Chicago Bears: 2013 Week 12 CHI at STL

5 things we learned vs. Rams

November, 24, 2013
ST. LOUIS -- Here are five things we learned in the Chicago Bears’ 42-21 loss to the St. Louis Rams:

1. The run defense is disastrous: As defensive end Corey Wootton accurately stated in the postgame locker room, the Bears are not going to make the playoffs unless they show some improvement against the run. Even with three Kellen Clemens kneel-downs at the end of the game, the Rams still rushed for 258 yards and three touchdowns (8.9 yards per carry) on 29 attempts. The St. Louis running lanes were enormous. Rams’ rushers were routinely able to turn the corner and bust runs to the outside. St. Louis took everything it wanted, and more. This is the worst run defense I can ever remember seeing the Bears play. Injuries are partly to blame, but why are certain players chronically in the wrong gaps? Are the players just bad? Is it the coaches? The scheme? There are plenty of questions but, it seems, very few answers.

2. Bears come out flat, yet again: With St. Louis fresh off its bye, Bears coach Marc Trestman reduced practice time this week in an effort to boost the team’s stamina and endurance level. It didn’t work. For the second consecutive week the Bears fell behind early. But unlike the Ravens game, the team wasn’t going to be saved by a weather delay in the controlled climate of the Edward Jones Dome. The Bears were down 14-0 before the majority of the crowd had taken their seats. Why is this team not ready to play?

3. Defense needs to be gutted: On the conservative side; the Bears probably need a minimum of four new starters next year on defense, depending on who the club decides to re-sign in the offseason. Though the Bears' uneven play at safety has received plenty of attention, I still argue this organization is desperate for a bona fide pass-rushing defensive end since Julius Peppers is close to reaching the end of his playing career. In a perfect world, a team doesn’t spend a first-round pick on defensive end twice in a three-year span, but these are desperate times. Corey Wootton has played well enough to be a starter in 2014, preferably at his natural defensive end position. After that, good luck.

4. Josh McCown keeps rolling: I realize Jay Cutler is likely itching to return, but I cannot stress this enough: The Bears need to stick with McCown until Cutler is close to 100 percent. McCown has not played a poor game the entire season. Yes, he did turn the football over twice in the fourth quarter, but look at the numbers: 36-of-47 for 352 yards, two touchdowns, one interception and a 102.4 quarterback rating. For the season, McCown’s passer rating is 100.8. They should make a movie based on his season. I’m well-aware Cutler is tremendously talented and obviously the better overall player, but when a guy is on a hot streak leave him alone. McCown is more than capable of beating the Minnesota Vikings next week. Then maybe Cutler will be ready for the Dallas Cowboys on Dec. 9 or the Cleveland Browns on Dec. 15. Forcing Cutler back out there before he’s ready just doesn’t make any sense.

5. There is a hidden positive in the Kyle Long meltdown: The Bears have committed way too many penalties in the past two weeks (10 for 84 yards on Sunday) and, of course, nobody wants to see their team hit with a 15-yard personal foul (and Long is probably lucky he didn’t get ejected). But I take a small amount of satisfaction that Long went to the lengths he did to protect McCown. Offensive linemen -- at least the good ones -- are supposed to be nasty and physical on the field. I can live with Long occasionally losing his cool, because I lived through the J’Marcus Webb era. Webb has/had all the talent in the world, but he never showed anybody that he cared. Long cares. So do the rest of the starting five. They take it personally. And if that means Long starts a fight every so often, so be it. It’s better than the alternative.

Long brothers involved in scuffle

November, 24, 2013
ST. LOUIS -- The first matchup between Chicago Bears guard Kyle Long and his brother, Chris Long of the St. Louis Rams, received attention entering Sunday’s game, but a scuffle in the second quarter shined the spotlight directly on the duo.

During Chicago’s 42-21 loss to St. Louis, quarterback Josh McCown absorbed a vicious hit while attempting to throw a pass to Tony Fiammetta, with Kyle Long becoming involved in somewhat of a mini-brawl with Rams defensive end William Hayes away from the play.

During the scuffle, it appeared Long kicked Hayes.

[+] EnlargeChris Long
AP Photo/Nam Y. HuhRams defensive end Chris Long, left, talks to his brother, Kyle, a Bears guard, after St. Louis' win.
That led to Chris Long sprinting off St. Louis’ sideline to grab his younger brother and pull him away from the fight.

Kyle Long declined to discuss the incident after the game, saying, “Look, I’m here to talk football. So if there are any football questions you guys have, I’d love to answer those.”

He later apologized on Twitter.

“I want to apologize to the fans for losing my cool today,” Long said. “Not a representation of the person that I am or the Bears. Shouldn’t happen.”

Bears coach Marc Trestman said Long calmed down quickly.

“I looked over at him once [offensive coordinator] Aaron [Kromer] got a hold of him, and he seemed to quiet himself down,” Trestman said. “I think I’ll be able to talk more about that tomorrow, because I really didn’t see everything that happened. I saw Kyle lose his temper. I don’t know why. I was on the other side of the field.”

Given that Kyle Long appeared to kick a player during the scrum, it’s fortunate for the Chicago Bears that officials didn’t eject him. Asked why Kyle Long was allowed to continue to participate, referee Jerome Boger said, “O.K., I was one of the covering officials on that play, and what I had the unnecessary roughness call was for piling on, that he piled on onto a player who was already on the ground. I didn’t see a kick by him.”

Chris Long wasn’t forced out of the game or penalized, because there is no automatic ejection for coming off the bench in the NFL.

“It’s tough. One of your best friends and your brother,” Chris Long said. “They’re two of the strongest people I know. I’m just glad everybody got out of there O.K. It was just a heated game.”

Asked whether he helped his younger brother by pulling him from the pile, Chris Long said he was simply trying to pull an opponent away from a teammate.

“If pulling him out of the pile and yoking up is helping him ... I’m trying to get him off my teammate just like any other situation that would arise,” he said. “I don’t want us to get a flag, and one way to defuse that situation is to get everybody out of there. He happened to be the body that I saw.”
ST. LOUIS -- Defensive lineman Corey Wootton pulled on a shirt slowly Sunday, shaking his head at the thought of knowing how his team’s next opponent -- the Minnesota Vikings -- might react after seeing the St. Louis Rams run roughshod over the Chicago Bears in a 42-21 win at the Edward Jones Dome.

“They’re gonna look at the film and say, ‘We can gash them,’” Wootton said. “I don’t blame them.”

[+] EnlargeBenny Cunningham
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty ImagesThe Bears watched Benny Cunningham and the Rams run for 8.9 yards a carry and 258 yards total.
The Rams ran for 258 yards Sunday, with three ball carriers -- Tavon Austin, Zac Stacy and Benny Cunningham -- scoring touchdowns. Before the Rams began kneeling down in the final minutes, resulting in lost yardage, they’d averaged 10 yards per carry on the day, which would have gone down as the highest single-game rushing average a team had produced against Chicago in franchise history.

St. Louis’ first run of the day, an 11-yard gain by Stacy, pretty much foreshadowed what would take place the rest of the game. On the Rams’ third play from scrimmage, Austin took a pitch left that called for him to reverse direction to the right. Out in space, Austin shook Bears safety Chris Conte long enough to pick up a block, which allowed him to go down the Rams' sideline for a 65-yard touchdown.

St. Louis gained 81 yards on its first three snaps.

“We haven’t done a good job of stopping the run. We’ve got to try to find a way to do a better job. You don’t see that happening in practice,” Bears coach Marc Trestman said. “The guys are in the right place. But they didn’t get it done. I’m not gonna go into the technical aspects of it, but we didn’t [get it done]. We’re putting in the time and the effort. We’ve just got to continue to work at it. We’ve certainly got to do a better job next week.”

Wootton agrees, considering Chicago’s next opponent is the Vikings, led by running back Adrian Peterson. Facing a healthier defense on Sept. 15 than the one the Bears are fielding now, Peterson rushed for 100 yards on 26 attempts.

In Chicago’s last two games, it has surrendered 432 yards on the ground.

"I don’t know. We talk about [stopping the run] every week, but it doesn’t happen," Wootton said. "It’s something that’s definitely a cause for concern. If we even want to make the playoffs, we have to shore that up. We have Adrian Peterson next week, who is arguably one of the best running backs. We have to figure out what it is. We must if we want to go to the playoffs."

Cunningham rushed for 109 yards on 13 attempts, while Stacy contributed 87 yards on 12 carries. Austin’s only run resulted in the 65-yard touchdown. All three became a part of group of runners such as Jonathan Dwyer, James Starks, Peterson, Reggie Bush, Ray Rice and Eddie Lacy who have each taken at least one run for a gain of 25 yards or more this season against the Bears.

Stacy busted loose for a 35-yard gain in the first half, and Cunningham produced a 27-yard gain in the second half.

"They had a lot of pullers. They had a lot of zone schemes. It was a pretty good scheme," Bears defensive end David Bass said. "We lost. We’re going to use that as motivation to get back into the facility tomorrow, watch film, make the corrections needed and get ready for the next week. There’s not much we can do right now coming off the game except correcting and learning from our mistakes."

The Bears have now allowed eight runs of 32 yards or more, including three of 40-plus yards. They have surrendered 40 runs for gains of at least 10 yards.

“We expected them to start to try to run the football. Most teams do. They were able to get Tavon outside quickly,” Trestman said. “We’ve got work to do, but our guys are up for it. We’ve got a strong, hungry football team that’s passionate about playing the game, practicing the game and winning. We’re gonna get over it. We’ve got to get over it quickly.”

Rapid Reaction: Chicago Bears

November, 24, 2013

ST. LOUIS -- A few thoughts on the Chicago Bears' 42-21 loss to the St. Louis Rams at the Edward Jones Dome:

What it means: The Bears blew an opportunity to seize control of the NFC North with the loss to the Rams. Detroit fell 24-21 to Tampa Bay earlier on Sunday. So a Bears win would have given them sole possession of the division lead.

Run defense remains horrid: Before they started downing the ball at the end of the game to run down the clock, the Rams averaged 10 yards per attempt against a Bears run defense that came into Sunday’s contest ranked No. 31 in the NFL. By the time Benny Cunningham scored on a 9-yard run with 3:05 left to play, the Rams had already ripped the Bears for 261 yards on the ground. St. Louis finished with 259 yards.

Zac Stacy took the team’s first run 11 yards. Two plays later, Tavon Austin caught a pitch left, reversed field right, and picked up a block to go down the sideline 65 yards for a touchdown. The Rams gained 82 yards rushing on their first three plays from scrimmage, and set a franchise record by finishing the first quarter with 123 yards rushing (100 coming on Austin’s run, and a 35-yard gain by Stacy).

Austin, Stacy and Cunningham join Johnathan Dwyer, James Starks, Adrian Peterson, Reggie Bush, Ray Rice and Eddie Lacy as players to bust runs for gains of 25 yards or more this season against the Bears. Chicago has now given up eight runs for gains of 32 yards or more, including three runs of 40-plus yards.

Bass still opening eyes: Rookie David Bass was nominated last week for Rookie of the Week after making five tackles and tipping a Joe Flacco pass to himself for a 24-yard interception return for a touchdown. Bass followed that up with a sack against the Rams. He dropped Kellen Clemens for a 9-yard loss with 4:12 left in the first quarter.

Too much laundry: By halftime last week, the Bears had already topped their season high with six penalties for 61 yards. They finished with 13 penalties for 111 yards. Chicago obliterated that against the Rams -- not because of the number of penalties or yardage, but the impact of the penalties. Bears touchdowns by Devin Hester and Brandon Marshall were nullified by holding calls.

Missed opportunity: The Bears missed an opportunity to cut a 24-14 deficit in the third quarter when coach Marc Trestman attempted to convert a fourth-and-goal from the St. Louis 1. Trestman called for an off-tackle run by Michael Bush, but linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar dropped Bush for a 4-yard loss. St. Louis took advantage of Chicago’s setback and extended its lead on the next possession, going 73 yards in 11 plays with Greg Zuerlein nailing a 40-yard field goal to make the score 27-14.

Coming into the game, the Bears had converted 6 of 9 fourth downs.

What’s next: Another road trip awaits; this time, it comes Sunday against NFC North foe Minnesota. Given Chicago’s injury situation, look for the Bears to take the day off Monday before beginning preparations Wednesday for the matchup against the Vikings.

5 things to watch: Bears at Rams

November, 24, 2013
Here's a look at five things to watch for Sunday when the Chicago Bears face the St. Louis Rams at the Edward Jones Dome:

Communication in the noise: The Bears know they'll need to find a way to communicate efficiently in the Edward Jones Dome, which is a noisy venue. Complicating that, however, will be St. Louis' formidable pass rush led by Robert Quinn (12 sacks) and Chris Long (6.5 sacks), not to mention the Rams, coming off a bye will be fresh.

"The Rams are a very fast defense, especially when you play them on turf," Bears offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer said. "The two defensive ends are very quick off the ball. They time your snap count. So we have to do a good job of changing the count and being ready to get off in a hurry. The difference is probably the turf and the noise in an away game. Last week, we faced two excellent ends, but when you get in someone's home field and they have the noise and you have to get off in the noise, out of your stance in the noise, it's a little tougher; big challenge for us."

That's why center Roberto Garza and quarterback Josh McCown will be key in making pre-snap adjustments and line calls. McCown needs to change up the snap count constantly to keep the Rams off balance.

Offense's start: In Chicago's first two possessions last week against the Baltimore Ravens, McCown hit on just 2 of 5 throws for 8 yards and suffered a sack. Garza flipped out a bad snap on the third play from scrimmage that also slowed the team's start.

The Bears can't hope for a weather delay like last week, which actually helped the offense to regroup and come out firing on all cylinders after the stoppage in play.

"I think we've just got to be a little bit more tuned in maybe Friday through Sunday [with the game plan]," McCown said. "I'm not sure exactly, but I think there's something. There was a disconnect there for us. It's not coaches, it's just players."

To prevent a similar start this week, McCown and Trestman have stressed the need for the Bears to conduct extra studying in the 48 hours prior to Sunday's kickoff.

Julius Peppers: Facing a solid tackle last week in Baltimore's Eugene Monroe, Peppers finished with 12 tackles and a pair of sacks in Sunday's win. Peppers has posted three sacks, 15 tackles and two pass breakups over his last three outings. So it's safe to say Peppers is finally rolling after notching only one sack over the first four games of the season. But that needs to continue as the Bears embark on the playoff push.

In recent weeks, the coaching staff has started to limit Peppers' practice repetitions in an attempt to make sure he's fresh for Sundays.

"How do I feel? Not as fresh. This is Game 11, so it's a long season," Peppers said. "We've just got to adjust, whether it be getting extra treatment, managing practice time or you just got to find what works for you. We're still trying to jell. It's an ongoing process, and I see a little improvement, but we still have a long ways to go. We'll never get there, but we'll try to get as close as possible."

Run defense: Chicago's run defense is what needs to improve most. The Bears currently rank 31st against the run, allowing an average of 133.9 yards per game. The Bears have surrendered 40 runs this season for gains of 10 yards or more, including 10 runs for gains of 21 yards or more.

"If you just take a look at the last game. We had a double-digit run, a big run, early in the first drive, and then we were able to make some corrections and settle down for the most part, the rest of the game," Bears defensive coordinator Mel Tucker said. "That's what we have to do, we have to start faster and we have to eliminate those big runs. There is progress being made, but its' not where we want it to be right now. We know the areas where we need to improve."

Kick coverage teams: The Bears have Devin Hester. The Rams have a younger version in Tavon Austin, the eighth overall pick of the 2013 draft. Austin became the first Ram since 2008 to score three touchdowns in a game on Nov. 10, and the third player NFL history to score three touchdowns of 55 yards or more in a game. Austin did that by catching two TD passes, but what scares the Bears is the 98-yard punt return he ran back against the Colts.

So the Bears need to tighten up the kick-coverage units, especially with so many inexperienced players filling in due to injuries.

"We've got one that's like him [in Hester]," Bears special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis said. "I know when we were playing Devin, it was always nerve wracking getting ready for him and it's the same thing with this guy. The thing that nobody gets is how many returns he's had called back. Dallas, a touchdown, a 50-yarder I believe, and there were several others during the year. He's explosive. It's going to be a real test for us."