Chicago Bears: Chicago Bears
The official injury report listed Fuller as having limited participation.
“Our decision with Kyle is day-to-day in terms of how he’s working. He practiced today to the full extent of practice. We’ll see how that is tomorrow and we’ll continue to evaluate it daily. We certainly want him to feel comfortable playing and not to have the concerns that he can hurt himself more with what he has. We certainly wouldn’t put him out there if we thought that was the case.”
Linebackers Lance Briggs (ribs) and Jon Bostic (back), tight end Martellus Bennett (hamstring) and right tackle Jordan Mills (foot) were also limited.
Three players were held out of practice: defensive end Jared Allen (rest), safety Danny McCray (knee) and KR/WR Chris Williams (illness).
Safety Chris Conte (shoulder) practiced without restrictions for the second consecutive day and is expected to be available Sunday when the Bears travel to New England. Conte was inactive in Week 7 after failing to finish four of the Bears' first six regular-season games.
Allen played in 46 of the club's 70 snaps against the Dolphins, while Young participated in 54 snaps.
In the third quarter, Miami marched 83 yards in 13 plays with Lamar Miller capping the drive with on a 2-yard touchdown run. The Bears didn't utilize Allen during the drive, but defensive coordinator Mel Tucker pointed out the Dolphins weren't faced with many third-and-long situations. On that possession, Miami faced third down just twice with 2 yards to convert. The Dolphins also converted a fourth-and-1.
"Going forward, obviously we want him in the game," Tucker said. "He's been a highly-productive player for us. It was an unusual series. We had a lot of short-yardage situations. We didn't really get into third-and-long. We visited with him about it, and we're ready to move on. We'll be fine. We just tell him that we're going to make sure that we get him on the field as much as possible."
Allen wasn't concerned about a lack of playing time, but immediately after the game referred questions regarding the situation to the coaching staff.
"We haven't really talked about it," Allen said. "The rotation happened that way I guess. We'll move on to New England."
The Bears held out Allen when the team faced Green Bay on Sept. 28, but he's played in six games this season, contributing 24 tackles and 1.5 sacks.
The brothers have yet to battle each other during a game -- until now.
"After draft day obviously we looked up each other's schedules," Brock Vereen said. "Since then it's something that we've both been anticipating, but we're very excited for it to actually be here.
You know, it's an exciting time for my parents and my family. But from a personal standpoint I've got to stay focused and get ready to go."
A fourth-round draft pick, Vereen started Week 7 against the Miami Dolphins (five tackles), and is a candidate to see the field on defense in New England. Vereen is also tied for fifth on the team with five special teams tackles.
Of course, Vereen’s defensive playing time likely hinges on the health of safety Chris Conte (shoulder). Conte practiced without restrictions Wednesday, but the safeties' 2014 track record is concerning. Conte failed to finish four of the first six games before being inactive against the Dolphins.
"There are definitely things I feel I did well and there's definitely things I need to improve on," Vereen said regarding his first NFL start.
Would Vereen hesitate to clobber his brother Sunday, if the opportunity presented itself?
"That's my job; just like he would be looking to run me over or break my tackle," Vereen said. "So we're very excited."
Head coach Marc Trestman, offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer -- even the players -- constantly harp on the need for the Chicago Bears to eliminate the turnovers, and if the club doesn't start to take some steps in that direction, it faces a long day at Gillette Stadium on Sunday against the New England Patriots, who come into this contest with 10 days of prep time.
It all starts with quarterback Jay Cutler, who has spotted opponents an average of 9.25 points just off turnovers in each of the team's four losses. In each of the club's defeats, Cutler turned over the ball on multiple occasions. And while Cutler understands turnovers are the root of the problems, he's got to take corrective steps to keep his team out of the binds.
As a playcaller, Trestman can help.
Against the Miami Dolphins in the first half, Trestman -- despite the luxury of having one of the NFL's hottest backs in Matt Forte -- called just two runs, which isn't conducive to keeping opponents off balance to allow Cutler to operate off play-action. But it also places the offense in too many difficult-to-convert, third-and-long situations.
You've got a horse. Ride him, and keep the team's fate out of the hands of Cutler, who completed three of 11 passes for 52 yards and an interception on throws of 15 yards or more downfield against the Dolphins, according to ESPN Stats & Information. The Bears play a West Coast offense, which emphasizes a short, controlled passing attack. Yet Cutler insists on throwing vertical despite teams working feverishly to take that away. That partially explains why he's got the NFL's fourth-worst completion percentage (32.4 percent) on deep balls and has thrown five interceptions on such attempts, which is tied for second most in the NFL.
Trestman needs to emphasize to Cutler the need to simply take what defenses give him. In turn, the quarterback needs to stop giving it away. Ten turnovers in seven games (seven interceptions and three fumbles) is enough.
3. Coverage teams: Miami rookie sensation Jarvis Landry managed to return just two kickoffs for 55 yards and two punts for 22 yards. Landry’s dynamic ability on kickoff returns worried the Bears leading up to Sunday, but the coverage teams and kicker Robbie Gould answered the challenge. Covering kicks is a collective effort between the coverage men and the kicker. Gould forces return men to move around in the end zone before catching the football -- an exercise that can disrupt a return man’s rhythm.
3. Rest of the offense: This is not the kind of offensive output Bears fans envisioned. Fans expected to see growth and improvement in the second year of the offense. After all, the Bears returned all 16 starters from a group that finished second in the NFL in points per game in 2013. Instead, the Bears offense is the main culprit behind the rocky seven-game stretch to open the season. On all levels, the Bears are failing. For whatever reason, the Bears aren’t stringing together wins (with the exception of back-to-back victories over San Francisco and the New York Jets). The offense is wildly inconsistent; it’s always something with the offense. Actually, it’s always something with this team. Rarely do the three phases come together in harmony. The Bears have nine games -- minimum -- to figure it out. The Bears have missed the playoffs six of the past seven years. It would be seven of the past eight years if they fail to reach the postseason in 2014 (a very real possibility). Time for the offense to step up and save the day.
Fuller's status is unknown for the Week 8 trip to New England to face the 5-2 Patriots.
"Up to this point today, I've heard it [the broken hand] as being a non-surgical issue," Trestman said.
"He went out of the game because of his hip more than his hand, so we'll just see. He said he felt good today, but it'll be day to day. I don't know that the hand will deter him. I don't know that, I haven't talked to [the training staff] about it. But that's what I understand at this time."
The No. 14 overall selection of the 2014 NFL draft, Fuller replaced Charles Tillman (injured reserve) on the first team in Week 2, recording three interceptions and three forced fumbles in five starts.
Fuller's third-quarter exit on Sunday forced the Bears to play Sherrick McManis at cornerback opposite Tim Jennings, with Demontre Hurst lining up at nickelback.
1. March to 8-8 continues: This outfit seems destined to be .500. One week the Bears are on top of the world; the next week the team is face down in the gutter. Victories by Green Bay (5-2) and Detroit (5-2) on Sunday pushed the Bears two games back in the NFC North. Future road dates against New England and the Packers hardly look promising, but the NFL is full of surprises. It's possible the Bears could sneak a win next week, although the Patriots have extra time to prepare for Week 8 as a result of playing Thursday night. But in every sense the Bears are mediocre. Except for the talent level on the roster. That is above average. However, the Bears find themselves 0-3 at home and 3-4 overall. That is a problem.
3. Offense underachieves, again: Where is the offense that averaged 27.8 points in 2013 (second-highest total in the NFL)? Just when Jay Cutler makes you think the offense is ready to explode, it puts up a stinker against the Dolphins. Up and down. Up and down. That's the story of the 2014 Bears through seven games. Cutler has turned the ball over 10 times. To steal a phrase from Marshall, Cutler's frequent turnovers are "unacceptable." Games are won and lost in the NFL because of turnover ratio. The Bears certainly know this. Marc Trestman preached about it all week at Halas Hall, yet the Bears were minus-3 versus Miami (Cutler interception, Cutler fumble, Dante Rosario fumble). Buckle up, it's going to be a wild ride, as usual, with the Bears starting quarterback. We all should know the script by now.
4. Tannehill shines: Ryan Tannehill resembled the quarterback worth $54 million guaranteed Sunday. The Dolphins quarterback kept the Bears defense on its heels for much of the game, completing 25 of 32 pass attempts for 277 yards and two touchdowns (123.6 quarterback rating). He spread the ball around to eight receivers. Tannehill even rushed for 48 yards, including a critical 30-yard gain on fourth down in the third quarter. Defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff's career day (3.5 sacks) did little to slow down Tannehill. He delivered the ball with extreme accuracy on the move. This was unexpected, especially since the good people of South Florida seem on the fence about whether Tannehill is the Dolphins' quarterback of the future.
5. Install Field Turf, please: One of the longest running jokes in the NFL is the condition of the Soldier Field playing surface. The Bears have an excellent head groundskeeper who spends most of the week at Halas Hall grooming the practice fields. He cannot be in two places at once. This is one of the many unfortunate byproducts of the Bears not owning their stadium. The players can't stand the grass field. The fans can't stand the grass field. The Bears are built for offense. If you bought a thoroughbred, would you make it run in mud? Make the switch to Field Turf. The situation is beyond embarrassing for everyone involved.
Week 7 Report Card: Dolphins at Bears
Jay Cutler's roller-coaster season continues. The quarterback completed only 21 of 34 pass attempts for 190 yards, one touchdown and one interception for a quarterback rating of 74.4. Miami's Ryan Tannehill (123.6 passer rating) crushed Cutler head-to-head. Keep in mind, Tannehill has far fewer offensive weapons at his disposal. Cutler did a poor job feeling the pressure at times and ended up being sacked on three separate occasions. Cutler is the perfect embodiment of the Bears. Hot one week, cold the next.
Matt Forte only carried the ball 12 times for 49 yards (4.1 yards per carry). The Bears completely abandoned the run in the first half. Forte had more success early in the third quarter, but the Bears never really established the run. Hard to blame Forte. He's not the one calling the plays. Overall, Week 7 turned out to be another complete dud on offense.
The Bears made Tannehill look like Joe Montana. A middle-of-the-road NFL quarterback, Tannehill torched the Bears: 25-of-32 for 277 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions. Ryan Tannehill? Seriously? Eight different Miami players caught passes on Sunday. Tannehill was sacked four times, but he had far too much time to survey the field for much of the afternoon.
The Dolphins ran for 137 yards on 33 carries. Tailback Lamar Miller led Miami with 61 rushing yards and one touchdown. But Tannehill did the most damage on the ground, scrambling for 30 yards on fourth-and-1 in the third quarter. The Dolphins scored a touchdown two plays later that ultimately put the game out of reach.
The Bears were better on special teams. Chris Williams returned a pair of kickoffs for 75 yards. Punter Pat O'Donnell averaged 53 yards on three kicks with a net average of 45.7 yards. Miami's Jarvis Landry returned one of his kickoffs 31 yards. Lamarr Houston also blocked a field goal.
The Bears came out flat. Why does that continue to happen at home? The Bears have way too much talent to be 3-4 overall. There is no excuse to keep losing these winnable games, especially at Soldier Field. The Bears had better be careful -- 3-6 is staring them straight in the face with upcoming trips to New England and Green Bay.
CHICAGO -- Outside the closed double doors of the Chicago Bears' locker room in the bowels of Soldier Field after the team’s 27-14 loss to the Miami Dolphins, loud yelling pierced the busy hallway, and a source later said the noise was Brandon Marshall calling out quarterback Jay Cutler.
Just down the hall at the team’s postgame news conference, Bears coach Marc Trestman and Cutler gave contradictory statements when asked why the team handed off to Matt Forte just twice in the first half.
The contradictory statements, slight locker room friction, and subsequent frustration from Marshall, not to mention guard Kyle Long criticizing the fans at Soldier Field, underscore the dysfunction seemingly taking hold of the Bears just a week after they blasted the Atlanta Falcons 27-13 on the road. Ultimately, the root of the problem on offense proved, as usual, to be turnovers. In each of the team’s four losses this season, Cutler committed multiple turnovers, leading to a total of 37 points for the opponent.
“Turnovers obviously hurt you,” Trestman said. “When you turn over the ball, you take yourself out of it. We had three turnovers today offensively, and that was after a bad start. If you look at the games, I think there [is] some reasonably good execution in terms of how utilizing our offense, particularly.”
But none of it means anything if you can’t protect the football. Heading into the game Sunday, the Bears averaged 423.3 yards of offense in their losses, but turned over the ball a total of nine times. Chicago turned over the ball three times against the Dolphins.
“Same mistakes, same mistakes, same mistakes,” Marshall said. “We’ve got to protect the football.”
Down 7-0 in the second quarter, Cutler’s pass intended for tight end Martellus Bennett sailed with Reshad Jones picking it off and returning it 50 yards to set up the Dolphins at the Chicago 23. Santonio Holmes ran a go route down the sideline, which was expected to draw away coverage from Bennett.
But Holmes wound up running free down the sideline, while two defenders covered Bennett as he watched Cutler’s pass sail over his head.
“We got squeezed from the outside. It was a little bit high,” Cutler said. “I think Marty saw the squeeze coming. I don’t even know if he saw it coming to be honest with you. They did a good job with coverage. They really did. They mixed it up, took a lot of the deep shots from us.”
Jones’ interception gave the Dolphins a short field to work with, and Ryan Tannehill would cap the 23-yard drive with a 10-yard touchdown pass to Mike Wallace to give the visitors a 14-0 lead.
“After watching film all week, we saw [Cutler] was looking where he threw the ball,” Jones said. “He was always looking at his receivers and never looking off. I tried to take advantage of that, and it paid off.”
Miami received another short field when Cameron Wake sacked and stripped Cutler at the Chicago 16.
Four plays later, the Bears made the score 24-7 on a Caleb Sturgis field goal.
“You watched the game. What’s breaking down?” Forte asked. “Penalties and turnovers, we’re shooting ourselves in the foot.”
Trestman and Marshall called the offense’s performance “unacceptable” multiple times in their postgame remarks.
“You want me to say it again?” Marshall asked. “[A record of] 3-4 is unacceptable. It’s unacceptable. You don’t get a tomorrow in this league. We’re halfway through this season! It’s time.”
CHICAGO -- A few thoughts on the Chicago Bears' 27-14 loss to the Miami Dolphins at Soldier Field.
What it means: The Bears fell further out of the NFC North race with the Green Bay Packers appearing to be on the way toward extending their division lead with a win over the Carolina Panthers. The Bears now will travel to New England to face a Bill Belichick-coached Patriots squad that will have extra prep time heading into next week’s matchup at Gillette Stadium. The Bears remain winless at home, which is especially concerning since they will play five of the last seven at Soldier Field.
Stock watch: Strongside linebacker Shea McClellin returned to the lineup after missing the last four games due to a broken hand, but the defense may have fared better without him. McClellin proved to be a liability against both the run and pass. He slipped and fell trying to cover Charles Clay on the tight end's 13-yard touchdown in the first quarter.
Then, on a crucial fourth-and-1 in the third quarter, McClellin failed to disengage from a block as Ryan Tannehill ran to his side for a 30-yard gain to set up Lamar Miller’s 1-yard touchdown.
Jay Cutler turnovers: Fans like to say “Cutty does it.” Well, he certainly did in the loss to the Dolphins, turning the ball over twice. It’s no coincidence the Bears have lost every game in which Cutler has committed a turnover. Cutler tossed two interceptions in each of the team’s three losses heading into Sunday’s game, and he committed two more turnovers (an interception and a fumble) against the Dolphins.
Bears coach Marc Trestman, offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer and Cutler have all talked extensively about turnovers being the deciding factor in all of this team’s losses, yet the quarterback continues to give away the ball. It has to stop.
Game ball: Defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff racked up a career-high 3.5 sacks in the first half alone and contributed seven tackles. Ratliff’s 3.5 sacks against the Dolphins matched his 2010 season total. Ratliff hasn’t made more than two sacks in a season since 2011, which is impressive for a player who had missed three of the last four games recovering from a concussion suffered in Week 3.
What’s next: The Bears head to Halas Hall on Monday to do some light weightlifting and recovery work. They won’t begin preparation for the New England Patriots until Wednesday.
“We’ve just got to try to slow them down, show them different looks, run the ball well, move the pocket a little bit if we can. Things like that,” he said.
Such bullet points might be achieved a little easier this week considering the Bears, for the first time since preparation for the season opener, practiced Thursday with their entire starting offensive line. They’ll certainly need every one of them to handle a Miami defensive front that is legitimately seven or eight deep.
Defensive ends Cameron Wake and Olivier Vernon generate the headlines as they lead the Dolphins with 3.5 sacks and six hurries apiece. But other defensive linemen such as Jared Odrick, Randy Starks and Earl Mitchell are also playing at a high level, which is part of the reason Miami dropped Brady, Smith, Carr and Rodgers for a combined 14 sacks over the team’s first five games.
“As an overall defense, they’re very physical,” Bears offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer said. “They hit the quarterback in every game a bunch of times, and that’s the No. 1 goal in this game: to limit the hits on our quarterback. You look at Tom Brady. You look at Aaron Rodgers. They were hit multiple times. Our No. 1 goal coming [into] this game is to keep Jay safe and to keep him in a pocket where he can complete a pass.”
Cutler might find that a difficult task because Miami’s high-pressure front is backed by experienced corners in Brent Grimes and Cortland Finnegan, who not only understand route concepts to excel in zone coverage but also play physically as man-to-man defenders.
The Dolphins rank No. 9 in the NFL against the pass.
“They understand what they have in their front. They know they’re going to get pressure. They know the quarterback can’t sit back there forever,” Cutler explained. “They break on routes, they sit on stuff. They read concepts really well.”
They’re versatile, too, according to Bears coach Marc Trestman, who broke down the difficulty of attacking Miami’s defense as a whole.
“First of all they play very tight coverage, even in zone,” Trestman said. “Then on third down, because it's man-to-man, you're going to need an extra click. That's what they really try to do on third down is they try to hold you up long enough to be able to have the extra click to be able to get to the quarterback. They're hitting the quarterback in every game. The challenge is getting open quick enough to beat the pass rush, and that's why they play so much man [coverage] on third down.”
Miami’s penchant for man-to-man coverage in passing situations is fine by the Bears. Trestman and Kromer have asked Cutler to start utilizing his underrated mobility to make teams pay when situations warrant.
Through the first six games, Cutler has broken off seven runs for gains of 10 yards or more.
"We’ve been asking him to run in situational plays when everybody is covering and nobody is looking at him,” Kromer said.
Added Cutler: “I just think we’re doing a really good job of recognizing coverage and two-man (two-deep zone coverage with man-to-man coverage underneath). Third downs have been a big one where we’ve caught a little bit of two-man here and there and [it] gave me some opportunities to run.”
It also opens up opportunity for defenses to administer punishment to the quarterback. Remember, Cutler missed time last season on two different occasions due to injuries, and he hasn’t played an entire 16-game season since 2009.
That’s not to say Cutler lacks toughness, because he certainly doesn’t. The quarterback took monstrous shots earlier this season in San Francisco and Atlanta and popped right back up on both occasions -- and actually seemed to play more inspired.
In explaining his toughness, the quarterback pointed to a need to lead the team through adverse situations.
“I know how important it is to the rest of the guys in the huddle,” Cutler said. “I don’t want to let them down. I don’t want to let the coaches down [and] I think a lot of it is driven by that fact. I don’t want to miss plays because I know those guys in front of me and the guys on the outside, they’d do the same thing for me.”
Left tackle Jermon Bushrod (ankle/knee) is likely to return to action on Sunday after being upgraded to full participation in practice, while right tackle Jordan Mills (right) did limited work following a rest day on Wednesday.
“Today was like the first time we’ve all practiced together since Week 1,” Mills said. “I wasn’t there in OTAs (foot surgery) and parts of camp. Then it was Kyle Long when he had his illness. Then unfortunately Roberto Garza and Matt Slauson got hurt in the same game (Buffalo) with the same injury. Then Bushrod [suffered his injury at practice before Carolina game]. But all these dudes [we have as reserves] played so well it was like nobody ever left.”
Linebacker Lance Briggs (ribs) and safety Chris Conte (shoulder) were the only ones to sit out Thursday’s indoor session, but head coach Marc Trestman refused to officially rule out either player, yet.
Trestman said the Bears have rotated safeties Ryan Mundy, Brock Vereen and Danny McCray this week at practice, but Mundy and Vereen lined up together in Atlanta after Conte left the game, the fourth game he’s been unable to finish in 2014. Conte did cardiovascular work on Thursday.
Linebackers Jon Bostic (back) and D.J. Williams (neck), and safety Ahmad Dixon (hamstring) had limited participation.
Cornerback Sherrick McManis (quadriceps/knee) and linebacker Shea McClellin (hand) practiced without restrictions and are expected to be available to face Miami.
A Wall Street Journal reporter watched two full games for every team in the NFL this season, and counted the number of times each head coach and quarterback were shown on the broadcast. Chicago Bears coach Marc Trestman and quarterback Jay Cutler don’t rank very high, but neither fall in at the bottom of the division.
The Wall Street Journal’s findings reveal that Trestman is shown an average of 26.5 times per broadcast, while Cutler comes across the screen 10 times per broadcast. Those figures rank 18th and 25th, respectively. Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer ranks 10th in the NFL and tops in the division in face time as the average TV broadcast flashes his face on the screen an average of 33.5 times per game, while his quarterback Teddy Bridgewater checks in at No. 3 overall (22.5) and No. 1 in the NFC North.
As expected, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers ranks high (seventh), but surprisingly Matthew Stafford is featured on TV broadcasts just eight times per game, which is good for No. 30 overall and last in the NFC North. Two more surprises: New Detroit Lions coach Jim Caldwell is 31st overall in face time, while Packers coach Mike McCarthy is last.
"We feel like we've been on the right track since Day 1," Tucker said. "We believe in what we've been doing with our guys and that we've just needed to focus on getting better day in and day out, week in and week out. We're still not where we want to be and we've got some stuff to clean up. But we feel good about our group as a whole and what we need to get done. We need to take the next step."
With the Miami Dolphins coming into town Sunday, and the defense struggling in each of the team's home losses, Tucker believes the home crowd "deserve[s] to see winning football." In falling to the Buffalo Bills 23-20 in the season opener at Soldier Field, Chicago's defense allowed 193 yards on the ground, and the revamped front four sacked quarterback EJ Manuel only once.
Then in overtime, Bills running back Fred Jackson busted a 38-yard run to the Chicago 1 to set up the game-winning field goal.
Three weeks later, the defense -- aided by turnovers on Chicago's first two offensive possessions of the second half -- allowed 24 unanswered points after the club had built a 17-14 lead with 3:50 remaining in the first half. In that game, the Green Bay Packers scored touchdowns on five of seven offensive possessions.
Chicago currently ranks No. 3 in the NFL in takeaways (12), and Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill, since 2012, has thrown two or more interceptions in nine games.
"We're looking forward to being back at home," Tucker said. "Our fans are tremendous, and obviously our guys feed off our fans, our city, our field. It's a tremendous opportunity for us. Our fans deserve to see winning football and winning performances; tough, physical football and guys playing smart playing fast, and being physical. Our goal each and every day is to work towards giving them that. So that's our focus today, and the rest of the week is to prepare to come out and put forth our best effort for each other and for our fans."
On the other side of the ball, the Bears enter this game with the NFL’s sack leader in Willie Young (seven sacks) leading an opportunistic unit which ranks third in takeaways (12). The Bears have scored 49 points off those takeaways, which is a dangerous proposition for Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who is coming his ninth game since 2012 in which he’s thrown two or more interceptions.
Look for the Bears to capitalize off Miami mistakes often.
Bears 31, Dolphins 17.