15 on 6: Keeping up with the Pats

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15 on 6: Keeping up with the Pats

Saturday, Dec. 11, 2010
11:26 PM

By Jim Miller
CSNChicago.com

The Patriots come to town averaging over 29.3 points a game on the road, while the Bears average only 21.8 points on their home turf - we'll get to that turf in a bit.

It is impressive what the New England Patriots offense has been putting on tape recently. They went into Pittsburgh four weeks ago and lit up the Steelers top-5 defense by scoring 39 points. Two weeks later, the Pats traveled to Detroit and scored 42 points in the second half alone.

A victory for the Bears will come down to critical tackling and turnovers. The Bears defense cannot have missed tackles - which cost them early in Detroit - because defending the Patriots short-pass game will be the key to victory.

Another key in this marquee matchup will be Jay Cutler managing the weather, turf and keeping pace with a Patriot offense that logs long drives which normally finishing with a score.

At no point in the season is the running game more paramount for the Bears, they must churn the clock, sustaining drives keeping the Patriots offense cold and snowy on the sideline. I hope to see a lot of run "check with me packages" where, at the line of scrimmage, Jay checks to the best run play to attack the defense presented.

It's all about in the box numbers, where they are favorable, is where you attack. These may change and should challenge Mike Martz because if weather forecasts hold true, "Heavy" personnel sets favor the Bears. Heavy is normally deployed in goal line or short yardage situations. Football is a game of force and the Bears have the personnel to pound the Pats, if Mike Martz is up for the challenge.

If I am Lovie Smith, I may activate all four tight ends. The Patriots will react by going to four defensive lineman, which Bill Belichick has done in the past. Problem is, they do not have the numbers to do so, DL Mike Wright is injured and they are paper thin up front. If the Pats elect to stick with a 3-4, "Heavy" personnel would obliterate the Patriots.

Turf

Where has Astro turf gone? The glory days of Walter Payton leaping over the pile at the one-yard line because he could get a solid grip, with his classic Kagaroos, are over!

I have repeatedly stated my case, the Bears are a team that is built for speed - by design - under Lovie Smith. If you are racing horses, would you ever want your multimillion dollar Kentucky Derby thouroughbred running through mud that slows him down?

Jay has a great point, but it is what it is. Soldier field hardens up in late December, due to the cold, which gives the Bears an advantage. I believe this game comes down to a field goal and Robbie Gould has the edge over Shayne Graham. I've witnessed it too many times: opposing kickers get psyched out kicking in Soldier Field with the conditions.

Score First

Even Tom Brady will have problems with the Bears defense. Jay needs to lead the Bears to the scoreboard first and apply consistent pressure along with working the clock.

He has been savvy, aware of his situations the last four weeks. This is the opportune time, to take it to another level.

I reveled in my opportunity to beat the great Peyton Manning of the Colts in 1999. Trust me, Jay is welcoming this opportunity to show the country how he compares to Brady.

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.

Bears guard Josh Sitton named as injury replacement in Pro Bowl

Bears guard Josh Sitton named as injury replacement in Pro Bowl

The Bears have another Pro Bowler.

After initially getting shut out on the Pro Bowl roster, the Bears have since had two players named as injury replacements with guard Josh Sitton now joining running back Jordan Howard.

Sitton was named as an injury replacement Monday afternoon for Packers guard T.J. Lang, who left Sunday's NFC Championship game early.

This will be Sitton's third straight Pro Bowl and fourth career honor.

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The 30-year-old offensive lineman signed with the Bears before 2016 after the Packers released him.

Sitton played in 13 of the Bears' 16 games including 12 starts, helping to anchor the Bears' line when healthy.

Howard replaced Cardinals running back David Johnson on the NFC Pro Bowl roster earlier this month.

Bad blood fueled Bears-Vikings playoff bout profiled in 'Bears Classics: Eclipsing Moon'

Bad blood fueled Bears-Vikings playoff bout profiled in 'Bears Classics: Eclipsing Moon'

From the high ground of hindsight, what unfolded in the Metrodome that day in 1995 was actually quite a big deal. But not for reasons that you could have really understood at the time watching the Bears stun the Minnesota Vikings 35-18 in the wild card round of the 1994 playoffs.

It was not so much the game alone. It was the overall context of the time for the Bears, before and after.

Though the 1995 season would get off to a 6-2 start for the Bears before their near-historic collapse, the Minnesota game would prove to be the high-water mark for the coaching tenure of Dave Wannstedt. This was the postseason, and the Bears looked to be going where then-president Mike McCaskey envisioned when he made the play to beat the New York Giants in securing Wannstedt, who was unquestionably the hot coaching prospect coming out of the Dallas Super Bowl pantheon after the 1992 season.

To fully grasp the situation, you need to understand the undercurrent of venom that had developed between the Bears and Vikings. Bears-Packers might have been the glitzy rivalry, but what had grown between the Bears and Vikings was true hostility, with little of the respect that the Bears and Packers had managed. The Vikings carried grudges for Pro Bowl slights going back almost to the Bears' Super Bowl win. One Bears defensive lineman remarked that his most hated opponent was Minnesota right tackle Tim Irwin, adding, "He's a guy that, if I ran over him with a car, I'd back up over him to make sure I got him." Dwayne Rudd's backpedaling taunt after an interception came a couple years later, but you get the idea.

What's easily forgotten looking back through the mists of time was the epic decision made by Wannstedt to make a quarterback change, from a quarterback he wanted in free agency to one he knew well from their time together at the University of Miami. That was every bit the turning point of the season and the real reason the playoff trip and win ever happened.

The Bears had been annihilated in their first game against the Vikings in the 1994 season — 42-14 — and something was really, really wrong, which become glaringly more evident just a few weeks later, even though the Bears were reaching a 4-2 mark under quarterback Erik Kramer, the centerpiece of an aggressive offseason foray into free agency. But the Bears then lost — badly — to the Lions and Packers, with Kramer throwing three interceptions against Detroit and two against Green Bay, the latter in only 10 pass attempts.

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I talked privately to Kramer after the Green Bay game, specifically about why it was that he was playing his absolute worst against Detroit, Green Bay and Minnesota, all teams with which he was intimately familiar. My thought: You know those defenses and where their people are going to be.

Kramer shook his head: "The 'other guys' I know. It's my own guys. I don't know where they're supposed to be."

It wasn't a comment on his receivers whatsoever. It was Kramer admitting bluntly that he was not getting the West Coast scheme of coordinator Ron Turner and its timing element.

Wannstedt knew it wasn't working and made the change to Steve Walsh, who'd been the Hurricanes' quarterback under Jimmy Johnson when Wannstedt was the defensive coordinator.

That was the tipping point, and Walsh and Wannstedt are among the principals of "Bears Classics: Eclipsing Moon," airing on Monday at 8 p.m. on CSN.

Anyone with any time spent in or around the NFL knows that beating a team three times in a season is incredibly difficult. The Bears had been blown out in the first Minnesota game but had pushed the Vikings to overtime in the second and would have won had Kevin Butler not missed a 40-yard field goal try.

The playoff meeting was No. 3, and after the Vikings put up a field goal in the first quarter, the Bears scored with a Lewis Tillman touchdown in the second and just pulled steadily away from the winner of the only NFL division that produced four teams with winning records.

From there it would be another decade-plus — 2006 season — before the Bears would win a playoff game.