Chicago Bears: Chicago Bears

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears defensive end Jared Allen participated in fewer snaps on defense than key reserve Willie Young in Sunday's loss to the Miami Dolphins, but the five-time Pro Bowler doesn't believe reduced playing time for him is in the team's plans.

Allen
"It's probably an aberration," Allen said, laughing. "They haven't told me I am on reduced playing time. We'll take it for that."

Allen played in 46 of the club's 70 snaps against the Dolphins, while Young participated in 54 snaps.

In the third quarter, Miami marched 83 yards in 13 plays with Lamar Miller capping the drive with on a 2-yard touchdown run. The Bears didn't utilize Allen during the drive, but defensive coordinator Mel Tucker pointed out the Dolphins weren't faced with many third-and-long situations. On that possession, Miami faced third down just twice with 2 yards to convert. The Dolphins also converted a fourth-and-1.

"Going forward, obviously we want him in the game," Tucker said. "He's been a highly-productive player for us. It was an unusual series. We had a lot of short-yardage situations. We didn't really get into third-and-long. We visited with him about it, and we're ready to move on. We'll be fine. We just tell him that we're going to make sure that we get him on the field as much as possible."

Allen wasn't concerned about a lack of playing time, but immediately after the game referred questions regarding the situation to the coaching staff.

"We haven't really talked about it," Allen said. "The rotation happened that way I guess. We'll move on to New England."

The Bears held out Allen when the team faced Green Bay on Sept. 28, but he's played in six games this season, contributing 24 tackles and 1.5 sacks.

Brock Vereen excited about family reunion

October, 22, 2014
Oct 22
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LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears first-year free safety Brock Vereen has had the date circled on his calendar for months.

Vereen
S. Vereen
Vereen
B. Vereen
Sunday’s game in New England potentially pits Vereen against old brother Shane -- the Patriots' starting running back and key contributor on offense with 259 rushing yards (one touchdown), and 23 receptions for 185 yards and two scores.

The brothers have yet to battle each other during a game -- until now.

"After draft day obviously we looked up each other's schedules," Brock Vereen said. "Since then it's something that we've both been anticipating, but we're very excited for it to actually be here.

You know, it's an exciting time for my parents and my family. But from a personal standpoint I've got to stay focused and get ready to go."

A fourth-round draft pick, Vereen started Week 7 against the Miami Dolphins (five tackles), and is a candidate to see the field on defense in New England. Vereen is also tied for fifth on the team with five special teams tackles.

Of course, Vereen’s defensive playing time likely hinges on the health of safety Chris Conte (shoulder). Conte practiced without restrictions Wednesday, but the safeties' 2014 track record is concerning. Conte failed to finish four of the first six games before being inactive against the Dolphins.

"There are definitely things I feel I did well and there's definitely things I need to improve on," Vereen said regarding his first NFL start.

Would Vereen hesitate to clobber his brother Sunday, if the opportunity presented itself?

"That's my job; just like he would be looking to run me over or break my tackle," Vereen said. "So we're very excited."

The Film Don't Lie: Bears

October, 21, 2014
Oct 21
11:00
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A weekly look at what the Chicago Bears must fix:

Head coach Marc Trestman, offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer -- even the players -- constantly harp on the need for the Chicago Bears to eliminate the turnovers, and if the club doesn't start to take some steps in that direction, it faces a long day at Gillette Stadium on Sunday against the New England Patriots, who come into this contest with 10 days of prep time.

It all starts with quarterback Jay Cutler, who has spotted opponents an average of 9.25 points just off turnovers in each of the team's four losses. In each of the club's defeats, Cutler turned over the ball on multiple occasions. And while Cutler understands turnovers are the root of the problems, he's got to take corrective steps to keep his team out of the binds.

As a playcaller, Trestman can help.

Against the Miami Dolphins in the first half, Trestman -- despite the luxury of having one of the NFL's hottest backs in Matt Forte -- called just two runs, which isn't conducive to keeping opponents off balance to allow Cutler to operate off play-action. But it also places the offense in too many difficult-to-convert, third-and-long situations.

You've got a horse. Ride him, and keep the team's fate out of the hands of Cutler, who completed three of 11 passes for 52 yards and an interception on throws of 15 yards or more downfield against the Dolphins, according to ESPN Stats & Information. The Bears play a West Coast offense, which emphasizes a short, controlled passing attack. Yet Cutler insists on throwing vertical despite teams working feverishly to take that away. That partially explains why he's got the NFL's fourth-worst completion percentage (32.4 percent) on deep balls and has thrown five interceptions on such attempts, which is tied for second most in the NFL.

Trestman needs to emphasize to Cutler the need to simply take what defenses give him. In turn, the quarterback needs to stop giving it away. Ten turnovers in seven games (seven interceptions and three fumbles) is enough.

Stock Watch: Ratliff explodes vs. Dolphins

October, 21, 2014
Oct 21
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Jeremiah RatliffMike DiNovo/USA TODAY SportsDT Jeremiah Ratliff, who missed three consecutive games due to a concussion, played his best game in a Bears uniform Sunday against the Dolphins.

RISING

Ratliff
Up arrow
  
1. Jeremiah Ratliff, DT: Ratliff played the best game of his brief Bears career with 3.5 sacks in the 27-14 home defeat to Miami. On two separate instances, a Ratliff sack of Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill on third down prevented Miami from putting points on the board. It had been a slow start to the season for Ratliff, who missed three consecutive games due to a concussion, but he played like a man on a mission Sunday. A 10-year NFL veteran, Ratliff had 3.5 sacks combined over the previous three years before Week 7’s explosion.

O'Donnell
2. Pat O'Donnell, P: The rookie punter is in a groove after averaging 53 yards per punt on three attempts with a net average of 45.7. That is the highest gross average by a Bears punter with a minimum of three punts in a game since Todd Sauerbrun in 1997. O’Donnell needed a couple of weeks in training camp to iron out the kinks, but the sixth-round pick has been outstanding since early in the regular season. O’Donnell looks to have serious staying power. He is likely to be punting footballs for the Bears for many years to come.

3. Coverage teams: Miami rookie sensation Jarvis Landry managed to return just two kickoffs for 55 yards and two punts for 22 yards. Landry’s dynamic ability on kickoff returns worried the Bears leading up to Sunday, but the coverage teams and kicker Robbie Gould answered the challenge. Covering kicks is a collective effort between the coverage men and the kicker. Gould forces return men to move around in the end zone before catching the football -- an exercise that can disrupt a return man’s rhythm.

FALLING

Cutler
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1. Jay Cutler, QB: Cutler completed 21 of 34 pass attempts for 190 yards, one touchdown, one interception and one lost fumble for a quarterback rating of 74.4. Cutler has turned the ball over 10 times (seven interceptions, three lost fumbles) in seven games. The quarterback has played 74 regular-season games for the Bears since 2009. In the 74 games, Cutler has thrown 82 interceptions and lost 20 fumbles. Add it up: 102 turnovers. Many of those 74 games have featured multiple turnovers. How do you expect to sustain success in the NFL if the offense keeps giving the football away? The answer is simple: You can’t.

Mills
2. Jordan Mills, OT: Mills had another rough performance Sunday. He struggled in trying to block talented Dolphins defensive end Cameron Wake, a difficult matchup for any right tackle. But is Mills healthy? Keep in mind Mills skipped practice this past Wednesday due to a foot injury -- the same foot that required offseason surgery. Bears coach Marc Trestman hinted that Michael Ola could push Mills for playing time in New England. Maybe it’s not a bad idea. Mills might benefit from a week off followed by the bye.

3. Rest of the offense: This is not the kind of offensive output Bears fans envisioned. Fans expected to see growth and improvement in the second year of the offense. After all, the Bears returned all 16 starters from a group that finished second in the NFL in points per game in 2013. Instead, the Bears offense is the main culprit behind the rocky seven-game stretch to open the season. On all levels, the Bears are failing. For whatever reason, the Bears aren’t stringing together wins (with the exception of back-to-back victories over San Francisco and the New York Jets). The offense is wildly inconsistent; it’s always something with the offense. Actually, it’s always something with this team. Rarely do the three phases come together in harmony. The Bears have nine games -- minimum -- to figure it out. The Bears have missed the playoffs six of the past seven years. It would be seven of the past eight years if they fail to reach the postseason in 2014 (a very real possibility). Time for the offense to step up and save the day.

Surgery ruled out on Kyle Fuller's hand

October, 20, 2014
Oct 20
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LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears head coach Marc Trestman called cornerback Kyle Fuller day-to-day after the NFL's reigning Defensive Rookie of the Month suffered a fractured right hand, and right hip pointer injury in Sunday's 27-14 loss to the Miami Dolphins.

Fuller
Fuller is not expected to need surgery on his broken hand, but he failed to finish the Dolphins' game because of the injured hip.

Fuller's status is unknown for the Week 8 trip to New England to face the 5-2 Patriots.

"Up to this point today, I've heard it [the broken hand] as being a non-surgical issue," Trestman said.

"He went out of the game because of his hip more than his hand, so we'll just see. He said he felt good today, but it'll be day to day. I don't know that the hand will deter him. I don't know that, I haven't talked to [the training staff] about it. But that's what I understand at this time."

The No. 14 overall selection of the 2014 NFL draft, Fuller replaced Charles Tillman (injured reserve) on the first team in Week 2, recording three interceptions and three forced fumbles in five starts.

Fuller's third-quarter exit on Sunday forced the Bears to play Sherrick McManis at cornerback opposite Tim Jennings, with Demontre Hurst lining up at nickelback.

5 things we learned: Dolphins 27, Bears 14

October, 19, 2014
Oct 19
8:39
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CHICAGO -- Here are five things we learned in the Chicago Bears' 27-14 loss to the Miami Dolphins:

1. March to 8-8 continues: This outfit seems destined to be .500. One week the Bears are on top of the world; the next week the team is face down in the gutter. Victories by Green Bay (5-2) and Detroit (5-2) on Sunday pushed the Bears two games back in the NFC North. Future road dates against New England and the Packers hardly look promising, but the NFL is full of surprises. It's possible the Bears could sneak a win next week, although the Patriots have extra time to prepare for Week 8 as a result of playing Thursday night. But in every sense the Bears are mediocre. Except for the talent level on the roster. That is above average. However, the Bears find themselves 0-3 at home and 3-4 overall. That is a problem.

[+] EnlargeBrandon Marshall
AP Images/Scott BoehmBrandon Marshall expressed frustration after the Bears' latest loss, but it's imperative the team keep him from becoming a divisive force.
2. Marshall reaches tipping point: Is Brandon Marshall upset the Bears are 3-4? Or is Marshall upset he's fourth on the team with 31 catches (on pace for 71 receptions)? Only Marshall knows for sure, but the wide receiver sounded emotionally spent in the postgame locker room. The Bears better get Marshall back on the rails. He polluted the waters in Denver and Miami before being traded to the Bears. They don't need him to turn into a divisive force. They need him to catch 100 passes for 1,200 yards. Losses are tough in the NFL. Marshall's frustration is understandable. His motives may be called into question, but his importance to team cannot be disputed. Get him right.

3. Offense underachieves, again: Where is the offense that averaged 27.8 points in 2013 (second-highest total in the NFL)? Just when Jay Cutler makes you think the offense is ready to explode, it puts up a stinker against the Dolphins. Up and down. Up and down. That's the story of the 2014 Bears through seven games. Cutler has turned the ball over 10 times. To steal a phrase from Marshall, Cutler's frequent turnovers are "unacceptable." Games are won and lost in the NFL because of turnover ratio. The Bears certainly know this. Marc Trestman preached about it all week at Halas Hall, yet the Bears were minus-3 versus Miami (Cutler interception, Cutler fumble, Dante Rosario fumble). Buckle up, it's going to be a wild ride, as usual, with the Bears starting quarterback. We all should know the script by now.

4. Tannehill shines: Ryan Tannehill resembled the quarterback worth $54 million guaranteed Sunday. The Dolphins quarterback kept the Bears defense on its heels for much of the game, completing 25 of 32 pass attempts for 277 yards and two touchdowns (123.6 quarterback rating). He spread the ball around to eight receivers. Tannehill even rushed for 48 yards, including a critical 30-yard gain on fourth down in the third quarter. Defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff's career day (3.5 sacks) did little to slow down Tannehill. He delivered the ball with extreme accuracy on the move. This was unexpected, especially since the good people of South Florida seem on the fence about whether Tannehill is the Dolphins' quarterback of the future.

5. Install Field Turf, please: One of the longest running jokes in the NFL is the condition of the Soldier Field playing surface. The Bears have an excellent head groundskeeper who spends most of the week at Halas Hall grooming the practice fields. He cannot be in two places at once. This is one of the many unfortunate byproducts of the Bears not owning their stadium. The players can't stand the grass field. The fans can't stand the grass field. The Bears are built for offense. If you bought a thoroughbred, would you make it run in mud? Make the switch to Field Turf. The situation is beyond embarrassing for everyone involved.

Report Card: Bears-Dolphins

October, 19, 2014
Oct 19
7:48
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Week 7 Report Card: Dolphins at Bears

Marshall
D

Passing Offense

Jay Cutler's roller-coaster season continues. The quarterback completed only 21 of 34 pass attempts for 190 yards, one touchdown and one interception for a quarterback rating of 74.4. Miami's Ryan Tannehill (123.6 passer rating) crushed Cutler head-to-head. Keep in mind, Tannehill has far fewer offensive weapons at his disposal. Cutler did a poor job feeling the pressure at times and ended up being sacked on three separate occasions. Cutler is the perfect embodiment of the Bears. Hot one week, cold the next.

Forte
D-

Rushing Offense

Matt Forte only carried the ball 12 times for 49 yards (4.1 yards per carry). The Bears completely abandoned the run in the first half. Forte had more success early in the third quarter, but the Bears never really established the run. Hard to blame Forte. He's not the one calling the plays. Overall, Week 7 turned out to be another complete dud on offense.

Tannehill
D

Passing Defense

The Bears made Tannehill look like Joe Montana. A middle-of-the-road NFL quarterback, Tannehill torched the Bears: 25-of-32 for 277 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions. Ryan Tannehill? Seriously? Eight different Miami players caught passes on Sunday. Tannehill was sacked four times, but he had far too much time to survey the field for much of the afternoon.

Miller
C-

Rushing Defense

The Dolphins ran for 137 yards on 33 carries. Tailback Lamar Miller led Miami with 61 rushing yards and one touchdown. But Tannehill did the most damage on the ground, scrambling for 30 yards on fourth-and-1 in the third quarter. The Dolphins scored a touchdown two plays later that ultimately put the game out of reach.

Special
B

Special Teams

The Bears were better on special teams. Chris Williams returned a pair of kickoffs for 75 yards. Punter Pat O'Donnell averaged 53 yards on three kicks with a net average of 45.7 yards. Miami's Jarvis Landry returned one of his kickoffs 31 yards. Lamarr Houston also blocked a field goal.

Trestman
D

Coaching

The Bears came out flat. Why does that continue to happen at home? The Bears have way too much talent to be 3-4 overall. There is no excuse to keep losing these winnable games, especially at Soldier Field. The Bears had better be careful -- 3-6 is staring them straight in the face with upcoming trips to New England and Green Bay.




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CHICAGO -- Outside the closed double doors of the Chicago Bears' locker room in the bowels of Soldier Field after the team’s 27-14 loss to the Miami Dolphins, loud yelling pierced the busy hallway, and a source later said the noise was Brandon Marshall calling out quarterback Jay Cutler.

Just down the hall at the team’s postgame news conference, Bears coach Marc Trestman and Cutler gave contradictory statements when asked why the team handed off to Matt Forte just twice in the first half.

[+] EnlargeCameron Wake and Jay Cutler
AP Photo/Charles Rex ArbogastBears QB Jay Cutler had one interception and three fumbles (one lost) in Sunday's loss to the Dolphins.
Trestman said “We had some runs called,” but the Dolphins moved “into certain fronts that forced us to get out [of the runs].” Cutler said, “We had two runs called. ... It’s not like we had 12 [runs] called.”

The contradictory statements, slight locker room friction, and subsequent frustration from Marshall, not to mention guard Kyle Long criticizing the fans at Soldier Field, underscore the dysfunction seemingly taking hold of the Bears just a week after they blasted the Atlanta Falcons 27-13 on the road. Ultimately, the root of the problem on offense proved, as usual, to be turnovers. In each of the team’s four losses this season, Cutler committed multiple turnovers, leading to a total of 37 points for the opponent.

“Turnovers obviously hurt you,” Trestman said. “When you turn over the ball, you take yourself out of it. We had three turnovers today offensively, and that was after a bad start. If you look at the games, I think there [is] some reasonably good execution in terms of how utilizing our offense, particularly.”

But none of it means anything if you can’t protect the football. Heading into the game Sunday, the Bears averaged 423.3 yards of offense in their losses, but turned over the ball a total of nine times. Chicago turned over the ball three times against the Dolphins.

“Same mistakes, same mistakes, same mistakes,” Marshall said. “We’ve got to protect the football.”

Down 7-0 in the second quarter, Cutler’s pass intended for tight end Martellus Bennett sailed with Reshad Jones picking it off and returning it 50 yards to set up the Dolphins at the Chicago 23. Santonio Holmes ran a go route down the sideline, which was expected to draw away coverage from Bennett.

But Holmes wound up running free down the sideline, while two defenders covered Bennett as he watched Cutler’s pass sail over his head.

“We got squeezed from the outside. It was a little bit high,” Cutler said. “I think Marty saw the squeeze coming. I don’t even know if he saw it coming to be honest with you. They did a good job with coverage. They really did. They mixed it up, took a lot of the deep shots from us.”

Jones’ interception gave the Dolphins a short field to work with, and Ryan Tannehill would cap the 23-yard drive with a 10-yard touchdown pass to Mike Wallace to give the visitors a 14-0 lead.

“After watching film all week, we saw [Cutler] was looking where he threw the ball,” Jones said. “He was always looking at his receivers and never looking off. I tried to take advantage of that, and it paid off.”

Miami received another short field when Cameron Wake sacked and stripped Cutler at the Chicago 16.

Four plays later, the Bears made the score 24-7 on a Caleb Sturgis field goal.

“You watched the game. What’s breaking down?” Forte asked. “Penalties and turnovers, we’re shooting ourselves in the foot.”

Trestman and Marshall called the offense’s performance “unacceptable” multiple times in their postgame remarks.

“You want me to say it again?” Marshall asked. “[A record of] 3-4 is unacceptable. It’s unacceptable. You don’t get a tomorrow in this league. We’re halfway through this season! It’s time.”

Rapid Reaction: Chicago Bears

October, 19, 2014
Oct 19
3:50
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CHICAGO -- A few thoughts on the Chicago Bears' 27-14 loss to the Miami Dolphins at Soldier Field.

What it means: The Bears fell further out of the NFC North race with the Green Bay Packers appearing to be on the way toward extending their division lead with a win over the Carolina Panthers. The Bears now will travel to New England to face a Bill Belichick-coached Patriots squad that will have extra prep time heading into next week’s matchup at Gillette Stadium. The Bears remain winless at home, which is especially concerning since they will play five of the last seven at Soldier Field.

Stock watch: Strongside linebacker Shea McClellin returned to the lineup after missing the last four games due to a broken hand, but the defense may have fared better without him. McClellin proved to be a liability against both the run and pass. He slipped and fell trying to cover Charles Clay on the tight end's 13-yard touchdown in the first quarter.

Then, on a crucial fourth-and-1 in the third quarter, McClellin failed to disengage from a block as Ryan Tannehill ran to his side for a 30-yard gain to set up Lamar Miller’s 1-yard touchdown.

Jay Cutler turnovers: Fans like to say “Cutty does it.” Well, he certainly did in the loss to the Dolphins, turning the ball over twice. It’s no coincidence the Bears have lost every game in which Cutler has committed a turnover. Cutler tossed two interceptions in each of the team’s three losses heading into Sunday’s game, and he committed two more turnovers (an interception and a fumble) against the Dolphins.

Bears coach Marc Trestman, offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer and Cutler have all talked extensively about turnovers being the deciding factor in all of this team’s losses, yet the quarterback continues to give away the ball. It has to stop.

Game ball: Defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff racked up a career-high 3.5 sacks in the first half alone and contributed seven tackles. Ratliff’s 3.5 sacks against the Dolphins matched his 2010 season total. Ratliff hasn’t made more than two sacks in a season since 2011, which is impressive for a player who had missed three of the last four games recovering from a concussion suffered in Week 3.

What’s next: The Bears head to Halas Hall on Monday to do some light weightlifting and recovery work. They won’t begin preparation for the New England Patriots until Wednesday.
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Jay Cutler hopes this week he’s not the next Tom Brady, Alex Smith, Derek Carr or Aaron Rodgers -- quarterbacks harassed and smacked around all day by Miami’s defense -- when the Chicago Bears host the Miami Dolphins Sunday at Soldier Field.

Cutler
Yet Cutler knows it’s coming.

“We’ve just got to try to slow them down, show them different looks, run the ball well, move the pocket a little bit if we can. Things like that,” he said.

Such bullet points might be achieved a little easier this week considering the Bears, for the first time since preparation for the season opener, practiced Thursday with their entire starting offensive line. They’ll certainly need every one of them to handle a Miami defensive front that is legitimately seven or eight deep.

Defensive ends Cameron Wake and Olivier Vernon generate the headlines as they lead the Dolphins with 3.5 sacks and six hurries apiece. But other defensive linemen such as Jared Odrick, Randy Starks and Earl Mitchell are also playing at a high level, which is part of the reason Miami dropped Brady, Smith, Carr and Rodgers for a combined 14 sacks over the team’s first five games.

“As an overall defense, they’re very physical,” Bears offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer said. “They hit the quarterback in every game a bunch of times, and that’s the No. 1 goal in this game: to limit the hits on our quarterback. You look at Tom Brady. You look at Aaron Rodgers. They were hit multiple times. Our No. 1 goal coming [into] this game is to keep Jay safe and to keep him in a pocket where he can complete a pass.”

Cutler might find that a difficult task because Miami’s high-pressure front is backed by experienced corners in Brent Grimes and Cortland Finnegan, who not only understand route concepts to excel in zone coverage but also play physically as man-to-man defenders.

The Dolphins rank No. 9 in the NFL against the pass.

“They understand what they have in their front. They know they’re going to get pressure. They know the quarterback can’t sit back there forever,” Cutler explained. “They break on routes, they sit on stuff. They read concepts really well.”

They’re versatile, too, according to Bears coach Marc Trestman, who broke down the difficulty of attacking Miami’s defense as a whole.

“First of all they play very tight coverage, even in zone,” Trestman said. “Then on third down, because it's man-to-man, you're going to need an extra click. That's what they really try to do on third down is they try to hold you up long enough to be able to have the extra click to be able to get to the quarterback. They're hitting the quarterback in every game. The challenge is getting open quick enough to beat the pass rush, and that's why they play so much man [coverage] on third down.”

Miami’s penchant for man-to-man coverage in passing situations is fine by the Bears. Trestman and Kromer have asked Cutler to start utilizing his underrated mobility to make teams pay when situations warrant.

Through the first six games, Cutler has broken off seven runs for gains of 10 yards or more.

"We’ve been asking him to run in situational plays when everybody is covering and nobody is looking at him,” Kromer said.

Added Cutler: “I just think we’re doing a really good job of recognizing coverage and two-man (two-deep zone coverage with man-to-man coverage underneath). Third downs have been a big one where we’ve caught a little bit of two-man here and there and [it] gave me some opportunities to run.”

It also opens up opportunity for defenses to administer punishment to the quarterback. Remember, Cutler missed time last season on two different occasions due to injuries, and he hasn’t played an entire 16-game season since 2009.

That’s not to say Cutler lacks toughness, because he certainly doesn’t. The quarterback took monstrous shots earlier this season in San Francisco and Atlanta and popped right back up on both occasions -- and actually seemed to play more inspired.

In explaining his toughness, the quarterback pointed to a need to lead the team through adverse situations.

“I know how important it is to the rest of the guys in the huddle,” Cutler said. “I don’t want to let them down. I don’t want to let the coaches down [and] I think a lot of it is driven by that fact. I don’t want to miss plays because I know those guys in front of me and the guys on the outside, they’d do the same thing for me.”

Bears OL reunited at practice

October, 16, 2014
Oct 16
4:12
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LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Injuries forced the Chicago Bears to use four different offensive line combinations through six games, but all five starters were together on the practice field Thursday in preparation to play the Miami Dolphins.

Left tackle Jermon Bushrod (ankle/knee) is likely to return to action on Sunday after being upgraded to full participation in practice, while right tackle Jordan Mills (right) did limited work following a rest day on Wednesday.

“Today was like the first time we’ve all practiced together since Week 1,” Mills said. “I wasn’t there in OTAs (foot surgery) and parts of camp. Then it was Kyle Long when he had his illness. Then unfortunately Roberto Garza and Matt Slauson got hurt in the same game (Buffalo) with the same injury. Then Bushrod [suffered his injury at practice before Carolina game]. But all these dudes [we have as reserves] played so well it was like nobody ever left.”

Linebacker Lance Briggs (ribs) and safety Chris Conte (shoulder) were the only ones to sit out Thursday’s indoor session, but head coach Marc Trestman refused to officially rule out either player, yet.

Trestman said the Bears have rotated safeties Ryan Mundy, Brock Vereen and Danny McCray this week at practice, but Mundy and Vereen lined up together in Atlanta after Conte left the game, the fourth game he’s been unable to finish in 2014. Conte did cardiovascular work on Thursday.

Linebackers Jon Bostic (back) and D.J. Williams (neck), and safety Ahmad Dixon (hamstring) had limited participation.

Cornerback Sherrick McManis (quadriceps/knee) and linebacker Shea McClellin (hand) practiced without restrictions and are expected to be available to face Miami.
Why such matters are analyzed seems trivial, but nonetheless they certainly make for interesting conversation.

A Wall Street Journal reporter watched two full games for every team in the NFL this season, and counted the number of times each head coach and quarterback were shown on the broadcast. Chicago Bears coach Marc Trestman and quarterback Jay Cutler don’t rank very high, but neither fall in at the bottom of the division.

The Wall Street Journal’s findings reveal that Trestman is shown an average of 26.5 times per broadcast, while Cutler comes across the screen 10 times per broadcast. Those figures rank 18th and 25th, respectively. Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer ranks 10th in the NFL and tops in the division in face time as the average TV broadcast flashes his face on the screen an average of 33.5 times per game, while his quarterback Teddy Bridgewater checks in at No. 3 overall (22.5) and No. 1 in the NFC North.

As expected, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers ranks high (seventh), but surprisingly Matthew Stafford is featured on TV broadcasts just eight times per game, which is good for No. 30 overall and last in the NFC North. Two more surprises: New Detroit Lions coach Jim Caldwell is 31st overall in face time, while Packers coach Mike McCarthy is last.
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears defensive coordinator Mel Tucker deflected praise regarding the success his group experienced defending the Atlanta Falcons' high-octane attack last week, saying the unit is "only as good as our next play."

"We feel like we've been on the right track since Day 1," Tucker said. "We believe in what we've been doing with our guys and that we've just needed to focus on getting better day in and day out, week in and week out. We're still not where we want to be and we've got some stuff to clean up. But we feel good about our group as a whole and what we need to get done. We need to take the next step."

With the Miami Dolphins coming into town Sunday, and the defense struggling in each of the team's home losses, Tucker believes the home crowd "deserve[s] to see winning football." In falling to the Buffalo Bills 23-20 in the season opener at Soldier Field, Chicago's defense allowed 193 yards on the ground, and the revamped front four sacked quarterback EJ Manuel only once.

Then in overtime, Bills running back Fred Jackson busted a 38-yard run to the Chicago 1 to set up the game-winning field goal.

Three weeks later, the defense -- aided by turnovers on Chicago's first two offensive possessions of the second half -- allowed 24 unanswered points after the club had built a 17-14 lead with 3:50 remaining in the first half. In that game, the Green Bay Packers scored touchdowns on five of seven offensive possessions.

Chicago currently ranks No. 3 in the NFL in takeaways (12), and Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill, since 2012, has thrown two or more interceptions in nine games.

"We're looking forward to being back at home," Tucker said. "Our fans are tremendous, and obviously our guys feed off our fans, our city, our field. It's a tremendous opportunity for us. Our fans deserve to see winning football and winning performances; tough, physical football and guys playing smart playing fast, and being physical. Our goal each and every day is to work towards giving them that. So that's our focus today, and the rest of the week is to prepare to come out and put forth our best effort for each other and for our fans."
The only real concern from Chicago’s perspective here is the offensive line might not be fully healthy facing a Miami defensive front that Bears coach Marc Trestman calls “impressive.” Right tackle Jordan Mills has struggled (three pre-snap penalties last week and lapses in pass protection) with a foot injury that has kept him out of practice and left tackle Jermon Bushrod has missed the last two games with ankle and knee injuries, but could be back in the lineup.

On the other side of the ball, the Bears enter this game with the NFL’s sack leader in Willie Young (seven sacks) leading an opportunistic unit which ranks third in takeaways (12). The Bears have scored 49 points off those takeaways, which is a dangerous proposition for Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who is coming his ninth game since 2012 in which he’s thrown two or more interceptions.

Look for the Bears to capitalize off Miami mistakes often.

Bears 31, Dolphins 17.

Having played four of their past six on the road, the Chicago Bears finally return home to Soldier Field to host the Miami Dolphins, a team still reeling from falling to the Green Bay Packers in a last-second heartbreaker.

ESPN Bears reporter Michael C. Wright and Dolphins reporter James Walker take a closer look at the matchup:

Wright: There’s plenty of second-guessing going on in Miami after the Dolphins blew a lead and dropped that heartbreaker to the Green Bay Packers in the final seconds. Typically, losses like that are emotionally draining for everyone involved, making it tougher to prepare for the next opponent. What’s your sense of how the players and coaches have responded since Sunday’s setback, and do you see the Dolphins finding a way to bounce back on the road against the Bears?

Walker: Good question, Michael. The Dolphins are putting a “good face” on this loss. Coach Joe Philbin made it a point Tuesday to say this is one of the best practices the team had all season. Players also are beating the drum this week that everything is fine -- the Dolphins are very close, and they were just one play away. That’s what the Dolphins are telling themselves and the media this week. But this is a team that’s lost three of its past four games -– and two were 19-point losses to the Buffalo Bills and Kansas City Chiefs. At some point, confidence can be an issue for Miami. I don’t believe the team is at that point, because the Dolphins have enough talent to compete with most teams. But anything is possible, especially on the road, and another poor showing in Chicago could create some doubt.

How is former Dolphins receiver Brandon Marshall treating this week? Any extra motivation?

Wright: That’s a good question because I’m sure Marshall is no different than any other athlete wanting to play better against his former team. But at the same time, I go back to the summer when I had the chance to hang out with him at his house to do an interview for ESPN The Magazine and we talked about the trade to Chicago from Miami. Marshall has said on multiple occasions that the trade to Chicago possibly saved his life.

Here’s what he had to say about that: “Those people in Miami, they wanted my head for a year or two. But then I come to Chicago and you see me continue to produce at a high level. I had Jay Cutler. I was in a system I was familiar with. So it was career-saving. Now, the life-saving thing we’re talking about, I don’t know if the cameras can see it [Marshall looks around], but look at this beautiful city. You know what I mean? I say that it wasn’t a life-or-death thing. But a lot of us go through life doing things that we don’t love. We’re doing it for the wrong reasons, and we die freaking chasing money or chasing something to pay bills or we’re not happy. But for me, every single day, I walk outside my door and I smell the city air. I look at these tall buildings. I see people wearing Bulls hats, Blackhawks hats, Bears shirts. It’s fulfilling. It’s stimulating. The love and joy that we receive on a daily basis, it sometimes is too much. So that’s what I mean when I say life-saving.”

Looking at Miami’s defense, it appeared the Dolphins were able to get some pressure on Aaron Rodgers. How confident are you the Dolphins can pressure Jay Cutler similarly on Sunday? Like every other quarterback, Cutler will struggle when teams turn up the heat. But he’ll also take chances that lead to turnovers.

Walker: The Dolphins’ defensive line was terrific against the Packers. Their run fits were solid and they hounded Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers for three sacks. Miami probably would have had double that amount if not for Rodgers’ scrambling ability and quick release. This is probably the one unit the Dolphins can count on to take its game on the road and play well at Soldier Field. Miami is legitimately seven or eight deep on the defensive line. Defensive ends Cameron Wake (3.5 sacks) and Olivier Vernon (3.5 sacks) get most of the publicity, but the Dolphins have other defensive linemen such as Jared Odrick, Randy Starks and Earl Mitchell who are all playing at a high level. Dominating the line of scrimmage defensively provides one of the best ways for the Dolphins to pull off the road upset.

Chicago's defense arguably played its best game of the season against the Falcons. Has this group turned the corner?

Wright: I think the biggest change you’re starting to see is the defensive line is starting to come into its own, and as you know, that can work wonders for a defense as a whole. In the victory over the Falcons, Willie Young, Lamarr Houston and Jared Allen combined for three sacks, three quarterback hits and eight hurries, and Young now leads the NFL in sacks (7). When you’re generating pressure up front, the back end obviously isn’t forced to cover receivers for as long, which helps quite a bit. Also, the Bears have done a much better job stuffing the run on early downs, which has forced opponents into third-and-long situations. That puts opponents in must-pass situations, which in turn allows the Bears to pin back their ears and bring the heat. You’ve also got to give some credit to defensive coordinator Mel Tucker for doing a solid job calling games. He’s done an impressive job of mixing blitzes and coverage and seems to have gotten a good sense for what his players are capable of, which has allowed him to make the right calls at the most opportune times.

If I’m a Dolphins fan, I’d find it a little concerning that Philbin felt “antsy” and “queasy” about throwing the ball with the game on the line in the loss to Green Bay. I saw he said something about the quarterback running for his life, but I also know Tannehill has turned the ball over quite a bit. How much is Tannehill at fault for what I perceive as a lack of confidence in him from the coaching staff, and how much do other factors (suspect offensive line play, struggles at receiver, etc.) contribute?

Walker: Philbin deserves a bulk of the blame. It’s just not in his coaching DNA to be aggressive, at least at the right times. Sunday’s loss was the latest of plenty examples over the past three seasons. Two years ago, Philbin had an excuse that it was Tannehill’s rookie year. Last year, Philbin could say he still had a young quarterback. But to still coach tight on offense in Tannehill’s third year is concerning and, as you mentioned, doesn’t show enough confidence in his players. Tannehill is a lot of things at quarterback, but I would not describe him as gun-shy or skittish. Usually when the Dolphins play conservatively, Tannehill is at the mercy of conservative play-calling.

Why have the Bears been a better road team this year? Is that a reason for concern?

Wright: To answer your first question, to me it seems the Bears have been the victim of circumstance more than anything with regard to how they’ve performed at home versus on the road. But I can tell you the common denominator in each of this team’s three losses -- two of them being at home -- is turnovers. In each of the losses, Cutler threw two interceptions. In the season opener at home, the Bears committed a total of three turnovers, which led to 13 points. Then, when Green Bay came to town in Week 4, Cutler tossed two interceptions, which led to 14 points for the Packers. The following week at Carolina, the Bears turned the ball over four times, leading to 10 points for the Panthers. So to answer the second question, there’s no reason for concern from my vantage point about the Bears playing this week at home. It’s all about the turnovers for the Bears, regardless of venue. Since Marc Trestman took over as coach, the Bears are 7-0 when they finish on the positive side of the turnover margin, 2-7 when they finish on the negative side and 1-4 when the turnover margin is equal. The Bears have scored 49 points off takeaways this season, which might be a little scary for Tannehill.

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