Boden: Will 'bold' work for the Bears, too?

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Boden: Will 'bold' work for the Bears, too?

The 49ers and Ravens punched their Super Bowl tickets Sunday. But that route to New Orleans got a shot in the arm during the season with two bold, some would say controversial, moves that couldve rocked each team and blown up this eventual ride.

Oh, those Harbaugh boys.

As the Bears well know, Jim rolled the dice with the Colin Kaepernick-for-Alex Smith swap at quarterback right before that mid-November Monday Nighter. Nine starts later, hell be on the sports biggest stage. Smith was the safe route. The sophomore signal-caller from Milwaukee via Nevada had the higher ceiling. Only Harbaugh seemed to know how quickly he was capable of reaching it. And he probably hasnt yet, but hes gone high enough to get the Niners back in "The Big One."

In early December, John didnt like what he saw in the Ravens offense, either. His move didnt involve Joe Flacco but the (get this, Bears fans) the offensive coordinator. With three games left, Cam Cameron was out, and ex-Colts head coach Jim Caldwell was in. Now, the return to health of Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs, and adjustments to injuries in the secondary are certainly a huge factor, but Flaccos found another level under Caldwell.

Two moves by the Harbaughs to get the most out of their quarterbacks has wound up getting the most from their respective teams.

Rather than look back and debate whether moving Jay Cutlers trusted coach Jeremy Bates into a play-calling position above Mike Tice wouldve saved the season, lets look ahead and talk about Phil Emerys bold decision last week.

His hand-picked man over 13 or 14 other interviewees - Marc Trestman was not even interviewed by any of the other clubs looking for a new head coach. If not for Emery, Trestmans likely preparing for a sixth season running the Montreal Alouettes.

A season wasnt on the line like it was in San Francisco and Baltimore, but Emerys positive reputation (so far) as general manager is, for the NFLs charter franchise. Bears players are publicly buying in to the new man in charge but privately, they have to be wondering why no one else was interested in Trestman, and why hes been MIA from the NFL the past eight years, save for one season advising Sean Payton in New Orleans. Trestman was interviewed in Indianapolis a year ago for the job that eventually went to Chuck Pagano.

Bruce Arians would have been the safer candidate with the more recent proven track record in the league. These Bears can see what he did with the Colts and Andrew Luck, and prior to that, Ben Roethlisberger. But Trestman won the interview sweepstakes with Emery, and hell have to win the Lovie-lovin Bears players over, through OTAs and minicamps before they even report to Bourbonnais. And well see if Emerys bold, reputation-staking hire is the right one.

That brings us to next season. The Bears that got Lovie Smith fired won 10 games. Would fans - and the organization view anything less in 2013 as a disappointment? Would missing the playoffs again be more acceptable if noticeable offensive strides are made under Trestman, but a defense facing turnover at certain spots (while generating fewer turnovers) cant match what it did this year? That wouldve been difficult even if Smith, Rod Marinelli, and that staff remained intact.

But its something Bears fans should probably begin grasping. First-year turnarounds arent uncommon these days. The Harbaughs did it in their first seasons in Baltimore and San Francisco. Is that what youre expecting after Emerys bold decision? And is that fair? Thatll no doubt be Trestmans goal, but how much rope will you give the man if hes like every other first-year Bears coach since George Halas, and fail to make the playoffs?

What will you be saying and thinking a year from now if thats what happens?

Bears defensive problems vs. Cowboys not complicated (unfortunately)

Bears defensive problems vs. Cowboys not complicated (unfortunately)

That the Dallas Cowboys were able to put 447 yards, almost 200 of them running the football, and 31 points on the Bears was concerning in itself. The way much of it happened, however, was perhaps more concerning, even if not completely surprising.

And the issues were in more than one area.

The rushing yards, of which 140 were provided on 30 carries by rookie Ezekiel Elliott, were largely gained by simply pounding away on an undermanned Bears front seven. The Bears have allowed 10 runs of 10 yards or more; five of those came in Dallas.

The problem was an alarmingly simple one. Not scheme, not missed assignments.

“We were getting blocked and not getting off blocks well enough,” defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said on Wednesday. “But basically getting blocked most of the time, a guy or two every time was just getting blocked.”

The defense was without linchpin and nose tackle Eddie Goldman (ankle) as well as inside linebacker and co-captain Danny Trevathan. In Trevathan’s spot, rookie Nick Kwiatkoski started and played on 18 of Dallas’ snaps (26 percent).

He did OK,” Fangio said. “Again, he was part of those guys that got blocked some. Had some good plays, some not so good. The first play of the game that popped out of there for 21 yards, he was at the point of attack on that one. It was OK, hope for better, expect better moving forward.”

The Bears use something of a hybrid form of gap control, not strictly two-gap with linemen responsible for gaps on either side of the blocker in front of them, and not strictly one-gap, with a tighter responsibility but with expectations that the defender get more penetration and disruption.

The system is what one lineman described as “gap-and-a-half,” playing their assigned gap but also with responsibility to help out with one other assigned gap. They are not head-up on offensive linemen, being slightly shaded toward a gap a’la one-gap schemes most of the time.

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The Bears generally were unable to control either their assigned or their secondary gaps.

The issues were not confined to the run defense. The Bears’ pass rush was virtually non-existent (zero sacks, one hit on Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott) and yet it allowed Prescott to scramble free three times, converting first downs on all three.

“Our rush wasn’t good enough when they weren’t throwing it quick,” Fangio said, “and it was evident by the times [Prescott] scrambled. He scrambled three times for first downs and they hurt us.

“Our rush wasn’t good enough. There are a lot of passes that the rush won’t be a factor because it is coming out fast. But we have to get better coverage to make them hold the ball longer, too.”

Bears have run hurry-up offense, Brian Hoyer style

Bears have run hurry-up offense, Brian Hoyer style

Brian Hoyer spent Wednesday’s practice as the presumptive No. 1 quarterback, sources said, and with Jay Cutler limited due to his thumb injury, the Bears began prep for the Detroit Lions next Sunday in Soldier Field with Hoyer getting more used to the offense that he has only sparingly run since training camp.

Some of Hoyer’s teammates spent Wednesday’s practice getting a little more used to him.

A veteran of 27 NFL starts, Hoyer doesn’t do things the way Cutler does them. He doesn’t throw as hard. He doesn’t throw as far. And he runs a sort-of hurry-up offense compared to Cutler.

“Hoyer has a real good sense of urgency to him,” said left tackle Charles Leno Jr. “He’s more fast paced. He likes to quicken up things, whether it’s the cadence, the flow – he just has a real natural sense of urgency about himself.”

This involves more than just a feeling. The Bears ARE faster under Hoyer, based on one very unofficial measure, because game situations differ even though the Bears ultimately lost all three games.

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Based on snaps and time played, the Bears have run 2.2 plays per minute with Cutler. They have run 2.6 per minute, approaching 20 percent more, under “urgent” Hoyer.

The play rate, however, is not entirely on the quarterback. Like all teams, the Bears build tempos into their system, and defenses also dictate some of how the Bears elect to work.

Still, “Jay is more laid back, more relaxed, even-keeled,” Leno said, smiling. “But that’s just Hoyer, more sense of urgency."