Chicago Bears: 2009-10 Regular Season


 
ESPN Chicago Bears reporter Michael C. Wright discusses the cornerback situation after Charles Tillman's injury.

Rookie Fuller shines with pair of picks

September, 15, 2014
Sep 15
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SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Veteran defenders gushed over the performance of rookie cornerback Kyle Fuller; the 2014 first-round draft choice responsible for two fourth-quarter interceptions that helped lead the Chicago Bears to a 28-20 upset over the heavily favored San Francisco 49ers.

[+] EnlargeKyle Fuller
AP Images/Tony AvelarWith two interceptions, rookie Kyle Fuller passed his first test as a pro, says Bears defensive end Jared Allen.
Fuller’s first pick of 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick occurred deep in Niners’ territory, setting up a quick Jay Cutler to Martellus Bennett three yard touchdown strike that put the Bears in front 21-20.

Fuller’s encore interception killed another potential San Francisco scoring drive when the cornerback stepped in front of 49ers tight end Derek Carrier on a deep throw down the left sideline.

“Those plays were huge, because those were key drives when we were up by eight points [late in the game],” Bears linebacker Lance Briggs said. “If they take the ball down and even settle for field goals, that makes it closer points wise. So for us to get the ball back to the offense and let them go to work and get the job done, so that was huge for the entire team.”

Defensive end Jared Allen added: “I think we all saw what Kyle did with his opportunity. We are going to expect him to play at that level going forward, obviously. But you can really say that his first test was a great one. He passed it.”

Fuller’s opportunity came about when two-time Pro Bowler Charles Tillman suffered a right triceps injury at the 10:26 mark of the third quarterback. Fuller is no stranger to the field. He spent the entire preseason and Week 1 firmly entrenched on the Bears’ nickel defense sub-package, but he played every snap at cornerback after Tillman went out.

“The mentality of the game is you’re one play away,” Fuller said. “If somebody goes down, you have to step it up and do the same things that he does, like make plays.

“I was just using my technique [on the interceptions] and doing my job. I was just in the right place and the right time.”

Fuller opened eyes in training camp. The No. 14 overall pick of the draft routinely held his own when matched up against Pro Bowl wideouts Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery during practices.

“Day 1 he came out there and was competing with Jay and Alshon,” Bears quarterback Jay Cutler said. “You could tell he could play and he was going to be really good in this league.”

Marshall revealed that he spent extra time watching tape on Fuller; in an attempt to gain an edge over the first-year defensive back.

“I remember when I was a rookie with the Broncos; some of the guys told me that [cornerback] Champ Bailey was watching me on film. I had to do the same thing this summer. I had to go in there and study [Fuller’s] moves. I told him that he needs to have Hall of Fame on his mind. There is no fear. He has a great skill set. But his attitude is amazing. You’d think he’s been in the league for five or six years.”


SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Observed and heard in the locker room after the Chicago Bears' 28-20 win over the San Francisco 49ers.

Brandon Marshall admitted that after a few days of matching up with rookie Kyle Fuller during training camp, the receiver found himself spending time studying the cornerback to find ways to beat him. That’s how much of an impression Fuller had on Marshall. In fact, quarterback Jay Cutler said, “You’d think [Fuller] has been in the league five or six years from the way he carries himself.”

Fuller performed like it against the 49ers, picking off two passes, including the interception that allowed the Bears to pull ahead.

Christmas tree: Tight end Martellus Bennett finished Sunday night with 37 yards receiving on a team-high seven receptions, and joked in the locker room after the game that he was a “true West Coast tight end.” With reserve Matthew Mulligan dressing next to him, Bennett goaded his teammate to explain the tight end’s route tree.

Mulligan refused, joking, “Don’t get him started.”

Turns out, Bennett says his route tree is different than most tight ends in the NFL. He’s got a “Christmas” route tree.

“Other tight ends, their route trees are plastic and come in a box,” Bennett joked. “You’ve got to go out and cut mine down.”

High-fives: Immediately after the locker room opened, Bears general manager Phil Emery could be seen high-fiving players on his way through the room. Emery is usually low key and doesn’t show much excitement, but Sunday night obviously was different.
 
ESPN.com Chicago Bears reporter Michael C. Wright discusses the challenges on the offensive line.
Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler provided some insight Monday behind the two interceptions he tossed Sunday in the club's 23-20 loss to the Buffalo Bills in the season opener.

Cutler
The Bears turned over the ball on three occasions, leading to 13 points for the Bills. Two of the turnovers came courtesy of Cutler, with Buffalo scoring 10 points off those miscues.

"The guys know, we're not idiots," Cutler said Monday during "The Jay Cutler Show" on ESPN 1000. "We all take accountability. Whenever we did mess up, we seemed to mess up pretty big. That last interception was a tough one. I've got to throw the ball away or run."

Cutler's two interceptions came on a passes thrown to Martellus Bennett with defensive tackle Kyle Williams picking off the second. On the play, Cutler rolled right on a bootleg and threw back across his body to Williams. The play came on third-and-one with 8:01 remaining from the Buffalo 31. Cutler admitted immediately after the game that he should have thrown the ball away.

Bears coach Marc Trestman could have helped out Cutler by calling a run in the short-yardage situation. After all, the Bears averaged 4.8 yards per attempt on the day running the ball.

"Third down or fourth down, no matter what the situation is, I've got to do something better," Cutler said. "Anything probably would have been better than what happened, obviously. It's a huge play there. We're trying to go down for the game-winning score, and you're just trying to make a play."

Trestman revealed that during team film study Monday, Cutler stood up and took accountability for that miscue.

"Jay was very clear," Trestman said. "We sit in a group and we all take accountability. I talk to the guys about the mistakes I made during the course of the game, and the guys are upfront. Jay just said, 'I've got to take care of the football. I've got to throw it away,' and that's exactly what he said in the meeting. I've seen Jay in my time here do a lot of the right things with the football. I can't speak for anything else. I'm disappointed for the team, and I see how hard he works and he puts into it. He lost himself for a minute and made a decision that I know we've seen other great quarterbacks make, and he certainly made it there. As I said today he's taken accountability for that and responsibility for that decision."

Cutler tossed his first interception with 5:50 left in the second quarter as the Bills led 10-7. Corey Graham stepped in front of the pass thrown behind Bennett, and returned the interception 45 yards to set up E.J. Manuel's 7-yard touchdown pass to C.J. Spiller on the next play.

"I've got to put it out in front of him a little more," Cutler said. "Me and Marty talked about it, and we're on the same page moving forward on that. It just wasn't exactly the look we wanted. We could've made it work though. I'll live with that one all day. That one didn't bother me at all. It was a play that Corey Graham made a heck of a play on it. It could've [gone] the other way. We could've made the play there. We didn't. The latter one was the one you can't live with."
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears right tackle Jordan Mills hasn’t played a live football game since injuring his left foot last season in the finale against the Green Bay Packers .

Still, the Bears remain confident Mills can do the job Sunday in the opener against the Buffalo Bills.

“I know he missed the games,” Bears offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer said. “But I feel like what he’s had to practice against, and how he’s performed in practice, he’ll be ready. I don’t think we’ll see any ill effects of him not playing in the preseason.”

If there are, the Bills certainly possess enough talent up front to bring them to the forefront. Buffalo finished second in the NFL in sacks last season with 57, including 13 from Mario Williams and 11.5 from defensive tackle Kyle Williams.

Although listed as a right end, Williams spends quite a bit of time on the left side, which means he’ll likely be matched the majority of the game with Mills.

“I’ve known Mario for a long time,” Bears coach Marc Trestman said. “He was at N.C. State when I was there. I know the type of player he’s been. He’s a difference-making player, no doubt about that. His size, his length, his speed, athleticism, that’s all part of it. When we look at the Bills’ defense, we know we’ve got to neutralize him. So it just won’t be Jordan’s responsibility. It’ll be our entire offense’s responsibility to make sure we do whatever we can to keep him from making those types of plays that can be difference-making plays in a game.”

Mills missed two weeks of work due to soreness in his left foot before returning to practice Aug. 20. Still, the club held out Mills for all the preseason outings, as he underwent surgery in January to repair a fractured metatarsal in his left foot, and the team has since brought the tackle along slowly.

As a rookie last season, Mills started in all 16 games but left the season finale after the first series.

Despite all the inactivity, Mills said earlier in the week he was “very ready” to play in the opener. Trestman implied Thursday there’s a chance the Bears could rotate in Michael Ola at right tackle if Mills shows he’s not in sufficient game shape to play four quarters. Mills, however, expressed confidence he’ll be able to play the entire game.

“For the past four or five days, I’ve been getting good work,” Mills said. “Even when I was out, I was getting good work with [strength and conditioning coordinator] Mike Clark, and the training and conditioning staff. So I’m very prepared. When I had a chance to get work in, and run and lift heavy and get quality reps in, I was getting it. So I don’t feel I’m that far behind. We have a great defense I go against every day. So it’s like playing a game every practice.”

Bears plan safety rotation versus Bills

September, 3, 2014
Sep 3
5:42
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LAKE FOREST, Ill. – The Chicago Bears' Week 1 plan at safety calls for a three player rotation of Ryan Mundy, Danny McCray and Chris Conte, head coach Marc Tretsman announced.

Conte is in the final stages on the NFL's concussion protocol, but he is expected to receive the requisite medical clearance to face the Buffalo Bills on Sunday in the regular season opener at Soldier Field. Conte practiced on a limited basis on Wednesday.

"We're going to roll [the safeties] in [versus the Bills]," Trestman said. "If Chris is up, we will rotate the safeties. We'll rotate them between Ryan and Danny and Chris. Are we set at who we are going to start? No. But I expect all three will play, and Brock [Vereen] will get some work as well [on special teams]."

Trestman stressed the need to preserve McCray and Mundy for their roles on special teams. McCray, in particular, is a former core special teams performer for the Dallas Cowboys who recorded 74 tackles on special teams from 2010-2013. Mundy is also expected to be a key contributor to the coverage units. The safety made 64 special teams stops during stints in Pittsburgh and New York before signing a two-year deal offseason deal with the Bears.

"One of the key advantages is that we've got special teams duties for Mundy and McCray," Trestman said. "They are a big part of what we are special teams-wise. A big part of why they were brought here was not just to contribute on defense, but also to contribute on special teams. By rotating guys in we feel we can keep them fresh and create an advantage special teams-wise as well."

Conte is by far the most experienced safety of the three with 40 career starts, 230 tackles and six interceptions.

Defensive coordinator Mel Tucker felt Conte "played fast" until he suffered the concussion in the club's third preseason game in Seattle. Conte delivered a pair of memorable hits in the game, but spent much of the preseason on the sideline after having offseason surgery on his shoulder.

Will Conte be ready on Sunday? Mundy thinks so.

"Chris is a veteran guy who has played a ton of football," Mundy said. "He has a lot of experience and a ton of athletic ability. The great thing about this situation is that we've all been in the same meeting room and all received the same coaching points."

Bears' biggest question mark is defense

September, 3, 2014
Sep 3
10:00
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video
ESPN.com Chicago Bears reporter Michael C. Wright discusses where Chicago needs to improve.

Chicago Bears' projected roster

August, 29, 2014
Aug 29
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Examining the Chicago Bears' roster:

QUARTERBACKS (3)
Fales looked good in the first half of the preseason finale at Cleveland, but fell off somewhat in the second half. Still, Fales showed enough to prove he belongs. There's still a chance the Bears try to waive Fales and bring him back to the practice squad.

RUNNING BACKS (4)
Senorise Perry and Jordan Lynch made late pushes in extended action to close the preseason, but neither will overtake Draughn and Carey.

RECEIVERS (5)
Josh Bellamy made a strong case to make the team against the Browns, but Holmes showed he's still a dynamic player. In fact, if Holmes grasps the offense quickly enough, he could wind up as the No. 3 receiver, which would mean Wilson's time will have to wait.

TIGHT ENDS (2)

Rosario remains the most well-rounded tight end among the candidates for the No. 2 spot, and should stick.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (9)

Britton returned to play in the preseason finale and while other players have flashed, the veteran is probably still the most consistent.

DEFENSIVE LINE (10)
Cornelius Washington and David Bass, received extension action against the Browns. The Bears have a tough decision here, but would likely go with Bass' experience.

LINEBACKERS (6)

This group has struggled throughout the preseason, but the team will likely take these players into the regular season. Jerry Franklin remains on the bubble.

CORNERBACKS (6)

The combination of youth and experience makes this position group one of the team's strongest.

SAFETIES (4)

The Bears released Craig Steltz and M.D. Jennings didn't show much in the last preseason game.

SPECIALISTS (4)

The Bears could decide to use Holmes as the return man and make Bellamy the sixth receiver. Initially though, the Bears will probably take a chance on Williams although he missed the majority of the preseason due to a hamstring injury.
CLEVELAND -- Veteran Santonio Holmes' odds of making the Chicago Bears' 53-man roster increased on Thursday when the wide receiver turned a routine slant route into a 32-yard second-quarter touchdown reception, a sequence that proved Holmes still has the ability to make impact plays at the NFL level.

"It was a slant route and I felt the coverage of the defender; he was playing a little over the top," Holmes said. "I made a couple good plays afterwards and finished the play off."

Holmes
Holmes admits he hasn't mastered the entire Bears' playbook since he signed with the team two weeks ago, but the former Super Bowl MVP gives the team experience and flexibility, not just on offense, but also on special teams. Holmes followed up his touchdown with a 30 yard punt return, one of the few bright spots in the return game for the Bears all preseason.

"We saw the punt return. Obviously, he did a good job with that," head coach Marc Trestman said. "How far along is he in the offense? Is he really ready to play enough plays to help us in that regard as we start the season? Can he catch some punts? It looks like he can. So we'll have that discussion and try to put it all together over the weekend to get us going moving forward Monday and into practice on Wednesday."

Holmes excelled in the return game early in his NFL career, but generally speaking, accomplished older players tend to lose their zest to field punts and kickoffs over time. However, Holmes' versatility could be a serious asset to the Bears after the team lost numerous core special teams players since the end of last season.

"I wouldn't say I would lobby for it [a role in the return game]," Holmes said. "If the opportunity and the spot opens up and coach wants me to play as a returner; I'll do whatever I can to help the team.

"I really felt in my heart that I can continue playing. Given this opportunity to play again, I just really take advantage of the opportunity. And the opportunity came today with me making a big play for the team."

Bears players are scheduled to report to Halas Hall for a weight lifting session at 1 p.m. on Friday, where the team will begin to trim the roster from 75 to 53 in advance of Saturday afternoon's deadline.

Does Holmes anticipate sweating out the final cuts?

"I still don't think I'm going to be concerned," Holmes said. "I'll leave it up to the coaches. If they want me here, I'll be here. If not, hopefully I'll land a job somewhere else."
 

Chicago's starters received the night off, prompting the club to point the spotlight Thursday night on a group of backups comprised mostly of players not likely to survive final cuts.

Squaring off against Cleveland's starters, the Bears reserves held their own for two quarters in playing to a four-point deficit at the half, before eventually falling to the Browns 33-13.

Here are some other thoughts on the club's final preseason game:
  • Santonio Holmes quashed any question of whether he can still play against the Browns, taking in his only catch of the night from David Fales for a 32-yard touchdown in the second quarter. After hauling in the back-shoulder throw from Fales, Holmes spun outside and eluded Browns first-round pick Justin Gilbert en route to the score. Upon arriving at the sideline, Holmes gave the ball to Fales. “You see the explosion in him,” Bears coach Marc Trestman said. “He caught a short throw, turned and ran, separated from the defense. That's a good sign.” Later in the quarter, Holmes fielded a punt and stumbled between a pair of tacklers to reel off a 30-yard return. It's probably safe to say Holmes' name won't be called for final cuts as the Bears saw what they needed to see. That's probably why Holmes came out after halftime no longer wearing pads. Now, the Bears need to work overtime to get Holmes up to speed to fill the No. 3 receiver role along with Josh Morgan.
  • Speaking of erasing doubts, it appears Fales did just that against the Browns. Starting in place of Jay Cutler, Fales completed 13 of 24 passes for 146 yards and a touchdown to Holmes. Fales made good decisions for the majority of his snaps in the first two quarters. What's more is Fales executed well against Cleveland's starters, as it played mostly first teamers in the first half. Chicago's brass will have a difficult choice to make, and -- depending on how much the team likes Fales -- might be forced to go into the season with three quarterbacks. If the Bears decide to waive Fales and bring him back to the practice squad, that plan could backfire as the quarterback would draw plenty of interest from other teams. Fales led the Bears to scores on three of their five first-half drives, but wasn't as sharp in the second half.
  • Josh Bellamy made Chicago's pending decision about which receivers to keep on the roster more difficult by the way he performed against the Browns. Bellamy caught four passes for 78 yards and drew a 37-yard pass interference penalty against Leon McFadden that provided the bulk of Chicago's yardage during its opening drive, which ended on a Robbie Gould 39-yard field goal.
  • With the regular-season opener against Buffalo on the horizon, the Bears held out the starters on both sides of the ball. The club kept out key reserves as well such as Morgan and Micheal Spurlock, along with running back Ka'Deem Carey, defensive end Trevor Scott, and defensive tackle Ego Ferguson. Second-team guard Eben Britton made his preseason debut against the Browns after missing a good portion of training camp and the preseason with a pulled hamstring. Safety Chris Conte (concussion) traveled with the team, but did not play as he continues to work through the league's concussion protocol.
  • The Bears must trim the roster from 75 players to 53 by Saturday at 3 p.m. CST.

Bears preview: Make-or-break stretch

August, 27, 2014
Aug 27
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The first half of this team's schedule fits that description, considering the Bears play five of their first seven outings on the road against the 49ers, Jets, Panthers, Falcons and Patriots. If the Bears go into their Nov. 2 bye relatively healthy with a record of at least .500, the rest of the schedule sets up nicely, with just three road games remaining and the rest set for the frigid winter conditions at Soldier Field, a definite home-field advantage during the latter portion of the season.

Complete Bears season preview.

Chicago Bears' projected roster

August, 25, 2014
Aug 25
8:00
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Examining the Chicago Bears' roster:

QUARTERBACKS (3)
If there's a change here, it would only involve the release of Fales because Clausen has earned the No. 2 spot over Jordan Palmer, who was released on Sunday. The team likes Fales as a developmental player.

RUNNING BACKS (4)

Draughn appears to have a firm hold on the No. 2 job, and the Bears released Michael Ford, leaving Carey as the only potential candidate for the backup running back job. Draughn should open the regular season as Forte's backup.

RECEIVERS (5)

Nothing changes here as Morgan showed enough in the preseason to secure a spot. Holmes' superior talent warrants the Bears keeping him around as they continue to look for a temporary replacement for Wilson.

TIGHT ENDS (2)

Rosario remains the most well-rounded tight end among the candidates for the second spot, and none of his competitors have stood out.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (10)

Injuries to De La Puente, Mills and Britton give cause for concern considering none have put in any quality repetitions during preseason games.

DEFENSIVE LINE (9)

The Bears released Nate Collins on Sunday, which could leave an extra spot for either Cornelius Washington or David Bass. If the Bears go with 10 defensive linemen, Bass could make the cut.

LINEBACKERS (6)

This group has struggled throughout the preseason, but the team will likely take these players into the regular season. Jerry Franklin remains on the bubble.

CORNERBACKS (5)

The combination of youth and experience makes this position group one of the team's strongest.

SAFETIES (5)

The Bears released Adrian Wilson, as age and injuries appear to have caught up to him. The Bears probably won't keep five safeties, but if they do, it'll come down to Steltz and M.D. Jennings.

SPECIALISTS (4)

The Bears let go Chad Rempel, which means Hartson probably won the training camp competition. Williams missed the club's last game due to a sore hamstring, and needs to play in the preseason finale to secure a spot.

Five things learned in 1st half vs. Seattle

August, 23, 2014
Aug 23
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SEATTLE -- Here are five things we learned in the Chicago Bears lopsided first half against the Seattle Seahawks:

1. Seattle is on a different level: The season is not over. In fact, the real season is still two weeks away. No, the thrashing received at the hands of the Seahawks does not disqualify the Bears from a playoff berth in 2014. But did you honestly believe heading into Friday night the Bears were on par with the defending world champions? Not even close. The Seahawks are elite. The Bears are slightly above average. The No. 1 conclusion that can be reached after Friday: The Bears' year will end if they have to travel back to Seattle for a playoff game in January. But didn't you already kind of figure that was the case?

2. Slow night for veteran defenders: Veteran players have a tendency to coast through the preseason. Let's hope that's the case for repeat Pro Bowlers Lance Briggs, Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings. All three appeared to be a step slow at certain points of the first half, especially when Briggs tried to chase down Russell Wilson on a 7-yard touchdown run. Tillman's endured rough nights in the preseason before, only to turn it on when the regular season rolled around. With several question marks on defense, the Bears cannot afford for their star players to have subpar seasons.

3. Pass rush was OK, actually: Wilson is ridiculously good when asked to move outside the pocket and make defenders miss. And the Bears did miss on several occasions in the first half. But Wilson did face fairly consistent pressure from the defensive line, notably Willie Young and Lamarr Houston. Young, who started in place of Jared Allen (bruised shoulder), recorded six tackles, one sack and had two quarterback hurries over the opening 30 minutes of play.

4. Chris Conte sees action: Conte made a couple mistakes. He failed to secure a tackle on the opening kickoff, and then whiffed on a tackle early in the third quarter. But he also prevented a touchdown when he separated a receiver from the ball in the endzone and later delivered a big hit near the Bears sideline that flipped a Seahawks ball carrier upside down. Overall, it wasn't a bad preseason debut for Conte. I can't imagine he hurt his chances of making the 53-man roster and competing for a starting job either now, or down the road, unless he suffered a concussion. Conte left the game in the third quarter.

5. Little change on special teams: The third phase continues to be a problem area. Maybe Chris Williams was wise to miss another preseason game due to a sore hamstring; because none of the return men did anything special. That remains an issue. A low punt by Pat O'Donnell allowed Seattle's Earl Thomas to rip off a 59-yard punt return. O'Donnell did make a touchdown saving tackle, but I'm sure he'd like that kick back.

Bears to ease in Santonio Holmes

August, 20, 2014
Aug 20
10:00
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Chicago Bears reporter Michael Wright says Santonio Holmes might not see much playing time against Seattle.

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