NFC North: Kyle Adams

CHICAGO – Offensive starters for the Chicago Bears in tonight’s preseason finale against the Cleveland Browns:

WR – Joe Anderson
LT – Cory Brandon
LG – Edwin Williams
C – Taylor Boggs
RG – Derek Dennis
RT – J’Marcus Webb
TE – Kyle Adams
HB - Fendi Onobun
WR – Terrence Toliver
QB – Jordan Palmer
RB – Armando Allen
CHICAGO -- Chicago Bears defensive end Julius Peppers will be sidelined for the second time this preseason Thursday against the San Diego Chargers, the team announced before the game.

Bears coach Marc Trestman said on Tuesday he anticipated Peppers and wide receiver Brandon Marshall making their preseason debuts against the Chargers, but the veteran pass-rusher was a late scratch due to coaches' decision.

Peppers, who has been battling a minor hamstring injury the past week and a half, was on the field watching the rest of his teammates going through pregame warm-ups.

However, Marshall and defensive end Corey Wootton are in uniform and scheduled to see action with the Bears starters for at least one quarter.

Also sitting out for the Bears: running back Armando Allen (hamstring), linebacker D.J. Williams (calf), defensive tackle Henry Melton (concussion), wide receiver Earl Bennett (concussion), long snapper Patrick Mannelly (ribs), offensive tackle Jonathan Scott (knee), fullback Harvey Unga (ribs) and tight end Kyle Adams.

San Diego rookie linebacker Manti Te'o has previously been ruled out due to a sprained foot.
Jay Cutler, Brandon MarshallNuccio DiNuzzo/Chicago Tribune/MCTThe Bears have the second best record in the NFC while the Lions may be on the brink of a lost season.
CHICAGO -- It's late and I'm loopy, so let's play a silly little game just for the heck of it. If the NFL season ended Monday night, three NFC North teams would be playoff bound. The fourth would own a top-10 draft choice.

Commissioner Roger Goodell would never call off a season after seven weeks, of course. (Think of all the lost ticket revenue!) We're not even at the season's midpoint, but already, I think, we're beginning to see some clarity in this division. The Chicago Bears, Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings have each put themselves in position for the division title, while the Detroit Lions are on the brink of 2012 extinction.

That's right. After a 13-7 defeat of the Lions in a game that wasn't that close, the Bears have the second-best record (5-1) in the NFC. According to the updated standings, the Vikings (5-2) rank fifth and the Packers (4-3) sixth in the conference. The Lions, on the other hand, have more losses at 2-4 than 24 of the NFL's 32 teams.

I realize there is more football left to be played this season than has been played. But this is the time of year when patterns emerge and stories start getting written, and Monday night we saw the Bears emerge from their bye as sharp as they entered it. They forced four turnovers, three in the red zone, and were 30 seconds away from their first shutout in three years. And the Lions looked no different than the team that has won this season only when mounting a fourth-quarter comeback.

"This was two evenly matched teams," Lions coach Jim Schwartz said afterward. "When you're playing a good team like Chicago, one that's leading the NFC North, we're on the road, we're not going to win the way we played."

To be clear, the Lions had a chance to steal this game largely because the Bears' offense slowed considerably after quarterback Jay Cutler suffered bruised ribs late in the second quarter. But there was never a time when I thought the Lions were matching the Bears blow for blow, as evenly matched teams do.

Evidence? Bears cornerback Charles Tillman did the impossible, matching up all night with Lions receiver Calvin Johnson and limiting him to three catches on the 11 passes he was targeted on. The Bears surprised the Lions by blitzing more often than usual, on 28.8 percent of Matthew Stafford's dropbacks, according to ESPN's Stats and Information. And the Bears' two-deep safety look didn't give up a pass longer than 23 yards.

The Lions, in fact, absorbed most of the blows Monday. Bears defenders stripped the ball from running backs Mikel Leshoure and Joique Bell in the red zone. And in a sequence that defined the current situations for both teams, the Bears fought off the Lions at their most vulnerable moment.

It began when Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh sacked Cutler violently but legally -- and cleanly, according to all involved -- with 4 minutes, 52 seconds left in the second quarter.

Cutler missed five plays while getting the injury attended to. (Asked if he received a pain-killing injection at halftime, Cutler said: "We did some stuff back here in the back room.") When he returned to open the third quarter, it was clear Cutler couldn't step into and drive his throws. He was short to tight end Kyle Adams on second down and managed a pair of 2-yard passes to tailback Matt Forte before the Bears punted.

"It was on my right side," Cutler said. "I couldn't really follow through. Couldn't get through the ball. It had an impact on our play calling, but defense was playing so well, we thought we could ride it out a little."

Still, at that moment -- with Cutler debilitated and the Lions' defense seemingly energized -- you could sense the potential for a turning point. But the Lions' Stefan Logan muffed the ensuing punt, and three minutes later the Bears took a 13-0 lead that stood until the final seconds of the game.

Schwartz kept it positive afterward, saying: "We can battle back. We've battled back in games, we can do it in the season." But the Lions now have six very similar games on their resume -- slow starts, special teams miscues and last-second dashes -- that suggest they have some fundamental issues they might not be equipped to address immediately.

"If I had all the answers," Stafford said, "it would be nice."

If the Lions seem stuck in a rut, the Bears appear as well-rounded and disciplined as they've ever been under coach Lovie Smith. Tillman and linebacker Lance Briggs are having All-Pro seasons, and Monday they had reason to rally around their quarterback for positive reasons.

You might not realize it, but the Bears are 10-1 in Cutler's past 11 starts dating back to last season. While there was never a (rational) reason to doubt his toughness, Monday night felt like the moment when he earned his stripes in Chicago.

"That's what you should have as your Chicago Bear quarterback," Smith said. "And he does it time after time."

Put it all together, and the Bears are in their best-case scenario after six games. The Vikings and Packers aren't far behind. The Lions are on the short end of things. But no division is perfect, right?

 

Bears-Packers I: Countdown to kickoff

September, 13, 2012
9/13/12
4:00
PM ET
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Here are 10 random pregame morsels for you to chew on during, uh, the pregame:
  1. Here is a handy string of everything we've written about this matchup between the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers. It'll change your life if you haven't seen it yet. And remember, I'll spend most of Thursday night's game in our live "Countdown Live" chat. The module will appear on the blog this evening.
  2. The Packers have won the past four games of this series, but the Bears have a 92-86-6 lead in the all-time rivalry.
  3. Only twice in their history have the Packers opened the season with consecutive losses at home. The others came in 1988 and 2006, and they missed the playoffs both seasons. Under the current playoff format, the Packers haven't made the playoffs after starting 0-2 no matter where those games were played.
  4. Our friends at ESPN Stats & Information note that Bears quarterback Jay Cutler is a good opponent for a defense that has struggled to force turnovers and sacks in recent games: "Since the start of 2008, Cutler has thrown two touchdowns and nine interceptions on throws at least 15 yards downfield against the Packers. In fact, Cutler has thrown at least one interception on such throws in each of his last six games against the Packers, and hasn't thrown a touchdown against Green Bay since 2009."
  5. The Packers haven't always succeeded in getting downfield against the Bears' defense, as we discussed this week. But we should point out that tight end Jermichael Finley has often been a beneficiary of the Bears' focus elsewhere. In his past three games against the Bears, Finley has caught 19 passes for 220 yards and four touchdowns.
  6. Gary Horton of Scouts Inc.: "The Packers can still be productive in their passing game if the deep ball is taken away, but that requires patience to put long drives together."
  7. Former Packers executive and current ESPN analyst Andrew Brandt offered some thoughts on the Bears-Packers rivalry.
  8. Sarah Spain of espnW has a pregame read on the road Bears tight end Kyle Adams took to this game.
  9. As of this afternoon, the Packers were five-point favorites in this game. ESPN's 14-member panel of experts split 7-7 on picking a winner.
  10. Rain in Green Bay is expected to end by mid-afternoon, and temperatures will hover around 59 degrees.

Bears-Packers I: Final practice report

September, 12, 2012
9/12/12
4:29
PM ET
If it's Wednesday, it's really Friday for half of our division. Henceforth, let's get inside our first Wednesday/Friday injury report of Week 2:

Chicago Bears: Cornerback Charles Tillman (shin) returned to practice and, as we've discussed over the past few days, appears on track to play Thursday night at Lambeau Field even though he is listed as questionable. Linebacker Brian Urlacher (knee) also practiced and is officially listed as probable. Tight end Kyle Adams (shoulder) participated in a limited portion of practice Wednesday and is also questionable.

Green Bay Packers: We already noted the Packers have listed receiver Greg Jennings as doubtful because of a groin injury. Also doubtful are cornerback Davon House (shoulder) and running back James Starks (toe). Starks practiced Wednesday for the first time since suffering a turf toe injury in the preseason opener, but that means he is in the conversation for the Packers' Week 3 game at the Seattle Seahawks. Linebacker Terrell Manning (concussion) won't play. Defensive end C.J. Wilson (groin) and linebacker Jamari Lattimore (ankle) are questionable.
Checking out the Tuesday-Thursday practice report with kickoff at Lambeau Field now about 48 hours away:

Chicago Bears: Cornerback Charles Tillman (shin) and linebacker Brian Urlacher (knee) did not practice. Coach Lovie Smith said that Urlacher will start Thursday night. It appears that Tillman has a decent chance of playing as well. Tight end Kyle Adams (shoulder) was a limited participant in practice.

Green Bay Packers: Receiver Greg Jennings (groin) sat out practice and it's not clear if he'll be ready to play with the short turnaround. It sounds as if coach Mike McCarthy needs to see him practice in some way Wednesday before making a determination about his availability. "We're dealing with the groin," McCarthy told reporters. "How he responds to it will be an endurance issue." Running back James Starks (toe) and linebacker Terrell Manning (concussion) also sat out practice. Cornerback Davon House (shoulder) continues to practice with limited participation.
Here we are on Monday evening, and already it's a Week 2 Wednesday for half of our division.

The Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears have a short week in advance of Thursday night's game at Lambeau Field. That means both teams are required to release a Wednesday-like practice report even though neither team practiced. So here it is, and it includes some notable names:

Chicago Bears: Cornerback Charles Tillman (shin), linebacker Brian Urlacher (knee) and tight end Kyle Adams (shoulder) would not have practiced Monday. This is part of Urlacher's regular regimen for his surgically-repaired knee. The early word on Tillman is that the Bears are optimistic he will play Thursday night.

Green Bay Packers: Receiver Greg Jennings would not have practiced because of a groin injury he presumably suffered late in Sunday's 30-22 loss to the San Francisco 49ers. Jennings gave way to Donald Driver with three plays remaining in the game. His status at this point is unknown. Coach Mike McCarthy is scheduled to speak to reporters at 7 p.m. ET. Linebacker Terrell Manning (concussion), running back James Starks (toe) and defensive end C.J. Wilson (groin) also would not have practiced.
We're Black and Blue All Over:

The second of two first-round draft choices doesn't usually get much public attention in training camp, so it's no surprise that Minnesota Vikings safety Harrison Smith has been overshadowed by discussion about left tackle Matt Kalil. Until reading Judd Zulgad's column on 1500ESPN.com, I actually forgot that I spoke with Smith during my visit to Vikings training camp and found him to be an intense and confident personality.

Zulgad writes that Smith was a respectful rookie during training camp, but was clearly not a pushover -- as evidenced by several standoffs with receiver Percy Harvin. Smith has impressed coaches to the point where he is expected to start the Vikings' preseason game Friday night against the Buffalo Bills.

Said defensive coordinator Alan Williams: "You want your safeties to be quarterbacks and smart but you want some nastiness to them too, and he has that."

The Vikings and Detroit Lions will be in action Friday night, while the Chicago Bears will take the field Saturday evening. Remember, we wrapped up the Green Bay Packers' preseason effort from Thursday night a few hours ago.

So while we have a minute, let's take a tour around Minnesota, Detroit and Chicago on this fine Friday morning:
We're Black and Blue All Over:

Quite steadily this offseason, I've read your questions, concerns, complaints and occasional outrage at how things have gone in the comments section of blog posts. I've corresponded with many of you and tried to look into some individual concerns but mostly been overwhelmed by the volume of those who are seeking answers.

But after a recent spate of account deletions in recent weeks, I want to pass along that the ESPN community team is aware of some irregularities and is working to fix the problem. Those of you who seek account reinstatements should deal directly with Mzinga through this email -- espnreinstatement@mzinga.com -- or the customer care phone number: 1-888-549-ESPN.

Please share this information with anyone you know who might be interested. I'm not so much passing the buck as I am referring you to people who can actually help. Hopefully this will get everyone back on the right track.

Now let's take a Friday morning tour of the division as we wrap up a holiday week:

Chicago Bears cutdown analysis

September, 3, 2011
9/03/11
6:45
PM ET
Check here for a complete list of the Chicago Bears' roster moves.

Surprise move: The Bears have now bid farewell to three locker room stalwarts: Center Olin Kreutz, receiver Rashied Davis and now tight end Desmond Clark. The Bears released Clark as part of Saturday's roster cutdown, deciding to keep undrafted rookie Kyle Adams instead. Clark said via Twitter that "I played my butt off but sometimes it's more about the business." The Bears indicated that he was released with an injury. Regardless, intentionally or otherwise, the Bears have at least temporarily created a player leadership void.

No-brainers: After last week's communication fiasco, there was little doubt that running back Chester Taylor would be part of this cutdown. The Bears need only two tailbacks behind starter Matt Forte, and those roles will be filled by Marion Barber and Kahlil Bell. They also kept fullback Will Ta'ufo'ou. I don't know if the Bears entered training camp planning to keep undrafted rookie receiver Dane Sanzenbacher, but his quick ascension as a slot receiver was obvious by the midpoint of the preseason. Quarterback Jay Cutler loves throwing to him.

What's next: The Bears' depth at linebacker is a little scary. They kept only five at the position, with Brian Iwuh and undrafted rookie Dom DeCicco as the reserves behind Lance Briggs, Brian Urlacher and Nick Roach. You would think the Bears would at least scan the waiver wire for additional depth, especially with Briggs nursing a knee injury. And with Barber and Bell having suffered preseason injuries, the Bears might check out emergency running back depth as well.

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