Chicago Bears: Chicago Bears

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.”

The Film Don't Lie: Bears

September, 30, 2014
Sep 30
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.
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.”
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Veteran Chicago Bears defensive end Jared Allen worked out and attended meetings at Halas Hall on Monday after being inactive in Week 4 due to a reported case of pneumonia.

Allen’s absence on Sunday in the Bears’ 38-17 defeat to the Green Bay Packers snapped a streak of 113 consecutive starts. The five-time Pro Bowl defensive end hadn’t missed a game since Week 2 of the 2007 regular season.

“He was working out,” Bears head coach Marc Trestman said. “It’s going to be day-to-day and we’ll see where he is on Wednesday. It was good to see him in the building, good to see him in all the meetings. He got some work in the weight room. That’s encouraging.”

Trestman declined to elaborate the amount of weight Allen lost since he contracted the illness.

“He always looks skinny to me,” Trestman smiled.

The Bears' next practice is scheduled for Wednesday in advance of Sunday’s road matchup versus the Carolina Panthers.
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Initially, Chicago Bears head coach Marc Trestman described Jay Cutler's second interception in Week 4’s 38-17 home loss to the Green Bay Packers as a miscommunication between Cutler and wide receiver Brandon Marshall, where Marshall “was supposed to run a hook route deep at 18 yards and he turned it into a go route.”

On Monday, Trestman offered a slightly different explanation of the late third-quarter play where Packers cornerback Sam Shields picked off a Cutler deep ball intended for Marshall on the right side of the field.

“I want to be really specific on that,” Trestman said. “No. 1 is, we give Brandon and Jay opportunities -- and we’ve done this throughout the last two years -- where they’re communicating verbally or visually during the course of a game on changing routes. They had a communication error there. You can’t put it on any one person, and that wasn’t the case. What I said yesterday clearly was, the called play to Jay was a deep hook route, but they do have the flexibility to change that. Brandon ran a very good hook and go off a corner who was squatting on him. They just had a miscommunication -- the signal -- and they’ve done this countless times in the last couple years. This is one where there was a communication error between the two of them.”

Marshall has been dealing with an ankle injury he originally sustained in the regular-season opener versus the Buffalo Bills. Marshall overcame the sore ankle in Week 2, catching three touchdown passes in a road victory against San Francisco, but he had only three combined receptions versus the New York Jets and Green Bay the last two games.

The Bears have understandably rested Marshall at practice. The wide receiver sat out the entire week of practice leading up the Packers game but still played 68 of the offense’s 78 total snaps.

Is the lack of practice time hurting Cutler and Marshall's communication?

“Honestly, that would be reading way too far into it,” Trestman said. “This is something they’ve been doing not only the last year and a half here that I’ve observed but throughout their careers together. Actually, before the game this week [Marshall’s ankle] probably looked better and felt better than it had the last two weeks. We were certainly optimistic, and then walking through all the plays on Saturday, not only with the team but afterwards with [wide receiver coach] Mike [Groh], he seemed to be right on top of the game plan. So we knew he had been doing some work as well in that regard.

“That process has been going on. Brandon was ready to play. We’re going to take a good look at him this week to make sure he’s continuing to progress and he’s not getting any worse.”

Bears fail to pressure Aaron Rodgers

September, 28, 2014
Sep 28
CHICAGO – Chicago Bears defensive coordinator Mel Tucker rolled the dice.

Instead of dialing up a variety of blitzes to disrupt Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers ’ rhythm in the pocket, the Bears opted to drop the back seven into coverage and relied on the front-four to generate the pass-rush.

The results: Rodgers torched the Bears for 302 passing yards and four touchdowns and had a 151.2 passer rating.

[+] EnlargeAaron Rodgers
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesWithout pressure from a pass rush, Aaron Rodgers picked apart the Bears defense.
“We didn’t blitz a lot,” Bears linebacker Lance Briggs said. “It was very simple. We thought we could get a four-man 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.

“Rodgers, to me, is the best quarterback in the league. It was his day today. You give a guy like that time to find somebody, and he’ll make them open.”

The Bears’ game plan to lean on the defensive line is understandable, even with veteran defensive end Jared Allen ruled out because of a bout of pneumonia. Heading into Week 4, the defensive line accounted for seven of the team’s eight sacks (Willie Young 4, Stephen Paea 2, and Ego Ferguson 1). On the Green Bay side, Rodgers had been sacked nine times in the first three weeks behind a suspect offensive line. Clearly, this resembled a matchup the Bears felt confident they could win.

They guessed wrong.

The Bears managed to sack Rodgers only one time (by Ferguson) in 28 pass attempts, and the defense as a whole was credited with zero quarterback hits in the official statistics kept by the NFL.

Did the Bears ask too much of its defensive line? Young balked at the suggestion after the game.

“Whether we were thinking that or not, we have to do better to try and get that guy off that spot,” Young said. “I talked about that all week – getting him off that spot. But even when we got him off that spot a few times, he’s still good. I mean, it’s Aaron Rodgers, you know? It’s just an opportunity for us to get better, to figure out how we can stop this guy. This is adversity for us. Obviously, we’ve got those guys again. We’ll be looking forward to that. It’s always a challenge, trying to figure out ways to win the game. That’s absolutely going to be one of them.

“I’m motivated. That’s what we’re about. Yeah, we lost, but that’s in the past. So, at this moment, it’s time to start putting it behind us, recover, and get ready for our next week.”

Five things we learned: Packers 38, Bears 17

September, 28, 2014
Sep 28
CHICAGO -- Here are five things we learned in the Chicago Bears’ 38-17 loss to the Green Bay Packers:

1. Same old story: Please, resist the urge to declare the season over. The NFL is fluid. The Bears can absolutely recover next week and knock off the Panthers in Carolina, or perhaps sneak past the Atlanta Falcons in the Georgia Dome in Week 6. But let’s talk big picture for a moment. Until the Bears figure out how to consistently beat Green Bay, they will continue to fall short in the NFC North. The Packers own the division. Every so often, the Lions or Vikings have a surprise year and reach the playoffs, but the road to the division title runs straight through Green Bay, Wisconsin. The Bears will forever be 9-7, 8-8, or 7-9 and just chasing a postseason berth until they turn the tide in the series versus the Packers. Green Bay has won 10 of the last 12 against the Bears. Unacceptable.

2. No answer for Aaron Rodgers: Sure, the Bears can steal a win at Lambeau Field when Seneca Wallace is pressed into action. But good luck trying to beat Rodgers; an unstoppable force on Sunday with 302 passing yards and four touchdowns (151.2 quarterback rating). Rodgers needs to be pressured. The Bears failed to do so with its front four. And the rest is history. Rodgers is a true franchise quarterback. Like Brett Favre before him, Rodgers has led the Packers to a lopsided record over the Bears since he took over the Green Bay starting job in 2008. Guess Rodgers turned out to be right: Packers’ fans just needed to “relax” after a 1-2 start. With Rodgers at quarterback, Green Bay is always going to be a viable contender in the NFC.

[+] EnlargeBrandon Marshall
David Banks/Getty ImagesBrandon Marshall had just two catches against the Packers but one went for a touchdown in the first quarter.
3. Where’s Brandon Marshall? Marshall is a star player. And star players all have something in common: They suit up almost every single week, regardless of aches and pains. So while I applaud Marshall for refusing to skip a game due to a sprained ankle, it’s fair to wonder how much the ankle is limiting his on-field production. Marshall has three combined catches over the last two weeks, and he apparently failed to break off his route on Jay Cutler’s second interception. Maybe the lack of practice time is hurting Marshall’s timing with Cutler. Marshall also has refused to speak with reporters in the postgame locker room following two straight games. It’s not a good look for a great player.

4. Arrow pointing up for Bennett: Martellus Bennett seems to have his act together. After a controversial preseason, Bennett tops the Bears with 29 receptions for 295 yards and is second to Marshall (five) with four touchdown grabs. Bennett set career highs in catches (nine) and receiving yards (134) versus Green Bay. The most impressive part of Bennett’s game is his refusal to go down after making a catch. It often takes two or three defenders to tackle Bennett. That kind of extra effort does not go unnoticed.

5. Run game flourished: The Bears’ offense did exactly what you’re supposed to do against the 30th-ranked run defense: Run the ball down their throats. The Bears lost this game because of their inability to control Rodgers, coupled with losing the turnover battle (minus-2) for the umpteenth time in the series. The ground game is just fine, thank you. Matt Forte rushed for 122 yards on 23 carries, while rookie Ka'Deem Carey contributed 72 yards on 14 attempts. As a team, the Bears rushed for 235 yards and averaged 5.7 yards per carry. They played the matchups. Next week, maybe the Bears will throw the ball 45 times. That’s simply the way the NFL works. But it was refreshing to see the Bears run the ball at will on Sunday. That should bode well for the team down the road.
CHICAGO -- Nine seconds remained before the end of the first half Sunday, and the Chicago Bears held possession at the Green Bay Packers' 9.

But instead of walking away with momentum and a 24-21 advantage at intermission, the Bears strolled to the locker room behind four points, after Martellus Bennett's second-effort stretch failed to yield a touchdown as time expired.

Did the Bears mismanage the clock at the end of the first half? That's one of many questions being asked in the wake of Chicago's 38-17 loss at Soldier Field to the Packers.

"We had nine seconds left, and we called a play where everybody is headed to the end zone," Bears coach Marc Trestman said. "I don't know if Marty [Bennett] flattened his route working to get open. I thought we made the right call. We had plenty of time. It was really an excellent play defensive to make that stop at the 1-yard line as it was called. Clearly with nine seconds left, we were going to take a shot in the end zone. We had the play we wanted. We just came up short."

Jay Cutler moved the Bears from their own 20 to the Green Bay 9 in five plays with the bulk of the yardage on the drive coming on a pair of completions to Bennett for 53 yards. With no timeouts and nine seconds left in the half, Trestman called for a route that featured four vertical receivers.

But with little room to maneuver in the red zone, Bennett flattened out his route to get behind the linebackers. Upon making the catch, Bennett tried to stretch out the ball to break the plane of the end zone for the touchdown.

But Packers rookie Ha Ha Clinton-Dix held back Bennett, who outweighs the safety by 57 pounds.

"Four verticals, we're on the 9," Cutler said. "He's gonna bend it around that backer. You feel like he's gonna catch it and land in the end zone. If we go back, obviously [we'd] work outside and throw it away. I liked the call. I liked the throw. I thought the defender made a heck of a play. You see the replay. It looked like he had the ball over the goal line. But we didn't get that one either. Three points there didn't win or lose us the ballgame."

Trestman said the Bears discussed ways they could preserve some time for their offense after the team's failed onside kick attempt which gave Green Bay possession at its 39 with 3:46 left in the half. The Packers scored in just two minutes and 47 seconds on a 22-yard touchdown pass to Randall Cobb from Aaron Rodgers to go up 21-17 after the extra-point kick.

Chicago's ensuing drive began with 1:03 remaining in the first half.

"We talked about calling timeouts in the previous possession," Trestman said. "We did do that. I can't give you specifics, and there are reasons why we didn't. But we did have that discussion to try to save a little bit more time. There was a first down, and a second and one, if I'm not mistaken. I'm going to go through the whole litany, certainly. But we were in a position and in a discussion about how we were going to save time on the last drive, and we didn't get it done."

Report Card: Bears-Packers

September, 28, 2014
Sep 28

Week 4 Report Card: Packers at Bears


Rushing Offense

Green Bay's run defense is as bad as advertised. The Bears blasted the Packers on ground for 235 yards on 41 carries (5.7 yards per carry). Matt Forte rushed for a team-high 122 yards, while rookie Ka'Deem Carey chipped in 72 yards on 14 attempts. Cutler scrambled for 29 yards. The Bears exploited their matchup versus the 30th-ranked rushing defense, proving there was no reason to panic when the ground game stalled in Week 2 and 3.


Passing Offense

Two costly interceptions derailed a productive afternoon in the passing department. Jay Cutler completed 22 of 34 throws for 256 yards and two touchdowns. But turnovers killed the Bears. Tight end Martellus Bennett caught a career-best nine balls for 134 yards. Brandon Marshall managed to haul in only two passes for 19 yards after sitting out practice all week due to an ankle injury. Marshall apparently failed to break off his route on Cutler's second INT. Alshon Jeffery had a short touchdown reception on a beautifully designed play.

Bears' defense

Rushing Defense

With the exception of Eddie Lacy's touchdown run, the Green Bay tailback inflicted minor damage. Lacy just doesn't run the ball with the same vengeance that he did last year when he topped 1,000 rushing yards as a rookie. Lacy gained 48 yards on 17 carries. Unfortunately, Green Bay didn't need to run the ball to win the game. But when the Packers tried to pound the football, the Bears defense usually rose to the challenge.


Passing Defense

Aaron Rodgers torched the Bears for 302 passing yards (22-of-28) and four touchdowns. The Bears' decision to rely almost exclusively on the front four to generate pressure backfired. Rodgers was sacked just one time, and finished the game with a quarterback rating of 151.2. Green Bay wideouts Jordy Nelson (10-108-2) and Randall Cobb (7-113-2) both had monster games. Even unknown rookie tight end Richard Rodgers caught two balls for 52 yards. When Aaron Rodgers is given time to survey the field, he's basically impossible to stop.


Special Teams

The Bears rolled the dice on a surprise onside kick late in the first half that Green Bay recovered. That decision gave the Packers a short field, and led to a Rodgers-to-Cobb touchdown. There is nothing wrong with an aggressive call in that situation. However, the Bears must find a way to recover the football. Coverage was OK. Robbie Gould nailed his lone field goal attempt.



The concept of dropping seven defenders back into coverage when facing a quarterback the caliber of Rodgers is understandable, but early on it was evident the strategy wasn't working. The Bears never adjusted. Head coach Marc Trestman called a terrific game on offense, but he lost a timeout by improperly throwing a red challenge flag. There is also a concern over the time management before halftime. And the call for the onside kick, although a sound move if it works, ultimately falls back on the head coach.

CHICAGO -- Jay Cutler launched a quick throw, and almost immediately his eyes widened as the ball was deflected by Tramon Williams and floated “kind of in slow motion” right into the hands of Clay Matthews for an interception.

When Cutler let that ball fly, the Chicago Bears remained very much in the hunt Sunday, trailing just 24-17 with 7:39 left in the third quarter. Six plays later, Aaron Rodgers helped Green Bay capitalize on the turnover by hitting Jordy Nelson for an 11-yard touchdown to make the score 31-17 after the extra point.

The rout was on. Cutler’s first interception played a role in setting the final 38-17 debacle in motion.

“No [it wasn't a forced throw]," Cutler said. "It's a slant. If he jumps it, he jumps it. Most of the time in three-deep, he's not going to jump it."

The call originally was for a run, but the quarterback checked the play at the line of scrimmage after seeing Green Bay’s coverage.

The first of Cutler’s two picks came on a slant route intended for Josh Morgan with Green Bay playing three-deep zone coverage and Williams lined up over the receiver. Cutler contends that Williams didn’t line up inside of Morgan and simply jumped the route, deflecting the ball to Matthews for the interception, which the linebacker returned 40 yards.

Williams, in fact, was playing inside technique on Morgan.

“He made a good play,” Cutler said. “We had the look that we wanted for that route. He steps right into it. The ball was kind of in slow motion for 10 yards and landed right in Clay’s hands. It happens.”

With Green Bay playing a three-deep zone, Cutler didn’t expect Williams to jump Morgan’s slant route because in the film prep leading up to the contest, the Bears didn’t notice the Packers showing such a tendency. Besides that, with Williams responsible for covering a deep third of the field in a three-deep zone, it’s dangerous to sit on routes or to jump them because of the likelihood of getting beaten deep on a double move.

Cutler knew as much. So it came as a bit of a surprise that Williams “decided he was gonna make a play there, and made a play,” the quarterback said.

[+] EnlargeJay Cutler
David Banks/Getty ImagesJay Cutler threw his first two interceptions Sunday since the season opener.
“He was playing tight inside,” Bears coach Marc Trestman said. “That’s all I can tell you is there was tight technique. I didn’t see [Morgan’s] release on the route. I was watching the protection. But obviously, he broke up the play. You don’t see that very often where the ball’s broken up and it travels 15 yards in the air right into Clay Matthews’ hands. It was obviously a very disappointing turnover for a lot of reasons. That’s what I saw happen.

"We had the right play on. We had a run called. We got the coverage we wanted, and we weren’t able to turn it into a positive play.”

Instead, it turned into points for the Packers, who capitalized on yet another Cutler pick on Chicago’s next possession because of a miscommunication with Brandon Marshall that set up their final score of the afternoon.

“The cornerback was [playing] inside leverage,” Morgan said. “I should’ve done more to try and bat it down.”
CHICAGO -- Chicago Bears safety Ahmad Dixon suffered a hamstring injury during the second quarter of his team’s matchup against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday and has been ruled out for the game, the team announced.

Dixon walked off the field under his own power after the injury, and was examined on the sidelines by athletic trainers before the club made the announcement.

The Bears signed Dixon off the practice squad of the Minnesota Vikings on Sept. 8, and he’s participated in two games. Dixon recovered a fumble that led to a Bears score during the team’s Sept. 22 win on the road against the New York Jets.

Dixon came into the league as a seventh-round pick in May of the Dallas Cowboys. The Cowboys waived Dixon at the end of the preseason.
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The Chicago Bears released their final injury report Friday heading into Sunday’s game against the Green Bay Packers with receiver Brandon Marshall (ankle) and defensive end Jared Allen (illness) listed as questionable.

The club held out Marshall and Allen from Friday’s practice, and officially ruled out center Roberto Garza (ankle), left guard Matt Slauson (ankle), linebacker Shea McClellin (hand), cornerback Sherrick McManis (quadriceps) and defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff (concussion).

Allen visited the team facilities briefly on Friday, but was sent home by the athletic training staff to recuperate.

"He’s just back there resting, but you know where I’m going with this," Bears coach Marc Trestman said. "It’s not that things aren’t looking good because he went home. I couldn’t tell you that. I’ll leave it up to the trainers, really the doctors. They have to let us know where he’s at, and hopefully he’ll be ready to go. I really can’t tell you what it is. He just hasn’t been feeling well, and that’s been day to day."

As for Marshall, it’s still unknown whether he will be sufficiently healed from a sprained right ankle suffered in the season opener to make a meaningful contribution to the club’s offense. Marshall was hobbled during the team’s Week 2 matchup at San Francisco, but healthy enough to contribute three touchdown receptions.

Against the Jets on Monday night, Marshall caught only one pass for 6 yards. The short turnaround with the Bears playing a Monday night contest also lessens the receiver’s prospects for making a sufficient recovery. Marshall hasn’t practiced all week.

"It’s very difficult to be at your best when you don’t practice every day and there’s timing issues, there’s different formations, there’s different looks,” Trestman said. “So that’s a challenge, and you have to weigh those costs and benefits as you move through the week knowing that he may or may not play. So we’ll try to work through that, and if he’s going to play, work hard to put him in position where things we can give him he knows what to do and can play at full speed."

In other news, safety Chris Conte (shoulder) was officially listed as questionable. Safety Ryan Mundy (stinger) is probable, as is defensive end Trevor Scott (foot).

If Allen can’t play against the Packers, the Bears will insert Willie Young into the starting lineup opposite Lamarr Houston.

"Obviously it’s an opportunity, but at the same time, Jared would be missed," Young said. "Hopefully, we still have some leadership and his presence on the sidelines. We’re professionals here. When one guy goes down we’ve got to look for guys to step up and be effective. But I haven’t heard anything yet [whether Allen will play]. That’s gonna be a game-time decision I guess. I have no idea."
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte insists statistics aren’t important but admits to feeling “frustrated” about the team’s inability thus far to run the ball effectively.

After averaging 4.8 yards per attempt on an 82-yard day in the season opener against Buffalo, Forte has rushed for a total of 54 yards the last two games with an average of 2.2 yards per carry.

“It is frustrating during the game,” Forte said. “It’s not that we’re not calling runs. We are calling run plays. But sometimes, the defenses are set up so that the run play we call is not going to work against that defense. Each week we’re continuing to work on it, and we’ve got to get everybody on the same page up front. Some guys that are stepping in for injured players, we have to get everybody on the right page where we’re blocking the right looks so if they change the personnel or change to a different defensive front, we know how to block that as well.”

Starting center Roberto Garza and left guard Matt Slauson suffered high ankle sprains in Week 1 and haven’t played since. Veteran Brian de la Puente and rookie Michael Ola have filled in at those spots, somewhat throwing off the chemistry and precise timing between the offensive line and Forte.

Forte said the fill-ins along the offensive line haven’t affected play-calling.

“It’s just sometimes we might have blocked it wrong or didn’t block somebody or whatever the problem was,” Forte said. “There is a little bit of a learning curve when we’re so used to having Slauson and Garza in there, and those five [offensive linemen] solidify that line. There is a little bit of a learning curve, but that’s with every team in the league. Everybody has injuries, and everybody has to step up. We have to figure that out and make it work.”

It’s certainly possible, especially facing a 30th-ranked Packers rush defense on Sunday that is allowing an average of 156.3 rushing yards per game.

“Last year when we played them, [Clay] Matthews didn’t play and that makes a big difference when he’s in the game,” Bears offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer said. “They’re at full strength now. So we need to bring our 'A' game to gain yards and have Matt Forte gain yards. We need to continue to work a balanced attack and give him opportunities.”

Bears coach Marc Trestman downplayed the significance of de la Puente and Ola stepping into the starting lineup. After all, de la Puente came into the season having started 44 games with the New Orleans Saints, who run a system very similar to Chicago’s. Ola, meanwhile, is a rookie.

But the truth is that each of Chicago’s first three opponents -- Buffalo, San Francisco and the New York Jets -- currently rank in the top 10 in the NFL in rush defense.

“Everybody’s gonna have an opinion on that,” Trestman explained. “We’ve had two very difficult weeks against two extremely strong fronts. That doesn’t mean we’re making excuses for it. We recognize we’ve got to get better. We had a reasonable start in Game 1. We’ve been bogged down the last couple weeks. We’re cognizant of that. We’re making it a point of emphasis. But we think we’ve got to work through the next few games and try to get a sense for where we really are with things. I can tell you we’re working at it.

“The fact of the matter is Brian de la Puente has played a lot of football. Michael Ola hasn’t, but I don’t think having two new guys in there has taken away from our ability to run the football. I think it goes a lot deeper than that.”

Jay Cutler cognizant of turnovers

September, 25, 2014
Sep 25
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago's 35 points scored off eight takeaways so far this season serve as constant reminder for quarterback Jay Cutler about how quickly things can snowball for the team if he doesn’t practice ball security.

After throwing two interceptions in the team’s season-opening loss to the Buffalo Bills, Cutler hasn’t offered up the opposition any more turnovers while throwing for six touchdowns and passer ratings of 119.2 and 94.7 in back-to-back victories over the 49ers and New York Jets.

[+] EnlargeJay Cutler and Marc Trestman
AP Photo/Tony AvelarJay Cutler has a better handle on the offense in Marc Trestman's second season as coach, and that's helping Cutler reduce turnovers.
“I think just second year in the offense and just seeing how [Bears coach Marc] Trest[man] calls the game and how important ball security is and turnovers are, maybe not just second year in the offense, but you mature as a quarterback,” Cutler said. “It's definitely evolved and it's definitely in the forefront of my mind: ‘Let's punt it, our defense is playing well, and Trest is going to call up more shots for us. We're going to get more opportunities.”

But will Cutler keep that mindset Sunday when his team hosts the Green Bay Packers at Soldier Field?

In nine career contests against the Packers’ defense, headed up by coordinator Dom Capers, Cutler has thrown 17 interceptions and 11 touchdowns, with a passer rating of 65.1. Interestingly, Cutler hasn’t yet finished a game as a Chicago Bear against the Packers without turning the ball over at least once.

Cutler acknowledges the challenges he’s faced trying to attack a Capers defense.

“There’s a few wrinkles here and there, and personnel has changed a bit,” Cutler said. “You know you’re going to get some different looks and they’re going to spin it, show you different blitzes and different coverages. He does a good job of mixing it up.”

Cutler appears to be poised for a better result Sunday against the Packers. That’s not to say Cutler will lead the Bears to victory. But it seems now Cutler is much less likely to be the reason for the club’s demise because of turnovers.

Under Trestman, the Bears hold a 7-0 record when they finish the game with a positive turnover margin, 2-5 when it’s negative and 1-4 when the team finishes with an equal turnover margin. So if Cutler can play a turnover-free game, the club’s takeaway-hungry defense can score off interceptions and fumbles or, at the very least, put the Bears in advantageous field position to set up scores.

“Jay continues to grow in the system,” Trestman said. “Ball security’s an absolute priority. It is with every football team. You protect the football, you’re gonna be in every game in the fourth quarter. Every game -- it won’t matter what the situations are. If you’re ball-security conscious, you’ve got a chance to win games. So that’s No. 1. We try to do that with emphasis on our protection meetings because we’ve got to protect him so he can protect the ball.”