Bears' takeaways from NFC, AFC Championship games

Bears' takeaways from NFC, AFC Championship games
January 19, 2014, 9:45 pm
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I’ll have to look at the film to be sure, but Denver’s 26-16 win over the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship gave pause...

Taking a pass

Peyton Manning completed seven passes of 20 yards or longer. That probably shouldn’t be a complete surprise when a quarterback passes for 400 yards.

But Manning had at least one pass of 10 yards or longer to eight different receivers. Demaryius Thomas (134 yards) was the only Bronco with more than 85 receiving yards.

The point wasn’t the number of receivers used, but rather that the quality of overall offense can move chains and break big plays. The Bears were 1-4 in games this season when their quarterback passed for 300 or more yards.

Draft a quarterback?

The Bears’ stated need for defense likely will preclude drafting a quarterback. And Josh McCown may be even-money to return to the Bears; confirmed a report by ESPN’s Adam Schefter that McCown has no intention of retiring, although the Bears won’t have an uncontested route to arguably the best all-around No. 2 in the NFL.

[BEARS: Tillman a finalist for Walter Payton Man of the Year award]

But both the Seahawks and 49ers were in Sunday’s NFC Championship game behind quarterbacks taken in spite of what appeared to be No. 1’s I place. The 49ers selected Colin Kaepernick in 2011 second round even with Alex Smith in place as the starter. Seattle drafted Wilson in the 2012 third round barely a month after lavishing huge money on Matt Flynn.

The Bears have better quarterbacking than either San Francisco or San Francisco. If Phil Emery and staff do what they need to do for the defense, the Bears have an offense that will have them challenging the Seahawks and 49ers...soon.

3-4? 4-3? That’s not the point

As the Denver-New England game also confirmed, it’s not the scheme; it’s the players.

The 49ers are a 3-4 defense but the crux of the matter is not whether it’s a 4-3 or 3-4, it’s whether you draft Aldon Smith. For the record, 6-4, 265 pounds, seventh-overall pick of the 2011 draft.

NaVorro Bowman’s sack of Russell Wilson at the end of the first quarter was off a linebacker blitz in an alignment where the supposed 3-4 scheme had no nose tackle and loosed Bowman and Smith from the same side, the right edge. Bowman is regularly lined up inside, to the defense’s left side.

Therein lies the rub of what Mel Tucker and the Bears want to have happen with their defense. Shea McClellin likely will not morph into Smith just by taking his hand off the ground (one of the rare cases of defensive guru Rod Marinelli forcing a square peg into a round hole and not tailoring coaching to a player’s talents).

But if a freed-up approach to scheme puts McClellin and, say, Lance Briggs blitzing off the same side, the Bears will be better off.

Ninkovich/Shea McClellin

Phil Emery referenced New England rush linebacker Rob Ninkovich as an example of what the Bears hope that Shea McClellin can become with proper handling. But Ninkovich was part of a 3-4 Patriots defense that was brutalized for 507 yards and points on six straight possessions. He had zero sacks (no Patriot had a sack or even a hit on Peyton Manning, for that matter) and was velcro’d to Broncos right tackle Orlando Franklin.

Franklin was a second-round Denver pick in 2011. The same draft in which the Bears took Gabe play right tackle.