Like it or not, '12 Bears largely formed

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Like it or not, '12 Bears largely formed

The critics would like to have had the Bears draft an offensive lineman. The Bears would like to have drafted a defensive tackle, maybe a linebacker (which they might have done with the third-round pick traded away in the Brandon Marshall deal but would you rather have a franchise wideout or a backup linebacker at this point? Easy call.)

Signing 11 undrafted college free agents brings in two tackles, one defensive tackle and a linebacker, so the need areas (perceived or otherwise) werent ignored.

And there will be other moves between now and the starts of minicamps, training camp, preseason and the regular season.

We are currently talking to players and we are looking to add to our roster, definitely," GM Phil Emery said after the draft. Especially since our rosters limit went up to 90, were going to need some more players at all the positions. Were looking to sign a couple and keep improving that roster and keep bringing up the competitive level of that group.

But the major additions have been made -- Marshall, defensive end Shea McClellin, wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, thirdnickel safety Brandon Hardin, tight end Evan Rodriguez.

The supplements now are filling in rotations (a veteran defensive tackle) or ideally the pipeline for the future (undrafted free agent tackle James Brown from Troy). Some shuffling in an area like the offensive line is possible, even likely, but the key pieces are in the house, save running back Matt Forte contractually.

The Bears started last season with five first-year undrafted free agents on the roster, getting significant impact out of wide receiver Dane Sanzenbacher on offense and linebacker Dom DeCicco and safety Winston Venable on special teams.

But the top three defensive ends are in place -- McClellin, Israel Idonije and Julius Peppers. The top three tackles are set -- Henry Melton, Stephen Paea, Matt Toeaina. The Bears have two ends in Idonije and Chauncey Davis who can play on the inside and the team has generally gone with seven defensive linemen active on game day.

Emery did not indicate that he felt defensive tackle promised a lot from this point on.

The problem with the defensive line position in college free agency and in the draft, its very thin, so the numbers arent there, Emery said.

The Bears first wave of college free agent signings:

RB

Alvester Alexader, Wyoming

WR

Terriun Crump, Western Illinois
Britton Golden, West Texas A&M
Chris Summers, Liberty

OT

James Brown; Troy
A.J. Greene, Albany

DT

Ronnie Cameron. Old Dominion

LB

Adrien Cole, Louisiana Tech
Ronnie Thornton, Southern Mississippi

S

Trevor Coston, Maine
Jeremy Jones, Wayne State

Jonathan Toews' late goal sends Blackhawks to win over Canucks

Jonathan Toews' late goal sends Blackhawks to win over Canucks

Jonathan Toews recorded a four-point night, including the game-winning goal, and Corey Crawford recorded his 200th career victory as the Blackhawks beat the Vancouver Canucks 4-2 on Sunday night.

Crawford, who had struggled in recent starts, stopped 25 of 27 shots in this one. Brian Campbell garnered his 500th career point with his primary assist on Panik's goal. Toews recorded two assists, moving ahead of Jeremy Roenick for 13th among the Blackhawks' all-time assist leaders (330).

Marian Hossa, who recorded an empty-net goal late, garnered his 400th point in a Blackhawks uniform.

The Blackhawks had one of their best first periods on Sunday night, outshooting the Canucks 18-9 and taking that 2-0 lead. Richard Panik scored his 11th goal of the season from the slot off Campbell's feed and Patrick Kane scored his 15th goal of the season.

The third wasn't nearly as good as Troy Stecher scored a power-play goal and Bo Horvat scored 46 seconds later. But Toews scored off a carom off the backboards with 1:18 remaining to regain a 3-2 lead, and Hossa’s empty-net goal sealed it.

Bad blood fueled Bears-Vikings playoff bout profiled in 'Bears Classics: Eclipsing Moon'

Bad blood fueled Bears-Vikings playoff bout profiled in 'Bears Classics: Eclipsing Moon'

From the high ground of hindsight, what unfolded in the Metrodome that day in 1995 was actually quite a big deal. But not for reasons that you could have really understood at the time watching the Bears stun the Minnesota Vikings 35-18 in the wild card round of the 1994 playoffs.

It was not so much the game alone. It was the overall context of the time for the Bears, before and after.

Though the 1995 season would get off to a 6-2 start for the Bears before their near-historic collapse, the Minnesota game would prove to be the high-water mark for the coaching tenure of Dave Wannstedt. This was the postseason, and the Bears looked to be going where then-president Mike McCaskey envisioned when he made the play to beat the New York Giants in securing Wannstedt, who was unquestionably the hot coaching prospect coming out of the Dallas Super Bowl pantheon after the 1992 season.

To fully grasp the situation, you need to understand the undercurrent of venom that had developed between the Bears and Vikings. Bears-Packers might have been the glitzy rivalry, but what had grown between the Bears and Vikings was true hostility, with little of the respect that the Bears and Packers had managed. The Vikings carried grudges for Pro Bowl slights going back almost to the Bears' Super Bowl win. One Bears defensive lineman remarked that his most hated opponent was Minnesota right tackle Tim Irwin, adding, "He's a guy that, if I ran over him with a car, I'd back up over him to make sure I got him." Dwayne Rudd's backpedaling taunt after an interception came a couple years later, but you get the idea.

What's easily forgotten looking back through the mists of time was the epic decision made by Wannstedt to make a quarterback change, from a quarterback he wanted in free agency to one he knew well from their time together at the University of Miami. That was every bit the turning point of the season and the real reason the playoff trip and win ever happened.

The Bears had been annihilated in their first game against the Vikings in the 1994 season — 42-14 — and something was really, really wrong, which become glaringly more evident just a few weeks later, even though the Bears were reaching a 4-2 mark under quarterback Erik Kramer, the centerpiece of an aggressive offseason foray into free agency. But the Bears then lost — badly — to the Lions and Packers, with Kramer throwing three interceptions against Detroit and two against Green Bay, the latter in only 10 pass attempts.

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I talked privately to Kramer after the Green Bay game, specifically about why it was that he was playing his absolute worst against Detroit, Green Bay and Minnesota, all teams with which he was intimately familiar. My thought: You know those defenses and where their people are going to be.

Kramer shook his head: "The 'other guys' I know. It's my own guys. I don't know where they're supposed to be."

It wasn't a comment on his receivers whatsoever. It was Kramer admitting bluntly that he was not getting the West Coast scheme of coordinator Ron Turner and its timing element.

Wannstedt knew it wasn't working and made the change to Steve Walsh, who'd been the Hurricanes' quarterback under Jimmy Johnson when Wannstedt was the defensive coordinator.

That was the tipping point, and Walsh and Wannstedt are among the principals of "Bears Classics: Eclipsing Moon," airing on Monday at 8 p.m. on CSN.

Anyone with any time spent in or around the NFL knows that beating a team three times in a season is incredibly difficult. The Bears had been blown out in the first Minnesota game but had pushed the Vikings to overtime in the second and would have won had Kevin Butler not missed a 40-yard field goal try.

The playoff meeting was No. 3, and after the Vikings put up a field goal in the first quarter, the Bears scored with a Lewis Tillman touchdown in the second and just pulled steadily away from the winner of the only NFL division that produced four teams with winning records.

From there it would be another decade-plus — 2006 season — before the Bears would win a playoff game.