ESPN Chicago picks: Lions at Bears

December, 19, 2014
Dec 19
4:00
PM ET
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Jimmy Clausen spent extra time after Friday’s practice working through plays with the receiving corps and running back Matt Forte in preparation for Sunday’s matchup against the Detroit Lions, but coach Marc Trestman said the new starter at quarterback will enter the contest with a scaled-back game plan.

Clausen
While Clausen and rookie David Fales took in the extra work at Halas Hall, recently benched quarterback Jay Cutler was conspicuously absent despite saying Thursday he planned to help the new starter as much as possible.

“With the limited practice day, we’ve gotten a lot extra work done with these guys,” Trestman said. “They’ve put in some extra time to make sure everybody’s in the right spot and knows where to go. [The Bears will utilize] probably not the quantity of plays [usually called with Cutler under center] because we haven’t had an opportunity to rep them with [Clausen] throughout the year.”

A former second-round pick, Clausen receives his first NFL start on Sunday since 2010, when the quarterback finished with a 1-9 record as a Carolina Panther while generating the lowest season-ending QBR (11.0) for a qualified quarterback in any season for which the statistic has been tracked.

In Clausen’s 10 starts in 2010, the quarterback threw for three touchdowns and nine interceptions.

“This is a very businesslike team,” Trestman said when asked how the team is handling the change at quarterback. “They go back to work, and they’ve done the things they’ve done each and every day after wins and after losses. Quite frankly, that’s how they responded: in a very consistent manner. I can’t speak for anybody else. We’ve made a change. Jimmy is going to play. I know he’ll give his best effort. I know each and every guy is playing to win the game. That’s how we look at it.”

Interestingly, Cutler didn’t stay after practice Friday to work with Clausen, while Fales did. Trestman said Cutler will serve as the No. 2 quarterback, while also divulging Fales won’t be active for Sunday’s matchup against the Lions.
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The Chicago Bears announced safety Chris Conte (back) and kicker Robbie Gould (right quadriceps) are out for Sunday’s game against the Detroit Lions at Soldier Field.

The club also listed cornerback Tim Jennings (ankle), left guard Kyle Long (hip), and defensive tackles Jeremiah Ratliff (knee) and Will Sutton (illness) as questionable. Long and Ratliff were limited participants Friday during practice at Halas Hall.

“Kyle, his hip is a little bit sore today,” Bears coach Marc Trestman said. “He did some limited work. We just monitored his work today.”

Trestman called Gould “week to week,” and said the kicker “tried very hard to go last week.”

The team will hold out Gould for the third consecutive week, while Conte will miss his second straight outing after suffering the back injury in the third quarter of a Dec. 4 loss to the Dallas Cowboys. Prior to that, Conte left a Thanksgiving loss to the Lions due to an eye injury, and he's missed time with sprains on both shoulders.

It’s expected that Brock Vereen will start in Conte’s place.

Fantasy: Bears Offense

December, 19, 2014
Dec 19
2:33
PM ET


video

Christopher Harris analyzes the Chicago Bears offense for Week 16.

How they match up: Bears vs. Lions

December, 19, 2014
Dec 19
2:00
PM ET

Detroit Lions (10-4) at Chicago Bears (5-9)

Noon CT Sunday at Soldier Field on FOX

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears coach Marc Trestman detailed Thursday what sounded like a meticulous approach in making the decision to bench quarterback Jay Cutler, but most of the players found out about the move through social media instead of from the man in charge.

“We’d like for everything to come from in-house first, but at the end of the day, it didn’t work out like that,” said left tackle Jermon Bushrod, who added the team held a meeting Thursday “to cover up what got out yesterday.”

Cutler
Clausen
Trestman described a process in which he met with Cutler and backup Jimmy Clausen “to tell them my intentions and walk them through the process of how this was gonna be handled,” before sitting down later in the day with general manager Phil Emery to “talk to him about my decision, and finalize it on our staff meeting” Wednesday night. Before Trestman informed the team, however, ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter posted a tweet breaking news of the coach’s decision to bench Cutler in favor of Clausen.

Trestman was asked Thursday whether he was concerned about news of the decision to bench Cutler leaking through social media before he actually informed the team.

“The normal course of events is I wanted to make sure the quarterbacks knew my intent. The biggest part of this, I wanted the team to know, hear from me first,” Trestman said. “And we all know that in this day and age it's very difficult to keep some of those things [quiet]. I mean, it was assumed that eventually it could get out during the course of the day, but my thoughts were to respect my team. I wanted them to hear it from me first. I wanted them to know I spoke with the quarterbacks. They knew about it. And ultimately I wanted them to know they knew about it before it got out, which was critically important.”

Obviously, that’s not what took place.

“I found out on Twitter; not ideal,” left guard Kyle Long said.

Cornerback Charles Tillman on “Mike & Mike” on ESPN radio said he found out about the news on Twitter, too.

“Didn’t really matter to me,” said tight end Martellus Bennett when asked if he would rather have heard about Cutler’s benching from Trestman. “Half the s--- I read, I don’t believe anyway. So it doesn’t matter to me.”

Bears tight ends coach Andy Bischoff sent a text message to Bennett informing him of the news.

“It was surprising at first to hear the news, obviously,” Long said. “But we have the utmost confidence in the people upstairs. You get torn between a decision involving one of your good friends and your quarterback. But you have to put emotions and opinions to the side when you’re doing something like this because the bottom line is, I know [Detroit defensive tackle Ndamukong] Suh's still going to be lined up in the three-technique on Sunday, and that won’t change. Not much changes in terms of what we have to do.”
video
When: 1 p.m. ET, Sunday Where: Soldier Field, Chicago TV: Fox

The Chicago Bears' brass spewed plenty of tough talk after Lovie Smith’s firing about plans to close the gap on the Green Bay Packers in the NFC North.

But while Chicago was talking grand plans, the rest of the division was actually executing them, which is how we’ve come into Sunday’s matchup at Soldier Field with the last-place Bears hosting the NFC North-leading Detroit Lions.

ESPN Bears reporter Michael C. Wright and Lions reporter Michael Rothstein break down the matchup:

Wright: Looking at all the playoff scenarios, it’s clear all the Lions need to worry about is winning Sunday against the Bears. That has to be a refreshing feeling considering all this franchise has been through. What is the mood in the locker room, how confident is this team headed into such a crucial stretch, and do you feel the Lions are catching fire at just the right time?

Rothstein: That's all the Lions have been talking about, Michael. You ask a playoff question, you’re pretty much getting an answer about focusing on Chicago or beating Chicago. Personally, I was hoping there would be a Lions player this week who would answer every question with just the word "Chicago." That could have been entertaining. It all starts with coach Jim Caldwell, though. He won’t talk about the playoffs with anybody, not even his family. Considering how much the Lions have really bought into all of his motivational messages this season, it isn’t surprising they have continued doing that. As far as catching fire, Detroit’s defense has been consistent all season. The offense seems to vary depending on the opponent. Facing the Bears could be a good thing for the Lions since Chicago’s defense is one of the worst in the league.

The last time Detroit faced Chicago, the Bears seemed to be in a bit of a downward spiral. How has it gotten worse over the past four weeks?

Wright: Oh, Mike, let me count the ways. Instead of this being a "downward spiral," it’s now just a cliff with essentially everyone -- from team president Ted Phillips to the equipment staff -- trying desperately to prevent the inevitable tumble off the edge. Two nationally televised embarrassments in a row at Soldier Field in losses to Dallas and New Orleans. Do you realize nearly 11,000 fans didn’t show up for the club’s dismal showing against the Saints? Mike, you know it’s bad when you have a nationally televised game on tap, yet all the coverage throughout the week focuses on offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer’s tearful admission that he was the anonymous source for a report by the NFL Network, and the ensuing fallout from that. Right now, do you think the media in Chicago is talking about Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson or Ndamukong Suh? Nope. All the questions and speculation going into this game concern the futures of general manager Phil Emery, the coaching staff and whether ownership can stomach enough of this futility to resist cleaning house before the conclusion of the regular season. Mike, it’s bad. Very bad. It’s worse than anything I’ve ever covered, and the feeling I get is this team has thrown in the towel and is simply anticipating what appears to be the inevitable. I don't think news this week of the team naming quarterback Jimmy Clausen the starter over Jay Cutler eases the drama.

When the Lions first hired Caldwell, there was skepticism about his abilities as a head coach. There is no doubting Caldwell now, in my opinion. How different is the players' belief in Caldwell as this team’s leader compared to how they felt with Jim Schwartz?

Rothstein: I will readily admit I was one of Caldwell's biggest doubters, even at his opening news conference when I asked him about having a losing record in college and being out in Indy after three seasons. But he has really been the perfect coach for this team. His calmness has been the biggest factor in why Detroit has been able to continually come from behind this season and why Detroit is 10-4 with two games to go. The players, as mentioned, really buy into everything he’s saying and also appreciate his coaching style and that of his defensive coordinator, Teryl Austin. Austin often implements in-game adjustments from his players based on what they are seeing on the field, and it’s worked. Last week is a good example, as Minnesota scored 14 points early and didn’t score again the rest of the game. That has been huge for the Lions.

The Bears essentially abandoned the run against Detroit on Thanksgiving, and there are other games this season where they have done that, too. Does Chicago try to run on Detroit a second time, or do you expect more of the same Sunday?

Wright: The last time these teams met, Chicago knew running the ball against the Lions would prove to be an exercise in futility. So the Bears tried to attack Detroit the same way the Patriots did with the short passing attack. They figured short passes to Matt Forte would be an extension of the rushing attack. The game plan seemed to work at first, before Detroit turned a 14-3 deficit into a 24-14 lead at intermission on the strength of a trio of touchdowns on three consecutive possessions. Forte finished with five attempts -- which tied a career low -- for 6 yards. If the Bears attack similarly in this contest, you can count on the Detroit Lions engineering a blowout. As good as Detroit’s run defense is, the Bears would render play-action totally ineffective if they abandon the run. So Chicago likely will start off the game trying to run the ball. But as you predicted, the Bears will abandon the rushing attack at some point. It’s just a matter of time in this game.

Mike, you cover a team with so many interesting storylines. What is the latest with the right tackle situation? Can you give me the lowdown on undrafted rookie Cornelius Lucas, since he might be the next man up at that position with LaAdrian Waddle suffering a knee injury against Minnesota?

Rothstein: I don’t quite have the storylines you have, Michael. Caldwell essentially ruled Waddle out of Sunday’s game against Chicago, and Lucas is going to be the guy. He has had some struggles this season, but Lucas considers his best game of the season the only other one he started -- against the Bears on Thanksgiving. He was responsible for no quarterback sacks and no quarterback hurries in that game. Lucas might have been an undrafted free agent, but his size and foot speed make him a player with a lot of potential in the future. There is a reason Detroit coveted him in the UDFA market. It will be interesting to see him go up against Willie Young on Sunday, because Young is having his own breakout season and could really take advantage of Lucas if he isn’t careful. It could be one of the most hidden matchups to watch if Chicago has a chance at an upset.

Typically, it’s been the Lions in the role of spoiler throughout the recent history of this rivalry. Yet that is what the Bears are playing for this week. Is that a big motivation for them, or are the other issues taking over?

Wright: Self-preservation takes precedence over playing the spoiler role in this outing, my man. By and large, a good portion of the coaching staff believes it is on the way out. In fact, multiple coaches on that staff have told me as much. But they have also said it’s important for them to go out and conduct themselves as professionals, because when it’s all said and done, most if not all will be seeking employment elsewhere once ownership finally makes the decision to clean house. The Bears started the season losing three in a row at Soldier Field, and it appears this team is destined to end the season the same way. So I’m sure the Bears want to finish out with a victory in their last game of the season at Soldier Field. But honestly, I think spoiling Detroit’s season is the furthest thing from this team’s thinking at this point.
video

Cousin Sal's Week 16 Picks

December, 19, 2014
Dec 19
2:02
AM ET


video

Cousin Sal sits down with Neil Everett to makes his picks for Week 16 in the NFL.
video


LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Football players talk a lot about the importance of "tape."

Tape is where you find answers and tape is where you want to shine. In what might have been his last news conference at Halas Hall, Jay Cutler got some great stuff on tape.

For a guy known for a lack of composure on the field, he continued his impressive streak of keeping it together under duress off the field.

[+] EnlargeJay Cutler and Jimmy Clausen
Joe Sargent/Getty ImagesJay Cutler admitted he did not take the news well when he was told he would be benched for Jimmy Clausen.
In his first comments since his surprise benching by coach Marc Trestman on Wednesday, Cutler impressed NFL people from coast to coast. He was self-effacing, respectful, funny and insightful in talking to local reporters, a group with which he has had an up-and-down relationship.

It was the second straight week in which he looked a lot more professional than Trestman, who has been reduced to a defensive, mournful soul who is likely seeing the end of his professional dream.

There are no winners in the Bears' situation, save for Jimmy Clausen, who gets his first start since 2010 this Sunday against the Detroit Lions. At 5-9, the Chicago Bears aren't just subpar, they're getting embarrassed on a weekly basis. Cutler has been part of the problem, and in this case, he's the scapegoat for the organizational dysfunction that has crippled the historic franchise.

Chicago is used to the Bears missing the playoffs, but we're in rare territory here as the Bears are operating like the Oakland Raiders.

While Cutler's reputation as a sourpuss has been solidified through years of televised grimacing, he has been very good with Chicago media this year in his podium appearances. He even joked about the now-famous miscommunication Monday night when he answered three questions in the postgame media room and left before reporters had scurried over from the locker room.

"Glad you guys could make it," he said. "I missed you after the game."

It figures this happens now. Cutler isn't going to win a Super Bowl in Chicago, but he won the room in Lake Forest. I can't speak for anyone else, but I found him sympathetic Thursday. If he's gone, he's going out, well, professionally.

(Read full post)

video

Michael C. Wright and Jeff Dickerson discuss why Marc Trestman ultimately made the move to start quarterback Jimmy Clausen against the Lions on Sunday, and whether Jay Cutler will be in Chicago next season.

What's Next For Cutler?

December, 18, 2014
Dec 18
5:29
PM ET


video

John Clayton talks about the future of the Chicago Bears' offense.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- When Golden Tate heard the news about one of his closest friends, he immediately sent him a message.

In it, he told new Chicago Bears starting quarterback Jimmy Clausen to be safe.

Clausen
Tate
Tate
"I sent him a text saying I’m happy for you, but I’m also nervous for you," Tate said. "Our defense ain’t nothing to mess around with, so for that to be your first start with your new team, it can be nerve-racking.

"But I hope he does well. I hope he stays safe out there. I hope he puts some good stuff on film, but I hope we still beat him pretty bad."

Tate knows Clausen better than anyone else on the Lions. The two have been close friends since their time at Notre Dame together, when Clausen threw passes to Tate during Tate's Biletnikoff Award-winning season in 2009.

Tate said he has wanted to see Clausen get another chance after he was thrown into the Panthers’ lineup as a rookie. Clausen went 1-9 in his rookie year in 2010, completing 157 of 299 passes for 1,558 yards, three touchdowns and nine interceptions. He was sacked 33 times and posted a QBR of 11.0.

"I think it was unfair when he was in Carolina," Tate said. "He wasn’t on a great team, being a rookie. The next year they draft Cam Newton. He sits as a No. 3 [QB] because (Derek Anderson) was No. 2. They wouldn’t let him go, so he couldn’t even get an opportunity to go somewhere else to prove himself.

"Meanwhile, you’ve got tons of other, in my mind, terrible quarterbacks getting drafted in the first round. I’m sure you guys would agree with that, that have proven to be terrible, I’m not going to mention any names.

"That could have been his chance to shine, and then he tore his labrum last year and had to sit out the whole year and then he had to wait for someone to call. Wait for a chance. Gets to Chicago, gets a chance and beats out the No. 2 guy and is the backup quarterback. I believe in him and hope he makes the best of his opportunity for these last two games."

Well, he hopes he does well -- just not too well.

"In a perfect world he would play well and throw no touchdowns," Tate said. "And we would win."
video

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Despite coach Marc Trestman benching him just 14 games into a seven-year, $126.7 million contract, quarterback Jay Cutler hopes to remain with the Bears, but he acknowledged Thursday "it definitely crossed my mind" that he has possibly played his final game with the team.

Trestman pulled Cutler and backup Jimmy Clausen into a meeting Wednesday to inform the quarterbacks of the decision to go with the latter Sunday when the Bears host the Detroit Lions at Soldier Field.

Cutler said he "didn't take [the demotion] well at the time."

"You sign a seven-year deal, and you think you're going to be here for a while," Cutler said Thursday at Halas Hall. "I'm still hopeful that's going to ring true, that we'll have another shot at this. But after this last game, a lot could happen."

Trestman benched Cutler after the quarterback produced a season-low passer rating of 55.8 in Monday night's loss to the New Orleans Saints while throwing three interceptions and generating a total QBR of 6.8, which registered as his second-worst performance of the season in that statistic (6.0 QBR in Week 10 against the Green Bay Packers). Cutler also absorbed a season-high seven sacks against the Saints.

In leading the Bears to a 5-9 record, Cutler has racked up a league-high 24 turnovers (18 interceptions and six forced fumbles).

NFL Insider Adam Schefter first reported news of Cutler's benching Wednesday night, and the team held a meeting Thursday "to cover up what got out yesterday," according to Bears left tackle Jermon Bushrod


(Read full post)


Inside Edge: Lions-Bears

December, 18, 2014
Dec 18
4:01
PM ET


video

ESPN NFL Insider Mike Sando delivers stats to help you make a pick for Detroit at Chicago.

SPONSORED HEADLINES