15 on 6: The good, the bad and then there's Collins

282325.jpg

15 on 6: The good, the bad and then there's Collins

Monday, Oct. 11, 2010
10:03 a.m.

By Jim Miller
CSNChicago.com
O-Line gets off the schneid!
It was nice to see the grunts up front respond after suffering through tremendous scrutiny the last four weeks. Rushing for 218 total yards is no small feat in the NFL versus any opponent. All five offensive linemen responded with no one performing so egregiously that they would be benched this week against Seattle at home. Offensive tackle Chris Williams may have to wait another week to return to the lineup because all five have earned another opportunity to start and are eager to follow up their Carolina performance. A shake-up at the quarterback position will be the one coaches have to address.

The good, the bad and then there's Collins

The team played exceptionally in response to Jay Cutler's absence. Informed of Carolina's issues, everyone raised their level of play a notch to log another victory. The defense offered up another masterpiece creating turnovers and physically beating up QB Jimmy Clausen who eventually had to be replaced. Special teams were outstanding providing great field position and Robbie booted a 53-yard field goal to put the game out of reach in the fourth quarter. There inlies the only problem: the game should have been blown wide open in the second quarter if the Bears received any heady play at all from veteran QB Todd Collins.
Know your role, know your situation in the game
I always love listening to the voice of the Bears, Jeff Joniak, and former Chicago Bears offensive lineman, Tom Thayer, on my drive into the city to cover the game. They do a great job and Jeff offered some good questions when he interviewed Collins earlier in the week. Todd played exactly how he sounded in his responses on air -- nervous! Todd has been in the league far too long to not understand the situations he was presented in Carolina. When you are ill-prepared in situational play explains the panic witnessed on the field by Collins.

Bears are up 17-3 in the second quarter and the offense gets another opportunity to score after the unbelievable interception by defensive end Julius Peppers. It is third-and-one at the 1-yard line and Todd elects to panic by forcing a throw to Devin Hester. If Carolina defensive tackle Ed Johnson did not intercept it, a Panthers linebacker and defensive back were waiting, almost lining up, for the swipe. The situation is just throw the ball away and take the field goal. It puts the game at three scores and would have put more pressure on Carolina to go away from their power run game much earlier. This relates to a blog last year about not assuming what a player knows from previous stops in the NFL. Todd has been in the NFL a long time, but really has not played a lot. Martz has to preface the play in the headset to Todd with something like this: "Be smart with the ball, throw it away if it's not there, we will take the field goal and go up three scores." Just a subtle reminder is all Todd should need, but he panicked not knowing the situation, and then threw the ball late when the timing was already off, which is another no-no, especially in the red zone. How about the deep interception over the middle versus a straight Tampa 2 defense. The middle linebacker's assignment is to carry any middle-read receiver, essentially it becomes a cover 3. If the linebacker's too deep, I guarantee a receiver is open replacing him underneath. Todd predetermined his throw not prepared to react from his post-snap read. That is bad football and poor QB play! I could cover the other two interceptions, but let's move on, like the Bears, with Jay or Caleb.

Hanie

It was the right coaching decision to start Collins and it was also the right coaching decision to insert Caleb Hanie. I have been in Caleb's situation before. If you watch the replay of the game, Caleb is listening to every play call to get a feel for the game. You try to put yourself on the field and mentally play the game. He's looking at the sideline photos with Jay and Todd to reaffirm his own mental decisions and is seeing and gaining confidence. He was dying to play when called upon and knew he could make a difference. He had a nice third-and-six conversion in the fourth quarter showing his poise and confidence through his preparation. He knew his situation, the team's situation and led two drives of four that ended in field goals to finish the game. If Jay is not cleared to play this week, Caleb would be the call to start at QB. Caleb is intoxicated from stepping on the field and making a difference helping his team win. Welcome to the NFL!

Jim Miller, an 11-year former NFL quarterback, is a Comcast SportsNet Bears analyst who can be seen each week on U.S. Cellular Bears Postgame Live. Miller, who spent five seasons with the Bears, analyzes current Chicago QB Jay Cutler in his "15 on 6" blog on CSNChicago.com and can be followed on Twitter @15miller.

Wrapping up Bears-Chiefs: Not all bad, so why not find some good?

Wrapping up Bears-Chiefs: Not all bad, so why not find some good?

Bears coach John Fox declared in the wake of Saturday’s 23-7 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs that what transpired hadn’t been all bad. And that’s true; good wins don’t usually look as good in the film room afterwards, and bad losses don’t automatically show up all dark, either.

And so it is after preseason game No. 3 that the Bears in fact did have some good along with some bad in what was the worst performance of the preseason, if only because so much of it involved the No. 1 units, and they’re supposed to be better than that.

Since so much seemed to be (and actually was) bad on Saturday night, the contrarian approach is invoked here: Let’s start with the good.

Good: The Bears faced Kansas City (which also was missing a handful of key starters) without Bryce Callahan, Leonard Floyd, Kyle Fuller, Kyle Long, Pernell McPhee, Zach Miller and Eddie Royal. Tracy Porter left with a concussion. They expect to have some if not all of those starters and sub-starters back by Week 1.

Bad: Miller, Porter, Royal and McPhee have varying degrees of injury histories, McPhee the least of the group but had never been put in the position of holding up as a full-time starter before last season. The chances of the Bears having all their key players for full seasons are slim.

Good: Jay Cutler has thrown 31 passes this preseason. None of them have been intercepted. In what proved to be a foreshadowing of a ball-security breakthrough for the historically turnover-prone quarterback, Cutler threw zero interceptions in 33 attempts last preseason. In the regular season Cutler had two games of 31 attempts and another of 33 with zero interceptions, plus pick-free games of 24, 27 and 45 attempts.

Preseason and training camp stats mean nothing; preseason and camp performances often do.

[RELATED: Bears defense can't pick up all the pieces from a broken offense]

Bad: Kevin White has shown less than nothing through preseason, catching a total of three passes and dropping an equal number in what is his de facto rookie season. He has run imprecise routes and looked a seventh-round draft pick, not a seventh-overall one. Despite his apparent explosiveness, no Bear is averaging less than White’s 4 yards per reception.

Good: Josh Bellamy and Cameron Meredith have had next-step preseasons, a matter of some potential significance given the health concerns with Eddie Royal and production concerns with White. No Bear has caught more than Bellamy’s 10 passes, and no Bear with more than two catches has averaged more than Meredith’s 16 yards per catch.

Bad: The Bears need a road win at Cleveland next Thursday to avoid the fifth winless preseason in franchise history.

Good: Of the previous four no-win warmup slates, the Bears finished 9-5 in 1962 and 11-5 and in the NFC Championship in 2010. The 1998 season, Dave Wannstedt’s last, wound up 4-12 but 1978 at least was 7-9.

Five of the last six times the Bears lost the “all-important third preseason game,” the Bears finished 8-8 or better.

Bad: (put in the Kansas City game tape)

Bears cut 10 players, trim roster to 80

Bears cut 10 players, trim roster to 80

The Bears have until Tuesday to move their roster down to 75, and they began Sunday by cutting 10 players.

The following players were waived: DL Keith Browner, WR Kieran Duncan, WR Derek Keaton, OL John Kling, RB Senorise Perry, WR Darrin Peterson, DB Joel Ross, TE Gannon Sinclair, OL Martin Wallace, FB Darrell Young

The Bears' roster currently sits at 80 players. After getting the roster down to 75 on Tuesday, the team will then cut down to 53 for the start of the regular season.

The Bears open their regular season on Sept. 4 in Houston against the Texans.

For the Bears, defense can’t pick up all the pieces from broken offense

For the Bears, defense can’t pick up all the pieces from broken offense

The current state of affairs for the 2016 Bears is seriously concerning when, after adding multiple starting players and investing high draft choices, the best that can be said about the Bears defense is that it isn’t as bad as the Bears offense.

A unit predicted to contend for a spot among the NFL’s top 10 this year was pushed around for 378 yards and 23 points in a 23-7 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. To push all of it off onto the fact that it was a preseason game won’t work, if only because the No. 1 defense allowed 239 of those yards and 20 of those points in the first half.

One mitigating fact is that the Bears offense hit a new preseason low and was coming back off the field before most members of the defense had had time to look at photos and to hydrate. Five of the Bears’ first seven possessions lasted less than 1 minute 30 seconds. Defensive players usually had time to get water or get with their coaches; not both.

And the defense did stiffen in the red zone, forcing the Chiefs twice to settle for field goals with the ball inside the Chicago 10 and a third time at the 23. And players at least bristled at the suggestion that the Bears are soft. “I take that personally,” said safety Harold Jones-Quartey. "I have never heard that word… . The first time I’ve ever heard anybody call us ‘soft’ is [now].”

Coach John Fox found some good in “the way our defense improved. We got a couple turnovers down in the lower-red area.”

[SHOP: Get your Bears gear here]

But those were scant positives in a game that saw Kansas City put together drives of 50 yards or longer five of the first six times it had the football, and those were against the supposed front liners.

The Chiefs drove 53 and 62 yards on their first two possessions, which included conversions of third-and-5 and third-and-14, part of the Chiefs converting six of 10 third downs in the first half. (“Obviously our third-and-long defense wasn’t real sufficient,” Fox allowed.)

Kansas City piled up 106 yards in the first quarter and what defensive “stops” there were might just as easily be credited to Kansas City execution as Bears playmaking. The Chiefs arguably had their initial drive stopped as much by tailback Spencer Ware colliding with blocking back Darrin Reaves on a third-and-short (2) for no gain. A fourth long drive of the half ended only when the Chiefs had a Bears blitz blocked, only to have Smith miss wide open wideout Albert Wilson inside the Chicago 10.

Special teams did the defense few favors. Kansas City punt returns of 18 and 15 yards put the ball at the KC 36 and the 50. The Bears did well to leave those possessions giving up only 3 points.

The game, in which starters and first-alternates play the longest of the preseason, had its points of player evaluation. Rookie cornerback Deiondre’ Hall, whose preseason has been marked by impact plays (not all of them good, of course), did generate another in the third quarter with an interception that thwarted a Kansas City scoring drive deep in the Chicago end. This was, however, after he had lost the ball and the receiver on a 58-yard completion the previous Chiefs possession.

And rookie defensive end Jonathan Bullard, after missing practice last week to attend to family matters, collected two quarterback hits, a sack and two tackles for loss among his three solo stops, according to initial game stats.

But rookie linebacker Leonard Floyd, who has missed practice time with three different health issues since the start of training camp, was limited in practice this week with a hamstring strain, and missed an important opportunity for much-needed work against unfamiliar competition.

“We got a chance to look at some young guys and make evaluations,” Fox said, “and that’s what preseason’s for.”