Bears entering tough final quarter of season

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Bears entering tough final quarter of season

Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2010
11:10 AM
By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

A 4-0 November and a 1-0 start for December have positioned the Bears within a game of the NFC overall lead. The wakeup call in Detroit should serve them well heading into the final quarter of their schedule which includes three teams (New England, Minnesota, Green Bay) that are playing very well lately.
W 9-14 Sept. 12 vs. Detroit Lions (2-10)

Bears survive 4 turnovers and red-zone failures to escape with a 'W' after officials rule Calvin Johnson did not complete a potential winning TD catch. Jay Cutler passes for 372 yards, Matt Forte nets 201 yards on 24 touches.
W 27-20 Sept. 19 At Dallas Cowboys (4-8)

Cutler's zero INT's plus in-game adjustments to Dallas pressure produced TD passes to Devin Hester, Greg Olsen and Matt Forte. Physical defense forced 3 Cowboys turnovers, all involving nickel back D.J. Moore who gets his first two career picks.
W 20-17 Sept. 27 (Mon.) Green Bay Packers (8-4)

Nothing like a truly 'pivotal game' just three weeks into a season. The winner gets the first tiebreak edge and the Bears have a chance to go 3-0 in the NFC. All games are statement games; this one comes with an exclamation point.

L 3-17 Oct. 3 At New York Giants (8-4)

The missing pass rush returned to get Jay Cutler and vault the Giants squarely back in the midst of a very tight NFC East race among non-exceptional teams. Jay Cutler was sacked nine times and left at halftime with a concussion that ruled out realistic chances for a comeback.

W 23-6 Oct. 10 At Carolina Panthers (1-11)

A horrendous, 4-interception performance by Todd Collins was offset by 218 rushing yards, 166 by Matt Forte who scored twice, and the defense shutting down the Panthers with 147 yards. Bears finally exploded in a first quarter and stayed with a run commitment with changes in the OL.

L 23-20 Oct. 17 Seattle Seahawks (6-6)

Seattle bumbled to 3 points in a loss to St. Louis, then came in from the week off to handle the Bears everywhere but special teams. Bears play calling (12 runs, 47 pass plays) becoming an issue as Cutler was sacked six times and Bears rarely got close to laying a hand on Matt Hasselbeck.
L 17-14 Oct. 24 Washington Redskins (5-7)

Jay Cutler throws 4 INT's to DeAngelo Hall and fumbles at the goal line in another game in which Mike Martz refuses to run the football. Bears lose at home for the second straight week, first time since Lovie Smith's rookie year (2004). Questions now are whether Bears can change course on offense after three miserable performances in last four games.

Oct. 31 Off week
W 22-19 Nov.7 At Buffalo BillsToronto (2-10)

Tim Jennings' interception led to a game-winning touchdown in a game that the Bears nearly let get away and gave up 3 TDs on defense for just the second time this season (Seattle). Jay Cutler managed the offense with some control and the offensive line allowed just one sack while coaches committed to the run enough to call 26 plays on the ground.W 27-13 Nov. 14 Minnesota Vikings (5-7)

In a best game of the season with all three phases playing well, the Bears all but bury the season for a dysfunctional Vikings team that has a quarterback done after the season and head coach possibly sooner. Jay Cutler throws 3 TD passes and backs carry 32 times; defense gets 4 takeaways; and Devin Hester shows he hasn't forgotten how to return kickoffs as well as punts.
W16-0 Nov. 18 At Miami Dolphins (6-6)

The defense recorded the first shutout since '06 and the offense, while not punching in red-zone opportunities the way it needs to, was efficient. A third straight game with 30 or more rushes was a first for a Mike Martz offense and has helped the offensive line settle in and taken pressure off Cutler. The result is another solid game of third-down conversions against a respectable defense.

W 31-26 Nov. 28 Philadelphia Eagles (8-4)

The building continues with a new high for Jay Cutler passing as he throws 4 TDs on just 21 attempts and Matt Forte runs for 117 yards in 14 carries. The defense stays basic to deal with Michael Vick, who gets some passing yards but into the end zone only twice.
W 24-20 Dec. 5 at Detroit Lions (2-10)

With third-stringer Drew Stanton in just his second NFL start, the Lions ran over the Bears for 253 yards in the first half as the Chicago offense had to prop up the D for a change. Jay Cutler was sacked four times but big defensive plays in the second half held Detroit to 49 yards and 3 points as the offense turned in a workmanlike performance with more of the run-pass balance that has worked.
Dec. 12 New England Patriots (10-2) Next: at BEARS 3:15 p.m.

The Pats thoroughly stomped the N.Y. Jets 45-3 in what was supposed to be an AFC East title match. Tom Brady threw for 4 TD's and the Jets were thoroughly handled by a New England defense that showed the Bears that statistical rankings wont mean much.
Dec. 20 At Minnesota Vikings (5-7) Next: vs. New York Giants

The previously moribund Vikings are 2-0 under interim Leslie Frazier and showing some of the pop that they were supposed to have after their near-title run of '09. Brett Favre remains an ongoing diva situation with his injuries but the rest of the Minnesota focus has come together. The Giants will be a major test compared to the Bills, an easy double-digit victory even with Tavaris Jackson at QB.
Dec. 26 New York Jets (9-3) Next: vs. Miami

The hot-cold Jets were thrashed on MNF by New England in their first road loss of the year. Mark Sanchez is looking suddenly very pedestrian and heading a team that is 4-2 since its break but not playing especially well on either side of the ball.
Jan. 2 at Green Bay Packers (8-4) Next: at Detroit

Getting by San Francisco in Lambeau Field was no problem and the Lions' performance against the Bears should alert the Packers to a possible nuisance that has given them trouble in Detroit. Aaron Rodgers is playing as well as any quarterback in the NFL and the absence of Ryan Grant in the run game continues to be a problem the Packers find ways around.

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.

On second thoughts: Looking deeper at Bears gamble on Mitch Trubisky

On second thoughts: Looking deeper at Bears gamble on Mitch Trubisky

Upon further review and in the light of day, some observations and perspectives on the Bears’ epic trade of multiple meaningful draft choices to move up one spot in the 2017 first round to select quarterback Mitch Trubisky….

…So much for expert analysis. Maybe the 2017 quarterback draft class wasn’t as bad as its advance reviews. Three quarterbacks went in the Top 12 picks, and all three teams selecting them (Bears, Kansas City, Houston) traded, not down, but up to grab their guys (Trubisky, Pat Mahomes, DeShaun Watson).

Meaning: Pace didn’t panic in making the jump; he’d gotten calls from those teams looking to deal up for a quarterback, so he didn’t get bamboozled by 49ers GM John Lynch. When Pace didn’t want to deal with the Browns, Chiefs or Texans, he rightly figured he wasn’t their last call, in fact probably was their first.

And the coaches involved the Chiefs’ and Texans’ know something about good quarterbacks. Andy Reid mentored Brett Favre and Donovan McNabb. Bill O’Brien followed Josh McDaniels as Tom Brady’s quarterbacks coach in New England, then was offensive coordinator before leaving to rebuild the Penn State program.

As a footnote, for as voluminous as the positives were on Watson (including those of this reporter), Reid thought Mahomes was better.

*        *        *

…He doesn’t have a third-rounder this year, but what Pace does with the Bears’ second-round pick will worth serious watching, based on his history. His hit rate at that level is superb; Eddie Goldman in ’15, then trading down a couple times in ’16 and still landing Cody Whitehair, one of the top O-line nuggets from last year’s draft.

And Pace didn’t entirely gut his ’17 draft portfolio. As things stand at this moment, he still goes into Day 3 with a fourth-rounder – one of what he picked up last year in one of those trade-down’s in the second round on the way to Whitehair.

Pace’s tone and demeanor Thursday after Round 1 was noteworthy: He sounded anything but done being draft-aggressive: “There’s avenues, maybe we can acquire more picks, like we did last year. So you’re kind of weighing all that.”

*                 *                 *

… No, the Bears didn’t overpay for moving from No. 3 to No. 2. A one-slot move inside the Top 10 is always pricey, and inside the Top 5 carries a huge premium. As I mentioned Thursday night, Cleveland gave Minnesota three later picks in the 2012 draft to switch places, the Browns going to No. 3 and the Vikings down one to No. 4. The picks (a four, a five, a seven) were less than the Bears paid (two threes, a four), but the Bears were going from 3 to 2, and it involved a quarterback, always a situation with a premium.

Also, and not intended as any slight of the players, but just using the results from Pace’s own draft history: The Bears traded Hroniss Grasu (third round, 2015), Jeremy Langford (fourth round, 2015) and Jonathan Bullard (third round, 2016) to improve their 2017 draft position and secure what they believe will be a franchise quarterback.

Picks in the 3-4 range can be huge hits: Olin Kreutz, Lance Briggs, Alex Brown. They can also be Juaquin Iglesias, Jarron Gilbert or Brock Vereen. Pace didn’t mortgage the future in a wild swing for a franchise QB by trading away, say, a No. 1 (Rick Mirer) or maybe two No. 1’s (Jay Cutler).

*                 *                 *

…The Trubisky move doesn’t dislodge Mike Glennon from his berth as the starter, as long as Glennon is better than Trubisky. But for those hyperventilating with outrage over the signing of Mark Sanchez as a backup, the prospects for Sanchez just dimmed mightily if not all the way to black. Connor Shaw, who has a future, arguably has a better shot at a roster spot than Sanchez, who was insurance.

*                 *                 *

…Were the Bears masking their real intentions with the mass migrations of staff to scout DeShaun Watson, DeShone Kizer and a couple other prospects? Don’t think so. There are less expensive and cumbersome ways to blow smoke and create misperceptions.

More likely, the closer they looked at the Kizers and Watsons, the more doubts they had and the more they liked what they’d seen with Trubisky. Pace personally scouted a handful of his games (a Tarheel buddy in North Carolina text’ed me early last fall and said, “Hey, just FYI: Your GM is here scouting our quarterback”), and the more he saw, the more he liked.

Apparently not so with the other guys.

Once initial shock wears off, Bears fans should learn to love Trubisky trade

Once initial shock wears off, Bears fans should learn to love Trubisky trade

On Friday morning, Chicagoans woke up, grabbed a cup of coffee and attempted to digest the boldest move ever made in Bears franchise history.

The only move that even compares in terms of overall guts is the last time the Bears attempted to acquire a franchise quarterback: The 2009 deal for Jay Cutler.

Bears fans have been freaking out since Ryan Pace shocked the NFL world and traded up a spot to select Mitchell Trubisky with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2017 Draft.

But there's plenty of reason to stop freaking out, take a breath and actually learn to love the move. 

Yes, I said love, which may be hard for Bears fans to swallow given this was their initial reaction:

First, football fans are always complaining about passive general managers not making enough decisive, bold moves in striving for a title.

It doesn't get any more decisive and courageous than this from Ryan Pace's perspective as he staked his whole career on this move.

This is like a trade people make whilst playing Madden — a "go big or go home" video game maneuver that if it doesn't work out, you can just reset and begin a new franchise with nothing but a few hours of your time lost.

From a pure journalistic perspective, this is fascinating and entertaining as hell.

This will be a fun ride as we watch this play out over the next couple of years. Things at Halas Hall and Soldier Field are infinitely more interesting now than they were at the end of the 2016 season, that's for sure.

[Behind the Scenes in the Bears Draft Room]

People can complain all they want about the move itself and that's understandable. The Bears did give up a ton: The No. 3 overall pick, two third rounders (including a 2018 third-rounder) and a fourth rounder this year.

That's a lot to move up one spot. But if Trubisky truly is the franchise quarterback and can elevate the Bears to new heights, those draft picks won't ultimately matter a whole lot.

At first, I didn't like the idea of the Bears trading away a bunch of picks, either. They have plenty of needs to address beyond quarterback if they're going to turn into a Super Bowl contender.

But with all the picks in the world, the Bears were never going to become a legit Super Bowl contender without finding an answer at the quarterback position and Pace and his staff believe Trubisky is "The Answer."

For anybody saying the Bears could've kept those picks and just drafted Trubisky at No. 3, that's a silly argument. We'll never know for sure, but clearly there was reason for Pace and Co. to believe another team was interested in moving up to No. 2 to select Trubisky, including the Cleveland Browns and possibly the Kansas City Chiefs and Houston Texans as well.

Now, on to the detractors of Trubisky's overall game.

I hate the argument that he's just a one-year starter and it was at UNC, no less. He put up some serious numbers in that one year and the physical tools are there — by most accounts, he can make all the throws and his mobility is underrated.

Trubisky is still a gigantic question mark, but every quarterback coming out of college is. Not one person predicted Dak Prescott would have as much success as he did in 2016, which is why he was on the board until the fourth round a year ago.

As for Trubisky's mental makeup, the dude seems to have a serious chip on his shoulder and a passion burning inside him to be better and prove doubters wrong. Tyler Dunne's fantastic profile of Trubisky helps shed light on Mitch as a person. Trubisky's patience and persistence in sitting through seasons as a backup speaks to his character and committment to the team-first mantra.

Let's get to the whole idea of the "franchise quarterback" as it relates to the Bears.

The last quarterback the Bears selected in the first round was Rex Grossman (22nd overall) back in 2003. Grossman took the Bears to the Super Bowl in 2006, but they got there as much in spite of his QB play as because of it.

Grossman had trouble staying healthy — only once playing as many as 10 games in a season — and was out of a Bears uniform by 2009.

Cutler took over from there after the Bears gave up two first-round picks and their incumbent starting QB (Kyle Orton) for what they hoped would be "The Answer" at QB for a generation.

It didn't work out that way, of course. Cutler was never able to carry the team to the promised land, only a disappointing NFC Championship exit in 2011 to hated rival Green Bay.

But the Cutler trade was a bold move that excited fans at the time because it was a committment to going all-in.

Trubisky is the same commitment and even more of a risk, even if the cost to get him wasn't quite as much as it was for Cutler. Cutler was already a known commodity in 2009 after three years and 37 NFL starts with the Denver Broncos.

The Bears have been searching for a true franchise — in the mold of Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady or Drew Brees — that truly elevates the organization. Jim McMahon won the only Super Bowl in franchise history, but there aren't too many Bears fans clamoring for him to be included in the same discussion as Brady and Co.

[MORE - BearsTalk Podcast following Day 1 of NFL Draft coverage]

The Bears needed to go bold if they want to get back to the success that led to eight championships in the pre-Super Bowl era.

Yes, this is an unfathomable risk, but if it pays off a few years from now, the "sky is falling" mindset will be laughed off.

For now, just revel in the fact the Bears may just be the most interesting team in the NFL. For this weekend, at least.