Bears know wounded Lions are still dangerous

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Bears know wounded Lions are still dangerous

The Detroit Lions have inflicted their share of injury to opponents and now are limping into a Game 16 with one starting defensive lineman on injured reserve, his replacement not able to practice and their best defensive back also not practicing at the end of a season in which he has played just seven games so far.

Defensive tackle and 2011 first-rounder Nick Fairley went on IR and his fill-in, Sammie Hill suffered a toe injury in Detroits loss to Atlanta. Safety Louis Delmas has battled a knee injury all season and cornerback Jacob Lacey was lost to IR with a knee injury in the Arizona game two weeks ago.

But the Bears arent especially concerned about who wont be there. For one thing, all five of the Lions who registered sacks of Jay Cutler in the Bears 13-7 win on Oct. 22 linemen Cliff Avril, Ndamukong Suh and Kyle Vanden Bosch, and linebackers Stephen Tulloch and Justin Durant are playing.

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A couple guys banged up up front but theyve still got Suh, still got the edge rushers, new corner out there, said quarterback Jay Cutler. But its the scheme. Theyre going to try to get a lot of pressure from the front four, bring a few guys and play coverage behind it. Nothing we havent seen and we wont be prepared for.

The 2012 problem

Cutler has played as well against Detroit as against any team in his career. His teams have been 6-2 against the Lions and he has thrown 11 touchdown passes vs. one interception and put up a rating of 100.9, vs. a career rating of 83.9.

But Cutler has yet to establish himself as a championship quarterback and Sunday is one of those situations. The Bears have totaled just 13 points in two of the last three Detroit games, and the 37 in the third, game two of 2011 was deceiving. The offense netted 216 yards, the defense scored twice on interceptions and Devin Hester took a punt return to the end zone.

The Bears have won eight of their last nine games against the Lions but the credit belonged to more than the offense.

MORE: Win one for the...Lovie?

Indeed, part of the goal for the Bears offense on Sunday will be to play defense.

You want to flip the field, said coordinator Mike Tice. Theyre a very high-powered offense Detroit and we want to make sure we sustain drives.

We got back to doing pretty good in the red-zone again, so we want to get down in the red zone, because we had that stub-toe against Green Bay in the red-zone but over the last month or so, weve been pretty doggone good in the red-zone. So we want to continue that, so I told the guys this morning, Lets get in there more. And thatll be good, because we are pretty good in the red zone, actually.

Defensive disasters

The Lions have notoriety on defense Suh is a perennial top finisher in surveys of dirtiest in the NFL but the problems are more than reputation at this point.

In Detroits seven-game losing streak, the Lions have held no opponent to fewer than 24 points and have fallen to 29th in points allowed for the season (27.4).

The Bears have fallen hard in their last seven games but at least won two of the seven, the only two times (Minnesota, Arizona) they scored more than 17 points over that span.

The problem is that while the Bears rank ninth with 121.7 rushing yards per game, they have a No. 1 back (Matt Forte) dealing with an ankle injury and the No. 3 (Armando Allen) missing practice with a knee injury from the Arizona game.

MORE: Toub says Lovie 'needs to stay here'

The Lions are 26th in rush yards allowed per attempt (4.5 per carry). The Bears were able to escape the first Detroit game with a 13-7 win in large part because they were able to rush for 171 yards and average 5.3 per carry, one of only five times this season they have topped 4.5 per carry.

The plan is to slow the Detroit pass rush with a running game marked by efficiency: four or more yards on first downs. The Bears struggled early in Arizona when they took and missed shots downfield early and faced too many second- and third-and-long situations. Against a Lions rush that sacked Cutler five times in the first game, the Bears want to control the tempo if not the bigger picture.

We cant control our own destiny, but we can control our half of it, which is winning a football game, Tice said. Thats what were intent on doing: going into Detroit and winning a football game.

Brandon Marshall responds to tweet asking if he misses Jay Cutler

Brandon Marshall responds to tweet asking if he misses Jay Cutler

The bromance of Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall began in Denver when they were drafted together in 2006, and then shifted to Chicago in 2012 via a trade to complete the reunion.

The two instantly hit it off and developed a close relationship on and off the field, a large reason why the Bears acquired Marshall to help spark some old magic.

But things took a turn when Marshall was traded to the New York Jets last offseason.

Asked on Twitter if he misses his former quarterback, Marshall responded with a genuine answer:

Bears sign Chicago native Tony Moeaki, defensive lineman Marquis Jackson

Bears sign Chicago native Tony Moeaki, defensive lineman Marquis Jackson

Tony Moeaki is coming home.

The Bears announced on Thursday that they have signed the former Wheaton Warrenville South standout.

Moeaki attended Bears minicamp on a tryout and impressed the coaching staff enough to secure a deal.

The 29-year-old Moeaki appeared in 11 games for the Atlanta Falcons last season and recorded three catches for 58 yards and a touchdown. Moeaki was originally selected by the Kansas City Chiefs in the third-round (93rd overall) of the 2010 NFL Draft out of Iowa. He has 91 receptions for 1,201 yards and six touchdowns in 48 career games.

Moeaki is expected to provide tight end depth and compete for a backup spot behind starter Zach Miller.

The Bears also announced the signing of defensive lineman Marquis Jackson, the twin brother of former Denver Broncos Super Bowl champion and current Jacksonville Jaguars defensive lineman Malik Jackson. Marquis Jackson entered the NFL in 2013 with the Minnesota Vikings as an undrafted free agent out of Portland State, but has not appeared in a regular-season NFL game. 

In corresponding roster moves, the Bears waived defensive lineman Kenton Adeyemi and linebacker Don Cherry.

Minicamp wrap: Three answers to 'So, how do the Bears look?'

Minicamp wrap: Three answers to 'So, how do the Bears look?'

The Bears concluded their three-day mandatory minicamp on Thursday, ending on a short-term feel-good — coach John Fox canceling the last offseason practice before training camp starts on July 27.

“They’ve earned it,” Fox said with a tone that suggested a degree of satisfaction in what he’d seen at this point of his 15th NFL head coaching season. “I don’t just do that because I feel like it. They worked real hard. We had great participation and they worked extremely hard. They earned it.”

Positive beliefs are frequently easy to find this far in advance of games that matter. But within the work of the OTA’s and minicamp were “tells,” signs that the Bears clearly believe they are nothing like the squad that wobbled through four losses in its final five games to finish 6-10.

But how exactly DO the Bears look as their pre-camp work wraps up? Three answers to that question emerged over the past several weeks:

1. They really AREN’T the same team from a year ago, or even six months ago.

Fox is among those who maintain that big jumps occur from year one to year two for players, particularly young ones. But more than individual players make year-one-to-year-two leaps.

Fox’s Carolina Panthers improved from seven to 11 wins from his first to second seasons with them, reaching the Super Bowl in year two (2003). His Denver Broncos teams went from eight wins in Fox’s year-one (2011) to 13 in year two.

“It’s hard to predict what’s going to happen,” Fox said. “But I’m pleased with where we are this year. If I had to compare to something, it would be this time last year and I feel much better about where we are now than I did at this time a year ago.”

Easy to say, but consider: This time a year ago, six current starters on defense (Mitch Unrein, Lamarr Houston, Willie Young, Tracy Porter, Harold Jones-Quartey) were not practicing. Jones-Quartey and Unrein were not even Bears.

This time a year ago, Jared Allen was trying to be a linebacker. Brock Vereen was a starting safety. Eddie Goldman was out of shape and barely practicing. Kevin White was busy stress-fracturing his left leg. Jordan Mills was the starting right tackle.

Yes, Fox should feel “much better.”

2.  Bears D is visibly “night and day from last year”

The 2015 Bears defense went into Week 17 last season with exactly one defensive lineman (Will Sutton) who’d been with the team going into training camp. The unit finished 29th allowing third-down conversions and 30th in interception rate, among other less-than-stellar indicators.

Through this minicamp, the practice field frequently echoed with whoops from a defense that had picked off a pass or knocked a football loose. Quarterback Jay Cutler was rarely intercepted through camp last year, a sign of what was to come under coordinator Adam Gase through the regular season. This year he has not had his way with the defense.

“Just going against them from my perspective, it seems like night and day from last year,” Cutler said. “Just going against these guys, it’s a much different group, much different group. They’re faster, they’re quicker and they’ve got a confidence about them. I think Vic [Fangio, defensive coordinator] really doing a good job of mixing it up and showing us different looks.

“They’re going to help us out, get some short fields, get some turnovers, put some pressure on us to do our job on offense.”

3. Meshing vets adamant: “We can accomplish a lot here.”

Simply bringing a bunch of even talented veterans assures absolutely nothing (insert Daniel Snyder joke here). The Bears experienced that when in 2014 they brought in Allen, Houston and Young, then saw the defense remain at epic lows as the Bears went from 8-8 to 5-11.

This offseason the Bears brought in two starting inside linebackers (Jerrell Freeman, Danny Trevathan) behind a massive defensive end (Akiem Hicks). On offense, Kyle Long returned to guard from tackle as the Bears signed workout-mate Bobby Massie, among other changes.

And the result of bringing together multiple players from winning programs has contributed to a palpable attitude adjustment to one that was conspicuously absent last year.

“I feel like, that you know a lot of people doubt [teammates] or some guys were hurt last year or this and that,” said Trevathan, a Super Bowl winner with Denver last season and who had his ring on display for teammates on Wednesday. “But you know, they're playing like they're hungry, with a chip on their shoulder. They're playing like they're hungry and that's what I'm used to and that's where you need to start.”

“Hungry” in June doesn’t necessarily mean wins in Fall. But a lack of hunger or shoulder-chip typically does point to looming problems, so the strong attitude the other way does count for something.

“There’s a lot of great talent here,” said Massie, a playoff veteran from the Arizona Cardinals under coach Bruce Arians. “And this team can accomplish a lot of good things. From the past team I’ve been with I see a lot of the things that we had with those past teams here. So we can accomplish a lot here.”