Bears down and out; hated Packers claim Halas

370322.jpg

Bears down and out; hated Packers claim Halas

Sunday, Jan. 23, 2011
Posted 5:19 p.m. Updated 8:46 p.m.
By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

Guard Chris Williams sat silently in front of his locker, showered and dressed to leave, a hat pulled down a little farther than usual over eyes that looked a little damper than usual. Across the locker room, two teammates sat next to each other, looking straight ahead after most of the locker room had cleared out, neither speaking.

The shock of the Bears 21-14 loss to the Green Bay Packers was nearly palpable among players who were within a play or two of the Super Bowl and were having a difficult time coming to grips with the fact that their season was over.

Thisll sit with us until we play another game, said center Olin Kreutz.

In the final analysis, the Green Bay Packers were simply a little bit better than the Bears. The Packers came into the home of the Bears and took away the NFC Championship trophy named for the Bears own founding father.

Read: Bears' grades come up short

The win advances the Packers to Super Bowl XLV against the Pittsburgh Steelers, who won the AFC Championship.

But as Sunday wound down, none of that seemed to matter.

There were some things to be proud of, said a subdued Julius Peppers, still in his uniform pants long after improbably near-hero Caleb Hanies final pass was intercepted at the Green Bay 12 with 40 seconds to play. But the main goal we wanted to accomplish, we werent able to do that.

Its very disappointing. I just dont know how else to say it.

Then Peppers issued the mission statement for the 2011 season: Well be back, he said matter-of-factly. We will be back.

Almost back this year

The Bears were almost back Sunday in a game where they appeared to be thoroughly outclassed to start with and then thoroughly out-manned, literally, in the second half.

Green Bay went 84 yards effortlessly through the Bears defense on its first possession for a 7-0 lead while some of the crowd of 61,171 were still filing in. They pushed the lead to 14-0 less than 4 minutes into the second quarter with Aaron Rodgers picking the secondary apart for some of the 252 yards the Packers amassed on the Bears in the first two quarters.

The Bears then awoke on defense and shut the Packers out over the final 41 minutes of the game, with Green Bays only score coming on an interception and 18-yard return for a touchdown by defensive tackle B.J. Raji deep in the fourth quarter.

By that time, the Bears had lost quarterback Jay Cutler to a possibly serious knee injury; they had seen No. 2 Todd Collins come off the bench and deliver a putrid performance on two possessions; and they were in the suddenly very capable hands of No. 3 Hanie.

Watch: Lovie's postgame comments on Cutler injury

Without running one of his own offenses plays since October when he was demoted to No. 3 behind Collins, Hanie completed 13-of-20 passes for 153 yards and a touchdown in just the fourth quarter. He directed scoring drives of 67 and 60 yards, setting up one score with a 32-yard pass to Johnny Knox that was followed by a one-yard bolt by Chester Taylor, and he threw 35 yards to Earl Bennett with just under 5 minutes for a touchdown that brought the Bears to 21-14.

Watch: Could there be a QB controversy?

But they could get no closer. A fourth-and-4 pass toward Knox was intercepted by cornerback Sam Shields and the Bears season was over.

I felt good going in, said Hanie, who was not restricted just to handing off to Matt Forte despite having little practice time. I felt like we had a chance to go down and score every time.

In his first action since throwing three passes against Carolina in Week 5, Caleb Hanie directed the Bears on two touchdown drives including throwing one TD pass to Earl Bennett. (AP)Comeback Caleb

The Taylor score was the first touchdown by the Bears against Green Bay in nine quarters, since a Greg Olsen TD catch in the second quarter of the first Packers game this season.

Hanie shook off the disastrous interception and return by Raji to throw the pass to Bennett between two defensive backs, one of whom was 2009 NFL defensive player of the year Charles Woodson.

I kinda wish we had Jay in there the whole game, the way things were going, a relieved Clay Matthews said after the Packers escape.

The Bears dont leave Sunday with a conference championship or the chance at a second Super Bowl in five years. But they finished with plans.

Watch: Cutler says Bears were in position to win Super Bowl

Were in this for the long haul and we might have fallen short of our goals this year, said linebacker Lance Briggs. But next year we wont fall short.

Our jobs not done. Hats off to the Packers; theyll represent the NFC very well. But next year the Chicago Bears will have their day.

John "Moon" Mullin is CSNChicago.com'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.

Bears sign Willie Young to two-year contract extension

Bears sign Willie Young to two-year contract extension

Watch out Bass Pro Shops: Willie Young may be stopping in with a bag full of money.

The Bears announced Saturday morning they have agreed to a two-year contract extension with the veteran outside linebacker.

Young, who was heading into his final season of a three-year deal he inked with the Bears in 2014, is now signed with the team through the 2018 season.

[SHOP: Gear up for the 2016 season, Bears fans!

The 30-year-old Young finished second on the Bears last season with 6.5 sacks after switching from defensive end to outside linebacker in Vic Fangio's base 3-4 defense. Young notched a career-high in sacks with 10 during the 2014 season.

Young, originally a seventh-round selection in the 2010 NFL Draft by the Detroit Lions, has amassed 97 tackles and 22.5 sacks in 141 career games.

Bears Camp Shorts: Kyle Long out, 'The Interceptor' is in the house

Bears Camp Shorts: Kyle Long out, 'The Interceptor' is in the house

BOURBONNAIS — As expected, right guard Kyle Long was absent from practice on Friday, nursing a calf strain that the Bears will handle conservatively and not rush their Pro Bowl offensive lineman back onto the field.

Long strained his left calf late in Thursday’s practice and Friday saw veteran Ted Larsen step in at right guard with the No. 1 line, as the Bears leave rookie Cody Whitehair in place as the starting left guard for now.

- Additionally, rookie outside linebacker Leonard Floyd was able to make his way through lunch but not onto the practice field after leaving due to ongoing illness Thursday.

[MORE: Bears wide receivers give defense a taste of its own medicine]

- Former Bears cornerback Nathan “The Interceptor” Vasher is in camp as a defensive intern, and the Bears also have brought in former New York Jets center Kevin Mawae to work with the offensive line and young center Hroniss Grasu. Vasher is part of the NFL’s internship program while Mawae is in as a guest instructor, something routinely done for stretches of training camp and preseason.

Vasher earned his nickname in 2005 when he was a Pro Bowl and All-NFL selection after collecting eight interceptions — the Bears combined total for all of 2015 — for Lovie Smith’s first playoff team.

“The league instituted [the internship program] a while ago,” Bears head coach John Fox said. “Have had a lot of guys that were ex-players that are now coaching in the league. I think everybody kind of searches for what they want to do when they retire at a very young age from the game, so I think some guys have coaching in them, some don't. I think Kevin was a very smart player in his career; he can help in the NFL in the coaching profession."

- The Bears secondary could use a little dose of “Interceptor” right about now. Demontre Hurst managed an interception of a Brian Hoyer pass on Friday, but that represents the lone takeaway by the defense through two days of practice. The lack of takeaways proved lethal to the Bears last season, with the lowest full-season total (17) in franchise history.

[SHOP: Gear up for the 2016 season, Bears fans!

- Thursday’s rains appeared to leave the Olivet Nazarene University fields healthy but apparently a little treacherous, as a number of Bears had their feet slip out from under them through Friday’s practice.

- Officials were on hand to “work” the Bears’ practice on Friday, throwing flags where warranted and drawing occasional sharp disagreements with certain Bears coaches.

“You know, you try to simulate as well as you can a real game and they're out there in games,” Fox said. “These aren't NFL officials; they'll be here next week as we prepare for our Fan Fest at Soldier Field to build towards getting ready for games, but obviously it's helpful. They get to monitor the players and kind of do's and don't's and I think it's good simulated football.”

Bears wide receivers give defense a taste of its own medicine

Bears wide receivers give defense a taste of its own medicine

BOURBONNAIS — For much of this offseason’s practices, the Bears’ offense has had to put up with spirited mouthiness from a feisty Bears defense. On Friday, the day before the Bears get into full pads for the first time in nearly seven months, a touch of the smack flowed the other way, set in motion by one of the smallest players on the roster.

Wide receiver Daniel Braverman, the diminutive (5-9, 185) seventh-round pick of the Bears in this year’s draft, outfought fellow rookie Deiondre' Hall (6-2, 201) for a contested ball across the middle, bounced up and let out with a yell to confirm exactly which side of the ball came away with it.

The catch was the first of many by Braverman, whose day was mirrored by starting wideout Kevin White also making repeated, sometimes acrobatic catches against what until now was a defense firmly holding the upper hand this offseason.

[MORE: Akiem Hicks sees Tom Brady qualities in Jay Cutler]

“I think [Braverman] is a guy who was very productive in college, our scouting department really liked him, that's why we drafted him,” said coach John Fox. “I think you know he caught our eyes as far as putting it all together in the offseason and he's continued on that so far this camp.”

Running back Jeremy Langford added several long bursts on runs through the interior, and various receivers added to the day that belonged in large measure to the offense despite missing starting right guard Kyle Long (calf injury).

The defense did have its highlights. Defensive lineman Akiem Hicks generated a pair of dominating pass rushes that produced a simulated sack of Jay Cutler and a throwaway, Willie Young blew up a pass play coming clean on a blitz, and safety Harold Jones-Quartey threw Langford to the ground on a non-tackle tackle after the latter had ripped off one of his gashes through the defense.

[SHOP: Gear up for the 2016 season, Bears fans!

Braverman also has been worked on kickoff return and will have myriad chances to be a roster surprise, given the four preseason games and handful of practices in New England with the Patriots.

“These coaches preach every day how important special teams is, and that's something I have to learn to get adjusted to because I was just a returner,” Braverman said. “But now here you have to be a ‘gunner’ and and R2, L2, [position] stuff on kickoffs. It's just getting one day better in every little detail and aspect you can possible in 24 hours of a day.”