NFC North: Marcus Hamilton
Let's catch up on Thursday's Black and Blue news items...
- Chicago formally acknowledged the retirement of right tackle John Tait by moving him to the reserve/retired list. This means the Bears will retain Tait's rights should he decide to play again. Think that nuance is irrelevant? See Favre, Brett. Because he is on the retired list, Tait's contract won't count against the Bears' salary cap.
- The Bears also announced that cornerback Marcus Hamilton signed his exclusive rights tender, making him eligible to participate in next week's mandatory mini-camp.
- Minnesota left tackle Bryant McKinnie was accepted into a pretrial diversion program in Miami-Dade (Fla.) County, avoiding a trial stemming from a February 2008 brawl outside a Miami nightclub. McKinnie must serve community service, receive anger-management counseling and avoid arrest during the program. He has already served a four-game NFL suspension for the incident.
- The Vikings announced three changes to their coaching staff, including one of the sons of Indianapolis president Bill Polian. Dennis Polian will serve as assistant to the head coach, replacing Kevin Stefanski, who was promoted to offensive quality control coach and will work primarily with quarterbacks. Chris White, who spent the past nine years on the Syracuse staff, will serve as assistant special teams coach.
- Detroit will host Wake Forest linebacker Aaron Curry on a visit Sunday, according to David Birkett of the Oakland Press. Curry will be the third draft-eligible prospect to meet with team officials at the Lions' practice facility, following Baylor offensive tackle Jason Smith and Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford.
CHICAGO -- Both of Chicago's top cornerbacks will miss Sunday's game against Minnesota
Charles Tillman (shoulder) and Nate Vasher (wrist) are among the Bears' inactive players. Corey Graham and Trumaine McBride will start. The possibilities for the nickel back position are Marcus Hamilton, Craig Steltz and Zackary Bowman.
Meanwhile, Vikings receivers Bernard Berrian and Sidney Rice will both play. The Vikings also said that Vinny Ciurciu will start at middle linebacker. There had been a lot of discussion last week about whether Ciurciu, Dontarrious Thomas or Napoleon Harris would start. Thomas and Harris are both active for this game.
As he announced the suspension of a player who hadn't been part of his team's rotation, Chicago coach Lovie Smith painted a somewhat bleak picture Monday for his banged-up defensive backfield.
First: The four-game suspension of offensive lineman Terrence Metcalf isn't an immediate blow for the Bears. Metcalf lost his starting job in training camp after undergoing knee surgery and has been backing up left guard Josh Beekman all season.
Of more critical importance is the state of the Bears' secondary. They finished Sunday's 22-20 loss in Atlanta with two healthy cornerbacks, and Smith couldn't say for sure how many of those who are injured will be ready for next Sunday's game against Minnesota. The status of Charles Tillman (shoulder), Danieal Manning (hamstring) and Trumaine McBride (shoulder) seems completely is up in the air; if anything, it appears Tillman will have a tough time getting onto the field.
The Bears almost certainly will need to push cornerback Nate Vasher (wrist) back onto the field after a two-game absence. Vasher would join Corey Graham and Marcus Hamilton as Chicago's healthy cornerbacks.
Nobody does it like the NFC North. Yep, six weeks into the season, we black and bluers are the only division without at least one winning team. Instead, three of us are 3-3 and the other is 0-5.
Chicago has given up a late lead in each of its losses. The Vikings have won consecutive games in which the outcome, shall we say, was opponent-aided. And Green Bay has been forced to use preseason lineups in several games because of a rash of injuries.
What it means is that midway through October, there are few clues on who will emerge as the NFC North champion. You could make an argument that the Bears have played the best on a relative scale, but in the end they're no better in the win-loss column. The only variable is Green Bay's season-opening victory over Minnesota, which gives the Packers a division-best 2-0 record in the NFC North.
Just something to chew on while we travel home from Atlanta. That, and this jaunt around the division:
- The Chicago Bears protected young cornerback Marcus Hamilton after Sunday's loss to Atlanta, writes David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune. Others took the blame, but Haugh suggests Hamilton should have stayed with Falcons receiver Michael Jenkins on one of the game's key plays.
- Greg Couch of the Chicago Sun-Times writes that Bears fans deserve more answers than they got after Sunday's game.
- Detroit Lions quarterback Dan Orlovsky was embarrassed after he ran out of the end zone for a safety Sunday at the Metrodome: "When they started blowing the whistle, I was like, 'Did we false start or were they offsides or something?' And I looked, and I was just like, 'You're an idiot.' "
- Detroit cornerback Leigh Bodden, whose questionable pass interference penalty set up Minnesota's game-winning score, doesn't want an apology from the NFL: ""Don't bother calling us with an apology. I don't want to hear it. It won't change anything. If they can't call us and say that they're giving us back a win that was taken away, then they shouldn't even bother with it."
- This qualifies as flat-out sympathy from Bob Wojnowski of the Detroit News:"[At] the risk of sounding soft, I don't mind saying this: The Lions deserved better."
- The Lions will huddle Monday to discuss the future of quarterback Jon Kitna, according to Tom Kowalski of Mlive.com. The team hasn't specified the nature of Kitna's back injury, but it appears to be serious.
- Lost in the shuffle of the game: Minnesota defensive tackle Kevin Williams was credited with four sacks, the most by a Vikings player in nearly 20 years.
- Jim Souhan of the Star Tribune suggests fans should be happy with a 3-3 record, regardless of how the Vikings got there. "Sunday, if you were employed by the Vikings, it was best to be oblivious to criticism and forgetful of details. After six tumultuous weeks, the Purple is tied for first. Leave it to forensic scientists to figure out how."
- Vikings tailback Adrian Peterson was despondent after fumbling twice Sunday, Rick Alonzo of the St. Paul Pioneer Press writes.
- Coach Brad Childress struggled to explain why he didn't go for two points after the Vikings scored in the third quarter. The ensuing extra point left them trailing 10-9. Sean Jensen of the Pioneer Press lays out the situation.
- Pete Dougherty of the Green Bay Press Gazette on the Packers' 27-17 victory at Seattle: "This was far from the kind of win that puts other NFL teams on notice."
- Green Bay running back Ryan Grant carried 33 times because backup Brandon Jackson had flu-like symptoms and couldn't play, according to Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
- The Packers have their fingers crossed on defensive tackle Ryan Pickett, who will undergo an MRI on his triceps. Silverstein has details.
ATLANTA -- Wish I could tell you how many times I heard someone mutter the word "unbelievable" Sunday afternoon in the Chicago Bears' locker room. I lost track at five.
|AP Photo/Dave Martin|
|Jason Elam's 48-yard field goal as time expired gave the Falcons the victory.|
People use "unbelievable" far too often in our language. As long as you trust your visual acuity, you should believe most everything you see. And everyone in the Bears' locker room saw how their 22-20 loss to the Atlanta Falcons went down. I saw it, too. But in this case, it really is hard to believe how much happened in the game's final 11 seconds to make that defeat a reality.
"It's almost like we didn't lose this game," receiver/kick returner Devin Hester said. "I mean, how could we?"
Indeed, the Bears -- trailing for almost the entire afternoon -- scored 10 points in the final four minutes to take a 20-19 lead. Kyle Orton's 17-yard touchdown pass to Rashied Davis came with 11 seconds remaining.
Eleven seconds. How many times does a game's outcome change after a team takes such a late lead?
What came next will take a while for the Bears and many of their fans to believe. Coach Lovie Smith called for a squib kickoff, a standard move that generally prevents a big return. Earlier in the fourth quarter, the Falcons' Jerious Norwood had returned a kickoff 85 yards. Smith wasn't taking any chances.
"Guys were a little tired," Smith said. "So we thought a squib would be safe."
It was. After all, how often does a player try to return a squib kick after he knocks it down in that situation? Every second he uses is one less for the offense to move into scoring position.
The return took five seconds. So six seconds remained. The Falcons had the ball at their 44-yard line.
"At that point we just want to finish the game," Bears defensive coordinator Bob Babich said. "We wanted the clock to run out. An incomplete pass. Whatever it would take for us to win."
Interesting move today in Bearsland. Chicago released receiver Mark Bradley, a former second-round draft pick who at one point seemed to have the inside track on a starting position, and claimed cornerback Marcus Hamilton on waivers from Tampa Bay.
Hamilton made his NFL debut against the Bears last Sunday at Soldier Field, finishing with two defensed passes. The Buccaneers waived him Monday, probably hoping they could sneak him onto their practice squad.
Bradley's career was never the same after he tore an ACL during his rookie year in 2005. Some hoped he could replace Bernard Berrian in the starting lineup this season, but he had a quiet training camp and was only on the field for one snap in three games, according to the Chicago Sun-Times' weekly playing time analysis.