlacher, QB Rex Grossman, RB Cedric Benson, WR Bernard Berrian, KR/PR/WR Devin Hester, DT Tommie Harris, or any one of the starting OL goes down, the next line of talent is thin at these positions.

2.  Offense has to make another leap in performance — The surprise of last season’s team was definitely the performance of the offense.  Nobody on the planet thought the Bears would be #2 in the NFL in scoring nor that Rex Grossman would throw 20 TD passes and over 3000 yards passing.  For the Bears to jump to the next level, Grossman must improve his completion rate.  Last season, he was at 54.6%.  This season, he has to eclipse 60% and limit his interceptions from 20 to single digits.  RB Cedric Benson is on the spot now, and must rush for at least 1,200 yards and 10 TD’s.  WR Mark Bradley must avoid the injury bug and establish himself as the #2 receiver, and WR Bernard Berrian must prove that last year wasn’t a fluke.

3.  KR/PR/WR Devin Hester must emerge as a multiple options threat — this is probably the most tenuous of all the options.  I can’t recall a return man who has excelled on the offensive side of the ball in recent history.  The Kansas City Chiefs tried KR Dante Hall at WR and that didn’t work.  Devin Hester could be one of the best open field players in NFL history, but not after one record setting season as a KR/PR.  Hester must prove that he is a threat regardless of position.  He didn’t stand out as a DB.  The offensive side of the ball is where he belongs, but yet again, he is very raw and unproven there….

4.  Defense can’t have another late season drop off — It was clear that the defense dropped off significantly in the second half of last season.  It was still a very good defense, but a dominant defense wins Super Bowl XLI and that wasn’t the case for the Bears.  The Indianapolis Colts rushed for 191 yards in the Super Bowl against a defense missing DL Tommie Harris and SS Mike Brown.  That defense stepped up against the New Orleans Saints in the NFC Championship Game, but the time for the defense to shine is in December and January.  New defensive coordinator Bob Babich must bring more energy to the table then his predecessor, Ron Rivera, otherwise the change may be for naught.

5. Young players must perform well — Of any reason listed above, the performance of young players have been one of the biggest contributors to the recent success the Bears have experienced.  KR/PR Devin Hester, SS Danieal Manning, WR Mark Bradley, when healthy, DE Mark Anderson, departed SS Chris Harris, K Robbie Gould are all young players that really turned their games on in their rookie or second years, pushing for playing time and putting high priced veterans on the bubble.  The pressure will be on this year’s draft class, particularly TE Greg Olsen, RB Garrett Wolfe, and CB Trumaine McBride to fill key roles.  If these rookies shine, expect the Bears to be even more potent.

Opening day in San Diego is right around the corner.  The time to play the Chargers might be early in the season, but this is a tough opener.  The non-division schedule is tough, with games against the San Diego Chargers, Denver Broncos, Kansas City Chiefs, Dallas Cowboys, New Orleans Saints, Philadelphia Eagles, and the Seattle Seahawks, but to be the best, you have to go through the best.  The Bears will definitely have that to deal with this championship season….

Posted in Chicago Bears | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Lance Briggs Digs Deeper Holes

Posted by sportsmaven on March 14, 2007

I was flipping the channels on the television this morning and stopped on ESPN to see Suzy Kolber interviewing Chicago Bears linebacker Lance Briggs. Funny how all of a sudden, Lance Briggs is everywhere on television, on the radio, making his case to the fans as to how the Bears don’t respect him, that they never intended to sign him to a long term deal, that he will hold out and not play this season. That’s right, he will stare $7.2M guaranteed, in the eye and not blink.

Lance Briggs Won’t Play For The Bears
(AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

John Clayton of ESPN says that this is the only thing that Lance Briggs can do at this point. He states in his column on ESPN.com:

The Lance Briggs situation in Chicago continues to get more interesting by the day, but it’s not going to change the outcome. Briggs will remain property of the Chicago Bears this season. Even though the Bears dealt halfback Thomas Jones after he asked to be traded, Briggs is too talented to let go. The Bears franchised him with the idea of keeping the linebacker for this season. He’s the Derrick Brooks of the Bears defense, but it’s Brian Urlacher’s unit so they can’t pay him more than Urlacher.

Briggs vows to sit out the season, but at worst, he’ll stay out until the final six weeks of the season. If he comes back for the final six weeks, he can get a year of vesting and at least let the franchise tag run its course for this season. Sitting out the whole year would still keep the tag on him for next year, plus he loses $7.2 million.

All Briggs can do is make the fuss as public as possible. Clearly, he’s not getting a long-term deal with the Bears. Clearly, he is holding out until at least the first week of the regular season, missing all of training camp. If you believe him, he will hold out into the season.

I beg to differ with Mr. Clayton as I think there is one thing that Lance Briggs can do and that’s shut up and play. Go to training camp and get yourself ready, get in shape and game speed, so you lessen the chance of getting hurt and you get ready for the season. Help take the Chicago Bears to the Super Bowl, work a deal with the Bears to not franchise you next season, but it is tough to negotiate when you keep opening your mouth and inserting your foot. With each scathing interviewing slamming Bears management, you lessen the likelihood of a positive outcome for yourself, as well as paint the Bears in a deep corner which will be difficult to get out from.

The Bears may have been able to work a trade for you if you had just kept quiet and went about your business, but now it will be nearly impossible for the Bears to get any kind of value in any trade scenario. At this point, the best the Bears can do is leave the franchise tag on you and let you sit out the season and then franchise you again next year. This is how the game is played, like it or not. I heard one unnamed analyst on ESPN say that the Bears are not using the franchise tag within the spirit of good faith in working to a long term agreement. That’s mularkey, a load of crap. The franchise tag is there to allow teams to designate one player as a franchise player, too valuable to let into the open market, not to work on a long term agreement or contract. The agreement is a typical byproduct of the franchise tag. Again, I think the Bears are playing it right and smart by applying the tag and not saying a word to anyone in the media or otherwise. Why say a word when Senior Lance Briggs is doing all your dirty work for you.

The other thing that Lance fails to recognize is that most players that sit out a season don’t come back to the game at the same level. Ask Todd Bell and Al Harris about that. They are the poster children of ill-timed holdouts, missing what turned out to be a once in a lifetime (or career, anyway) Super Bowl championship season, the same thing Lance Briggs is now risking by threatening to sit out this season. Well, John Clayton says that Lance Briggs can sit out all of training camp, and every regular season game through Game 10 and come back to play the last 6 games. That might be the biggest risk of them all. Talk about the risk of being injured, that is a potential injury waiting to happen. And you won’t even get the full $7.2M on top of that. THINK, Lance Briggs, THINK. I had a math teacher in high school that said that the toughest thing we’ll ever have to do in life is THINK. I never knew how right he was until now. Lance Briggs might NEVER know how right my math teacher was….EVER.

Posted in Chicago Bears | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »