Chicago Bears: Chicago Bears

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte picked up his phone Thursday night knowing full well former teammate Devin Hester would soon be reading hundreds of text messages congratulating him for breaking the NFL's record for return touchdowns.

"He's a close friend of mine," Forte said. "But I knew he was going to read every text message. I definitely had to give him props on breaking the record. I just told him congratulations, all his hard work paid off even when people were saying, 'Ah, he's not going to break [the record],' or 'he's done. He can't return the ball anymore,' whenever he'd have a tough year. I'm just proud of him for staying the course."

[+] EnlargeDevin Hester
Scott Cunningham/Getty ImagesWith a 62-yard TD return Thursday night, Devin Hester now holds the NFL record for return touchdowns (20).
Hester high-stepped into NFL history on a 62-yard punt return TD to collect his 20th career scoring return, which broke Deion Sanders' record, during Atlanta's 56-14 shellacking of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, led by former Bears coach Lovie Smith. Hester's former Chicago Bears teammates at Halas Hall congratulated the return man Friday for the accomplishment, with Forte saying, "He's Hall-of-Fame worthy now."

Hester played eight seasons for the Bears (2006-13), racking up 11,632 all-purpose yards. The veteran spent parts of his career playing defensive back and receiver with the team. But last season, Hester requested to concentrate solely on special teams.

Prior to Hester's departure from Chicago, there were rumblings his skills had declined. Bears kicker Robbie Gould disputed that notion, and Hester's statistics certainly support that. Hester averaged 27.6 yards on kickoff returns last season and 14.2 yards per return on punts to go with an 81-yard touchdown.

"He still played at a high level [in 2013]," Gould said. "Actually, the record, he broke it last year and we had a penalty that called it back [against Minnesota]. The guy is a special player. He's got a lot of speed, a lot left in the tank, and you're seeing that right now; especially with the Atlanta Falcons. He's maybe one of the greatest players I've ever played with of all time."

Prior to the 2013, Hester considered retiring, and Forte said "I'm glad he decided to continue to do it, and was able to break that record."

Hester admitted to feeling unhappy about his role toward the end of his Chicago tenure. Unable to click with quarterback Jay Cutler, Hester requested prior to 2013 that the Bears didn't use him on offense. During the 2014 offseason, the Bears decided to not offer Hester a contract.

"I'm going to say it, man. I wasn't happy the last three or four years in Chicago," Hester said during Thursday night's postgame show on NFL Network's Total Access. "Things weren't going the way I expected."

Hester caught a career-high 57 passes for 757 yards and three touchdowns in 2009, Cutler's first season with the team. But Hester and the quarterback never clicked. Hester finished with 2,908 yards and 14 touchdowns, but caught just 23 passes in 2012, his final season playing receiver for the Bears.

"I've got a quarterback now that ... he loves even the walk-ons," Hester said, "and coaches that know how to get the ball to me; how to make plays for me."

Cutler said on Friday he was unaware of Hester's comments.

"But I'm happy for him," Cutler said. "He seems to be in a good place there. Obviously, he's scoring touchdowns. That's always a good thing for him. Couldn't be more happy for him."

Bears coach Marc Trestman joined Forte in sending Hester a congratulatory text, and the coach said the return man responded later in the night.

"Excited about this mountain he's ascended to," Trestman said. "When people move on, you hope it's for the right reasons, for their career. I think everybody here is certainly excited about the fact he's having success, and doing something with his new opportunity."

Through three games, Hester has contributed 126 yards on seven receptions with the Falcons, along with one rushing TD. He's averaged 28 yards on kickoff returns and 15.2 yards on punts to go with Thursday night's record-breaking score.

"Great teammate," Forte said. "Whenever you needed something, you could call Devin anytime, and he'd help you out. As good as he is on the field, off the field, he's even better."

Allen practices, Marshall sits

September, 19, 2014
Sep 19
3:54
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LAKE FOREST, Ill. – Chicago Bears defensive end Jared Allen (lower back) practiced without restrictions on Friday, but wide receiver Brandon Marshall (ankle) remained sidelined for a second consecutive day.

 Marshall and Allen are both expected to play Monday night versus the New York Jets.

Besides Marshall, six other Bears were held out of Friday’s practice: defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff
(concussion), linebacker Shea McClellin (hand), defensive end Trevor Scott (foot), cornerback Sherrick McManis (quad), center Roberto Garza (ankle) and left guard Matt Slauson (ankle).

McClellin’s situation took a turn for the worse. The linebacker had limited in participation in practice on Thursday, but he sat out the entire workout on Friday.

According to head coach Marc Trestman, McClellin suffered the hand injury in practice this week, not during the 28-20 victory over the San Francisco 49ers in Week 2.

In other health news, wide receiver Alshon Jeffery (hamstring) and safety Chris Conte (shoulder) were both limited for the second straight practice, while receiver Josh Morgan (groin) had full participation. Morgan should be available to face the Jets.

Bears make practice squad moves

September, 19, 2014
Sep 19
1:52
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LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The Chicago Bears signed linebacker Terrell Manning to the practice squad on Friday, while terminating the practice squad contract of receiver Greg Herd.

Manning has played in six games the past two seasons with the Green Bay Packers and San Diego Chargers, contributing three tackles on special teams. Manning was Green Bay's fifth-round pick in 2012 out of North Carolina State.

Herd, meanwhile, entered the league as an undrafted free agent out of Eastern Washington in 2013 with the Dallas Cowboys.
Jubilant and still emotional after high-stepping into league history Thursday night on a 56-yard punt return to collect his NFL-record 20th career return touchdown, former Chicago Bears return man Devin Hester admitted to feeling unhappy about his role in the final years of his tenure with the club that drafted him.

Hester played receiver for six years of his eight-year tenure in Chicago, but spent his final season (2013) working exclusively as a return man.

[+] EnlargeDevin Hester
AP Photo/Nam Y. HuhDevin Hester was not happy with his limited involvement in the passing game in Chicago.
Now with the Atlanta Falcons, Hester scored on the return Thursday night as well as a 20-yard run in the first half of his team’s 56-14 shellacking of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, led by former Bears coach Lovie Smith.

“I’m gonna say it, man. I wasn’t happy the last three or four years in Chicago,” Hester said during the postgame show on NFL Network’s Total Access. “Things weren’t going the way I expected. I would always have a great camp; have all the receivers saying and all the coaches saying I had the best camp out of all the receivers. And then, once the season starts off, I’m not there.”

Hester didn’t elaborate, but sources have said he didn’t want to play receiver for the Bears in 2013.

Hester spent eight seasons with the Bears (2006-13) and participated in 123 games, racking up 11,632 all-purpose yards. The veteran spent parts of his career playing defensive back and receiver with the team. But last season, the Bears coaching staff and Hester mutually agreed he’d concentrate solely on duties as a return man.

Hester caught a career-high 57 passes for 757 yards and three touchdowns in 2009, quarterback Jay Cutler's first season with the team. But Hester and Cutler never clicked. Hester finished with 2,908 yards and 14 touchdowns, but caught just 23 passes in 2012, his final season playing receiver for the Bears.

“I’ve got a quarterback now that ... he loves even the walk-ons,” Hester said, “and coaches that know how to get the ball to me; how to make plays for me. I’m excited for this season, man. This is only the beginning for our team. It’s a team that knows how to utilize their talent. Everybody’s making plays, and we’ve got a team that, if you’re good at running this route, we don’t care if you’ve been a starter for 12 years. If this guy is two years in the league and he’s good at this route, we’re gonna let him run this route.”

A three-time Pro Bowler (2006, 2007 and 2010), Hester was named to the 2000s All-Decade team by The Associated Press and ESPN. He was the rookie recipient of the team's 2006 Brian Piccolo Award, which is elected by Bears players for teammates they feel best exemplify the courage, loyalty, teamwork, dedication and sense of humor of the late Piccolo.

But the team informed Hester in March he wouldn’t be returning for a ninth season in Chicago.

“For the past eight seasons, we have been honored to have Devin Hester as part of our organization,” Bears general manager Phil Emery said at the time. “While Devin has redefined the pinnacle standard of the return position in the NFL, the memories and contributions he has given us cannot be measured by stats or numbers.”

The Chicago Bears organization and former teammates showered Hester with praise and congratulatory words on Twitter after he broke Deion Sanders' record for return TDs.

Hester admitted that when he left Chicago, he was no longer the player he used to be. Still, he's plenty dangerous based off the performance against the Buccaneers.

"You hear rumors about, 'Man, he lost it.' You know, I lost it a little bit. I used to run a 4.2[-second 40-yard dash], but now I run 4.3," Hester joked. "I ain't gonna lie, I've lost it a little bit. But I've still got that hunger. As the years have grown, I've learned the game. I understand the game. I know what I'm capable of doing, and I know how to utilize and rally my troops. Those guys, I'm proud of them my blockers, because those guys wanted it just as badly as I did."

Seven players sit out Thursday practice

September, 18, 2014
Sep 18
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LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The Chicago Bears held seven players out of Thursday’s practice in advance of Monday’s night road game versus the New York Jets: center Roberto Garza (ankle), left guard Matt Slauson (ankle), cornerback Sherrick McManis (quad), defensive end Trevor Scott (foot), defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff (concussion), wide receiver Brandon Marshall (ankle) and defensive end Jared Allen (back).

 The Bears still have two more days of practice before the team departs for the New York/New Jersey area on Sunday afternoon.

In more encouraging news, safety Chris Conte practiced on a limited basis on Thursday after being forced to leave the 49ers game early because of a shoulder injury. Conte is tied for the team lead with two interceptions over the first two weeks of the regular season.

The Bears also listed wide receiver Alshon Jeffery (hamstring) as having limited participation. Jeffery was a game-time decision in Week 2 but still managed to have three catches for 47 yards. The Bears admitted afterwards that Jeffery played at less than full strength.

Linebacker Shea McClellin (limited) is dealing with a hand injury.

Wide receiver Josh Morgan practiced without restrictions on Thursday after a groin injury sidelined him for the 49ers game.

Brandon Marshall news conference

September, 18, 2014
Sep 18
2:45
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Chicago Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall addressed the media in a news conference Thursday. ESPN Bears reporter Michael C. Wright and ESPN Chicago reporter Jeff Dickerson were there to report on his remarks.

Bears re-sign CB Demontre Hurst

September, 18, 2014
Sep 18
12:05
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LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The Chicago Bears used their final open roster spot to re-sign cornerback Demontre Hurst, the team announced on Thursday.

Hurst earned a place on the Bears’ 53-man roster at the conclusion of the preseason, and made his NFL debut versus the Buffalo Bills in Week 1, where he recorded two special teams tackles. However, the Bears waived Hurst following the loss to the Bills.

Hurst spent the entire 2013 season on the Bears’ practice squad after joining the club as an undrafted rookie free agent out of Oklahoma.

In addition to possibly contributing on special teams, Hurst has practiced at the nickel back position in the past.

With veteran cornerback Charles Tillman lost for the year and Sherrick McManis dealing with a quad injury, the Bears have spent the past three days figuring out what to do in the nickel sub-package.

Rookie first-round pick Kyle Fuller is expected to stay outside at cornerback full-time in place of Tillman, and the Bears may ask Tim Jennings to do the same. If the Bears go that route, it opens a hole at nickel back. The team had rookie safety Brock Vereen slide inside and cover the slot after Tillman got hurt in the 28-20 win over the San Francisco 49ers, but head coach Marc Trestman said on Tuesday the team still considers Vereen to be a safety.

The Bears elevated last year’s starting nickel back, Isaiah Frey, off the practice squad on Tuesday. Frey is a logical candidate to take over nickel after he started six games and recorded 62 tackles for the Bears in 2013.

It should be noted, however, that McManis had an excellent preseason. If healthy, McManis is fully capable of lining up at cornerback in the nickel defense if the Bears preference is to continue having Jennings cover inside.
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The roster shuffling continued at Halas Hall on Tuesday, with the Chicago Bears elevating cornerback Isaiah Frey and receiver Rashad Ross off the practice squad to the 53-man roster while waiving running back Shaun Draughn and receiver Chris Williams, in addition to terminating the contract of vested veteran tight end Matthew Mulligan.

The moves come in response to the Bears placing cornerback Charles Tillman on the season-ending injured reserve, as well as to the club’s struggles on special teams during its win Sunday over the San Francisco 49ers.

The Bears also added defensive tackle Roy Philon to the practice squad.

A third-year veteran, Frey spent all of the 2013 season as the team’s primary nickel corner. But he struggled throughout the season due to a broken bone in his hand and failed to force a single turnover. Frey started six games, producing 62 tackles and two pass breakups, in addition to generating five quarterback pressures.

Frey spent his rookie season (2012) and the first two weeks of this season on the practice squad. It’s unknown whether the Bears plan to make Frey the starter at nickel for Monday night’s matchup against the New York Jets, and it’s likely the club is continuing to explore options at the position.

Because of Tillman’s injury, the Bears will move rookie Kyle Fuller into the starting lineup to play opposite Tim Jennings. Still, the club seeks a proven player to take snaps from the slot corner position, as the Bears spend approximately 50 percent of the time executing out of substitution packages.

Ross, meanwhile, spent the bulk of last season on the practice squads of the Tennessee Titans and Kansas City Chiefs after the former signed him as an undrafted free agent out of Arizona State.

Ross played in 26 games at Arizona State with 14 starts, and he caught 55 passes for 864 yards and seven touchdowns while also contributing as a return man (779 yards and two touchdowns).
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- A black briefcase lying in front of him at the podium, Chicago Bears guard Kyle Long took a businesslike approach Monday in assessing the team's dismal performance in the run game during the club's triumph over the San Francisco 49ers.

"I was embarrassed," Long said.

Bears coach Marc Trestman worded his thoughts a tad more delicately, but the fact remains the offense -- after averaging 4.8 yards per rushing attempt in the season opener -- took a major step backward running the ball against the 49ers.

Obviously several factors played into the performance, most significantly, a 17-point deficit in the second quarter, which put the team into passing mode. Still, when Chicago ran against the 49ers, it averaged just 2.7 yards per attempt, with Matt Forte finishing with 21 yards on 12 attempts.

[+] EnlargeMatt Forte
AP Photo/Tony Avelar)The Bears struggled to run the ball against the 49ers, averaging just 2.7 yards per carry.
Jay Cutler led the way with 25 yards rushing, with all of that coming on one scramble.

"Very poor in our run game performance," Trestman said. "We're gonna throw that away, and try to work off where we got started in the Buffalo game, and try to continue progress and get better there. [San Francisco is a] very difficult defense to run against. But nonetheless, the tape has certainly shown us we have some work to do. It got our guys' attention, which is a good thing."

The club's rushing aspirations become more difficult Monday night on the road when the Bears face the New York Jets, which boast the league's to run defense. Jets opponents averaged 2.8 yards per attempt and 52.5 yards per game on the ground. New York's defense is one of just seven units in the NFL which still hasn't given up a rushing touchdown.

The longest run surrendered by the Jets this season was 12 yards.

"We need to run the ball," Long said. "I know we got the win on the road, and it was big. I'm sure everybody else in our room will echo that. So will Matt. You need to run the ball in the National Football League, and we'll be better at that."

Chicago certainly needs to be Monday night to prevent New York from making it one dimensional, which in turn would allow the Jets to pin back their ears and come after quarterback Jay Cutler. If the Bears can string together success on the ground against the Jets, the playbook opens up and allows them to attack with all the weapons at their disposal as opposed to relying solely on Jay Cutler and the receivers to make the offense go.

Long attributed the offense's problems running the ball to simply "techniques, different looks." But ultimately, Long said there's no excuse for Chicago's inability to run the ball effectively.

"You run the ball. You grab the guy in front of him. You move him, and the running back has an opening," Long said. "It's hard to break that down any simpler than that. [The Jets] pose another challenge for us. When you can break through walls like those, you become stronger as a unit. I feel like it's an opportunity for us. It's a mountain. We've got to climb it, and we've got to put our flag in the top of it. We're gonna figure out a way to run the ball against the Jets."

Balancing out the run-pass ration might help (83 passes to 35 runs so far this season), as well as bringing back fullback Tony Fiammetta. Fiammetta missed the opener due to a hamstring injury. Then the team -- reeling from injuries along the offensive line and receiver -- cut the fullback last week as it adjusted the roster to compensate. The Bears brought Fiammetta back on Monday, and Trestman is hopeful he can help spark the rushing attack as Forte's lead blocker.

"He certainly could [help]," Trestman said. "Tony Fiammetta is an excellent player, and we haven't had a chance to utilize him because of the hamstring injury. Very, very good as a lead back. I know Matt likes running with Tony leading the way."
The Chicago Bears took a huge fall last week in ESPN.com's Power Rankings, but made a similar move the other way Tuesday in the latest edition, coming off the club's 28-20 come-from-behind victory at San Francisco.

ESPN's Power Panel, which is comprised of more than 80 writers, editors and TV personalities, handed down the most dramatic drop last week in the Power Rankings to the Bears. But this time around, the group gave the Bears some love, ranking them at No. 11. Yet they still rank just second in the division behind the Green Bay Packers (No. 8).

The Detroit Lions checked in at No. 18, falling five slots from 13th. The Minnesota Vikings rounded out the division No. 26 after a 17th ranking last week.

Bears receiver Brandon Marshall felt pundits panicked after the club's season-opening loss to the Buffalo Bills in which the club allowed 193 yards rushing.

"It felt like 60 percent of Chicago, of Illinois, started panicking," he said Monday during "The Brandon Marshall Show" on ESPN 1000. "It felt that [the feeling was], 'Our season's over.'"

In the loss to the Bills, the Bears reeled off 427 yards of offense, but committed a trio of turnovers which led to points by the opponent.

Chicago appeared to be headed down a similar road against the 49ers, as it trailed 17-0 late in the first half. The truth is the score should've been even more lopsided. Still, the Bears rallied to score 21 unanswered in the fourth quarter.

Marshall led the charge with a trio of scoring receptions, and Bears coach Marc Trestman considered the win against the 49ers one his team can build on moving forward through the schedule. At 1-1, the Bears play two of their next three on the road, with a home matchup sandwiched in between against the Packers.

"As I told the team, as you go through this marathon of a football season, you're going to have opportunities to gain some backbone," Trestman said. "I think this really helped us and will help us [moving forward]. The bottom line is we'll go back to work. That was the message in the locker room is the reason we're able to get to this point is we went back to work last week [after the loss], focused on each and every day in practice. We're going to do the same thing. We're going to get some rest. We've got an extra day of rest this week with the Monday night game [against the New York Jets], and we're going to go back to work and try to get better as a football team, one day at a time."
Charles Tillman said “this isn’t the end of the road for me” in a statement released by the team on Monday after it announced he’d go on the season-ending injured reserve due to a ruptured triceps. The first thought to come to mind was it may not be the end, but in Chicago it’s essentially over.

That’s not the way to think regarding a player of Tillman’s ilk. But reality is reality.

Tillman
Tim Jennings signed a four-year extension back in January worth $22.4 million, and rookie Kyle Fuller received a four-year deal with a club option for a fifth year which pays $9.687 million, including a signing bonus of $5.365 million.

Tillman, meanwhile, was playing on a one-year contract worth $3.25 million, and he signed that late after free agency proved fruitless.

Moving forward, the Bears can't afford to pay starter's money to three corners, especially with Jay Cutler's monstrous salary and potential extensions coming down the pipe for several players such as Brian de la Puente and Alshon Jeffery, just to name a couple.

Tillman certainly deserves to finish his career in Chicago. But with the corner set to turn 34 before the start of the 2015 season, it’s unlikely the Bears bring him back at a salary he wouldn’t find to be a slap in the face.

When Tillman hits free agency, he likely won’t be looking to break the bank. But he’ll definitely feel he’s worth more than a veteran minimum type of deal, which is probably what the Bears will offer given Tillman’s age, recent injury history, and the emergence of Fuller, who picked off a pair of passes Sunday in the club’s win at San Francisco. Besides that, if the Bears did decide to bring back Tillman for another season, would it be as a starter? Would he feel comfortable taking on the role as the nickel corner?

It’s sad to be pondering all this with emotions still raw, fewer than 24 hours after Tillman’s latest setback.

But that’s the reality we’re faced with; one in which special players such as Tillman always leave on someone else’s terms.

“He’s one of our leaders on this team, and much needed,” receiver Brandon Marshall said during his radio show Monday on ESPN Chicago 1000. “It’s sad for the city, it’s sad for our team, it’s sad for him.”

It truly is.

Tillman was correct in saying it’s not the end of the road, because it isn’t. Once Tillman rehabs from this injury, he’ll still be a player capable of starting and playing at a high level in the NFL.

But the problem is this team, even before Tillman’s injury, has already moved on. If Brian Urlacher and Devin Hester have taught us anything, it’s the fact the Bears -- like every other team in the NFL -- always moves on.
The Chicago Bears signed fullback Tony Fiammetta to the 53-man roster, while also adding rookie quarterback David Fales to the practice squad.

Fales
Fiammetta
The Bears brought back Fiammetta and Fales after cutting the duo last week in a series of roster moves brought about due to a rash of injuries along the offensive line and at receiver. Fiammetta had been nursing a hamstring injury headed into Week 2, while Fales had missed practice time because of a shoulder injury.

A six-year veteran, Fiammetta serves primarily as a lead blocker for Matt Forte, and has run the ball 11 times for 26 yards throughout his career, while also producing 130 yards on 12 catches in 50 games with 24 starts.

Fales, meanwhile, joined the Bears as a sixth-round pick out of San Jose State.

Over two seasons at San Jose State, Fales started in 25 games, throwing for 8,382 yards and 66 touchdowns with 22 interceptions. Fales has impressed the staff enough throughout his brief tenure with the Bears, that he would likely develop into a potential backup to starter Jay Cutler.

With the Bears placing cornerback Charles Tillman on the injured reserve, it's expected the club in the coming days will make more roster moves.

The Film Don't Lie: Bears

September, 15, 2014
Sep 15
4:00
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A weekly look at what the Chicago Bears must fix:

The run-pass ratio remains lopsided for Chicago (35 runs to 83 passes), and although the club faces the league’s top run defense next Monday night in the New York Jets, the Bears need to achieve some balance in that area.

Consider the Bears' run-pass ratio in their 28-20 win over the 49ers in the context that the Bears played catch-up most of the night. But Chicago needs to run the ball into the teeth of New York’s run-stuffing unit to keep it from dictating the flow. If the Jets can make the Bears one-dimensional, they can pin back their ears and come after Jay Cutler.

Matt Forte averaged 4.8 yards per carry in the Bears' opening game against Buffalo. Make him more of a focal part of the offense to get him into the flow of the game while opening up play-action and bootlegs for Cutler to make things happen on the move.

Five things we learned vs. 49ers

September, 15, 2014
Sep 15
4:20
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SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Here are five things we learned in the Chicago Bears' 28-20 victory against the San Francisco 49ers:

1. NFL is a wild league: Never envisioned the Bears defeating the 49ers in brand new Levi’s Stadium. Especially not after the Bears lost at home in Week 1 to the Buffalo Bills, while San Francisco went on the road and dismantled Dallas. But the NFL is fluid. Calling it a week-to-week league isn’t simply a cliché. It’s the truth. You just never really know what is going to happen on any given Sunday. That is what makes it fun. Would I pick the 49ers again if the two teams re-match in the playoffs? Absolutely. In a heartbeat. But even though I still firmly believe San Francisco is the more talented team, the Bears won on Sunday night. The NFL is unpredictable. Embrace it. I mean, the Bills are 2-0. What is this football world coming to?

[+] EnlargeJon Bostic
AP Photo/Marcio Jose SanchezJon Bostic and the defense kept the Bears in the game until the offense found a spark.
2. Proud effort on defense: It took the offense until the end of the first half to have a pulse, but the defense came to play from the opening whistle. The 49ers seemed poised to blow the game wide open, but the defense held San Francisco to only 17 first-half points. That is a major accomplishment when you consider the offense and special teams put the defense in bad spots with penalties and poor play. Mel Tucker’s defense produced four turnovers, limited the 49ers to 129 yards rushing, and sacked Colin Kaepernick four times. Not even key injuries to Charles Tillman (triceps), Chris Conte (shoulder) and Jeremiah Ratliff (concussion) slowed the group down.

3. Kyle Fuller belongs: Fuller is fast approaching Kyle Long status: a first-round draft choice talented and smart enough to make an immediate impact. Fuller looks to be a keeper. His two fourth-quarter interceptions were critical plays. If Fuller fails to get a turnover on either occasion, who knows if the outcome of the game would have changed. It is entirely possible the Bears lose without Fuller’s heroics. The plan always called for Fuller to contribute as a rookie. But Tillman’s injury opens the door for Fuller to get a jump on permanently lining up at cornerback in the base defense, not just in the nickel sub-package. Fuller seems to have adapted to life in the NFL. Not every game will be great. A cornerback will have his share of bad moments versus the plethora of great receivers in the league. But Fuller appears to be confident and mature enough to handle it.

4. Credit to Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery: The Pro Bowl wide receiver tandem played at less than full-strength in Week 2. But Marshall (ankle) and Jeffery (hamstring) pushed past their respective injuries. Marshall, in particular, had a memorable performance with three touchdown catches, including a spectacular one-handed grab on a 17 yard score in the closing seconds of the first half. Jeffery managed to haul in just three passes for 47 yards, but his mere on-field presence aided the Bears’ offense. The extra day before the Week 3 Monday night game against the New York Jets should help the wideouts further heal.

5. What’s worse, special teams or officiating? Pat O'Donnell's 47.6 yard per punt average (32.3 net) saved the Bears from complete embarrassment on special teams. But that phase of the team needs to get its act together. Penalties, blocked punts, lackluster returns ... we’ve seen it all in 2014. Another team that has been suspect is the officiating. The game took forever on Sunday, partly because the officials tossed 26 flags that were accepted. Many more were declined or waived off. Too many. The flow of the game is being stunted by all the yellow flags. I’ve also noticed it is taking certain crews much longer to come to a consensus on calls or explain why a decision is made. Come on everybody, the preseason is over. Act like it.

Seeking identity, Bears' defense finds 'edge'

September, 15, 2014
Sep 15
2:50
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SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Going into the season, the consensus was that the Chicago Bears would have a prolific offense and a first-rate pass rush.

After an opening-week loss to the Buffalo Bills, those beliefs were tested.

The offense was just OK and the defense gave up nearly 200 rushing yards last week. Big free-agent signing Jared Allen could have been off roping cattle somewhere, because you could barely tell he was on the field. The pass rush was minimal.

[+] EnlargeBears' defense
Lance Iversen/USA TODAY Sports"Sometimes adversity can set you on the right path," defensive end Jared Allen said Sunday after the Bears' D turned things around following a poor effort last week. 
But led by Allen and the defensive line, the Bears’ defense rebounded in a big way in Chicago’s 28-20 win over the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday night.

The defense was challenged by a creative 49ers offense, but ultimately it made more than enough big plays to influence the outcome.

“None of us have the history of being pushovers or push arounds,” said defensive end Willie Young, who had two sacks Sunday. “We’re going to ball until we fall.”

Chris Conte made a diving interception, rookie cornerback Kyle Fuller picked off passes on consecutive possessions that led to Bears touchdowns in the second half and Chicago sacked Colin Kaepernick four times. Allen forced a Kaepernick fumble that the Bears recovered.

“We’re trying to find our identity, too, and this is a huge step to it,” Allen said. “Sometimes adversity can set you on the right path. And if we can keep this edge about us, we can play good defense all year.”

While Jay Cutler was the star, completing 13 of 14 passes in the second half, he pointed to the defense for giving them good field position and putting pressure on Kaepernick.

Allen spelled it out.

“We were able to be successful on first and second downs the majority of the game, and we were able to force them to get into some one-dimensional situations so we could dictate the pace,” Allen said. “Even though Kaepernick got out a couple times, we were able to control the rush for the most part, set high walls limiting his scrambling capabilities.”

The Niners gained 129 yards on 27 carries, with Kaepernick getting 66 and Frank Gore 63. The Bears had some questionable tackling in the first half. But considering what happened against Buffalo last week -- with an array of bad reads and bad tackling -- this was a major step in the right direction for a defense that has struggled mightily under Mel Tucker and Marc Trestman.

“I was just happy to see the success we were seeing in practice,” Trestman said. “I said throughout the week, we were seeing it on tape in practice. We’re fitting the run better; we were running to the ball better.”

The Niners had a chance to tie the game on their last possession with a 14-play drive that ended at the Bears’ 17 on a loss of downs.

Young said they had one goal on that drive.

“Let’s hit the ball carrier,” he said. “I don’t care how we would get there, but let’s hit that guy by any means.”

Young is new around here, but he sure sounds like a Bears defensive lineman of old.

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