Moon: Changing of the guard?


Moon: Changing of the guard?

But whos counting?

The 4-0 start for the Detroit Lions is all that ultimately matters right now but what coach Jim Schwartz and the infusion of new talent to go with a core the likes of wideout Calvin Johnson and left tackle Jeff Backus has the Lions on a 12-game winning streak, which is the stuff of culture-changing.

Detroit won its last four in 2010, all four in the 2011 preseason and now the current run of four. If the Lions arent for real this year.

Of course, carriages do turn into pumpkins, as the 2009 Denver Broncos illustrated. Kyle Orton got them to 6-0 with wins over Cincinnati, Dallas, New England and San Diego, all eventual division champions and a far more impressive conquest card than the Lions that is a combined 6-10. The Denver Cinderella lost eight of the next 10 to finish out of the postseason.

The 2007 Lions with Mike Martz coordinating the offense went pumpkin after a 6-2 start to finish 7-9.

Still, even with the jaw-dropping second-half stupidities by the Minnesota Vikings and Dallas Cowboys to blow 20-point leads to Detroit, the 2011 Lions believe theyre good. That makes them dangerous. And it doesnt altogether surprise the Bears.

Ive seen it coming over the past few years, said cornerback Charles Tillman. I never thought they were a terrible team. I just think that they never jelled together. Now theyre getting all the jelling, theyre believing and theyre winning games. Theyre doing a helluva a job.

But the Lions are skating around the edge of a hype volcano. Sports Illustrated is putting the Lions on this weeks cover, and Michael David Smith over at captures the growing mania that has even reached the point of declaring Ndamukong Suh a better draft choice than Barry Sanders (http:tinyurl.com42ydoo3).

This is a fork in the emotional road. Just one, but its a national stage for a team that hasnt been on it since 2001, and when the whole world is telling you how good you are, it only takes a few in a locker room to start believing it for some unraveling to start.

The Bears would like to help that get started.

Help wanted

Linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa will be working out for the Bears on Wednesday, according to various sources. The veteran started 10 of the first 11 games last season, was hampered by the knee injuries that have plagued his career and missed four games, then returned and started the NFC Championship game.

Another offseason knee surgery sent the Bears committing to Nick Roach as the starter on the strong side. But the linebacking group is seriously thin on experience and Tinoisamoa has been a favorite of Lovie Smiths since Tinoisamoas 2003 rookie season with the St. Louis Rams under Smith as defensive coordinator.

Worthy nominee

Not surprisingly, Matt Forte is among the nominees for the FedEx Ground NFL player of the week after 205 rushing yards and a touchdown. If he doesnt win this one, there shouldnt be a recount; there ought to be an investigation.

Arian Foster rushed for 155 yards and a TD in the Houston Texans win over Pittsburgh and Ryan Torain picked up 135 in Washingtons victory over the St. Louis Rams.

Forte has now had games of 158, 166 and 228 yards in the span of four weeks.

Fans are now part of the award process and can post ballots from now until 2 p.m. Friday on NFL.comFedEx.

John "Moon" Mullin is'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.

For Bears QB Jay Cutler, an unwanted second chance – audition? – presents itself

For Bears QB Jay Cutler, an unwanted second chance – audition? – presents itself

Some decisions have ways of simply making themselves. Decisions like, say, who will be the starting quarterback for the Chicago Bears.

Regrettably, one aspect of that decision was made for the Bears when Brian Hoyer went down with a broken left arm in the second quarter of Thursday’s 26-10 loss to the Green Bay Packers. At that moment the Hoyer-or-Cutler question was rendered moot. As FOX’s Jay Glazer had reported, the No. 1 job was Hoyer’s to lose, and the injury unfortunately took care of that. Coaches never had to make that decision.

This is clearly not the way Cutler would like to have been returned to his job. No player is pleased to have an opportunity made possible by a catastrophic injury to a teammate.

Bigger picture: The 2016 season was always a prove-it year for Jay Cutler, more so than even last year because of guaranteed money, which is now gone. The rest of the 2016 now becomes a condensed prove-it crucible, where Cutler is playing for his job in Chicago or his next team. His price for 2017 ($15 million) is modest by starter standards, but so is his resume.

Without a strong final nine games, assuming his injured thumb is sufficiently recovered after nearly six weeks off, Cutler may find himself as next offseason’s Ryan Fitzpatrick, sort-of wanted by a team but for money nowhere close to the value he and his agent had in mind.

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

The play of rookies Dak Presott in Dallas and Carson Wentz in Philadelphia will reinforce the message that you can start and win with a rookie right away, which projects to depress any Cutler market. Why pay a marginal veteran, which Cutler has been and certainly is at this point and age (34 next April), when a rookie can be had at a fraction of the cost?

Without a massive contract renegotiation, a scenario of Cutler staying on as a bridge to a young successor is beyond a longshot. Hoyer, far more likely to fit that role, and his price will not approach Cutler’s.

Cutler now has his second chance. Whether he likes it or not, it’s an audition.

Bears Grades: Defense wears down under assault from Aaron Rodgers and Packers

Bears Grades: Defense wears down under assault from Aaron Rodgers and Packers

GREEN BAY, Wisc. — It was a bright spot, a small one on an otherwise dismal night of losing to the Green Bay Packers. But it was at least something.

After struggling for months to stay healthy and gain NFL weight, Leonard Floyd finally played like the ninth-overall pick of an NFL draft.

The rookie outside linebacker collected a sack in the first half, then exploded past Green Bay right tackle Brian Bulaga as part of stunt with fellow linebacker Willie Young on the third play of the second quarter for a second sack of Aaron Rodgers, one that came with a strip of the football and recovery in the end zone.

"We had a great play called,” Floyd said. “Willie came down and picked the guard for me and I looped around and the play was done and I made it. It felt great [to get a touchdown], but at the end of the day I wanted a win."

That was one of the very few bright spots as the Packers piled up 311 yards through three quarters, at times using wide receivers Randall Cobb and Ty Montgomery as running backs because of injuries. The drumbeat continued with touchdowns on three straight Green Bay possessions in the late third and early fourth quarters.

The defense has allowed 23 or more points in five of seven games this season, with the Packers rolling off consecutive touchdown drives of 85, 84 and 57 in the second half as the Bears were limited to 2:49 time of possession in the fourth quarter.

“It helps when you’re playing [defense], to actually have a little bit of a break,” head coach John Fox said. “Unfortunately in the second half, I think that probably caught up with us a little bit.”

The defense had its fullest complement of personnel yet this season, with outside linebackers Floyd and Pernell McPhee both active (McPhee for the first time this year following offseason knee surgery), in addition to starting cornerbacks Bryce Callahan and Tracy Porter, both of whom were injured during the Jacksonville game. It was not enough.

[BEARS GRADES: Quarterback woes take offense to new low in loss to Packers]

Defensive line: F

The interior of the line was quiet for most of the game, with wide receivers lining up as running backs averaged more than five yards per carry. Cornelius Washington had the only hit by a defensive lineman on Rodgers as the line rarely collapsed the pocket with center-push or even kept him in the pocket.

Linebacker: B-

Floyd started after two games inactive and a zero stat sheet vs. Detroit. He struggled too often getting disengaged from Green Bay left tackle David Bakhtiari at the outset before breaking through with second effort for his first career solo sack. That was topped by the strip-sack and recovery for a touchdown in the third quarter. Floyd had a third hit on Rodgers and a tackle for loss.

"It is very tough,” Floyd said. “He gets the ball out pretty quickly. You just have to keep rushing every snap. He is at his best when he is scrambling around playing backyard football."

McPhee was a welcome addition to a slumping defense, even in his limited capacity (19 snaps). McPhee was not credited with any tackles but was surprisingly fast off the ball initially, and got penetration to alter running lanes and some pressure on Rodgers, although he appeared to slow somewhat, not unexpected considering how limited he has been throughout the year because of the surgery.

Sam Acho provided some edge pressure with two hits on Rodgers and a pass deflected. Jerrell Freeman had a quarterback hit and delivered a game-high 13 tackles.

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

Secondary: D

The secondary was forced to cover long into plays because of absent pressure on Rodgers but the coverage had its own problems with an offense that threw 56 times but was never intercepted. Three Green Bay receivers totaled double-digit receptions: Davante Adams (13), Cobb (11) and Montgomery (10).

Cre’Von LeBlanc started at corner as the Bears opened with six defensive backs, and delivered a goal-line stop in the first quarter, stuffing Montgomery, who was used as a running back because of injuries to the Green Bay backfield. LeBlanc finished with seven tackles and a hit blitzing Rodgers.

Porter matched up with Jordy Nelson and allowed the Green Bay wideout just one catch on four targets through three quarters. But breakdowns were deadly, allowing the Packers to stage their two longest scoring drives of the season in the second half. The second came when Porter and safety Harold Jones-Quartey both covered the same man in the end zone early in the fourth quarter, leaving Adams alone for his second TD catch of the game.

Adrian Amos interfered with Nelson to give the Packers a 44-yard penalty pickup in the first quarter. De’Vante Bausby had a number of solid plays despite a lack of meaningful pressure from the front. But Bausby had two holding penalties on the Packers’ second fourth-quarter scoring drive.

"There were a lot of penalties out there.,” Bausby said. “We had a good scheme and plan, but we just didn't finish in the second half as a group. Facing Rodgers is a challenge, but I felt like our play calling was excellent. We just didn't finish."

Special teams: B

Connor Barth converted from 39 yards to tie the game in the second quarter. It was Barth’s seventh in his last eight attempts. Pat O’Donnell turned in another strong night punting, averaging 43.8 net on five punts. Coverage helped keep three of those inside the 20.