Chicago Bears: NFC North

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.”
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.

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.”
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.
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Linebacker Shea McClellin returned to practice Wednesday after being inactive the past four games due to a hand injury along with starting left tackle Jermon Bushrod (knee and ankle) and linebacker Jonathan Bostic, who missed last week’s contest due to a back injury.

In other injury news, linebacker Lance Briggs (ribs) didn’t participate in Wednesday’s practice, along with safety Chris Conte (shoulder), running back Matt Forte (coach’s decision), right tackle Jordan Mills (foot), defensive tackle Stephen Paea (coach’s decision) and linebacker D.J. Williams (neck).

The Bears held out Briggs and Williams from the club’s win last week over the Atlanta Falcons, and Bears coach Marc Trestman doesn’t anticipate Briggs will practice Thursday.

Mills, meanwhile, is hobbled with by the same left foot that forced him the miss the entire preseason after undergoing surgery in the offseason to repair a fractured metatarsal. In the win over the Falcons, Mills was flagged for three pre-snap penalties, and struggled in pass protection.

“We gave him some time off today,” Trestman said. “He was at practice, did some limited things. But we kept him out. We’ll see where he is tomorrow.”

Bushrod and Bostic participated in a limited capacity. Bushrod has missed the last two games after suffering ankle and knee injuries during practice leading into the club’s Oct. 5 matchup against the Carolina Panthers. Bostic missed the club’s last outing at Atlanta as the Bears’ entire starting linebacking corps was forced to miss due to injuries.

Other limited participants included safety Ahmad Dixon and cornerback Sherrick McManis.

Second-year receiver Marquess Wilson (fractured clavicle) is eligible to return to practice this week after being placed on short-term injured reserve on Sept. 2, but he didn’t participate in Wednesday’s workout at Halas Hall. Trestman said the Bears plan to bring along the No. 3 receiver slowly. Wilson will be eligible to return in Week 10 when the Bears face the Green Bay Packers.

“There’s a whole plan involved to when he can start to work, when we want him to start work,” Trestman said. “That will all take place, really get started in the next two to three weeks in terms of his protocol so to speak [for getting] back into the swing of things. He’s obviously getting a lot of work with the trainers and working out with [strength and conditioning coordinator] Mike [Clark] and so forth. But it’s all part of the timing issue of when he can come back as much as anything.”
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- When Darryl Sharpton received the call from the Chicago Bears in late September, he rushed out of the house to an airport, wearing only the clothes on his back.

Eighteen days later, Sharpton -- known around the locker room as "The Reverend" because he's a cousin of Rev. Al Sharpton -- lined up as the club's starting middle linebacker. He called out the signals and aligned the defense in relief of D.J. Williams to help the Bears trounce the Atlanta Falcons 27-13 at the Georgia Dome.

"It's not something I had on my calendar, obviously," Sharpton said of his start against the Falcons. "But it's what adversity brought, and with the coaching in this organization, they prepared me for this adverse situation, and I was able to step in. When I first came [to Chicago], I only had the clothes on my back. That same night, I had to go to Walmart, get some underwear, socks, and stay in a hotel, Extended Stay. It was pretty rough. It was the first time I did something like that; just living out of Walmart pretty much."

Sharpton racked up 10 tackles against the Falcons, in addition to breaking up two passes in his Chicago debut. Sharpton calls the situation a case of "déjà vu" because just last season as a Houston Texan, the fifth-year veteran stepped up for an injured Brian Cushing and posted 87 tackles in eight starts, in addition to breaking up one pass and forcing a fumble.

Sharpton's performance won't thrust him into the starting lineup. Bears defensive coordinator Mel Tucker said Wednesday the club plans to re-insert the starters into the mix once they're fully healthy.

But Sharpton has certainly gained the respect of his teammates, and he certainly doesn't mind the nickname they've given him.

"Yeah, I like it: 'Reverend,' 'Rev,' -- people have called me that before," he said. "But yeah, I like it. It's pretty smooth."

Sharpton also explained his relationship with the civil rights leader.

"His dad and my dad's dad are brothers," Sharpton said. "We're not like super-duper close. My sister used to work for him at his radio station in New York, and I'm pretty close with his daughter. So whenever they're in town, we link up. If I'm ever in New York, I'll shoot him a text and I'll either stop by at the station or his house, and we'll link up."

When they do, Sharpton said Rev. Al Sharpton, whom the Bears linebacker often calls his uncle, doesn't dominate the conversations at dinner.

"It's all just love and family talk at that point, no big political conversation or anything like that," he said.

Sharpton views his journey from the aisles of Walmart to starter against the Falcons as somewhat of a microcosm of life. Sharpton's wife, who is expecting the couple's first child in February, recently shipped his car and clothes, "so I'm a little more settled," he said. But the linebacker's performance likely solidified a spot on the roster for at least the remainder of the season.

"I guess it just speaks to the nature of life, the nature of the league," Sharpton said. "You never know what's in store for you in the future. You never know what's going to be there. Sometimes, you don't know whether you're going to be on a team or whether you're going to be starting on a team. You never know in this league."

Rapid Reaction: Chicago Bears

October, 12, 2014
Oct 12

ATLANTA -- A few thoughts on the Chicago Bears' 27-13 win over the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome.

What it means: The Bears stayed within a game of the division lead by defeating Atlanta and evened their record to 3-3, which was important given the way the schedule unfolds. Playing five of the first seven on the road before the Nov. 2 bye, the Bears needed stay at or above .500. After the bye, just three road games remain among the final eight. That will be huge for Chicago with the weather starting to turn.

Stock watch: Defensive coordinator Mel Tucker’s stock rose in this game because he didn’t let the absence of his starting linebackers affect the game plan as the defense carried the team in the first half. Lance Briggs, D.J. Williams, Shea McClellin and Jonathan Bostic all sat out with injuries, forcing the Bears to use Khaseem Greene, Darryl Sharpton and Christian Jones in the starting lineup.

All three put together solid outings, especially Greene and Sharpton.

As for Tucker, he called an aggressive game that helped the Bears limit the Falcons to just 98 yards and 1-of-5 on third-down conversions in the first half.

Speed against speed: Chicago’s struggling special-teams unit neutralized Devin Hester's effectiveness in the punt return game, and recent signee Teddy Williams deserves much of the credit. A gunner on the punt team, Williams was usually the first defender in Hester’s face when he fielded punts. Williams didn’t make the tackle every time, but he made contact or impeded Hester’s progress to allow other defenders to make the play.

Punter Pat O’Donnell helped too, by booming his attempts end over end, resulting in shorter punts with more hang time that allowed the coverage team to converge.

Hester is typically one of the fastest players on the field, but the Bears had a secret weapon in Williams, who didn’t even play football in college at the University of Texas-San Antonio because he was pursuing a track career.

Williams won nine conference titles in various sprints in college, and set records in the 55-meter dash, 60-meter dash, 100-meter dash and the 200.

Game ball: Marc Trestman weathered questions about his ability to deal with the in-game adjustments of opponents in the second half and grumblings from his top receiver wanting the ball -- not to mention criticism regarding the quarterback’s penchant for committing devastating turnovers. Trestman rallied the team to perhaps its most complete performance of the season when things could have easily gone the other way. Jay Cutler, Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall were all candidates, but Trestman deserves this one.

What’s next: The Bears begin preparing on Wednesday at Halas Hall for Sunday’s home game against the Miami Dolphins.
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears receiver Brandon Marshall utilized the power of persuasion with the team’s medical staff to keep suiting up, he said Thursday, despite recommendations he sit out four weeks after spraining his right ankle during the season opener against the Buffalo Bills.

After catching 13 passes for 119 yards and four touchdowns in the first two games, Marshall hauled in just six passes for 69 yards and one touchdown in the club’s last three contests.

[+] EnlargeMarshall
Bob Donnan/USA TODAY SportsFor better or worse, Brandon Marshall has gutted his way through the last four weeks after suffering an ankle injury in the season opener.
“I would assume you guys know what type of player I am, and the type of toughness I bring,” Marshall said. “I wasn’t supposed to play. That was an injury [where I] was supposed to be out four weeks. I thought you knew that.”

Marshall initially suffered the ankle injury in the second half of Chicago’s season-opening loss to the Buffalo Bills. Marshall left the game on multiple occasions to have the team’s athletic trainers re-wrap the injured ankle, but continued to play.

Then, with Marshall officially listed as questionable and the Bears facing the San Francisco 49ers the next week on the road, the team decided just 90 minutes prior to kickoff to allow the receiver to participate.

“The first two weeks, the doctors ruled me out,” Marshall said. “They said I wasn’t going to play. I went to them and said, ‘Just make it a game-time decision.’ I thought with some adrenaline I’d be able to go. I was able to help the team out, pull some coverage and give Martellus [Bennett] and Alshon [Jeffery] one-on-one matchups, get Matt Forte some seven-man boxes.”

Marshall also caught three touchdown passes along the way in helping the Bears defeat the 49ers 28-20.

Marshall finally regained full health going into last Sunday’s loss to the Carolina Panthers, he said.

“Last week was the first week we really got a chance to get me involved in the game plan,” Marshall said.

But the receiver finished with just three catches for 44 yards, prompting Bears coach Marc Trestman to acknowledge the Bears need to target him more in the passing game.

Marshall played despite the injury, he said, because “I just can’t sit on the sideline and watch the guys have fun and battle together. It’s just not in my blood.”

Trestman declined to delve in specifics regarding Marshall’s claim that he shouldn’t have played.

“I can talk directly about what I’ve seen in Brandon recently because that’s his point of view, and I certainly wouldn’t disagree with that,” Trestman said. “What I’ve seen over the last 10 days is him practicing at full strength, working extremely hard on his route running, his communication with [quarterback] Jay [Cutler]. All I can tell you from my standpoint with Brandon is he did everything he could to get ready and get himself back. There was no doubt there. He looks to be at full strength, gotten his speed back, and is practicing very well, and from start to finish is practicing very hard.”

Offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer expects that to translate into success for not just Marshall, but the entire offense, and said “I believe that the Chicago Bears offense is coming back.”

The Bears finished last season ranked No. 2 in the NFL in scoring but has sense sputtered, putting up just three points in the second half of the last two games. Perhaps Marshall regaining full health changes the team’s fortunes on offense.

Trestman and Cutler both spoke this week as if the game plan going into Sunday is to make a concerted effort to feed Marshall the ball.

“He wants the ball just like everyone else in that locker room,” Cutler said. “We understand that. Coach Trestman does a great job of trying to get guys balls, and B knows as well as I know we’re dialing up plays for him. It’s just not rolling his way. It won’t last forever.”
The Chicago Bears made a flurry of roster moves Tuesday, releasing nickel corner Isaiah Frey in addition to elevating Al Louis-Jean to the 53-man roster from the practice squad.

The club also signed linebackers DeDe Lattimore and Terrell Manning to the practice squad, while waiving defensive end David Bass and terminating the practice squad contracts of defensive end Roy Philon and receiver Rashad Ross.

Interestingly, Frey started at nickel corner for the Bears in their 31-24 loss Sunday to the Carolina Panthers, and contributed six tackles while playing a role in the club storming to a 21-7 second quarter lead on the strength of three takeaways. Frey stripped Panthers rookie receiver Kelvin Benjamin after an 18-yard catch, and recovered the fumble with the Bears trailing 7-0.

The score set up Jay Cutler's 10-yard touchdown pass to Matt Forte.

A three-year veteran, Frey played in 19 games with seven starts with the Bears, posting 73 tackles and two pass breakups to go with his forced fumble and recovery against the Panthers.

In Frey’s absence, look for the Bears to move Sherrick McManis into the slot corner role. McManis has missed the last three games due to a quadriceps injury. Demontre Hurst is also an option at that position.

Louis-Jean, meanwhile, is an undrafted rookie free agent out of Boston College, where he played in 21 games over three seasons, contributing 36 tackles, an interception, four pass breakups and a pair of forced fumbles.

Bass played in 13 games with one start over the past two seasons with the Bears.
Despite not holding a conversation with Lamarr Houston about tweeting that fair-weather Chicago Bears fans should "eat dirt," coach Marc Trestman said Monday he advises the team against responding to "Twitter terrorists."

In the wake of the team's 31-24 loss on Sunday to the Carolina Panthers, Houston asked on Twitter where are "my real" Bears fans, "the ones who don't waver during the storm the tough ones?" Houston added that those fans "are the ones we need," before finishing with "the rest of u can eat dirt."

Asked whether he spoke with Houston about the tweet, Trestman said, "No, I have not." But Trestman explained he's talked to the team on numerous occasions about the dangers players can encounter on social media.

"We talk about it all the time, we talk about it all the time, making sure they take a deep breath, making sure they understand they're representing the team. We talk about it in terms of not being responsive to the Twitter terrorists, so to speak, that are out there, for lack of a better word," Trestman said. "I know I'm going to get quoted on it. But I believe in social media and we don't try to stop our players -- this is a generation of players -- and we do try to get them to take a deep breath, remind themselves that even though they're trying to protect their team and their teammates, to do the right thing. And they're young people, they're going to make mistakes, and we try to help them with that. We don't police it. We try and help them with it, and keep encouraging them to do the right thing. I think for the most part they do. We're not perfect at it, but we do talk about how we handle ourselves in public, that we do have to carry ourselves -- I've said this before in here -- to a higher standard as representing this team, Mrs. [Virginia] McCaskey, and this organization. Like I said, we're not perfect, but it's a message we don't just send once the first day of training camp and stop sending the message. It's something we try and be mindful of along the way."

Expected to play a major role in the team's rebuilding effort along the defensive line for 2014, Houston signed a five-year contract in March worth $35 million. Through the first five games, Houston has contributed six tackles and no sacks.

In the loss to the Panthers on Sunday, Houston was credited for two tackles and a fumble recovery.

Trestman said he "talked to our team in general" about social media, but plans to bring the conversation closer to home as he has two daughters who are active in that arena.

"I've got to talk to my family about it. It's the same thing," Trestman said. "They want to protect their family, and our players want to protect their family. Their heart is in the right place. But again, we've got to do the right thing, and we'll work at that."
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Observed and heard in the locker room after the Chicago Bears' 31-24 loss to the Carolina Panthers:

Ferguson up to bat: Defensive end Willie Young compared rookie Ego Ferguson to Houston's J.J. Watt with regard to his ability to bat down passes at the line of scrimmage. Ferguson knocked down a pair of Cam Newton passes in the first half and finished the game with two tackles.

"That guy's playing some phenomenal football right now," Young said. "He's a young guy, a lot of upside. I get excited every time I see him out there on the field. He's bound to make something happen. He got two batted balls in a row. I've never seen that in my life. I don't even think J.J. Watt got two batted balls on two consecutive plays."

Aches and pains: Guard Matt Slauson walked out of the locker room wearing a bag of ice on his left leg, while linebacker Lance Briggs grimaced in pain as he headed to the training room with a bag of ice on his shoulder.

Bennett the blocker: Martellus Bennett caught 21 passes for three touchdowns in the three games prior to Sunday. But the Bears used the tight end extensively as a blocker against the Panthers due to left tackle Jermon Bushrod missing the game because of a knee injury.

Bennett caught just three passes for 17 yards.

"I had to block a lot today," Bennett said. "I ended up chipping a lot this game and helping out the tackles, staying in for protections. I felt like I blocked well today. I'm a classic tight end."

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- A few thoughts on the Chicago Bears' 31-24 loss to the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium.

What it means: Let's stop calling Chicago's offense the strength of this team because it's clearly not, and we've now got five games of evidence to prove it. With the perfect opportunity to bounce back from last week's loss to Green Bay, which would have kept them within a game of the division lead, the Bears squandered a 24-21 lead by turning the ball over on back-to-back possessions to lose their second consecutive game. Coming into the game, the Bears had turned the ball over just once in the fourth quarter in the first four games. With Chicago playing five of the first eight contests on the road, the Bears need to stay at or above .500 going into the Nov. 2 bye as the second half of the schedule sets up nicely. The club hurt its chances of doing that Sunday.

Stock Watch: Defensive tackle Stephen Paea put together a subpar showing in the loss to the Packers, but the fourth-year veteran bounced back in a major way against the Panthers. Paea won't receive much credit for his contribution, but he delivered a monstrous blow to Cam Newton during Carolina's first series, which led to the Panthers' training staff working on Newton's right elbow. The quarterback never seemed to be the same in the first half, and wasn't able to bounce back until the third quarter. Once Newton found his rhythm, Paea sacked Newton on a crucial third down for an 8-yard loss with the Bears ahead 24-21.

More takeaways/points: The Bears entered Sunday tied for third in the NFL in points scored off takeaways (35). The club racked up three more takeaways against the Panthers with an Isaiah Frey fumble recovery, a Lamarr Houston fumble recovery and a Lance Briggs interception. The Bears scored 14 points off those takeaways, which required the offense to move the ball just a grand total of 41 yards in two minutes and eight seconds.

Game ball: Matt Forte squandered away the game with his fourth-quarter fumble, but you can't deny his contributions in this loss. Coming off his first 100-yard rushing performance of the season, Forte rushed for 61 yards and contributed a team-high 105 yards and a touchdown as a receiver out of the backfield. The touchdown marked Forte's first of the season.

What's next: The Bears receive a day off on Monday and return to Halas Hall on Wednesday to begin preparations for Sunday's matchup at Atlanta.

Bears left tackle Jermon Bushrod officially out vs. Panthers

October, 3, 2014
Oct 3
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The Chicago Bears will face the Carolina Panthers on Sunday without left tackle Jermon Bushrod, as the club officially declared him out because of a knee injury suffered Thursday during a workout at Halas Hall.

In anticipation of Bushrod’s absence, the Bears shuffled in multiple players along the offensive line at practice Thursday in an attempt to find the best combination up front. Bushrod will miss his first game since 2009. He had started in 68 consecutive games.

“I don’t know how many it is in a row, but it’s coming to an end this week,” Bushrod said. “We’re gonna see how I feel in the next few days. [The injury is] nothing crazy. It’s just some things I have to deal with one day at a time. I miss it. I’ve been away from practice for two days. It’s hard to see the guys out there grinding.”

The Bears also announced defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff will miss his third consecutive game stemming from a concussion suffered during Week 2 at San Francisco, and linebacker Shea McClellin (hand) and safety Ahmad Dixon (hamstring) are also out for Sunday’s game.

Bushrod’s injury forced the Bears to move around players at multiple positions along the offensive line at practice Thursday as a contingency plan. Working in Chicago’s favor is the fact that center Roberto Garza and left guard Matt Slauson returned to practice Wednesday after missing the last three games with high ankle sprains.

Slauson is officially listed as questionable , and if he plays, Bears coach Marc Trestman said the team will start Michael Ola at Bushrod’s left tackle spot. Ola has started the past three games at left guard in place of Slauson. But the team anticipates Slauson returning to the lineup against the Panthers.

“That’s a common thought and belief, that you want the quarterback’s back side to be protected, and as we’ve gone into it, the move is right now is Mike will be over there if Matt is playing,” Trestman said. “Mike got a lot of work over there, anyway, to be where we could certainly have him starting there and have him play the guard position as well. The hope is that Matt will be playing and Mike will be at left tackle.”

In other injury news, defensive end Jared Allen (pneumonia), linebacker Lance Briggs (knee), safety Chris Conte (shoulder), receiver Brandon Marshall (ankle), and linebacker D.J. Williams (neck) are officially listed as probable. Garza (ankle) and cornerback Sherrick McManis (quadriceps) are doubtful.

Chicago typically dresses just seven offensive linemen for games, which means the club cross-trains the players at multiple positions up front in case of injury. During the preseason, Ola bounced along the offensive line, playing both tackle and guard in spurts.

A rookie, Ola admitted to feeling a little pressure about taking on the responsibility of protecting Jay Cutler’s blind side Sunday against the Panthers. Ola didn’t start taking snaps at left tackle until Wednesday’s workout.

“I definitely don’t want to be that guy who gets Jay hit at all, or I’ll be back to flipping burgers or something,” Ola said.