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The NFL Live crew make their picks for Chicago at Carolina.
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Jared Allen's streak of 113 consecutive starts ended Sunday when he missed Chicago’s loss to the Green Bay Packers because of pneumonia. But the five-time Pro Bowl defensive end returned to the practice field Wednesday, saying, “Hopefully, I’ll be back up by this weekend” as the Bears prepare to face the Carolina Panthers.

Allen said he felt sick during Chicago’s win over the New York Jets on Sept. 22, but wasn’t diagnosed until two days later with pneumonia. Because of the illness, Allen lost 15 pounds, from 254 down to 239.

The Chicago Bears list Allen at 270 pounds.

Allen
“Just due to being sick, not really eating for a few days, sweating, fever; all that good stuff,” Allen said. “I feel good now, just trying to get back. I’ve been having good workouts the last couple of days; just progressing, steadily going up. I went out and did individual [drills] today, then did a nice sprint workout on the treadmill [and it] felt good. I’m more concerned about recovery time. Everything feels good right now. I think it’s just eating, rehydrating and getting all that weight back on.”

Allen stepped onto the scale before eating Wednesday and weighed in at 241 pounds. Allen expects the weight to “come back in the next day or so,” saying “it’ll get back and I’ll be ready to go.” Allen spent a couple of days taking medications before the fever from pneumonia broke, he said.

Before the Bears' game Sunday, Allen traveled to Soldier Field to meet with team doctors and was ultimately instructed to go home. Without Allen, Chicago lost 38-17 to the Packers as Aaron Rodgers threw four touchdown passes and finished with a passer rating of 151.2 against a virtually nonexistent Bears rush.

“It was brutal. It was miserable, especially [with it being] the Packers,” Allen said. “I’ve played through a lot of things, and there are just certain things that you can’t do. Trust me, it was a long-fought battle whether I was going to be able to give it a go or not. It’s one of those things that you don’t want it to come back and then end up in the hospital. So after talking to doctors, my wife and everybody, we felt that was the best plan of attack. And it was. I wouldn’t have been worth anything out there.”

Allen’s illness serves as just the latest in what has been what the defensive end calls an “interesting” turn of events through the first four games of the season. Allen missed time in the preseason to attend the birth of his daughter, in addition to being held out of the team’s third preseason game with a bruised shoulder.

Asked if he’s back to normal, Allen said, “I’m trying to. Not right now, obviously. I’m still a little light. I haven’t gotten in that rhythm or that groove of what I’m used to playing in. But you know, it’s not anybody’s fault. Preseason is preseason. I didn’t do much in preseason in Minnesota, either. I was sad I missed this game because coming out of the San Fran[cisco] game and then the New York game, I felt like I was really starting to get in the rhythm of this defense and where we were at. Even though I didn’t get [Jets quarterback] Geno [Smith] on the ground, I had some really good rushes in the fourth quarter. I really felt my game was where it needed to be going into that week. I still feel that.”

Right now though, Allen said the main goals are to regain weight and strength while building up stamina for his expected return Sunday against the Carolina Panthers. Through the first quarter of the season, Allen has contributed 11 tackles with no sacks.

“I’m looking forward to this next 12 weeks,” Allen said. “I’m like, ‘What else can happen, right?’ I’ve got the injuries out of the way, got the sickness out of the way. Let’s go have fun.”

Marshall (ankle) has full participation

October, 1, 2014
Oct 1
4:43
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LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The Chicago Bears received encouraging news on the health front Wednesday with the return of five previously injured/ill starters to the practice field in advance of Sunday's road game in Carolina.

Headlining the group is wide receiver Brandon Marshall (ankle), who's been battling a sore ankle since Week 1 that's limited his production the two weeks to three combined catches versus the Jets and Packers.

Marshall
Marshall practiced without restrictions on Wednesday for the first time in recent memory.

"It was good to get him [Marshall] back out there at full speed," Bears head coach Marc Trestman said.

Meantime, defensive end Jared Allen (pneumonia), defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff (concussion), center Roberto Garza (ankle) and left guard Matt Slauson (ankle) were limited on Wednesday, a positive development since all four players were inactive in Week 4.

Allen said he is confident about his chances of suiting up this weekend against the Panthers. However, the defensive end did acknowledge he lost about 15 pounds during his illness, and checked-in on Wednesday morning at 241 pounds, approximately 13 pounds below his normal playing weight of 254.

The statuses of Garza, Slauson and Ratliff remain unknown for Week 5, but Trestman confirmed that Garza and Slauson will return to the starting lineup whenever they are medically cleared.

"That's the way we are going," Trestman said.

Left tackle Jermon Bushrod (knee) and cornerback Sherrick McManis (quadriceps) were also listed as having limited participation.

Safety Chris Conte (shoulder) had full participation.

Four players sat out Wednesday: linebackers Lance Briggs (knee), Shea McClellin (hand) and D.J. Williams (neck), and safety Ahmad Dixon (hamstring).
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Before getting into thick of the Chicago Bears' next matchup at the Carolina Panthers, let's first take a look at the team's first-quarter report card after a 2-2 start:

Quarterback

Jay Cutler has completed 65.8 percent of his passes for 10 touchdowns and four interceptions. He's shown more discipline and better command of the offense, but costly turnovers have been an issue. If Cutler maintains his current level of efficiency, he'll set a career high in passer rating for the second consecutive season. Cutler currently ranks third in completions (102), ninth in yards (1,006) and is tied for second in touchdowns, and his passer rating is currently 94.7. Grade: B

Running back

Matt Forte finally broke through for his first 100-yard rushing performance against the Green Bay Packers and is currently tied for eighth in rushing yards (258), first in receptions at his position (24) and third in yards from scrimmage (452). Rookie Ka'Deem Carey is becoming more of a factor in the offense as well, and the Bears have employed formations that feature both backs in the game at the same time. Both backs average at least 4 yards per attempt. Grade: B+

Offensive line

Injuries in the season opener to center Roberto Garza and Matt Slauson gave cause for concern, but their replacements Brian de la Puente and Michael Ola have performed well. The group has given up eight sacks through the first four games. According to Pro Football Focus, every offensive lineman graded positively in run blocking against the Packers. Grade: B-

[+] EnlargeMartellus Bennett
David Banks/Getty ImagesThe offseason work tight end Martellus Bennett put in is paying off for the Bears.
Tight end

Martellus Bennett ranks second in catches (29th) among tight ends, fourth in yards (295) and is tied for second in touchdown receptions (four). Bennett put in the work during the offseason to prepare for a more significant role, and he appears to have developed a strong rapport with Cutler. Bennett has scored a touchdown in all but one game, while averaging 7.25 receptions. Grade: A

Receiver

Injuries have led to slow starts for Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall, who have combined for 36 receptions and six touchdowns through four games. But the duo is gradually getting back to full speed. The club's complementary targets such as Santonio Holmes and Josh Morgan haven't received many opportunities to showcase their talent, but they're plenty capable. Grade: B-

Defensive line

The Bears revamped the defensive line in the offseason with the additions of Jared Allen, Lamarr Houston and Willie Young in addition to drafting Ego Ferguson and Will Sutton. But the group certainly hasn't met expectations as the Bears rank 20th against the run while contributing just eight sacks (linebacker Shea McClellin is responsible for a sack as well). For the Bears to gain any level of consistency on defense with the style they play, the defensive line needs to step up its game, shut down the run and pressure the quarterback. Grade: D

Cornerback

The Bears are tied for fourth in the league in takeaways (eight), and rookie Kyle Fuller deserves credit for his team-high- three interceptions and two forced fumbles. Fuller became the only NFL player in the past 20 years with three interceptions and two forced fumbles in the first three games of the season. Obviously, Charles Tillman's season-ending triceps injury hurts the position. But the Bears are in decent shape with Fuller and Tim Jennings. The Bears need better play from the nickel corner spot. Grade: B-

Safety

Chris Conte gave up 46 yards on two catches and a touchdown against the Packers and missed a couple of tackles but for the most part has performed well (two interceptions). Ryan Mundy has been a solid run defender, and provided one of the team's takeaways with his pick-six Sept. 22 against the New York Jets. Overall, the safeties still need to play a little better. But they've been much more consistent than they were in 2013. Grade: C+

Linebacker

Shea McClellin entered the season as the starter on the strong side but has been on the shelf recently with a broken hand. Perhaps that's somewhat of a blessing in disguise as it has enabled the Bears to upgrade the overall athleticism of the starting lineup by replacing McClellin with Jonathan Bostic. The group lacks consistency in terms of gap integrity and pass coverage but is tracking positively. Grade: C-

Coaching

Coach Marc Trestman caught heat for the club's clock management in the second quarter to Green Bay, and you have to admit the Bears committed a few unnecessary penalties in the defeat, not to mention the thrown challenge flag that resulted in a lost timeout. Trestman deserves credit for suspending Bennett during training camp, because the move resulted in a positive change for the tight end. And you can't deny this Bears team did manage to pull together back-to-back road wins against strong opponents. Grade: C+

Overall

The consecutive road wins at San Francisco and New York followed by the stinker at home against Green Bay point to a lack of consistency in every facet of the game, and while injuries at key positions have been an issue, Chicago's situation plays out every week all over the league. So there are no excuses here. Ultimately, the Bears will be in decent shape in the second half of the season if they can finish the second quarter headed into the bye with a record of .500 or better.
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The Chicago Bears signed cornerback Teddy Williams to the active roster off the Arizona Cardinals’ practice squad on Wednesday and waived linebacker Terrell Manning.

Williams
Williams (6-foot-1, 207 pounds) played in 10 games over two seasons with Indianapolis (2012) and Arizona (2013), contributing on offense at receiver, on defense at cornerback and on special teams.

Williams came into the league with the Dallas Cowboys in 2010 and spent the majority of that season and 2011 on the team’s practice squad.

Williams broke his ankle as a senior at Tyler (Texas) John Tyler High School and decided to pursue track at the University of Texas-San Antonio, finishing his career as the school’s only four-time all-America selection.

Williams won nine conference titles (five indoor championships and four outdoors) and was named the Southland Conference’s Indoor Athlete of the Year (2009-10) and Outdoor Outstanding Track Performer (2008-10). He set school records in the 55-meter dash, 60-meter dash, 100 (9.90 seconds), 200 (20.60) and 400-meter relay.

Manning played in two games for the Bears, primarily on special teams.
video 
ESPN Bears reporter Michael C. Wright discusses the recent struggles of Brandon Marshall.
The Chicago Bears elevated receiver Chris Williams from the practice squad to the 53-man roster on Tuesday and waived receiver Rashad Ross in a corresponding roster move.

Williams debuted in Week 2 at San Francisco, but has spent the last two weeks on the club’s practice squad.

Ross played in Chicago’s last two games, returning five kickoffs for 106 yards.

The club’s decision to move up Williams likely means he’ll take on the role of the club’s primary kick returner. Entering the season, the Bears expected Williams to seize that job in a competition that included Eric Weems, Micheal Spurlock and Michael Ford. But Williams suffered a hamstring injury during the preseason catching a 73-yard touchdown pass against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

The Bears originally brought Williams into the fold last December off the practice squad of the New Orleans Saints.
After checking in at No. 8 for last week’s edition of ESPN’s NFL Power Rankings, the Chicago Bears dropped seven spots to No. 15 in the latest installment, coming off a 38-17 loss Sunday to the Green Bay Packers.

The club’s standing makes sense, because from what we’ve seen so far of the Bears, it’s certainly performing like a just above middle-of-the-pack club.

In addition to the defense allowing Aaron Rodgers to shred it for four touchdown passes and a passer rating of 151.2, quarterback Jay Cutler minimized Chicago’s chances for victory with a pair of interceptions that led to Green Bay touchdowns.

In the aftermath of the loss, predictably, overreaction set in. But it’s important to remember the Bears are just a quarter of the way through the season, and what we’ve seen in the first four games by no means is the finished product.

“As with most losses, they’re disappointing, and certainly [Sunday] was a disappointing loss,” Bears coach Marc Trestman said on Monday. “We came back [Monday], the guys came back [Monday]. We showed the tape, collectively, offensively, defensively, special teams; made the corrections we had to make, and now we’re moving on.”

Elsewhere in the division, every team outside of the Bears made somewhat of a climb up the rankings. Detroit holds the top spot among the NFC North at No. 8, moving up four places from No. 12. The Packers jumped five spots from 17 to 12, while the Minnesota Vikings moved up five places from 29th to No. 24.

“We’ve got to win games at home. Green Bay, a divisional opponent. ... We’ve just got to play better,” Cutler said Monday during ESPN 1000’s “The Jay Cutler Show."

Starting with a matchup Sunday at Carolina, the Bears play three of the next four on the road heading into their Nov. 2 bye. Chicago’s three upcoming road opponents (Carolina, Atlanta and New England) currently hold a combined 6-5 record.

“We’ve had a rough stretch,” Cutler said. “We’re gonna go through a pretty rough stretch, like you guys were talking about earlier, the next four games. So we’ve just got to take it one game at a time.”
video

ESPN Chicago's Jeff Dickerson previews the week ahead for the Chicago Bears, as they prepare for their trip to Charlotte to face the Carolina Panthers on Sunday.

The Film Don't Lie: Bears

September, 30, 2014
Sep 30
11:00
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A weekly look at what the Chicago Bears must fix:

The Bears eviscerated the progress shown recently by the defense in Sunday’s loss to the Green Bay Packers with their glaring lack of a pass rush against Aaron Rodgers. If the club conducts business this way again against Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers on Sunday, the Bears can expect similar results.

Rodgers shredded the Bears for 302 yards and four touchdowns and finished with a passer rating of 151.2. Ego Ferguson tallied Chicago’s only sack, and the Bears failed to force a turnover, as Rodgers basically played pitch and catch with Green Bay’s receivers all day with plenty of time to do it.

Here’s why: The Bears opted against trying to manufacture pressure and instead relied on the front four to disrupt Rodgers.

Bad move.

“We didn’t blitz a lot,” linebacker Lance Briggs said. “It was very simple. We thought we could get a four-man pass rush on a lot of occasions. But whether [Rodgers] was able to escape the pocket or whether he was standing there inside the pocket, he was able to pat the ball and look a couple of different ways and find somebody.”

The Bears made the curious decision to rely on the front four despite being short two contributors in defensive end Jared Allen (pneumonia) and defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff (concussion).

What’s more is the Bears were willing to take risks to get another possession on offense by trying an onside kick in the second quarter. Yet they weren’t willing to try to dial up pressure via the blitz to get something going on defense?

I get it that there are risks in putting the secondary in man-to-man situations when trying to manufacture pressure by bringing linebackers or defensive backs. And I understand Rodgers had been sacked nine times heading into Sunday’s matchup due to suspect play from his offensive line. But to simply sit back and let Rodgers pick the defense apart for four quarters seems a curious decision at best.

Stock Watch: Martellus Bennett rolls on

September, 30, 2014
Sep 30
10:31
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Martellus BennettDavid Banks/Getty ImagesTight end Martellus Bennett leads the Bears with 29 catches for 295 yards to go along with four touchdowns.

RISING

Martellus Bennett
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1. Martellus Bennett, TE: While injuries have slowed certain wide receivers (more on that later), the Jay Cutler-to-Bennett connection has thrived in the first quarter of the season. Bennett leads the team with 29 catches for 295 yards and is second with four touchdown receptions. Green Bay had no answer for Bennett on Sunday, as the tight end set career-highs in catches (nine) and receiving yards (134) on 11 targets. Bennett said after the loss he expects to have numerous 100-yard receiving games in the future. Hard to argue with that bold prediction. The 6-foot-6, 265-pound Bennett gives maximum effort on the field, at all times. He is one of the toughest players to tackle on the team.

Forte
Forte
2. Matt Forte/offensive line: Week 4 proved the Bears' ground attack is alive and well. The Bears zeroed in on a mismatch (Green Bay ranked 30th in rushing defense) and exploited it. As a team, the Bears ran for 235 yards on 41 attempts (5.7 yards per carry). Forte led the way with 122 yards on 23 carries (5.3 yards per carry), but even rookie Ka'Deem Carey had success against the Packers with 72 yards on 14 carries. Under normal circumstances, the Bears win games in which they dominate on the ground. But two costly turnovers, not to mention a red-hot Aaron Rodgers, ultimately sunk the Bears. But the line came to play on Sunday. So did Forte, who reached a career milestone by topping 10,000 all-purpose yards.

Gould
Gould
3. Robbie Gould, K: Special teams have been hit or miss, but Gould is steady as usual. The veteran surprised the Packers in the second quarter with a well-executed onside kick, although the Bears were unable to recover. Gould is 5-for-5 on field-goal attempts with two his kicks occurring in the 40-49 yard range. Par for the course. Gould is the most accurate kicker in team history, hitting 239-of-277 career field goals. Even working with a new long snapper (Jeremy Cain) and holder (Pat O'Donnell), Gould remains close to automatic.

FALLING

Marshall
Down arrow
  
1. Brandon Marshall, WR: Either Marshall's ankle injury is more serious than we realize, or the lack of practice time is more of an issue. Regardless of the specific reason, Marshall has not been the same player since he caught three touchdown passes against the 49ers. Three combined catches over the past two games is very un-Marshall-like. Marshall had only two receptions for 19 yards against Green Bay, and apparently failed to adjust his route on Cutler's second interception after halftime. The duo was clearly not on the same page. If Marshall can't practice on Wednesday or Thursday, should he play in Week 5 at Carolina? That's a tough decision for the Bears to make. Before the Green Bay defeat, I would have said to let Marshall play, practice or not practice. Now, I'm not so sure.

2. Defensive line: Failing to pressure Rodgers is a recipe for disaster. The Bears leaned on their front four to generate a pass rush on Sunday, and the group came up short. The Bears sacked Rodgers one time in 29 pass attempts (Rodgers had one rush for 8 yards), and according to the official NFL statistics distributed to players and media after the game, the defense failed to record a single quarterback hit. Whenever the Bears managed to push Rodgers outside the pocket, nobody on the defense line finished the play. Rodgers ended the game with 302 passing yards, four touchdowns and a quarterback rating of 151.2. Even without Jared Allen (illness) and Jeremiah Ratliff (concussion), the Bears need better results from its revamped defensive line.

Bostic
3. Jon Bostic, LB: Bostic is arguably one of the best athletes on the team. His speed is incredible. One day, I predict Bostic develops into an upper-echelon linebacker in the NFL. However, at this very moment, the best way to describe the second-year linebacker is all over the place. There are moments of brilliance, followed by not-so-great moments. And Bostic commits some really bad penalties. Case in point: a defensive holding call on a fourth-quarter 23-yard field-goal attempt. How does that happen? Maybe the officials got it wrong (they did that often on Sunday), but that Bostic penalty officially put the game out of reach. The Packers got a fresh set of downs inside the Bears' 5-yard line, and Rodgers hit Randall Cobb on a 3-yard touchdown on the very next play to push the lead to 38-17. Ballgame.
video

Eric Allen discusses Bears TE Martellus Bennett's statement that he played with injuries during much of his productive 2013 season.
[+] EnlargeCutler
AP Photo/Nam Y. HuhJay Cutler said he thought a trade to the Redskins was 'a done deal' back in 2009.

Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler on Monday confirmed a recent report he was nearly a member of the Washington Redskins in 2009, shortly before a trade with the Denver Broncos brought him to his current team.

In a piece explaining some of the behind-the-scenes maneuvers that ultimately led to the Bears landing Cutler, the quarterback -- fueled by speculation about former head coach Josh McDaniels' preference of Matt Cassell, and the belief former coach Mike Shanhan would be joining Washington -- reportedly wanted to join the Redskins.

"There were a few teams we got calls about that it was kind of coming down to the wire," Cutler explained Monday during ESPN 1000's "The Jay Cutler Show". "I thought Washington was a done deal."

Former Redskins vice president of football operations Vinny Cerrato thought so, too. In the CBS Sports report, Cerrato is quoted as saying, "Jay Cutler wanted to come ... because he figured Shanahan was coming anyhow, and so he wanted to come, too. And for the agent (Bus Cook) and everybody, it would have been a very smooth transition."


(Read full post)


Last week, Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers told fans to relax after his team’s 1-2 start, but Chicago’s Jay Cutler stutter stepped that approach and opted for reality on the heels of the Bears' falling to 2-2 Sunday after a 38-17 loss to the Packers.

“I’m not gonna tell them anything,” Cutler said Monday during the “Jay Cutler Show” on ESPN 100. “We’ve got to win games at home. Green Bay, a divisional opponent … we’ve just got to play better. There is a lot of football left. [Rodgers] does have a point. It’s a long season. We’ve had a rough stretch.”

[+] EnlargeCutler
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesJay Cutler dropped to 1-9 against the Packers, but his season numbers are promising.
After back-to-back victories on the road at San Francisco and against the New York Jets, the Bears returned to Soldier Field on Sunday for the first time since the opener. The Bears sprinted out of the gate and marched 80 yards on 15 plays to start the game, only to sputter down the stretch as a result of two turnovers, shoddy play in the secondary and a pass rush that barely made Rodgers flinch as he tossed four touchdown passes.

Starting with a matchup Sunday at Carolina, the Bears play three of the next four on the road before their Nov. 2 bye. Cutler offered no assurances the club would bounce back. The club’s three upcoming road opponents (Carolina, Atlanta and New England) currently hold a combined record of 6-5.

“We’ve had a rough stretch,” Cutler said. “We’re gonna go through a pretty rough stretch, like you guys were talking about earlier, the next four games. So we’ve just got to take it one game at a time.”

The Bears rolled up 496 yards of offense and converted 64 percent of third downs. But a couple of Cutler interceptions, combined with the defense's allowing Rodgers to throw for 302 yards and a passer rating of 151.2, doomed Chicago’s prospects. In 28 pass attempts, Rodgers suffered only one sack, and Bears coach Marc Trestman said Monday that the club blitzed very little in the loss.

Asked whether he remained confident about future meetings with the Packers, Cutler said, “Yeah, you saw the stats. I think we’ve got a really good bead on them now, with Trest[man] and this group. So hopefully we can start improving on that.”

Cutler finished with a passer rating of 82.5 and two touchdown passes to go with the interceptions. Matt Forte was one of the club’s few bright spots on offense. He rushed for 122 yards on 23 attempts.

Despite the shaky outing against the Packers, Cutler has completed 65.8 percent of his throws for 10 touchdowns, four interceptions and a passer rating of 94.7, which is promising, considering he entered the season with a career passer rating of 84.6.

Cutler owns a 1-9 record against the Packers, and he’s 41-22 against the rest of the NFL. In games against Chicago’s division rival, Cutler has completed 55.6 percent of his throws with a touchdown-to-interception differential of minus-8. Against the rest of the NFL, Cutler’s completion percentage rises to 61.1 and his touchdown-to-interception ratio to plus-41.

Does the record against the Packers bother Cutler?

"Obviously, you want it to be better," Cutler said. "But there’s not much I can do about it."

In evaluating his own play after the first month of the season, Cutler said, “You’d like to cut down some of those turnovers. A couple of them are pretty stupid. The last one was unfortunate. You clean some of that up, and I’d be happy.”

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