Chicago Bears: Tom Brady
"The job [of quarterback] is like a Japanese garden," Young said. "It takes a lot of care. It takes a lot of time. It takes intricate work. … I've got to believe that if someone came in and in a resonant way could speak to him -- like when you put your finger near a crystal glass, it starts to sing to you -- that resonant sound that happens between quarterback and coach, that he would respond to that. Why wouldn't you respond to that?"
"He's ready for it," Young added. "Now, part of it is work. Part of it is really boring. It's like going to law school or med school or something else. There is a lot of study. There is a lot of time you have to spend. If you're not willing to spend it, no matter how much time you give the coach, no matter how much effort you make in practice, to make the transition, you have to turn the TV off. You've got to stay inside. You've got to put up your white board. You have to memorize things. You have to get so you have reflexive recall. With that kind reflexive recall and even without any mobility, you become Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. Jay can move around, but look at what those guys with no ability to move whatsoever. That's the high level learning I'm talking about."
Young said that "one thing" Trestman can do is "break down a quarterback and build him back up." For what it's worth, the Bears' other two known finalists -- Bruce Arians and Darrell Bevell -- also have backgrounds as quarterback coaches. For Cutler, the idea would be to transform a good quarterback into a great one. Part of it depends on the coach, and some of the responsibility will lie with Cutler. But in Young's view, Trestman and Cutler could make resonant sounds.
They have a 1-6 record in the games he has missed during that time.
That has to make Cutler a prime candidate for MVP Watch, right? His presence must mean everything for the Bears. We all know quarterbacks are usually the most important players on their teams. And we've all heard about what a gunslinger Cutler can be with that strong arm and defiant nature.
"MVP! MVP! MVP!"
Now comes the hard part: proving Cutler is indeed such a key player for the Bears.
Let's take a closer look at the Bears' 1-6 record without him.
That record includes a defeat at San Francisco this season. Cutler wasn't going to stop Aldon Smith from getting 5.5 sacks. He wasn't going to stop Colin Kaepernick from lighting up the Bears' defense. He wasn't going to win a game the Bears lost 32-7 without him.
Cutler missed the final six games last season, five of them losses. Running back Matt Forte missed the final three-plus games. Having Cutler available probably would have enabled the Bears to finish better, but Chicago wasn't going to win at its usual clip without Forte. Lots of starting quarterbacks improve their teams' chances for winning relative to what a backup would provide. That doesn't make them MVP candidates.
The one game Chicago won without Cutler during the 1-6 stretch in question came during Week 17 last season, against Minnesota. The Bears picked off three passes from Joe Webb and Christian Ponder, returning one for a touchdown.
In 2010, the Bears won the lone game Cutler missed, defeating a horrendous Carolina team on its way to winning the Cam Newton sweepstakes. Bears backup Todd Collins threw four picks in that game. Forte carried 22 times for 166 yards. The Bears won 23-6.
Doesn't exactly enhance those MVP credentials for Cutler, does it?
Neither do the stats.
Cutler ranks 20th in Total QBR at 50.4 this season; 50 is average. Tom Brady is in the low 80s. Pro Bowl-caliber quarterbacks usually score in the mid-60s or higher. Cutler ranks a distant third among NFC North quarterbacks by this measure. He isn't all that far ahead of Minnesota's Christian Ponder (47.7).
Cutler ranks 26th in NFL passer rating at 81.1, which is below the 86.9 figure covering every pass thrown in the league this season. He has 13 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.
But Cutler comes through in the clutch, right? Yes and no.
Cutler has a 92.9 QBR score (out of 100) on 16 fourth-quarter plays when the score was within eight points. That ranks second to MVP Watch leader Peyton Manning and right ahead of St. Louis' Sam Bradford. That's fine, but all 16 of those plays were against the Rams and Panthers. Cutler completed 10 of 14 passes with no touchdowns. He also rushed twice for 20 yards in those situations.
To further explore the clutch theory, I filtered ESPN's charting database for higher-leverage situations, defined as those when play results have above-average impact on win probability.
It's a more complicated way to measure what the vernacular calls clutch situations, but the math is sound. Ten years of charting information says teams are either more or less likely to win based on the results for each play. Some situations are more pivotal than others.
Cutler's QBR score falls to 44.4 with two touchdowns, five picks and 14 sacks in higher-leverage situations, meaning situations when the stakes were above average. That compares to a 63.3 QBR score with four touchdowns, one pick and nine sacks in lower-leverage situations.
Overall, Cutler has three touchdowns, six picks and a 47.0 QBR score in one-score games, defined as those when the margin is within eight points.
Perhaps someone else can build the MVP case for Cutler. I'd like to hear it.
How about Charles Tillman?
The 10th-year cornerback earned Pro Bowl honors for the first time last season. He blanketed the Detroit Lions' Calvin Johnson during a 13-7 victory Monday night.
With two forced fumbles against the Lions, Tillman has 32 for his career. That ranks tied for third since Tillman's rookie season (2003) and the most for a defensive back, according to the Bears. Tillman has two picks and scored on both.
Tillman is playing very well. He's playing for a dominant defense. His team is winning. He makes the MVP Watch list this week, his first appearance.
Tillman joins MVP Watch mainstay J.J. Watt as the only defensive players to appear on the list this season. Lawrence Taylor was the most recent defensive player to win the Associated Press version of the award. He won following the 1986 season.
Note: ESPN Stats & Information contributed to this item.
Bears weather? Hardly.
In fact, the last three times the New England Patriots have played in the snow, they have dominated. Their 36-7 win over the Chicago Bears in Soldier Field on Sunday was just the latest example.
Brady Vs. Four Rushers
Tom Brady did not shy away from the challenge of throwing into a crowded Chicago secondary on Sunday. Entering Week 14, the Bears led the NFL in lowest passer rating allowed when bringing four or fewer on pass rushes this season. Against the Patriots, the Bears allowed their worst such passer rating in their last 18 games.
Brady Vs. Cutler
Tom Brady and Jay Cutler entered Week 14 ranked one and two in passer rating on passes 10 yards or shorter this season (min. 80 attempts). The two quarterbacks combined to throw 10 yards or shorter 76.9 percent of their attempts on Sunday, with drastically different results.
But circumstances forced the Chicago Bears to stray from their signature defense in the 36-7 loss to the New England Patriots, according to Bears coach Lovie Smith.
"That was a rare happening [Sunday]," Smith said. "There’s nothing wrong with our scheme. We played a little Cover 2 [Sunday]. Normally, that’s an easy person -- you know that Cover 2 person to jump on -- but [Sunday] we weren’t in an awful lot to be truthful. So we’re not going to use that. The scheme is good, we didn’t execute. The scheme has helped us get to 9-3, but [Sunday], again, we didn’t execute."
The Patriots' offense was on the field for 78 plays, and because of the lopsided score, the Bears were forced to play man coverage the majority of those snaps. It should be noted the Bears' defense was ranked No. 3 overall before facing the Patriots, a clear indication that when run properly with correct personnel, the Cover 2 can still be an effective scheme.
But when the MVP of the league is given ample time to sit in the pocket and survey the field, few, if any, teams will be able to slow down New England.
Brady bombed Chicago for 369 yards and two touchdowns to go with a passer rating of 113.4 in New England’s 36-7 win over the Bears. Cutler countered with a 32.9 passer rating and three turnovers.
“You want to try and keep pace with them,” Cutler said after the game. “It’s the only way to play with them. You know they’re going to move the ball. They put up points each and every game. They’re No. 1 in scoring. If you don’t convert third downs, if you have turnovers, you’re going to be in the hole. It’s tough to climb out of that.”
No doubt. The Bears converted 1 of 5 third downs in the first half, and the Patriots returned a fumble by Johnny Knox 35 yards for a touchdown in building a 33-0 first-half lead, which proved insurmountable.
“You want to score points as fast as possible,” Cutler said. “But there is no 33-point play out there. We came up short in a lot of areas.”
The visiting team didn't see it as a factor, either.
"It wasn't as bad as I think .. we probably initially thought," Patriots tackle Matt Light said. "The wind gusts were pretty nasty at times, but overall it wasn't a huge factor I didn't think.
"[Tom Brady] was able to get the ball down the field, and guys were able to get open and keep their footing."
Patriots' receiver Wes Welker, who caught eight passes for 115 yards, said the club's mentality played a significant role in the weather not affecting the execution.
"You just need to bring a certain type of attitude in this type of weather, and make sure you're on top of your game, and don't let the elements distract you, and really bring it that much more," Welker said. "For me, it was about getting my mind set right that we were going to go out there and make plays, move the ball, and especially early in the game, try and get up on these guys which we were able to do."
Bears quarterback Jay Cutler, who was critical of the turf at Soldier Field leading into the game, also said the weather didn't play a role.
"We could have been playing anywhere," Cutler said. "[It] didn't matter what the field was. It didn't matter what kind of grass we had down there."
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CHICAGO -- This week, Lovie Smith decided to deliver his motivational talk before the game and not wait until halftime.
And so he used the story of Army Staff Sergeant Sal Giunta, war hero, Medal of Honor winner and Bears fan to be honored at Sunday's game, as a means to deliver the message to his players on Saturday night.
"He was talking about how Giunta was protecting the guy that was next to him [in a Taliban ambush three years ago in one of the most dangerous regions of Afghanistan]," said Bears tackle Anthony Adams. "And he was talking about how we had to the exact same thing."
And so the Bears raced out into the elements Sunday in a football stadium originally named to honor the very men and women to which Smith referred; Adams shaking Giunta's hand; the team giving him a "4th Phase" flag, which signifies the contribution of Bears fans.
And then they laid an egg.
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CHICAGO -- Here are five things we learned following the Bears embarrassing 36-7 defeat to the New England Patriots.
2. We need to stop any and all Bears-Patriots comparisons: The Bears are not the Patriots. They don't draft like New England, they don't coach like New England, they don't play like New England, and they don't win like New England. I have a lot of respect for Lovie Smith and think he's done an excellent job this season, but were people actually trying to put Smith in the same category as Bill Belichick this past week? Are you serious? The Patriots, under Belichick, have 10 straight winning seasons and three Super Bowl rings -- almost four titles if not for a miraculous catch by New York's David Tyree in Super Bowl XLII. There isn't a coach in the NFL in the same category as Belichick, or an organization as well run as the Patriots. If there is such a franchise, it's not the Bears, who's last championship came 25 years ago. I'm not hating on Smith -- he never made those Belichick comparisons leading up to the game -- but to say the two men are similar in terms of success is just plain crazy. And just so we're clear -- Belichick is now 5-0 versus Mike Martz since Super Bowl XXXVI.
3. You still can't totally trust Jay Cutler: The Bears got blown out for a variety of reasons, but for the first time since the bye week, their quarterback play was poor. Cutler made a few nice throws during the game. His two interceptions, however, were awful. Please tell me again why Cutler feels the need to throw into triple-coverage? I give Cutler all the credit in the world for leading the Bears on a five-game winning streak. He was on fire the past few games, making great plays with his arm and his feet. But every so often, he goes back in the tank, and performs like he did against New England -- a 32.9 quarterback rating. Maybe Cutler bounces back and lights up the Vikings, Jets and Packers. It very well could happen. But I'd hate to see Cutler play this way in the playoffs. If he does, the Bears have no shot to win, regardless of how the defense performs. But if he plays like he did in previous weeks, the Bears certainly can advance in the NFC.
4. Smith needs to hold the secondary accountable: The worst thing the Bears could do is overreact after this game, but fair is fair, Smith ought to mix a few things up in the secondary moving forward. I think Major Wright has a bright future, but would Chris Harris have been burned on that Tom Brady pump-fake touchdown pass to Deion Branch at the end of the half? Haven't Harris and Danieal Manning done well enough to remain on the field at all times? And what about Charles Tillman? Shouldn't Zack Bowman be inserted back into the mix at cornerback? The Bears really can't do much to jump-start the lines, because let's face it, there aren't many options besides the starters. But the secondary is a different story. The lack of a pass rush didn't help the Bears in coverage, but Branch and Wes Welker were wide open for almost the entire game.
5. Brady is the MVP: Hands down. Brady is the best player in the league. The Patriots looked like they were playing in a dome - not freezing temperatures, snow and wind gusts up to 50 mph -- because the quarterback was completely un phased by the elements. Brady threw the ball like it was 90 degrees in Miami, and torched the Bears defense for 369 yards, 2 touchdowns and a 113.4 quarterback rating. The top player in the game plays for the best team in the game. Very fitting.
CHICAGO -- No sense devoting too much wordplay to this stinker.
It became abundantly clear quickly that the home-team Chicago Bears were more affected by the inclement weather conditions than the visiting New England Patriots, who rode Tom Brady’s arm to a 36-7 smack down at Soldier Field.
Chicago’s embarrassing loss brings back the question that has hung over the club all season: Are the Bears the real deal?
They definitely didn’t look the part against the Patriots.
What it means: The Bears squandered an opportunity to pad their lead atop the NFC North by falling to the Patriots. Earlier in the day, the Green Bay Packers -- already a game behind the Bears in the division -- lost 7-3 to the Detroit Lions. Further complicating matters for Green Bay was the concussion quarterback Aaron Rodgers suffered in the first half that casts doubt about his availability for the Packers' matchup next week at New England.
So had the Bears taken care of business Sunday against New England, they’d be two games up against a Packers team that could very well be on the way to yet another loss next week on the road against what appears to be the best team in the league.
Snow what? That’s probably what the Patriots say to the notion of inclement weather at Soldier Field affecting their offense. The Patriots racked up 273 yards in the first half, converting on 67 percent of third downs.
The team with home-field advantage, meanwhile, managed just 33 yards of offense in the first half as quarterback Jay Cutler succumbed to two sacks and finished with a passer rating of 58.3. The area the Bears hoped to lean on most -- the rushing attack -- produced just 19 yards in the first half, led by Matt Forte, who averaged 1.9 yards per carry. The club’s longest run in the first two quarters was a 7-yard scramble by Cutler.
Brady lights up Cover 2: Chicago made no secret of its plan to stay in Cover 2 and test Brady’s patience by forcing him to take short passes. Brady did that and more in the first half, lighting up the Bears' Cover 2 defense for 195 yards in the first half with two touchdowns and a passer rating of 124.1.
Brady displayed patience against Chicago’s Cover 2 in taking New England on 12- and 11-play scoring drives to start the game. Then, when the Bears started to take more chances in coverage, the quarterback and his receivers took advantage. On the final play of the second quarter, Brady hit Deion Branch -- who beat Bears corner Charles Tillman on the route -- for 59-yard touchdown as time expired.
In the first half alone, the Patriots lined up in six different personnel packages on offense, in addition to no-huddle. The Bears seemed to have no answer, and by the end of the third quarter, two New England receivers -- Branch and Wes Welker -- had each racked up more than 100 yards on a combined 15 catches.
Record-setting first half: Chicago’s performance in the first half Sunday will go in the team's record books, just not the way it would like. The Bears allowed the second-most first-half points in franchise history, surrendering 33 through the first two quarters.
What’s next: Minnesota is next up on the schedule, but there’s uncertainty concerning whether the Bears will be able to play the Vikings at the Metrodome next Monday night because the facility’s inflatable roof caved in under the weight of heavy snows in the area.
Bill Lester, executive director of the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission -- which operates the Metrodome -- reportedly said that extent of the damage was still being assessed. But Steve Maki, the facilities manager, told the Associated Press he is optimistic the roof can be repaired in time for the Monday night matchup.
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady threw for 195 yards and a pair of touchdowns, including a 59-yard scoring pass to Deon Branch as time expired in the first half. The Bears' defense totally collapsed on that final play, allowing Branch a free path the end zone behind cornerback Charles Tillman and a late arriving safety.
New England multi-purpose back Danny Woodhead scored on a 3-yard run earlier in the quarter.
The Patriots had 273 total yards and 15 first downs.
On the other hand, the Patriots' defense completely shut down Mike Martz's offense, holding the Bears to an embarrassing 33 yards in the first half. The Bears were unable to protect the football, turning it over twice, which led to 10 additional New England points.
After a short completion, Bears receiver Johnny Knox was stripped by Patriots rookie corner Devin McCourty, and the live ball was scooped up by linebacker Gary Guyton who ran it back 35 yards for a touchdown.
Later in the half, Jay Cutler was sacked and fumbled the ball inside his own 10-yard line, which ultimately resulted in a Shane Graham 25-yard field goal.
Graham added another field goal (30 yards), set up by a 42-yard punt return by New England's Julian Edelman.
Edelman also had a 71-yard punt return touchdown called back because of a holding penalty, thus saving the Bears from further humiliation.
So what, the New England Patriots seemed to say in seizing a 7-0 lead over the Chicago Bears, thanks to a 7-yard touchdown pass from Tom Brady to Rob Gronkowski at the 5:47 mark.
The teams traded three-and-out possessions to start the game. But the Patriots marched 85 yards in 12 plays to take the lead. The Bears had a shot at breaking up the drive when the Patriots faced second-and-goal from the 8.
Brian Urlacher tipped a Brady pass, and safety Chris Harris was unable to come up with the interception that would have snuffed out the drive. Brady, who leads the NFL in touchdown passes of 10 yards or fewer, hit Gronkowski for the touchdown on the very next play. Brady racked up 71 yards passing in the first quarter.
Chicago, meanwhile, mounted a nine-play drive on its ensuing possession which ended in a punt.
Make sure tackles: Patriots quarterback Tom Brady isn’t greedy. So he’ll take what the defense gives. Look for him to throw plenty of short passes and checkdowns to the running backs. When Brady does that, Bears need to make quick, sure tackles on those 4- and 5-yard passes to keep them from becoming chain-moving plays. The Patriots’ receivers excel at running after the catch, so the Bears need to keep those gains to a minimum.
Run the ball effectively: Whether they utilize Matt Forte or backup Chester Taylor, the Bears need to run the ball well in this inclement weather. Besides that, by effectively running the ball, the Bears keep the Patriots off balance, which sets up Jay Cutler for play action. Forte and Taylor averaged 4.9 and 3.7 yards per carry, respectively, last week against the Lions. A similar average against the Patriots significantly increases Chicago’s chances for a victory.
Protect Jay Cutler: Footing should be a challenge in snowy conditions and a traditionally sloppy Solider Field. That could make pass protection a nightmare for the Bears, who have already given up four sacks in each of their last two games. The right side of the line is the key, where rookie J’Marcus Webb continues to struggle (mostly mental lapses). Veteran right guard Roberto Garza needs to make communication with the rookie a premium.
THREE KEYS FOR THE PATRIOTS
Kick it away from Devin Hester: The Patriots are already at a disadvantage because of what’s sure to be a raucous crowd at Soldier Field. A gamebreaking return by Hester will only make matters worse. Because Hester is now involved in both the kick- and punt-return game, the Patriots need to utilize directional kicking to keep the ball away from the return man. But that could be difficult given the weather conditions.
Make the Bears one dimensional: By stopping the backfield duo of Forte and Taylor, the Patriots would make the Bears lean heavily on the passing game to keep the chains moving. That would give the Patriots a huge advantage because the Bears have proven they struggle when the run-pass mix tilts more toward putting the ball in the air. In addition, by forcing the Bears to pass more, the likelihood for mistakes by quarterback Jay Cutler increases.
MATCHUP TO WATCH: TOM BRADY vs. COVER 2
Brady has made a living of carving up Cover 2 defenses, but the Bears excel at playing the coverage, which adds more intrigue to this matchup.
Brady is a disciplined passer, who will take the short throws afford him by Chicago’s Cover 2 defense. Brady will have to be patient enough to work the ball down the field for long drives. The Bears, meanwhile, have to be disciplined enough to resist taking chances that will allow Brady to hit the big play.
The Bears are banking on Brady completing plenty of short throws, hoping that over the course of a long drive he’ll make a mistake. Brady leads the league in touchdown passes of 10 yards or fewer, but the Bears are one of the best teams in the league at stopping teams from scoring the red zone.
So something has to give.
BY THE NUMBERS
6: Where the Bears rank in terms of balance on offense. Of 315 total plays, the Bears have run the ball 164 times and passed 151.
52.9: Chicago’s third-down conversion percentage over the past five games, which ranks as No. 2 in the NFL behind NFC North foe Green Bay.
27: Points scored by the Bears’ two-minute offense, which ties with Indianapolis for third in the NFL.
36: Tackles by Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher in three starts against the Patriots.