Moon: Seahawk'ing while waiting for Eagles - Pack

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Moon: Seahawk'ing while waiting for Eagles - Pack

Sunday, Jan. 9, 2011
3:28 p.m.

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

If the Philadelphia Eagles get past the Green Bay Packers, the Bears will have to deal with Michael Vick and that Eagles offense for a second time since Thanksgiving. Until that happens, and I dont think it will, lets think Seahawks:

The Bears had beaten Seattle three of the last four times the teams met before this seasons stumblefest in Soldier Field.

Victories are usually turning points in seasons but the Seattle game was one of the turning points in the Bears season because that and the Washington game that followed forced Mike Martz and Jay Cutler to make changes in the planning and the execution of the offense, respectively.

Against a Seahawks team that was in the bottom third of the NFL in rushing yards allowed, Martz called exactly 12 running plays combined for Matt Forte and Chester Taylor. Less than two weeks after Cutler was given a concussion by the New York Giants, Martz called 45 pass plays. Cutler was sacked six times and completed less than half of his throws.

That debacle was followed by Cutlers 4-interception performance against Washington, a game in which he also was sacked four times. In the off week, high-level discussions resulted in a dramatic shift in the balance of the offense and the season, along probably with a lot of jobs beginning with Lovie Smiths, was saved.

Seattle ran the ball 31 times for 111 yards and a modest 3.6 yards per carry. The Bears averaged 4.4 per rush, yet Martz called on Forte and Taylor just those 14 times. Matt Hasselbeck and Cutler each threw for yardage in the 240s but Cutler was sacked those six times and Hasselbeck went un-sacked.

Thats how you lose to a team with a new head coach and a roster with 200-some changes since the end of last season. If it does end up being the Seahawks at the end of Sunday for the Bears in their division-round game, Bears will advance to the NFC Championship game for the second time under Smith.

Saints ain't
If the Seattle Seahawks did nothing else, they disabused the myth of the New Orleans Saints. Well, maybe not entirely a myth, because myths do not win Super Bowls.

But the question was raised to me on repeated occasions last week as to what team represented the most acute threat to the Bears. The one I saw as the least dangerous, from among Seattle, New Orleans, Green Bay and Philadelphia, was New Orleans. The reason wasnt any sort of clairvoyance; if I had that, Id be writing this from aboard the S.S. Moon from somewhere south of, oh, maybe the Southern Cross.

No, so much of the NFL is about matchups. The Bears as constructed by Jerry Angelo and Lovie Smith put down the Saints annually from 2005-08, four straight wins and the last three of which were in Soldier Field, which is where this years game would have been played.

The Seahawks did to the Saints about what I thought the Bears would have.

Resume Boost

The Bears defense is looking even better as the Green Bay Packers roll out to a 14-0 lead on Philadelphia. Thats the same Packers offense that was kept in check, in Green Bay, by the Bears, held to 10 points in a true must game for Aaron Rodgers and an offense that was averaging 25 ppg.

Keys to the Game

If the weekly keys to the game from coaches like Lovie Smith sound repetitive, its because they are, and should be. Turnovers. Giveaways. Takeaways. And they come in different forms.

Green Bay handed away a touchdown with the dropped ball by James Jones late in the first half and then handed Philadelphia a re-admit ticket to the game with Aaron Rodgers fumble early in the third quarter that the Eagles turned into a touchdown.

The fumble was forced. The muffed TD was not.
Bear-talkin'

I'll check in Monday about 6:05 a.m. with long-time pals at WGN-AM 720 and see what we think about the way this divisional round will set up....

John "Moon" Mullin is CSNChicago.com's Bears Insider, and appears regularly on Bears Postgame Live and Chicago Tribune Live. Follow Moon on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bears information.

Preview: White Sox, Royals tangle Friday night on CSN

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Preview: White Sox, Royals tangle Friday night on CSN

The White Sox take on the Royals on Friday, and you can catch all the action on Comcast SportsNet. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. from Kansas City. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on White Sox Postgame Live.

Today’s starting pitching matchup: Miguel Gonzalez (0-1, 4.57 ERA) vs. Danny Duffy (0-0, 2.13 ERA)

Click here for a game preview to make sure you’re ready for the action.  

[SHOP WHITE SOX: Get your White Sox gear right here]

— Channel finder: Make sure you know where to watch.

— Latest on the White Sox: All of the most recent news and notes.

— See what fans are talking about before, during and after the game with White Sox Pulse.

Preview: Cubs, Phillies start series today on CSN

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Preview: Cubs, Phillies start series today on CSN

The Cubs take on the Phillies on Friday, and you can catch all the action on Comcast SportsNet. Coverage begins with Cubs Pregame Live at 12:30 p.m. Then catch first pitch with Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on Cubs Postgame Live.

Today’s starting pitching matchup: Jon Lester (4-3, 2.60 ERA) vs. Adam Morgan (1-2, 5.61 ERA)

Click here for a game preview to make sure you’re ready for the action.  

[SHOP CUBS: Get your Cubs gear right here]

— Channel finder: Make sure you know where to watch.

— Latest on the Cubs: All of the most recent news and notes.

— See what fans are talking about before, during and after the game with Cubs Pulse.

Bears' move away from Forte part of change in run-game philosophy

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Bears' move away from Forte part of change in run-game philosophy

The Bears’ decision to move on from Matt Forte, the No. 2 running back in franchise history behind only Walter Payton in yardage, was not necessarily an easy one. It was, however, unanimous at Halas Hall, sources told CSNChicago.com. And it was also part of a significant deeper change in the main operating principle underpinning the Bears’ rushing offense.

Depending upon what Forte does with the New York Jets — and for how long — the decision might be open to question. Few NFL decisions aren’t.

But the Bears’ offense under John Fox and new coordinator Dowell Loggains was clearly going away from what Forte was accustomed to — a true featured back with a relief-back in the form of a Chester Taylor/Marion Barber/Michael Bush — and moving onto a true use of two backs in the fashion that Fox’s Denver Broncos offenses used them.

The change will be more than just a few carries. Forte lost carries last season to Jeremy Langford and Ka'Deem Carey. This is different.

Instead of Forte and an understudy, as the de facto rushing offense has been since Forte was drafted in 2008, the Bears this offseason made the decision to emphasize the run even more under Loggains, and that has meant something other than simply more carries for Forte’s understudy.

For perspective purposes: Last season Forte missed three full games due to a knee injury but still totaled 276 touches (carries plus targets) to 236 combined for Jeremy Langford and Ka’Deem Carey. When Forte returned from the three-game injury break, the offense had changed. Forte had four 20-carry games in the first six. He had one over the final six.

Forte did not appear publicly to genuinely embrace the job-sharing approach as Langford’s carries matched and in cases exceeded his own. Whether he would have been on board with ceding even more meaningful time to a co-back is another matter that would have been open to question, though any suspicions that direction are now moot.

(If Forte would have had problems with younger backs rising, he would not have been the first; Thomas Jones ultimately demanded a trade after the Lovie Smith Bears drafted Cedric Benson to broaden the run game.)

Regardless, the true multi-back system will be a change for the Bears, harking back perhaps to the Bears building their run game on two starter-grade backs in Benson and Jones. The Bears’ unsuccessful attempt to bring in C.J. Anderson from Denver suggests less a no-confidence vote in either Carey or Langford than a measure of the commitment to both competition and a depth chart with meaning past the top one or even two names. The Bears have used mid-round picks on running backs in three straight drafts (Carey, Langford, Jordan Howard this year), making the same point the Anderson interest did.

And that’s how Langford took the Howard selection to a position that where confidence in him was one of the reasons the organization was OK with parting with Forte.

“I really didn’t think too much of (the Howard pick),” Langford said. “I know it’s just competition. That’s what brings a lot of running backs, a lot of positions, to push themselves even more. Competition is always a good thing, and playing in the NFL, there’s always going to be competition, so you can’t really become too complacent as a player.”

“Complacent” wasn’t a word anyone was likely to apply to Langford, and certainly to Carey, who played his way up from a roster bubble at the end of training camp last year. And Howard as a fifth-round rookie isn’t guaranteed anything for awhile in training camp except reps with the 2s or 3s, with Jacquizz Rodgers also re-signed after an injury shortened 2015.

Loggains has been dealt a hand without an ace like Forte but with what he and the organization think can be three or four kings, depending on roster decisions at the end of August.

“We like where Jeremy’s at,” Loggains said. “He needs to continue to develop. There’s things he can do a better job of in the passing game, but we still like our other backs. Ka’Deem Carey finished strong for us last year. We obviously drafted a back. We’re excited about getting Jacquizz Rodgers back as well.”