NFL Nation: Michael C. Wright

Rapid Reaction: Chicago Bears

November, 4, 2013

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- A few thoughts on the Chicago Bears' 27-20 win over the Green Bay Packers on Monday night at Lambeau Field:

What it means: Playing without starting quarterback Jay Cutler, the Bears forced a three-way tie atop the NFC North with the win over the Green Bay Packers. Because they lost at Detroit on Sept. 29, the Bears technically sit at second place, despite owning the same 5-3 record. The victory sets up a showdown against the Lions on Sunday for sole possession of first place in the NFC North.

Stock up: Matt Forte put together his first 100-yard outing of the season, rushing for 125 yards (with 179 yards from scrimmage). Forte has rushed 216 yards over Chicago's past two games for a 5.4-yard average. He made several key runs down the stretch, and had the presence of mind to stay inbounds at the end of the runs to keep the clock moving.

McClellin sack makes difference: Second-year defensive end Shea McClellin produced his first career three-sack game against the Packers, but it was his first sack of the night that undoubtedly affected the outcome. McClellin collected his first full sack of the season (he posted a half sack in Week 1) at the end of Green Bay's first possession, and the play knocked Aaron Rodgers out of the game with an injured shoulder.

McClellin dropped Rodgers for a 3-yard loss on third-and-8 from the Chicago 9, and as the quarterback tumbled to the turf, the defensive end and nickel corner Isaiah Frey crashed down on him. Rodgers immediately went into the locker room, and team officials declared him out.

Seneca Wallace filled in and compiled a passer rating of 37 in the first half.

Confidence in McCown warranted: Bears coach Marc Trestman said all last week he wouldn't scale back the offense for backup quarterback Josh McCown, and he certainly didn't. The veteran quarterback operated the full scope of the scheme, and did it at a high level, completing 22 of 41 passes for 272 yards, two touchdowns and, most importantly, no turnovers.

McCown displayed unshakable poise in the pocket -- especially on the 23-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Marshall in the first quarter when it appeared he was about to suffer a sack -- and made smart decisions with the football.

The Bears expect Jay Cutler back on Sunday against the Lions, but they'd definitely be in good hands if they had to go forward with McCown as the starter.

What's next: The Bears will take Tuesday off before beginning preparations for Sunday's clash with the Detroit Lions at Soldier Field.

Considering Brandon Marshall is one of the NFL’s elite receivers, his peripheral vision probably works better than most. So when Marshall ran out of the brisk cold air at the practice fields on his way to the doors leading into Halas Hall, surely he saw more than a dozen cameramen and reporters scrambling his direction.

Typically when Marshall wants to talk, he stops. Not this time. He knew what was about to be asked, and made the right decision in declining to address irrelevant commentary from a peer.

Not long before Chicago’s practice came to a close on Monday, Washington Redskins safety Brandon Meriweather -- fresh off serving a one-game suspension for vicious hits, including two against the Bears on Oct. 20 -- fired off an attack on Marshall’s personal life when asked to respond to comments made by the receiver in the aftermath of that game.

“Guys like that, maybe he needs to get suspended or taken out of the game completely,” Marshall said of Meriweather, after the safety smashed him in the end zone during Washington’s 45-41 win against the Bears, which drew a 15-yard penalty and played a part in the suspension. Then, on Monday, Meriweather took the back-and-forth to another level.

“He feels like I need to be kicked out of the league. I feel like people who beat their girlfriends should be kicked out of the league, too," Meriweather said. "You tell me who you'd rather have? Someone who plays aggressive on the field or someone who beat up their girlfriend?"

In addition to taking aim at Marshall’s personal life, Meriweather openly discussed ending careers to avoid discipline from the league for helmet-to-helmet hits, which have gotten him fined on multiple occasions.

“I guess I just got to take people’s knees out,” Meriweather said. “That’s the only way. I would hate to end a guy’s career over a rule, but I guess it’s better other people than me getting suspended for longer. You just have to go low now, man. You've got to end people's careers. You got to tear people's ACLS and mess up people's knees. You can't hit them high anymore."

Obviously, Marshall’s past is significant here. But in this situation, Meriweather shouldn’t be attacking Marshall personally, because one thing (the illegal hits) has absolutely nothing to do with the other (the receiver’s past).

Marshall has been arrested multiple times for alleged domestic violence, and I certainly don’t condone a man putting his hands on a woman in that fashion. But in every instance, either no charges were filed, or they were subsequently dropped.

Back in 2012, a judge dismissed a civil suit filed by a former girlfriend accusing Marshall of abuse. Three years prior, a jury found Marshall not guilty of misdemeanor battery charges stemming from incidents involving that same woman.

On Monday, Marshall -- apparently informed of Meriweather’s remarks -- posted on Twitter:

But by saying nothing in response to someone openly discussing ending careers on one hand, while making personal attacks on the other, was the right thing to do. Besides, Marshall has more important things to worry about at this point like how to help the Bears find a way to beat the Green Bay Packers on Monday night without Jay Cutler under center.

QB Watch: Bears’ Josh McCown

October, 23, 2013
A weekly analysis of the Bears’ quarterback play.

Rewind: McCown entered the game for an injured Jay Cutler at the 9:47 mark of the second quarter and scrambled for an 11-yard gain on first down before throwing incomplete to Matt Forte the next play to end the drive. With Cutler running the show, the Bears missed on four third-down conversions in the first half. In the second half, Chicago converted 50 percent of third downs and racked up 313 yards. McCown hit on 70 percent of his throws for a passer rating of 119.6, as the quarterback scrambled four times for 33 yards in the fourth quarter in addition to leading three scoring drives.

Fast-forward: McCown admits he doesn’t possess as big of an arm as Cutler, but he can make up for that deficiency with solid anticipation, which for the most part is the backup’s game. McCown’s athleticism is on par with Cutler’s, and he’s probably more willing to tuck the ball and run than the starter if the targets don’t come open downfield. So McCown’s athleticism should be an asset when the Bears play Green Bay on Nov. 4. In the meantime, McCown will spend the week off immersing himself in the intricacies of the scheme as he prepares to make his first start since the 2011 season.

Run the offense through Forte: Establishing Forte early on is the best way to help McCown settle in and find a groove. The team should’ve done that in the loss last week to the Redskins but instead handed off to the running back just four times in the first half. That’s clearly not enough. By putting the ball into Forte’s hands often, the Bears can set up the play-action passing game and put the Packers on their heels. McCown will struggle if Green Bay gets into pin-your-ears-back-and-rush mode. So Chicago needs to feature the running back early.

Prediction: Fresh off the street from coaching high school football in 2011, McCown -- with a dreadful supporting cast -- put up 21 points in his first start against the Packers in December 2011. This time around, Chicago’s scheme and personnel are better, while Green Bay doesn’t appear to be as strong a team now as in 2011. So look for McCown to put together an efficient game with a passer rating in the high 80s to low 90s.

Upon Further Review: Bears Week 7

October, 21, 2013
A review of four hot issues from the Chicago Bears' 45-41 loss to the Washington Redskins:

Run defense: The Redskins kept the Bears off balance all game with their ability to run the football. Alfred Morris averaged 5 yards per carry, while Robert Griffin III averaged 7.6. By establishing the run, the Redskins kept the Bears on their heels, thus opening up other facets of the game. Typically, the Bears shut down the run, making opponents one dimensional. But Chicago hasn’t been able to accomplish that objective consistently this season. Certainly, injuries along the front four contribute to the problem, but until the Bears solve the issue, teams will continue to gash them on the ground before taking chunks through the air via play action.

[+] EnlargeChicago's Matt Forte
Geoff Burke/USA TODAY SportsMatt Forte rushed for 82 yards and two scores after halftime against the Redskins.
Inconsistency against the pass: Jordan Reed became the third Bears opponent to catch at least nine passes for 134 yards or more. An anemic pass rush from the injury-riddled front plays a role, but up-and-down play at safety between Chris Conte and Major Wright seems to be Chicago’s most pronounced deficiency against the pass. Coming into the season, Conte and Wright seemed destined to become a productive duo at safety for the Bears. Wright has graded out higher than Conte for the majority of the season because of his takeaways and run support, but together, they’ve been more of a liability on the back end than the playmakers the club envisioned. The Bears yielded five completions for gains of 26 yards or more, including 30-, 38- and 45-yarders.

Feeding Forte: They don’t seem to be involving Matt Forte enough early on, and that’s diminished Chicago’s ability to find a rhythm. In six first-half drives, the Bears handed off to Forte just four times, including only once in each of the first two possession. Forte didn’t receive back-to-back attempts until the team’s second drive of the second quarter. By then, Washington held a 17-10 lead. Forte carried four times for nine yards and a score in the first half, yet finished the game with 91 yards and three TDs on 16 attempts. The offense should run through Forte from the onset.

Veterans on the front four: Given the injuries, inexperience and inconsistency on the defensive line, veterans Julius Peppers, Stephen Paea and Corey Wootton need to step up and start carrying the group. Peppers finally showed up on the stat sheet with seven tackles, while Paea and Wootton contributed two tackles apiece. Still, that’s not enough. The team needs even more, especial in the pass-rushing department. One of the best to play the game at his position, Peppers hasn’t contributed a sack since September.

Tillman, Paea to face Redskins

October, 20, 2013
LANDOVER, Md. -- Chicago Bears cornerback Charles Tillman (knee) and defensive tackle Stephen Paea (toe) will be active for Sunday’s matchup against the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field.

The team released its list of inactives for the game with neither of the starters on it. Both missed the team’s Oct. 10 victory over the New York Giants due to injuries.

Chicago’s inactives include cornerback C.J. Wilson, running back Michael Ford, defensive tackle Christian Tupou, offensive lineman James Brown, offensive tackle Jonathan Scott, tight end Steve Maneri and defensive end Cornelius Washington.

Linebacker Jerry Franklin is among the team’s actives and will fill in for Jon Bostic on special teams. Bostic makes his regular-season debut as a starter at middle linebacker for the Bears, replacing veteran D.J. Williams, who was placed on the injured reserve earlier in the week. The club promoted Franklin on Friday to the active roster off the practice squad.

Washington’s inactives include quarterback Rex Grossman, safety Bacarri Rambo, running back Chris Thompson, linebacker Brandon Jenkins, guard Josh LeRibeus, tight end Fred Davis and nose tackle Chris Neild.

Logan Paulsen is expected to start at tight end in place of Fred Davis while Leonard Hankerson will start at receiver in place of Joshua Morgan.

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Jonathan Bostic assumes the starting role at middle linebacker in the aftermath of news D.J. Williams is out for the season with a torn pectoral tendon, and the Chicago Bears expect the rookie to build on the excitement he generated throughout the preseason.

Subbing for Williams as the starter in the middle for most of training camp, Bostic collected 13 tackles in the preseason, and returned an interception 51 yards for a touchdown in the exhibition opener at Carolina to create anticipation for the linebacker’s debut as a full-time starter among observers.

“Of course we’re going to miss D.J. (Williams) a lot,” cornerback Tim Jennings said. “But I’m excited about Bostic. I know he put on a show this preseason. I know a lot of guys are excited about Bostic to see what he’s going to be doing. Of course, you don’t want D.J. to go down like that and miss the rest of the year, but this is just an opportunity for Bostic to let everybody know he’s here for a reason.”

Drafted in the second round out of Florida, Bostic filled in for Williams late in the third quarter of the team’s win last Thursday over the New York Giants and played the final 21 snaps. Bostic received credit for one assisted tackle in the victory, but for the most part struggled, grading among the worst of the team’s defenders.

[+] EnlargeChicago's Jonathan Bostic
David Banks/USA TODAY SportsJonathan Bostic proved to be a playmaker in the preseason and will now help fill the spot vacated by an injured D.J. Williams.
But that was to be expected with Bostic coming into the game cold.

“You always hear ‘next man up, anything can happen,’ but the situation that happened like that, it’s kind of like, ‘Man, these things really do happen,’” Bostic said. "I wasn’t too surprised about it. Now I’ve got to kind of step up now. I don’t want any drop offs to me from D.J. Really, (I’ve) just got to go out there and just prepare the best I can and go out there and do my best. I did alright (against the Giants); a lot of stuff still to clean up. Especially getting thrown in there kind of like that, I really wasn’t expecting it. But you’ve got to be expecting it. (I’m) just learning from those mistakes I made in the game and cleaning those things up and trying not to make the same mistakes twice.”

Bostic spent time during Monday’s practice working at his customary spot in the middle, but also took repetitions at strongside linebacker as a contingency plan for if James Anderson suffered an injury that would force him to miss time. When Anderson sustained a back injury that forced him out last Thursday, the Bears plugged in veteran Blake Costanzo and kept Bostic in the middle.

If that situation takes place again, there’s a chance the Bears would move Costanzo to the middle and Bostic to the strongside.

“He’s ready,” defensive tackle Stephen Paea said of Bostic. “In the preseason, he showed some flash. Everybody’s got to step up.”

But Bears coach Marc Trestman knows that won’t be easy for a rookie, no matter how promising a future he has in the defense.

“He hasn’t spent a lot of time out there, but he has played,” Trestman said. “He doesn’t have the experience that D.J. has, but he has speed and he’s an explosive young man. It’s just about working together with the guys and getting acclimated to the calls, and fits and things like that. I think we’ll do fine.”

To ensure that happens, Bostic said that in addition to taking copious notes during meetings, he’s picked the brains of Lance Briggs, Anderson and Williams. Naturally, Bostic’s grasp of the system is better now than it was during the preseason.

Still, Bostic says there’s a long way to go before he’s exactly where he wants to be.

“I feel more ready each and every day,” Bostic said. “I’m understanding it more, reacting faster. Guys are helping me out. Lance, even D.J., James, they’re watching me, making sure I’m making the calls as well because anything can happen. I’ve got three great linebackers in that meeting room. To learn from them each and every day, like I said before when I first got here, not too many people can walk into a linebacker room, and have the number of years that (fellow rookie linebacker) Khaseem (Greene) and I both were able to walk into. So we’ve been taking full advantage of that.”
A weekly examination of the Bears’ Power Ranking:

Preseason: 13 | Last Week: 9 | Power Ranking since 2002

The panelists voting for’s Power Rankings apparently haven’t lost faith in the Chicago Bears even though the team has lost consecutive games.

After falling 26-18 to the New Orleans Saints (No. 2) on Sunday, the Bears dropped only one spot from ninth to No. 10, and still rank as tops in the NFC North, with the Green Bay Packers lurking at No. 11 and the Detroit Lions sitting at 12th.

The Minnesota Vikings, meanwhile, check in at 28th.

At this point, it’s debatable whether Chicago deserves to stay in the top 10, but for the club to remain competitive in two consecutive defeats despite a combined five turnovers is something of a feat. Through the first five contests -- even the first three victories -- the Bears still haven’t played a complete game.

The Bears show signs of improvement, which gives them the look of an ascending team instead of one that has reached its peak. So that’s encouraging.

Of the six panelists, four voted the Bears out of the top 10 (three 11th-place votes and one for 10th), while two gave the team eighth- and ninth-place votes, respectively.

Rapid Reaction: Chicago Bears

October, 6, 2013

CHICAGO -- A few thoughts on the Chicago Bears' 26-18 loss to the New Orleans Saints at Soldier Field:

What it means: Chicago hasn’t lost two in a row since December of 2012, and now has to go into a short week with the sting of that on its mind. The Bears still aren’t where they want to be, but there’s no reason to panic, because the team continues to show signs of growth.

Stock watch: Matt Forte's fumble on the first play from scrimmage short-circuited the team’s opening drive, and the play was typical of the type of day the team experienced early. Quarterback Jay Cutler suffered three sacks, and a fumble, leading to a Saints field goal. Despite a decent outing from Cutler, the protection early let him down, as did receivers. Earl Bennett's dropped ball on fourth down with 8:40 left, which would have converted a fourth-and-2 at the New Orleans 25, hurt Chicago’s chances for a rally.

Injuries mounting: Starting defensive tackle Stephen Paea made the team’s list of inactives for Sunday’s game after being listed earlier in the week as questionable with a turf toe injury. Paea’s inactivity paved the way for Nate Collins and Landon Cohen to start against the Saints. But Collins, who posted his first career solo sack in the first half, left the game in the third quarter with a left knee injury, and was later declared out for the game.

The team already lost three-technique defensive tackle Henry Melton with a torn ACL, and cornerback Charles Tillman has practiced only one day per week for the majority of the season because of a sore groin and knee.

If Collins is forced out for an extended period, the Bears will likely wind up starting Cohen and Corey Wootton at tackle. The club will also be forced to look for more depth at the position on the waiver wire. It’s worth noting Chicago signed Cohen two days prior to the Sept. 29 loss to at Detroit.

Postseason chances slightly diminished? Since the playoffs moved to the 12-team format in 1990, 77 percent of teams that started the season 4-1 reached the playoffs (98 of 128 teams). Clubs with 3-2 records after the first five games have gone to the postseason 51 percent of the time (95 of 186).

What’s next: The Bears face a difficult four-day turnaround when they play host to the New York Giants on Thursday night.
CHICAGO -- The Chicago Bears released their list of inactives for Sunday’s game, and defensive tackle Stephen Paea won’t play against the New Orleans Saints due to a turf-toe injury.

Paea originally sustained the injury in the second half of the club’s loss last week to the Detroit Lions, and after the game, the defensive tackle called the injury “minor” despite the team forcing him to wear a walking boot on his left foot. The team held out Paea for the entire week of practice heading into Sunday’s game and listed him on the injury report as questionable.

With Paea out of action, the Bears plan to start Nate Collins and Landon Cohen at defensive tackle with undrafted rookie Zach Minter also playing a role in the rotation. The club will also likely play starting defensive end Corey Wootton inside at tackle against the Saints, along with defensive end David Bass.

Coincidentally, the Bears face a New Orleans rush offense that ranks No. 25, which might lessen the blow of the club playing without Paea. But given that the Saints rank second in passing offense, and quarterback Drew Brees is coming off his ninth-consecutive 300-yard passing game, the absence of Paea might turn out to be a crushing blow to Chicago’s pass rush.

Other Bears inactives include cornerback C.J. Wilson, safety Anthony Walters (hamstring), guard James Brown, offensive tackle Jonathan Scott, tight end Steve Maneri, and defensive end Cornelius Washington.

Saints inactives are receiver Lance Moore, running back Mark Ingram, safety Roman Harper, defensive tackle Brodrick Bunkley, defensive lieman Tyrunn Walker, cornerback Rod Sweeting and offensive tackle Terron Armstead.
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- While complimentary of his accomplishments, Chicago Bears tight end Martellus Bennett refused to indulge in comparisons with New Orleans tight end Jimmy Graham.

Asked if Graham was a pretty good player, Bennett deadpanned: “I don’t give a [expletive].”

Graham was named the NFC’s Offensive Player of the Month on Thursday, marking the first time a tight end had received such an honor in either conference since 1986 when the NFL started the award. Graham hauled in 27 passes for 458 yards and six touchdowns in his team’s first four games, and according to ESPN Stats & Information is one TD away from tying the league record for touchdown catches by a tight end over a team’s first five games.

Antonio Gates (2010) and Mike Ditka (1963) currently share that record.

“A lot of guys play my position. I think (Graham) does a phenomenal job for the Saints, but I’m not in competition with him,” Bennett said. “We have different roles on our team. He’s the No. 1 target over there and I have different job from him. We’re different athletes. I think a lot of times people try to compare us but we do a lot of things differently. He does a good job going up for the jump ball, and making plays for them. He’s the No. 1 choice over there. I’m a team guy. Whatever I’ve got to do, if I have to block a little bit more, whatever it is, I’ll do that.”

Bennett appears to assume more responsibilities as a blocker in Chicago’s system than Graham in the scheme of the Saints, but the Bears have definitely incorporated him heavily in the passing game. Bennett is currently tied for fourth in the NFL among tight ends for touchdown receptions (3), tied for sixth in receptions (20) and eighth among players at his position with 225 receiving yards.

Bennett led the Bears with eight receptions last week in the loss to the Lions, and gained 90 yards.

“Everybody impacts differently. I don’t compare myself to (Graham). I don’t care what he does for his team. My role on my team, I make a different impact on this team. I have a different job,” Bennett said. “I don’t care if I catch 10 balls or two balls. As long as I make an impact, in the run game or whether it’s helping out in pass protection, whatever it may be. Just like everything else in life. Everybody makes an impact doing different things. Some of us make charitable donations, other people donate their time. There’s no wrong way to make an impact. There’s no wrong way to eat a Reese’s.”

QB Watch: Bears' Jay Cutler

October, 2, 2013
A weekly analysis of the Bears’ quarterback play.

Rewind: Jay Cutler reverted to bad habits in the Bears' loss to the Detroit Lions, and that resulted in turnovers, including a fumble returned for a touchdown by Nick Fairley. Tremendous pressure from Detroit’s pass rush played a role in that. Despite the poor performance (65.6 passer rating, 36.6 QBR), Cutler never let the mistakes snowball. He kept the team in the game, and gave the Bears a chance to tie it late. What’s more encouraging is Cutler’s turnovers didn’t come as the result of poor decision-making. He made the correct reads, but didn’t accurately execute the throws he’s accustomed to making. That’s correctable.

Fast-forward: New Orleans' defense entered Monday night’s game against Miami ranked No. 4, and collected four sacks, three interceptions and a fumble recovery in that contest. So Cutler faces a daunting task against the Saints, who sacked him six times during a brutal 2011 outing the last time these teams met. Detroit took away short passes, and dared Cutler to beat the Lions with longer throws. Look for the Saints to employ a similar strategy.

Keep believing in Marc Trestman: Cutler exhibits signs that he totally believes in what the Bears are doing offensively, and no longer lets emotion get in the way of performance on the field. That shows Cutler is evolving into the quarterback the team thinks he can be. Cutler appears to have already put Sunday’s game in the past, and looks forward to rebounding. How he responds against the Saints could be a seminal moment in this season, but that will only be possible if the quarterback continues to believe in the coach, the system and the protection.

Prediction: Cutler likely won’t miss on longer attempts in this game, as he did against the Lions, but he’ll be pressured into at least one interception, and will throw a couple of TDs.
A weekly examination of the Bears’ Power Ranking:

Preseason: 13 | Last Week: 4 | Power Ranking since 2002

Chicago fell from the top five of’s Power Rankings but remained in the top 10 at No. 9 after Sunday’s 40-32 loss to the Detroit Lions.

Interestingly, the Lions check in at 10th, moving up six spots from 16, while the Green Bay Packers stayed at 12th and the Minnesota Vikings rose from 26th to No. 24 after their 34-27 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers in London.

The Bears rank below the 49ers, Dolphins, Colts and Chiefs, who are eighth, seventh, sixth and fifth, respectively.

Chicago deserves to stay in the top 10. The Bears committed four turnovers, including a fumble returned for a touchdown. With 47 seconds left to play, remarkably, they still held a sliver of hope for tying the game when Robbie Gould lined up for the onside kick.

All but one of’s panelists voted for Chicago to remain in the top 10. The club received two seventh-place votes, one for No. 6, two for No. 10 and one for 12th.

The panelists put the Bears in the correct spot here. They overcame a horrid start, and too many turnovers in difficult circumstances on the road, yet had a chance at the end.

Paea suffers minor turf toe injury

September, 29, 2013
DETROIT -- Chicago Bears defensive tackle Stephen Paea wore a walking boot on his left foot after Sunday’s loss 40-32 loss to the Detroit Lions, but isn’t expected to miss time with what he called a minor turf toe injury.

Moving over from his customary spot at nose tackle to the 3-technique tackle spot in place of Henry Melton, who is out for the season with a torn ACL, Paea contributed two tackles, including a stop for lost yardage. A three-year veteran, Paea came into the game with six tackles, half a sack and two tackles for lost yardage.

Although the injury isn’t considered serious, it’s likely Paea will appear on the injury report headed into next week’s game against the New Orleans Saints at Soldier Field. Paea said the medical staff encouraged him to wear the walking boot to take pressure off the toe during travel back to the team’s facilities from Detroit.

But if Paea winds up missing time, the Bears could be in a difficult situation given there’s not much depth behind him and Nate Collins, who assumed a starting role due to Melton’s injury. As it stands, Paea, Collins and Zach Minter, who was inactive on Sunday, are the club’s only bona fide defensive tackles.

The Bears can move starting defensive end Corey Wootton inside to tackle. Defensive end Julius Peppers has also lined up at tackle on occasion.

The club’s franchise player, Melton contributed five tackles and a fumble recovery in three games before suffering the torn ACL during the team’s Sept. 22 win over Pittsburgh. Paea recognized the difficulty of trying to fill the gaps up front without Melton, a 2012 Pro Bowler.

“He’s done some great stuff,” Paea said of Melton. “Obviously, the next guy up has got to step up, including myself. I’ve played some 3 [technique] before. It’s just a matter of time, repetitions and practice.”

Locker Room Buzz: Chicago Bears

September, 29, 2013
DETROIT -- Observed in the locker room after the Chicago Bears40-32 loss to the Detroit Lions:

Stunt issue: Reggie Bush busted big gains almost every time the Bears used what they call a “power” stunt. A stunt is when defensive linemen alter the path of their rush in a coordinated fashion to confuse offensive linemen, which, in turn, makes them more difficult to block. According a player in the locker room, the Lions capitalized nearly every time the stunt was called, and that caused Chicago to abandon the call entirely.

The player suspected that former Bears defensive end Israel Idonije, now with Detroit, tipped off the Lions about what they were doing.

“He totally knows our defense,” the player said.

Paea in boot: With the Bears recently placing Henry Melton on injured reserve, the sight of Stephen Paea wearing a walking boot seemed shocking. Paea wore the boot as a precautionary measure, he said, and characterized the injury as “minor turf toe.”

Paea could show up on next week’s injury report, but he’s doesn’t anticipate missing time.

Bennett makes rounds: Tight end Martellus Bennett walked around shaking hands with all his teammates after the game and telling them “good job.” Bennett said he does it after every game to enhance camaraderie in the locker room.
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler calls it merely “circumstance” that he seems to light up the Detroit Lions every time the teams meet, but a look at the numbers suggest otherwise.

Having come out victorious in five of his past six games against Detroit dating to 2010, Cutler has completed 63.4 percent of his passes against the Lions for six touchdowns and one interception and a passer rating of 96.1.

“I don’t think we can pin it down or anything,” Cutler said of his success against Detroit. “They’re getting better and better on defense and offensively. So they’re becoming a team that you’ve got to take seriously. Where we’re at in our season, especially offensively, we’ve got to get to work this week. We’ve just got to finish up tomorrow and be ready for a pretty big challenge, because offensively, they’re capable of scoring a lot of points. Defensively, they’re playing well, especially on third down.”

[+] EnlargeChicago's Jay Cutler
Justin K. Aller/Getty ImagesJay Cutler is confident his offensive line will hold up well against Detroit's defensive front.
Detroit’s defense currently ranks first in third-down efficiency, allowing opponents to convert just 26.5 percent (9 of 34) on third downs. The Lions also rank No. 12 in defensive drive kills, where they hold opponents to three-and-out drives, or force a takeaway (7).

With five interceptions, the Lions are also tied for third in the NFL in that category, and tied for second with the lowest touchdown-to-interception margin allowed (2 TDs, 5 INTs).

But Detroit’s defensive line receives most of the recognition because of its duo at defensive tackle in Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley. In 2012, the Lions forced 123 negative plays (sacks, tackles for lost yardage on running plays, and tackles for lost yardage on pass completions), and the front four played a huge role in that.

“Each week we’re facing a different style of front,” Bears offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer said. “This one will be different with the wide-nine technique that the Detroit Lions choose to play, and their two first-round tackles inside. They put an extra safety inside the defensive ends, which is a little unusual; so another challenge for a new group of linemen and a fullback.”

But Cutler thinks his revamped offensive line can handle it. In his past six games against the Lions, Cutler suffered 20 sacks, including 7 in two games in 2012.

With better protection and a playbook more conducive to getting the ball out of his hands quicker, Cutler thinks his comfort level should only improve, and Detroit’s front four might provide the perfect test.

“I feel good about the guys we have up front,” Cutler said. “They have some really good players, (Suh) and Fairley both. The ends are playing well, too. We’re gonna have to be mindful of them. We’ve been really good operating before the snap of the ball, the first three games. We’ve got to continue that. We’re probably not going to see as many blitzes as we saw last week. That being said, those front four are good. So we have to take care of that. I’ve got to be on time. The receivers got to get to their spots. Everyone collectively, we can’t let down this week. We’ve got to stay on it. We’ve got to stay focused.”

But Detroit’s wide-nine alignment presents a challenge, according to Bears coach Marc Trestman, who mentioned that on occasion guards Kyle Long and Matt Slauson will be “on an island a little bit more at times because the tackles are going to have to leave them early,” which basically means they’ll see several one-on-one snaps against Suh and Fairley.

Cutler is comfortable with that, though, because he knows players such as Long have his back.

“Yeah, you want a guy like that,” Cutler said of Long. “I’m not saying those other four (Bears offensive linemen) wouldn’t come to bat, but they’d have to beat Kyle because he’s going to be the first one in line.”


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