NFC North: Chicago Bears

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.
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.
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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
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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.”
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.

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.”

The Film Don't Lie: Bears

October, 14, 2014
Oct 14
11:00
AM ET
A weekly look at what the Chicago Bears must fix:

Chicago’s offense significantly improved at counterpunching its opponent’s in-game adjustments in Sunday’s win over the Atlanta Falcons, and the Bears need to continue in that direction to capture their first home victory of the season when they host the Miami Dolphins.

In their previous two games, the Bears had been outscored 27-3 in the second half. But they scored 14 points in the second half Sunday and were able to respond when the Falcons scored the first 10 points of the third quarter. They did it by tossing in a mixture of vertical shots downfield with the short passing game. As a result, Jay Cutler finished 8-of-13 on throws of 10 yards or more downfield for a total of 239 yards, including completions of 74, 47, 26, 25 and 19 yards.

For Chicago to continue to achieve success with the vertical passing game, it needs to do a better job of protecting Cutler, especially at the tackle position. The Bears gave up three sacks and a few hits on Cutler as left tackle Michael Ola and right tackle Jordan Mills struggled. Mills put together arguably his worst performance of the season. Ola, meanwhile, isn’t expected to be in the lineup this week as starter Jermon Bushrod is expected to return from knee and ankle injuries.

“I know that nobody is more disappointed than Jordan,” Bears coach Marc Trestman said of Mills, who was also flagged for three presnap penalties. “Those are unacceptable. I think Jordan has played very well the last year and a half. Yesterday wasn’t one of his best games. But I don’t think that’s a lingering thing. I know he wants some of those plays back, certainly. He didn’t play as well as he’s played other weeks, but he certainly played well enough for us to win the game.”

Another performance like that by Mills or anyone else on the offensive line might not be sufficient against a Miami defense, which features talented pass-rushers Olivier Vernon and Cameron Wake, who have combined for seven sacks on the season.
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Safety Chris Conte’s inability to finish four of the Chicago Bears’ six games is not a motive for coach Marc Trestman to remove Conte from the starting lineup.

Conte left Sunday’s 27-13 victory in Atlanta at the 14:30 mark of the third quarter because of a shoulder injury and failed to return. Shoulder injuries previously knocked Conte out of games versus the San Francisco 49ers and New York Jets, while a concussion forced Conte to exit Week 5’s road loss in Carolina.

Conte also suffered a concussion in the Bears’ third preseason game against the Seahawks on Aug. 22 after missing the entire offseason program and the beginning of training camp due to offseason shoulder surgery.

Conrath
Conte
“He’s our starter until the doctors and trainers…or he feels uncomfortable playing. That hasn’t been the case,” Trestman said Monday. “We’ll see how he is in the next couple of days and how he proceeds through the week.

“I can only tell you what I’m hearing from the doctors and trainers is that he hurt his shoulder yesterday. I just feel so bad for Chris because he’s worked so hard and he’s had these situations come up that have taken him out of games. Yesterday was just another aberration of things that have happened to him. He’s played hard and he’s made plays for us, but at the end of the day he’s had to come out of the game and I’m disappointed for him.”

In other injury news, second-year wide receiver Marquess Wilson is eligible to begin practicing this week after being placed on injured reserve with the designation to return at the onset of the regular season. Wilson fractured his collarbone when he dove to catch a deep ball during a training camp practice in Bourbonnais. Surgery was required to correct the problem.

Trestman wouldn’t confirm if Wilson will practice on Wednesday, but instead told reporters the wide receiver is expected to work out in front of the club’s medical staff Monday and Tuesday before a final determination is reached.

Wilson can’t play in a game until the Bears return from their bye week and travel to face the Green Bay Packers on Nov. 9.
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears head coach Marc Trestman feels "optimistic" about left tackle Jermon Bushrod's (ankle/knee) chances of returning to the starting lineup on Sunday when the Bears host the Miami Dolphins.

Bushrod
Bushrod has been inactive for two straight games after an Oct. 1 practice mishap resulted in the veteran offensive lineman injuring both his right knee and right ankle.

"I am optimistic [about Bushrod]," Trestman said. "He’ll work out today, and he probably has already, and he’ll work out tomorrow. We’re hopeful we can get him back in the mix. We’ll see where he is on Wednesday at practice."

26-year old NFL rookie Michael Ola has filled in at left tackle and done a commendable job protecting quarterback Jay Cutler's blind side the past two weeks, but Ola is to return to the bench when Bushrod is medically cleared.

Bushrod, a two-time Pro Bowl selection, signed a lucrative five-year contract with the Bears in the 2013 offseason, bringing stability and leadership to a left tackle position that had been unsettled since John Tait retired in 2008.
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ATLANTA -- Here are five things we learned in the Chicago Bears' 27-13 victory over the Atlanta Falcons:

1. Defining game for Cutler: Jay Cutler played like a franchise quarterback versus the Falcons. He achieved the perfect balance of checkdowns to deep shots down the field to Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall. Cutler made excellent decisions and appeared to be in total command the entire afternoon. Aside from his Bears' personal best of 381 passing yards, Cutler's most meaningful statistic in Week 6 was zero turnovers. In a league full of parity, the teams that protect the football win the majority of the time. Even though Cutler felt pressure in the pocket during certain points of the game, he never panicked. This is arguably one of Cutler's best games he has played wearing a Bears uniform.

Fuller
2. Fuller's star is on the rise: Kyle Fuller's NFL Defensive Rookie of the Month award in September may be just the tip of the iceberg. Six regular-season games into his professional career, the cornerback is playing at a Pro Bowl level. The first-round pick forced another fumble and broke up another pass in the Georgia Dome. If that isn't impressive enough, consider that Julio Jones caught only four passes for 68 yards, while Roddy White managed just three receptions for 40 yards. Certainly the Bears' pass rush is partly responsible for Atlanta's lack of success in the passing game, but Fuller and the rest of the defensive backs played tight coverage for much of the game. It's early, but Fuller doesn't just look like a smart pick, he looks like a brilliant selection at No. 14 overall.

3. Linebacker play a bonus: The prospects of the Bears' defense having success in the Georgia Dome looked bleak before the game, when starting linebackers Jon Bostic, Lance Briggs and D.J. Williams were all ruled out. Bears fans remember Khaseem Greene from last year, but Christian Jones and Darryl Sharpton were relative unknowns to the masses. What a pleasant surprise to see all three thrive on Sunday. Sharpton (five tackles) had a couple of nice hits. Jones seemed to know his proper pre-snap alignment, which was a slight concern heading into the game. And Greene played extremely fast to lead the team with eight stops. This is a major confidence builder for the defense. The Bears now have depth at linebacker that most of us outside the building did not know existed.

Hester
4. Hester a non-factor: We all know special teams is far from a finished product. The Bears commit way too many penalties and even had a PAT blocked. However, Devin Hester did next to nothing in the return game, thanks to the Bears' coverage units and rookie punter Pat O'Donnell. They need to be commended. If you're going to criticize, it's only fair to point out the positives when warranted. Covering kicks is not a problem for the Bears. And O'Donnell is having a good season for a rookie. Like Fuller, O'Donnell's future appears to be extremely bright. Can we shelve the fire Joe DeCamillis narrative for at least one week?

5. Concern over Conte: I've been one of the more vocal supporters of Chris Conte. I believe he is a talented free safety who just had a really tough 2013 season. Every player deserves a chance to redeem himself. When Conte has been on the field this season, he has done a good job. Conte broke up two more passes in Week 6 and is still tied for second on the team with two interceptions. But Conte is having a difficult time staying on the field. He exited Sunday's contest early with another shoulder injury. This marked the fourth game Conte has been unable to finish in 2014. He has two documented concussions since August, along with multiple shoulder issues. Are we reaching a point where the best course of action is to sit Conte and let him heal for an indefinite period of time? Conte seemed to be in good spirits in the postgame locker room. He badly wants to continue playing. But for as much credit as I give Conte for bouncing back from all these ailments, can the Bears keep going with a safety that can't finish games? Is it better for Conte in the long run to take a break? I don't know the answer. But I think most of us agree the situation is troubling.
ATLANTA -- Observed and heard in the locker room after the Chicago Bears' 27-13 victory over the Atlanta Falcons:

Bennett
During breaks in the action on Sunday, the video boards at the Georgia Dome featured actor Samuel L. Jackson delivering messages trying to pump up Falcons fans.

In a near-empty Chicago locker room after the game, tight end Martellus Bennett suggested the team should maybe enlist actor Vince Vaughn to do something similar for Bears fans.

“I like Samuel L.,” Bennett said. “Some people say we look alike. I look like a young Samuel L. That’s pretty cool. We need to get somebody to do one for the Bears. Probably Vince Vaughn. Vince Vaughn would be funny. He’d be good. But Samuel L. has that voice. I need him to do a voice in one of my cartoons for free.”

Forte explains TD: Matt Forte scored a pair of touchdowns and rushed for 80 yards on 17 attempts. Forte explained that his 9-yard scoring run in the fourth quarter came on a play that featured a run-pass option, with quarterback Jay Cutler opting to call the run. Smart move by Cutler because the play seemed to catch the Falcons off guard.

Jones emotional: Rookie linebacker Christian Jones made his first NFL start against the Falcons and called the situation “emotional,” as it made him think back to how it felt to go undrafted after a highly productive college career at Florida State.

Rapid Reaction: Chicago Bears

October, 12, 2014
Oct 12
7:30
PM ET

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.”

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