Could Tommie Harris be key for Bears vs. Pats?

Could Tommie Harris be key for Bears vs. Pats?
December 9, 2010, 5:30 pm
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Thursday, Dec. 9, 2010
Posted: 11:23 a.m.
By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

Another thoughtful Thursday go-round with Mac and Spiegs on "The Danny Mac Show" on WSCR-AM 670, which I always like not just because the guys are fun to hang and talk football with, but because I get story ideas when we visit...

Like it occurring to me that there is likely to be a surprise player for Bears who could have a dramatic influence on this game if the Bears are going to win. Danny and Matt didn't instantly buy in (they will) but my quick pick for that player is Tommie Harris.

Harris has done little of note all season, making him one of the few legitimate personnel disappointments in a season otherwise relatively free of them. But Harris also has been played sparingly and at this time of year, when he has traditionally worn down a bit, he has a chance to be the impact player against a New England offensive line that is one of the NFL's best but also gave up three sacks of Tom Brady last Monday night. We'll see.

Harris or Julius Peppers or Israel Idonije or Henry Melton rank as keys to the game if only because pressure is the only reliable way to cope with Tom Brady. The Bears have fared well through this mid-section of the season relying primarily on their front four creating pressure, with the occasional D.J. Moore blitz sack, and leaving the back seven to create a weed patch for Brady to get through is crucial.

But the game strategically could be taken out of Harris' and a lot of others' hands if, as we talked over, Bill Belichick can goad, scheme, entice, force, whatever, Mike Martz into abandon the offensive recipe that has been instrumental in the Bears' 5-0 run the past month-plus.

I do expect Chester Taylor to play Sunday, by the way. The veteran running back was held out of Wednesday's practice with a sore knee but he has missed just five games in a career of nearly nine years.

Taylor and Matt Forte have been instrumental in the Bears' season turnaround simply by their utilization in Mike Martz's "new" offense. The two have caught 19 passes over the last five games while combining for no fewer than 20 carries in any of those five.

Some observers want to dismiss the New England wins over Martz's Detroit and San Francisco offenses in 2006 and 2008, respectively. The reasoning is that Martz simply didn't have the personnel to match up with Belichick's defense.

The problem with that, as I detailed in a previous blog, is that the Lions turned the ball over on their final three possessions to lose. The 49ers led 14-7 roughly 10 minutes into their game with the Patriots and then could score just once in the final 50 minutes.

The point really isn't to pick on Martz so much as to look objectively at his history vs. one of the elite defensive schemers in the NFL.

Looking forward now to visiting with the guys again next Thursday. By then we'll know how Harris, Martz, Belichick and all the rest played out.

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.