Bears have their 'backs against the wall'

954729.png

Bears have their 'backs against the wall'

Right tackle Jonathan Scott is a relative newcomer but he cut to a painful core reality after Sundays 20-17 overtime loss to the Seattle Seahawks:

Our backs are against the wall, Scott said.

Losing a third out of four games against teams with winning records will put a team, even one that is still 8-4, in that unpleasant spot.

But thats precisely where the Bears realistically are after being in the discussion of NFLs best along with Atlanta and Houston before the Texans and San Francisco 49ers games effectively ended those musings.

Lovie Smith said during his pregame visit with WBBM play-by-play announcer Jeff Joniak that the Bears were already in playoff mode. The problem is that they are now in danger of slipping out of the playoffs, sitting at the No. 5 seed right now.

Green Bay (8-4) is the de factor NFC North leader after putting down the Minnesota Vikings (6-6) on Sunday. Beyond the Packers having beaten the Bears already, which can be addressed by a Bears win in two weeks when Green Bay comes to Soldier Field, the Packers also are 3-0 in division play. The Bears and Packers are the only teams on each others remaining schedule with a record above .500.

So what?

But all that playoff analysis means absolutely nothing if a team that prides itself on defense cannot make one stop with a game on the line. And Lovie Smith knows it.

Once you get a lead, youve got to be able to hold a lead at home with our defense, Smith said. Defensively we didnt get a lot doneJust not the type of football that we play around here.

Smith needs to hope not. His defense allowed drives of 94, 107 (Seattle was penalized 10 yards and made that up a play later) and 85 yards (also with a penalty of their own thrown in and overcome).

The defense wasnt admitting it was tired at the end of the game, but it clearly was, just looking at some of the 1,000-yard stares in the locker room afterwards. The concerning part of that is that it had nothing to do with age, heat or anything else, just bad play.

I dont think we were gassed, said defensive end Shea McClellin. We rotate in and out enough; we shouldnt be gassed. I dont think that was the issue.

It wasnt. You get tired when youre on the field too long, and the issue was not finishing off Seattle on third-and-longs when they presented themselves.

Smith acknowledged that poor tackling was a problem, and we couldnt get off blocks, we didnt take the ball away enough.

Seattle jinx?

The ignominy on Sunday was that it was the third straight loss, at home, to Seattle. And it came just as the 49ers were losing in overtime, which would have put the Bears back in the No. 2 playoff spot had the Bears been able to make any sort of defensive stand. Just one, against rookie quarterback Russell Wilson, whom they couldnt entirely keep up with even with the help of a spy system of assigning speed end Shea McClellin to keep an eye on the guy.

Changes coming?

Coaches have made performance-based position changes this season, at two different spots on the offensive line, at defensive end and at nickel back.

CSNChicago colleague Jim Miller posited on our Bears Postgame Live that after two dismal defensive performances in three weeks, more changes perhaps should be in the offing.

Lovie Smith and Rod Marinelli have rarely suffered perceived under-performance for long. And while virtually everyone is perhaps already on the field, playing time may be apportioned differently based on evaluations over the next few days.

Surprised

Seattle threw some minor surprises at the Bears defense by using some shotgun formations that said Pass but were run plays or options, defensive players said.

The task then was just to stay on keys, which the Bears didnt do, keep Russell Wilson in the pocket, which the Bears also didnt do, and make tackles when they did get to where they needed to be, which they also didnt do too well.

We pride ourselves on playing defense, said safety Major Wright, who missed a chance at an interception in the final minutes that would have ended Seattles go-ahead touchdown drive. Russell Wilson got out of the pocket a couple of times and we had to break down and make tackles.

Which didnt happen soon enough.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Cubs reach 100 wins for first time since 1935

cubbies.jpg

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Cubs reach 100 wins for first time since 1935

CSN's David Kaplan hosts a discussion with today's panel: Ravi Baichwal from ABC 7, David Haugh lead columnist from the Chicago Tribune, and Mark Lazerus of the Chicago Sun Times. The group discusses the Cubs reaching 100 wins on the season, talk Jay Cutler's future as Bears QB, and Scott Paddock stops by to talk NASCAR.

Listen to the SportsTalk Live Podcast below:

Brian Kelly aims to be more fiery, get players to play with more fun and passion

Brian Kelly aims to be more fiery, get players to play with more fun and passion

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Reeling with a 1-3 record and uncertain prospects of reaching a bowl game, Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly wants his team to have more fun and play with more passion, and he sees being more fiery on the sidelines during games as part of the solution. 

When asked if he needed to be looser on the sidelines to help inject some “fun” into his team on gamedays, Kelly said said that's not the case. 

“I actually think I should probably — I think I've been a little too, what's the word I'm looking for, maybe not as demonstrative,” Kelly said. “I think I've got to be more fiery on the sidelines, quite frankly. So I'm going to try to turn it up a little bit on the sidelines, because that's who I am, you know? And I've been hands off a little bit. I just need to be who I am, and not be, you know, as hands off and I've got to be more involved. So if I was too fiery, you guys will have even better stories over the next couple of weeks.”

Kelly’s first couple years on campus were marked by easily-sharable purple-faced rants, and last year he got into a physical sideline confrontation with assistant strength coach David Grimes (Kelly later said he regretted the incident happened). Following a blown coverage against Michigan State that effectively ended Sept. 17’s 36-28 loss, Kelly was seen on TV directing an expletive at a defensive coach (both ex-defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder and defensive backs coach Todd Lyght were in the vicinity). 

“I can still be demonstrative, but I just feel like they still have to see that passion from me as well and that's all I was saying,” Kelly said. “I don't have to be a loon particularly on the sideline and throw chairs and do that kinda stuff. But they have to feel that from me as well. I think that's very important in this game of football.”

Kelly sharply criticized his team’s passion — and lack thereof, as he saw it — after Notre Dame’ 38-35 loss to Duke last weekend. When asked Tuesday if he thought the best way to get his players to play with passion was by pointing out their lack of passion, Kelly said it wasn’t, but he and his coaches are working on finding that solution. 

“I have to be able to find out what are the reasons that we're not playing with passion,” Kelly said. “I’ve made some changes, obviously, some significant changes, within my staff, that goes to maybe some of the reasons why we weren't. And there are other things that have to continue to evolve for us to continue to move in the direction that I want.”

Everything is on the table as Notre Dame looks to dig itself out of its brutal September. Plenty more players will get on the field, Kelly promised, in a sort of quality-over-quantity approach to gameday snaps (Kelly pointed to safety Drue Tranquill playing his best game of the season on only 39 snaps, for instance). The seventh-year Irish coach will be more involved in the defense after firing VanGorder and replacing him with Greg Hudson. 

While he’s criticized both groups, Kelly said he’s confident in his players and his coaching staff’s ability to turn around the 2016 season and avoid being ineligible for a bowl game for the first time since 2007. 

“We're 1-3, our players aren't that bad, our coaches are pretty good coaches,” Kelly said. “I’ve been doing it for 27 years. Obviously, we're working through some things. We're working through some things and our guys are working through them. We're working through them, and we think we're going back in the right direction.”