Chicago Bears: Chicago Bears

Bears hold out four starters

December, 24, 2014
Dec 24
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LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The Chicago Bears started preparation for Sunday’s season finale at Minnesota holding out four starters: defensive end Jared Allen (ribs), safety Chris Conte (back), kicker Robbie Gould (right quadriceps) and defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff (knee).

Gould confirmed on Monday he’d miss the remainder of the season. The club also held out quarterback Jimmy Clausen, who has already been declared out for Sunday’s game because of a concussion suffered in last Sunday's loss to the Detroit Lions.

Defensive end David Bass (knee) and guard Kyle Long (hip) participated in a limited capacity at practice Wednesday along with receiver Marquess Wilson (knee).

Defensive tackle Ego Ferguson (ankle) was a full participant.

Matt Forte eyes milestones

December, 24, 2014
Dec 24
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LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Matt Forte remained upbeat Wednesday despite missing out on being named to his third Pro Bowl as the running back eyes a couple of significant milestones Sunday when the Chicago Bears face the Minnesota Vikings.

With 94 receptions through 15 games, Forte needs just eight more to break the NFL single-season record for receptions by a running back, set in 1995 by Larry Centers (101 receptions). In addition, if Forte gains 13 yards rushing against the Vikings and catches six passes, he’ll join LaDainian Tomlinson as just the second player in NFL history to finish a season with 1,000 rushing yards and 100 catches.

[+] EnlargeMatt Forte
Brian Kersey/Getty ImagesMatt Forte is just eight receptions from setting the NFL record for running backs in a single season.
“It’s important, but not the most important thing to me,” Forte said of the single-season record for receptions by a running back. “I’m not going to go out looking to get eight catches. I’m really just going out there to run the ball, catch the ball, block, and do what I’ve got to do for us to be successful on offense and help us win the game.”

Pro Bowl guard Kyle Long, however, wants to make the record reality for Forte.

“I was gonna butt in there when he was talking about how it’s not important to him,” Long joked. “We’re in the National Football League, and I’m sitting next to a guy who has an opportunity to catch the single most passes in NFL history for a running back in a season. I know I’m gonna be yelling at our quarterback to throw him the ball. Are you kidding me? What a tremendous honor to get to play with a guy like Matt and have an opportunity to be a part of something like that that will stand for a really long time.”

Bears coach Marc Trestman doesn’t plan to alter the game plan to make sure Forte reaches his milestones. With nothing left to play for, it would be easy for the team to turn its attention to such matters.

“Last games, oftentimes there’s those types of things that are up on the table,” Trestman said. “But I think the primary focus is to do what we have to do on each and every play to win the game, and those things will usually take care of themselves.”

That’s fine by Forte.

“I’m just looking forward to this weekend. I’ve got a chance to do something special this week,” Forte said. “Obviously I’m focused on winning the game first. But on this offense, we’ve obviously this year underachieved, but there’s still room to go out there and improve and finish strong in the last game. It’s not just, ‘Oh, it’s the last game of the season.’ You’ve got to go out there and prove that you deserve to be in the league. We’ve got another chance to go out and play well.”
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Nothing tangible remains to play for Sunday in the season-finale at Minnesota, but Jay Cutler plans to muster up investment for "the guys in the locker room" in what could wind up being his last game as quarterback of the Chicago Bears.

Cutler
"The guys that have been in the huddle all year long that I’ve been with, those are the guys I’ll play for this week," Cutler said.

Signed to a seven-year contract worth $126.7 million last January, Cutler takes over as the starter after being benched last week in favor of Jimmy Clausen, who on Monday was diagnosed with a concussion. In 10 starts against the Vikings, Cutler has thrown for 2,434 yards, 23 touchdowns and 13 interceptions for a passer rating of 98.0.

Cutler declined to speculate on his future, but admitted it will be difficult to generate energy for the season finale with so little to play for and uncertainty about what might transpire as soon as the Monday following Sunday’s outing at TCF Bank Stadium.

Cutler’s 2015 base salary of $15.5 million is fully guaranteed, and another $10 million guarantee for his 2016 salary kicks in if the quarterback remains on the roster on March 12, the third day of the 2015 league year.

"I think you’ve just got to prepare yourself that anything could happen," Cutler said. "That’s kind of what I’m prepared for. I mean, everyone could stay. Everyone could get axed. You just never know what direction it’s going to go. You just have to stay open-minded and know that things happen for a reason."

Asked whether he’s ever come to grips with the human element of what could take place on Monday and the number of people it could affect, Cutler said he ponders such scenarios during training camp.

"You chop [the roster] down, chop it down," Cutler said. "You wonder where those guys go, what happens to them. Some of them never play football again. The situation after the year, it’s gonna be similar. Coaches could leave. Players could leave. I could leave. That’s part of it."

Cutler has called the 2014 season his most difficult as a professional, and admits all the turmoil has conditioned him to "expect the least expected at this point."

"Hopefully, we can make it through the next couple of days without something else happening," he said. "You never know though."
SELECTIONS

Kyle Long, OG, Second Pro Bowl selection: Long earned his second consecutive Pro Bowl selection and became the first Chicago Bears offensive lineman to receive the honor in each of his first two seasons with the franchise. Long became the first Bear since Devin Hester (2006-07) to be named to the Pro Bowl in each of his first two seasons. According to STATS, LLC, Long hasn’t allowed a sack in 2014, and he anchors a Chicago offense that ranks first in franchise history in completion percentage (65.1), second in passing touchdowns (30), tied for second in completions (373), fourth in net passing yards (3,627) and sixth in passer rating (88.1). Long is part of an offensive line that has helped running back Matt Forte rank No. 3 in the NFL in yards from scrimmage (1,772).

Who he beat out: Orlando Franklin, Louis Vasquez, T.J. Lang, Ronald Leary, David DeCastro, Mike Pouncey, Dan Connolly

SNUBS

Matt Forte, RB: Forte racked up 1,772 yards from scrimmage through the first 15 games, which ties for third in the NFL. But the problem is the Bears refuse to commit to the rushing attack, which significantly affected Forte’s numbers. Arguably the league’s best all-around back, Forte leads the Bears with 94 catches for 785 yards, and he’s just 13 yards shy of reaching 1,000 yards rushing for the fifth time in his seven-year career.

Who he should have beaten out: LeSean McCoy.

Alshon Jeffery, WR: Jeffery generated a team-high 1,099 yards receiving and 10 touchdowns on 83 receptions, despite playing the majority of the year hampered by nagging injuries. Jeffery has gained 2,887 yards over his first three seasons. Jeffery has already gained the second-most receiving yards by a Bears player in his first three seasons, and he ranks No. 5 in the NFL in receiving yardage since 2013.

Who he should have beaten out: A.J. Green, T.Y. Hilton.
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The Chicago Bears officially placed defensive end Willie Young on injured reserve due to a torn left Achilles on Tuesday, and brought back defensive end Austen Lane, who spent the preseason with the club.

Young
“That’s a tough one,” Bears coach Marc Trestman said of Young’s injury. “He has kind of been an inspirational leader. You guys know him in the locker room -- he’s a charismatic guy. He keeps people up. He’s fun to be around. He’s a guy who is always up and around the building, and has played well and gotten better throughout the season. He’ll be missed on Sunday, certainly.”

Young posted a career-high 10 sacks in 2014, which also leads the Bears, and he’s tied for 13th in the NFL and tied for sixth in the NFC in sacks. Young played in 15 games with eight starts this season, registering 55 tackles, one forced fumble, three pass breakups and 13 quarterback pressures.

A five-year veteran, Young also blocked a field goal this season. He’s now posted 127 career tackles, 16 sacks, 10 pass breakups and 14 tackles for lost yardage.

Lane, meanwhile, has appeared in 30 games with 17 starts over four seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars (2010-12) and Detroit Lions (2013), contributing 64 tackles, three sacks, a forced fumble, 13 quarterback hurries and five tackles for lost yardage.

A fifth-round pick of the Jaguars in 2010, Lane spent training camp with the Bears, but was released at the end of the preseason.
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Defensive coordinator Mel Tucker hears criticism from the fans regarding the Bears' struggling defense, but it's not anything worse than what he hears at home, considering his wife Jo-Ellyn and her family all hail from Chicago.

"You know, they want to win, too," Tucker said. "My wife is from Chicago. She's from the South side and so her mom, her whole family is here. They're all Bears fans. There's a little bit of, ‘You spend all that time over there and that's the best you can do?' type of thing."

With Chicago mired in a four-game losing streak, the club's defense in Sunday's loss to the Detroit Lions, held an opponent to fewer than 31 points for the first time since Nov. 23, when the Bears limited Tampa Bay to 13 points during a 21-13 win. The season-finale at Minnesota could be the coaching staff's last game together, as it's expected Bears coach Marc Trestman and the staff will be let go at the conclusion of the season. Still, nobody is concerned about what might take place next week, as the staff is focused on prepping for the Minnesota Vikings.

[+] EnlargeTrestman
AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast"When you're sitting here with the record that we have, everybody's got something to say about it," Marc Trestman said.
"No one is happy at this time about where we are," Tucker said. "You can't sugarcoat it and think everyone is just on Cloud 9 right now. But we have to be mature about it. You have to handle it. You're going to have some moments, and we'll just work through it. We still have one more game to play, and so that's where our focus is. That's why it's difficult for me to reflect right now because we're not in reflect mode. We're in preparation mode for our last game. There will be plenty of time to reflect and look back. Right now, we've got a really big game ahead of us."

Trestman empathized with Tucker. After all, the team's high-priced offense underachieved in 2014 perhaps more than the embattled defense with Trestman presiding over it all. The team has endured plenty of off-the-field drama, too, with issues regarding trust between players and coaches in the locker room, and the benching of Jay Cutler just to name a couple.

"We're all getting earfuls, believe me, and certainly Mel's getting his share," Trestman said. "We all are, as we said. When you're sitting here with the record that we have, everybody's got something to say about it. That's part of the job we have right now, and we've had, is to deal with it and move forward and get our guys ready to play. That's where our responsibility lies, is the day-to-day process of doing our best as coaches to get our guys ready to play. That's our job."

That doesn't make it any easier for the staff to deal with, especially considering the high expectations entering the 2014 season. The Bears were coming off a promising 8-8 campaign in Trestman's first season at the helm. Like other teams around the league, the Bears have dealt with their fair share of injuries. But Trestman, Tucker and special-teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis all refused Tuesday to make excuses.

On offense, seven players with three years or fewer of experience have started at least one game. In fact, the Bears lined up on offense against the Lions with their eighth combination of starters along the offensive line. Defensively, the Bears have lined up with 11 combinations of starters in addition to losing five players, including four starters, to season-ending injuries.

Asked if he dreaded what's known around the NFL as Black Monday -- the day many coaching staffs are fired -- DeCamillis said, "No," as he's dealt with similar situations during nearly 30 years as a coach in the league.

"You're going to say, ‘He's not telling the truth,' but you deal with this," DeCamillis said. "I've been on staffs that it's an issue. I'm just trying to roll through this thing and try to get ready for Minnesota. You have quiet times where you think about that stuff. But this isn't a quiet time right now. I've got to go back upstairs and figure out a way to cover these guys this week because they're definitely explosive. I'll worry about that stuff whenever it happens I guess. What did you say, Monday?"

QB snapshot: Jimmy Clausen

December, 23, 2014
Dec 23
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A quick observation of quarterback Jimmy Clausen and how he played in the Chicago Bears' 20-14 loss to the Detroit Lions in Week 16:

Clausen
Seeking a "spark" to ignite Chicago's dormant offense, Bears coach Marc Trestman benched Jay Cutler in favor of backup Jimmy Clausen, and while the tactic appeared to work initially, ultimately the club dropped its fourth in a row as the unit put up just 14 points.

For the most part, Clausen produced an error-free game, but he did throw one interception with 2:02 left to play on a fourth-down desperation heave. So while Clausen didn't make many of the game-changing mistakes we've seen from Cutler, the truth is the quarterback proved only that he's a capable NFL backup. Nothing more. But we won't discount the fact Clausen played against one of the NFL's best defenses with little prep time, and without the services of starting left guard Kyle Long.

Still, Clausen was only mediocre in his first start since 2010, finishing the game with two touchdown passes and a rating of 77.0, while completing only one pass for a gain of more than 18 yards (20-yard touchdown pass to Alshon Jeffery in the third quarter). In Clausen's defense, Jeffery did drop four passes, and the Bears were unable to generate a sufficient rushing attack (55 yards rushing from Matt Forte). But the quarterback put together only one legitimate scoring drive (80 yards on 15 plays, aided by a roughing-the-kicker penalty that gave Chicago a first down after a stalled drive).

Clausen's second scoring drive came as the result of a muffed punt recovered on the Detroit 11.

Stock Watch: Stephen Paea worth investing in

December, 23, 2014
Dec 23
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Stephen PaeaAP Photo/Brynn AndersonStephen Paea has had a consistently strong fourth year with the Bears.
RISING:
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1. Stephen Paea: Paea is steady. The fourth-year nose tackle had three tackles, one pass defense, one quarterback hit, and forced a fumble in the 20-14 loss to Detroit. Paea applies constant pressure up the middle, and when paired with Jeremiah Ratliff (more on him next), the Bears have a formidable combination at defensive tackle. From my vantage point, Paea is a safe investment in free agency, just as long as the numbers make sense. Paea is a hard-worker. He’d be the last person to shut it down after receiving a contract extension. He’s a high-character guy, and has been since being drafted by the Bears in 2011.

Ratliff
2. Jeremiah Ratliff: Bears general manager Phil Emery wisely re-signed Ratliff to a two-year contract in March. The 10-year veteran is now tied with Jared Allen for third on the team with 5.5 sacks, his highest sack total since 2009. Ratliff is a leader. He is extremely intense. The defensive tackle is a wonderful role model for impressionable rookie lineman Ego Ferguson and Will Sutton. Both will be better for having spent time with Ratliff. The only issue for Ratliff is health. He missed five games in 2014 due to injuries after sitting out much of 2013. Ratliff just needs to stay on the field. If he does, the veteran should be able to thrive in whatever defensive front the Bears employ in 2015.

3. Christian Jones: Jones recorded a game-high 11 tackles, one sack, and one tackle for loss versus the Lions, according to the official NFL game summary. Jones is still raw but he’s improving, a credit to linebackers coach Reggie Herring and defensive coordinator Mel Tucker. Kudos to the scouting department for having the foresight to sign Jones as an undrafted rookie free agent out of Florida State after the linebacker’s draft stock dropped following a positive drug test at the NFL Combine. Jones figures to be in the mix for a permanent outside linebacker spot next fall.

FALLING:
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Forte
Bennett
1. Martellus Bennett: Bennett doesn’t seem to have much of a connection with Jimmy Clausen, who did a nice job Sunday in place of Jay Cutler. Bennett was targeted only three times, catching one pass for 0 yards. Bennett needs eight receptions in the season-finale to reach 90 for the year.

2. Alshon Jeffery: Jeffery had a rough afternoon against the Lions, dropping several passes for Clausen. Jeffery finished the game with only six grabs for 72 yards and one touchdown despite being targeted a game-high 15 times.

Jennings
3. Tim Jennings: It’s been a disappointing season for Jennings. He just hasn’t played very well since signing a four-year extension in January. Jennings’ 46-yard pass interference penalty set up the Lions' go-ahead touchdown. Jennings intercepted 12 passes from 2012-13. He has zero picks in 2014. That’s a major problem.
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Marc Trestman benched starting quarterback Jay Cutler in favor of backup Jimmy Clausen for Sunday's 20-14 loss to the Detroit Lions.

Then mysterious circumstances -- the team's announcement that Clausen was ruled out after suffering a concussion Sunday for which delayed symptoms surfaced Monday -- called for Trestman to go back to Cutler for the season finale at Minnesota. Trestman mentioned that Cutler gives the Bears the best chance to win, which is absolutely true. But if Cutler's future is truly as murky as the team's recent actions indicate, why risk getting the quarterback hurt, which would diminish his trade value while potentially making the Bears liable for $10 million of the quarterback's $16 million base salary for 2016 if he's still on the roster on the third day of the 2015 league year (March 12)?

Remember, you can't move an injured player.

Cutler said all the right things last week in the wake of the benching. But from this vantage point, Trestman made a move in benching Cutler that he can't undo. In what appeared to be a desperate attempt to keep his job, Trestman damaged the relationship with Cutler. Likely forever.

[+] EnlargeJay Cutler and Jimmy Clausen
Joe Sargent/Getty ImagesIn a questionable move, Jay Cutler will start in the Bears' Week 17 game at Minnesota on Sunday.
So Trestman's decision to go back to Cutler makes little sense, given there's absolutely nothing left for the Bears to play for Sunday in Minnesota.

Even receiver Brandon Marshall admitted Monday during his radio show on ESPN 1000 he's "sure there's some bitterness there or something there," and that Cutler coming back "is playing with your emotions a little bit."

Cutler's salary guarantees make it difficult enough to trade the quarterback because any franchise grabbing him would basically be forced to make a two-year commitment. So the quarterback going down with an injury in a meaningless game would only increase the difficulty the Bears already face this offseason, if the plan truly is to move Cutler.

Trestman insisted the relationship with the quarterback isn't strained. But even if that's truly the case, it's still bad business to play Cutler against the Vikings. Besides, why not give rookie David Fales a chance to showcase his skills?

"Jay's comments to the media were very similar to mine. We didn't practice together, in terms of what we were going to say. I said very specifically that I believe that Jay can work his way out of this," Trestman said. "And I've enjoyed coaching him and working with him. And we had dialogue last week. And we worked together last week. It was a tough week on him. I empathize with him on that. But we're moving forward, both with the idea that we've worked together for a long time and that hasn't changed."

What has changed is the functionality in the Chicago Bears' organization. That, certainly needs to change.
Chicago Bears coach Marc Trestman remained noncommittal on Monday about keeping Jimmy Clausen in the starting lineup, coming off the quarterback’s performance Sunday during a 20-14 loss to the Detroit Lions.

“We’ll talk about it today,” Trestman said Monday on WBBM Newsradio 780. “I thought he had a good performance. He needed some help, he didn’t get it; had a few drops along the way, had a couple of missed assignments up front in the running game that we could have had a little bit more yardage in the run game.”

Clausen
With Jay Cutler, the NFL’s highest-paid offensive player, backing him up, Clausen passed for two touchdowns and an interception in the loss to Detroit, generating a passer rating of 77.0. Clausen passed for just 181 yards on the day against a Lions defense that entered the contest ranked No. 1 in the NFL in points allowed (17.0) and second in total yards (300.3-yard average).

The quarterback was able to do that with little prep time and without starting left guard Kyle Long, who was a last-minute scratch due to a hip injury.

“I thought he handled himself, for two practices, and having not played for four years, certainly a good performance,” Trestman said.

When Trestman first announced the decision to bench Cutler in favor of Clausen, the coach paused for nearly five seconds when asked whether general manager Phil Emery was on board with the move. Trestman declined to revisit the decision when asked whether benching Cutler was the right move.

“Well, you never look back in this business. You can’t do that,” Trestman said. “You can only move forward, and you have to live with the decisions that you’ve made.”

Obviously, a major component of that is whether Trestman will keep his job as head coach given the decision to bench Cutler, along with myriad other factors such as the team’s disappointing record with so many offensive weapons after a promising 2013 campaign, not to mention serious concerns expressed inside the locker room regarding what players view as a lack of accountability for some and uneven discipline levied by the coach.

Trestman indicated ownership has not yet hinted at his fate.

“As I said to the media during the last couple of weeks, when you’re a 5-10 coach, everything is on the table,” Trestman said. “All I can say is inside everybody has been very supportive.”
Finally, we’re just six days away from a dismal Chicago Bears season coming to an end. Hallelujah.

But given all that has happened, perhaps the end goes on as just the beginning with so many decisions to be made and changes on the horizon.

Let’s take a quick spin around the Bears beat:

-- Here’s Jeff Dickerson’s look at five things we learned from Sunday’s game, and he doesn’t mince words regarding Bears head coach Marc Trestman.
Dickerson writes: Trestman needs to be stripped of his control over the 46-man active game-day roster for the decision to keep Jay Cutler active on Sunday. Under no circumstances can the Bears expose Cutler to unnecessary injury in the final two weeks, even if the eventual offseason plan calls for the organization to keep Cutler in 2015. Cutler’s season is finished. It’s over. He has completely checked out. He’s done with Trestman and offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer. Accept it, and move on.

Here’s more: Now, let’s say the Bears plan to shop Cutler around to other teams. The very idea of Cutler serving as the No. 2 in two meaningless games, in that scenario, is pure madness. Let me repeat: pure madness. I understand Trestman wants to win another game. His credibility and reputation are under attack. But the future of the franchise is far more important. Whether Bears fans want to admit it or not, Cutler is an extremely important piece of the puzzle moving forward, trade or no trade. Subjecting him to further risk is foolish. Let Joe DeCamillis coach the season finale in Minnesota. Trestman is worried about his own interests, not the organization's. When that happens, it’s time for change, even if one is already scheduled to occur Dec. 29.

-- Here’s Dickerson’s report card.

-- Jon Greenberg writes the Bears played a solid Lions team close, but they certainly didn’t take solace in that performance, which resulted in their 10th loss.
Greenberg writes: In what could be a franchise-changing season, the Bears have lost 10 games, and only three were by single digits: a 23-20 loss to the Buffalo Bills in the season opener, a 31-24 loss to the Carolina Panthers and now, this game.

All three of those games were at home, so don't say the Bears don't appreciate their fans. Chicago went 2-6 at Soldier Field, the same as in 2004, which was Lovie Smith's first season as coach.

They can tie the 2004 team for the worst record in the past decade with a loss at the Minnesota Vikings next week, or they could win for the first time since Nov. 23.

Either way, this one will go down as one of the team's most disappointing seasons in the modern era. It might be No. 1.

-- This link to Todd McShay’s first 2015 mock draft is a few days old but definitely worth revisiting considering Chicago might not win another game, which should improve the team’s draft position. It’s tough to know which direction the Bears should go with their pick because of all the uncertainty. We don’t yet know what the future is for Jay Cutler, Trestman or general manager Phil Emery. With that said, I’m not sure I like McShay’s projection here. The position McShay projects the Bears addressing with their first-round pick might be a little too rich (unless he’s an absolute slam dunk) with the team expected to pick so high.

-- Mike Shanahan believes Cutler is still a franchise quarterback. Emery probably agrees. But the quarterback’s body of work over nine seasons suggests otherwise from this vantage point.

-- Over at the Chicago Tribune, David Haugh says don’t be fooled by Jimmy Clausen’s mediocre performance against the Lions. It proved absolutely nothing and certainly doesn’t help Trestman’s job security. Sadly, he’s correct.
Haugh writes: Overall, Clausen did a nice job representing himself as a bona fide NFL backup, nothing more. Clausen was the smelling salts to a sleepy offense, making quick decisions and smart throws. He prevented bad plays from outnumbering big ones and brought as much enthusiasm as efficiency. He improved his job prospects for 2015 — but not Trestman's. Don't fall for that.

Remember, the career Trestman was hired to save was Cutler's, not Clausen's.

Trestman's potential last game at Soldier Field will go down as one of the most irrelevant of his brief tenure. A win would have changed nothing about the Bears future, which Chairman George McCaskey should begin altering as early as Monday. A six-point loss simply reminded us what everybody already knew about the present; that no matter who plays quarterback, Trestman's game-day coaching cannot compensate for a growing talent deficit management cannot ignore.

-- The Chicago Sun-Times has a nice rundown of the team’s reaction to Dominic Raiola stomping on Ego Ferguson’s ankle. Raiola can say whatever he wants, but the tape doesn’t lie.

Five things we learned: Lions 20, Bears 14

December, 21, 2014
Dec 21
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CHICAGO -- Here are five things we learned in the Chicago Bears' 20-14 loss to the Detroit Lions:

1. Marc Trestman needs to be fired, immediately: Trestman needs to be stripped of his control over the 46-man active game-day roster for the decision to keep Jay Cutler active on Sunday. Under no circumstances can the Bears expose Cutler to unnecessary injury in the final two weeks, even if the eventual offseason plan calls for the organization to keep Cutler in 2015. Cutler’s season is finished. It’s over. He has completely checked out. He’s done with Trestman and offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer. Accept it, and move on. Let’s say the Bears ultimately decide Cutler gives them the best shot to win next year. The last thing the organization wants is for Cutler to be pressed into relief duty versus Detroit or Minnesota, likely unprepared, and suffer an injury that affects his availability for the (presumably) new head coach's offseason program or, even worse, triggers the injury-protection clause in Cutler’s contract. Most potential head-coaching candidates (save Mike Shanahan) will be leery of working with Cutler, even if he’s healthy. A beat-up Cutler only makes the sales job that much harder for the Bears organization in coming months. Now, let’s say the Bears plan to shop Cutler around to other teams. The very idea of Cutler serving as the No. 2 in two meaningless games, in that scenario, is pure madness. Let me repeat: pure madness. I understand Trestman wants to win another game. His credibility and reputation are under attack. But the future of the franchise is far more important. Whether Bears fans want to admit it or not, Cutler is an extremely important piece of the puzzle moving forward, trade or no trade. Subjecting him to further risk is foolish. Let Joe DeCamillis coach the season finale in Minnesota. Trestman is worried about his own interests, not the organization's. When that happens, it’s time for change, even if one is already scheduled to occur Dec. 29.

2. Jimmy Clausen is a legitimate No. 2: Clausen belongs in the NFL next year in a reserve role. Congratulations. Clausen played OK: 23-of-39 for 181 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Some wondered if Clausen even deserved to be in the league. He does. Clausen clearly took his role seriously and put in the necessary work to learn the offense, without the benefit of practice snaps, over the past five or six months. Clausen might struggle next week versus a scrappy Minnesota Vikings team, but decent No. 2 quarterbacks are difficult to find. Clausen is decent. He should have no trouble finding work in the offseason, either in Chicago or someplace else.

3. Keep Jeremiah Ratliff: Whatever defense the Bears run in 2015 needs to include Ratliff, who is under contract through next year. Ratliff is a leader. He also happens to be the best player on defense. Ratliff is intimidating. The veteran defensive tackle does an excellent job holding teammates accountable. The only issue is durability. The Bears need Ratliff to stay healthy for all 16 games next season, because if he does, Ratliff remains capable of playing at a Pro Bowl level. He might be the most underrated player on the team.

4. Suspend Dominic Raiola: Raiola is a cheap-shot artist. Stomping on the back foot of a prone and unsuspecting Ego Ferguson was a pure amateur-hour move. Raiola has the reputation of a dirty player. He is not a first-time offender but tends to fly under the radar due to the highly publicized behavior of teammate Ndamukong Suh. Two games would be an appropriate punishment for Raiola. Force him to miss the first round of the playoffs. Ferguson said it best: “We all saw the play. You can’t take back what happened with that play. I don’t have to explain that.” The NFL should act swiftly. A 14-year veteran ought to know better.

5. When did Detroit rehire Jim Schwartz? The Lions got lucky Sunday. Detroit self-destructed on several instances and played undisciplined football. Lions fans were accustomed to that style of play under ex-head coach Jim Schwartz, but not Jim Caldwell. Detroit better clean it up. Otherwise their postseason run will be a brief one.
CHICAGO -- The body-language police likely focused a critical eye on Jay Cutler during Chicago’s 20-14 loss Sunday to the Detroit Lions, but behind the scenes, the benched quarterback spent extra time at Halas Hall preparing Jimmy Clausen for his first start since his rookie season with the Carolina Panthers in 2010.

Cutler
“He was involved during the week in the meetings, actively and vocally involved,” Bears coach Marc Trestman said of Cutler. “Today, he did what you would expect him to do. He was with Jimmy and [quarterbacks coach] Matt [Cavanaugh] between series and was part of the dialogue.”

Clausen threw two touchdown passes and an interception, with a passer rating of 77.0. But with just two days of prep time, Clausen said Cutler and rookie David Fales stayed with him until nearly 9 p.m. those nights at the team’s facilities.

When Clausen signed with the team in June, Cutler immediately took the backup quarterback under his wing.

“We only had two days to prepare for this game, so we stayed pretty much until 8:30 p.m. every single night, trying to watch as much tape as possible, get all the calls down,” Clausen said. “Get everything down to make sure we were prepared for this game. But Jay was great. David Fales was great in helping me to go through all the calls, watching the film. Staying real late, they helped me out a lot.”
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CHICAGO -- No brilliant aerial display or 100-plus passer rating for Jimmy Clausen. Not even a victory for that matter.

Yet when Chicago walked off the field 20-14 losers to the Detroit Lions on Sunday at Soldier Field, the feeling permeating the locker room and postgame press conference room wasn’t one of despair with Clausen falling short in his first start since 2010 because the quarterback kept the Bears in it until the end.

“What do I think I did for myself?” Clausen asked. “I think I just went out there and competed. That’s the biggest thing I think I did, and showed I can play in this league. It’s not about me or anything about that. It’s about winning football games. That’s what we were trying to do today against a division opponent, and we came up short.”

With Jay Cutler, the NFL’s highest-paid offensive player backing him up, Clausen tossed two touchdown passes and absorbed a pair of sacks on the way to producing a passer rating of 77.0. Clausen passed for just 181 yards on the day against a Lions defense that entered the contest ranked No. 1 in the NFL in points allowed (17.0) and second in total yards (300.3-yard average)

[+] EnlargeJimmy Clausen
Jamie Squire/Getty ImagesJimmy Clausen avoided the types of game-changing mistakes that have plagued Jay Cutler all season.
So Marc Trestman probably didn't save his job by benching Cutler last week in favor of Clausen, because the new starter didn’t exactly light up the Lions. But it’s important to note the Bears attacked Detroit’s vaunted defense with a scaled-back game plan due to Clausen’s limited repetitions, while taking the field with a pair of rookie backups (Ryan Groy and Michael Ola) at the guard positions along an offensive line that gave up seven sacks just six days prior against New Orleans’ 31st-ranked defense.

Trestman sought “a spark” when naming Clausen the starter, and received as much in Sunday’s loss.

Against the playoff-bound Lions, the Bears led 14-10 to start the fourth quarter.

“I think that Jimmy, as the game went on, continued to get more comfortable,” Trestman said. “We cut down the quantity of plays we had in the game plan. We matched it up against things we’ve seen Detroit do defensively, and tried to give them the things and packages he would need to get it done. We certainly had more than enough today to utilize that. He did a nice job during the week, not only during practice, but after practice with the guys, getting the reps and assignment checks he needed to see everything. I felt good about that going in today.”

The coach also likely feels positive vibes about the way Clausen stayed within the confines of the scheme -- which is what Trestman wanted all along from the original starter -- without taking unnecessary risks and making the same game-changing mistakes that ultimately led to the decision to bench Cutler.

Trestman paused for nearly five seconds last week when asked whether general manager Phil Emery was on board with his decision to bench Cutler. That pause indicated the coach and general manager, who signed Cutler to a seven-year, $126.7 million deal last January, may not have seen eye to eye regarding that decision.

But if Clausen plays mistake-free football within Trestman’s scheme and experiences success to close the season next week at Minnesota, perhaps it proves the coach’s system works just fine, and that Cutler was the problem all along. Again, it’s probably too late for Cutler’s benching to save Trestman’s job. But if Clausen closes on a positive note, it at least gives ownership pause when making decisions about the futures of Trestman, Cutler and even Emery, who has been steadfast in his support of the quarterback.

Down 20-14 with 2:30 left to play, Clausen hit Marquess Wilson for a 7-yard gain on first down. On second down, Clausen scrambled around right end, only to be rocked by Ezekiel Ansah, who was penalized 15 yards for unnecessary roughness after knocking off the quarterback’s helmet.

Clausen popped up quickly, later admitting “my emotions are going 100 miles a minute at that time, I’m just fired up.” But that sequence rubbed off on the rest of the team.

“I respect that,” Bears defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff said.

“Oh yeah, he’s a fiery guy, man,” said center Roberto Garza. “He was in the game trying to make plays all through the game, and he was the reason we were in this game.”

Not the reason the Bears were out of it, like they’d been so many times before with Cutler and his NFL-high 24 turnovers at the helm.

When the Bears fell 34-17 on Thanksgiving at Detroit, Cutler passed for 280 yards and two touchdowns, but he also tossed two interceptions, with the Lions converting one of the turnovers into a Matt Prater field goal.

Clausen threw an interception in the fourth quarter on a desperation shot on fourth-and-10 from the Chicago 45 with just 2:02 left to play.

Trestman declined to name Clausen the starter for the season-finale at Minnesota, but the quarterback whose record as a starter now stands at 1-10, hopes the brass gives him another shot.

It's not like the Bears have anything else to lose.

“I’ve never given up,” Clausen said when asked if he thought he’d never receive another shot to start in the NFL. “You can never give up. The only thing you can ask for is another opportunity. That’s what Coach Trestman gave me today, another opportunity. I just went out there and tried to compete to the best of my ability, make the plays when the plays were there.”

Report Card: Bears-Lions

December, 21, 2014
Dec 21
6:45
PM ET

Week 16 Report Card: Lions at Bears

Clausen
C

Passing Offense

Quarterback Jimmy Clausen did OK replacing Jay Cutler, completing 23 of 39 throws for 181 yards, two touchdowns and one interception (77.0 passer rating). Drops hurt the Bears. Alshon Jeffery had a rough afternoon, catching only six of his game-high 15 targets for 72 yards and one touchdown. Clausen targeted tight end Martellus Bennett just three times. Clausen seemed in command of the offense, but the overall results (14 points) were unchanged.

Forte
D+

Rushing Offense

At least Chicago attempted to run, unlike in their first meeting with Detroit when Matt Forte carried the football a season-low five times. But yards proved tough to come by against the NFL's No. 1 rushing defense. Forte ran 19 times for 55 yards (2.9 yards per carry). Clausen scrambled three times for nine yards. The Bears missed the presence of right guard Kyle Long, who skipped the game because of a hip injury.

Vereen
B

Passing Defense

Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford had a rotten afternoon. The Bears picked off Stafford twice (Brock Vereen and Ryan Mundy), and sacked the rival quarterback four times. All-world receiver Calvin Johnson caught six passes for 103 yards, but Johnson disappointed for stretches during the game. Cornerback Tim Jennings picked up a costly fourth-quarter pass interference penalty that set up the Lions' go-ahead touchdown. That proved to be a turning point.

Thomas
D

Rushing Defense

Detroit tailback Joique Bell made several defenders miss on a 17-yard touchdown run that sealed Chicago's fate. Bell (13-74-1) and Reggie Bush (7-54-1) combined to rush for 128 yards on just 20 attempts. The numbers are particularly galling when you consider Detroit entered the game with the league's 30th-ranked rushing offense.

Bears
B

Special Teams

Detroit embarrassed themselves on special teams; botching a punt and allowing a field goal block. The Bears were actually decent. Punter Pat O'Donnell did struggle with six punts for 242 yards (40.3 average/36.7 net average), but Chicago avoided fatal errors on special teams.

Trestman
C

Coaching

Give Marc Trestman credit for Clausen's preparedness on short notice. Trestman, Mel Tucker and Joe DeCamillis appeared to put together decent plans of attack for Week 16. But it's a result-based business. The Bears still only scored 14 points en route to dropping their 10th game of the season. They simply were not good enough to win.

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