Bears Notebook: Tillman up to challenge

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Bears Notebook: Tillman up to challenge

Sunday, Jan. 16, 2011
Posted: 7:00 p.m.
By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

Forgive Jay Cutler if he might have been thinking somebody was playing games with his helmet headset and pretending to be calling in plays from coordinator Mike Martz.

He had never scored more than 2 rushing touchdowns in an entire season. Yet there he was, first-ever playoff game, and Cutler is doing an impromptu Michael Vick schtick, scoring on a pair of running plays, one of them a called quarterback draw by his boss.

That turned into a 6-yard touchdown run around his left end in the second quarter. Yeah, it was called, said Cutler, who improvd a second rushing TD after Martz called a shovel pass that the Seahawks thwarted. The second one was a shovel pass and the defensive guy collapsed, so I had to go.

You know, when its there, you take it. Im not afraid to do that.

Cutler, who finished with a career-high 43 rushing yards, threw touchdown passes to tight ends Greg Olsen and Kellen Davis, making him just the second player in NFL history to have 2 passing and 2 rushing touchdowns in a postseason game. Hall of Famer Otto Graham accomplished the feat twice for the Cleveland Browns, in the 1954 and 1955 NFL Championship games.

His play Sunday put him a game away from an NFL championship game in his second Bears season.

After last year and the disappointment and the struggle we had offensively, and kind of rebuilding and getting Mike Martz in here, it has been fun, Cutler said. Its been a fun ride. Its not over yet. We still have some business to take care of.

Duly noted

Bears coaches did bring some notable changes in for the Seahawks. After the Bears were embarrassed by Mike Williams career-best 10 catches in the October meeting, in which Bears cornerbacks simply stayed on their sides, Charles Tillman was matched up on the 6-foot-5 Williams. Tillman at 6-foot-1 was a better size fit against Williams than 5-foot-9 left cornerback Tim Jennings.

Mike Williams is not a guy whos going to run by you, but hell be aggressive. Charles is very good at that so it was a good decision to match us up and let Charles play to his strength, Jennings said. Tillman broke up a third-quarter pass to Williams with such an effective break that he got two hands on the deflection. That counts as a drop among the DBs and Tillman immediately dropped and did his requisite pushups penance. ...

Wide receiver Earl Bennett was a surprise tailback in a Wildcat package in the first quarter. Bennetts third carry of the 2010 season picked up 9 yards. Bennett fared a little better than Matt Forte, whose wildcat chance ended in an interception. ...

Matt Hasselbecks TD pass to Mike Williams in the fourth quarter gave him at least one touchdown throw in 10 straight playoff games.

The weekly top of the condition of Soldier Field was a non-issue (sort of) as far as linebacker Brian Urlacher was concerned. It stinks for both teams, Urlacher said.

Sick bay

The Seahawks suffered two scary losses that few would doubt did something to the spirits of the visitors. Tight end John Carlson landed badly on a sideline pass early in the first quarter and after a long time on the ground with medical staff, was carted from the field with a head injury and did not return. ... Cornerback Marcus Trufant suffered a head injury after his head struck the knee of tight end Kellen Davis while making a tackle. Trufant also required on-field medical assistance and the cart to take him to the locker room. ...

The Bears lost free safety Chris Harris to a hip injury midway through the first half. Rookie Major Wright filled in and provided a pass deflection and 2 tackles. Expect Harris back for the NFC Championship.

Theyd have to cut my ankle -- no, my leg -- off to keep me from playing in that game, Harris said. ...

Matt Hasselbeck had his hip and thigh drained of fluid Saturday night, ESPNs Rachel Nichols reported. Interestingly, Hasselbeck was not on the Seahawks injury report, which had only Lofa Tatupu because of his recent concussion.

Boogie down

Anthony Adams led the Bears in pregame. Not warmups, dancing. The nimble nose tackle jumped in the middle of a big ring formed by the players, sprinted a hand-slapping lap and launched into a spirited dance that clearly generated a whole lot more pre-game buzz for the Bears than a collective Go team.

I call that The Fat Mans Rumble, said Adams.

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.

Kyle Fuller heads to injured reserve as Bears make other roster moves

Kyle Fuller heads to injured reserve as Bears make other roster moves

The upheaval that has afflicted the 2016 Bears roster ratcheted up a notch late Tuesday when the Bears placed cornerback Kyle Fuller on injured reserve due to a knee injury and shuffled the depth chart elsewhere.

The Bears waived tight end Greg Scruggs, who was making the switch to offense from the defensive line, and linebacker Jonathan Anderson, while moving linebacker John Timu from the practice squad to the 53-man roster. To fortify the defensive line, where nose tackle Eddie Goldman is down indefinitely with an ankle injury, the Bears signed CJ Wilson, a 2010 draft pick of the Green Bay Packers who has played for the Packers, Oakland Raiders and Detroit Lions, starting 19 of 78 career games played.

Fuller, the 14th-overall pick of the 2014 draft and once identified as a building block of the Bears defense, underwent knee surgery Aug. 15 while the team went to New England for practices and a preseason game with the Patriots. He had been making significant strides in recovery as far as straight-ahead running but was still hampered with change-of-direction.

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Coach John Fox on Monday said simply that Fuller “has a sore knee. It has some medical things that kind of restrict you. When we get that healed up, he’ll go.”

The IR designation does not necessarily end Fuller’s season. Beginning in 2013, under an agreement between the NFL and Players Association, one player per team may be placed on injured reserve and later be brought back to the active roster. That player must sit out six weeks and cannot be activated for an additional two weeks.

With inside linebacker Danny Trevathan out following surgery on his thumb, Anderson had been expected to see additional playing time, possibly with the No. 1 unit. But rookie Nick Kwiatkoski started Sunday at Dallas in the base 3-4 and Christian Jones cycled in with sub packages.

Three starting points for the Bears to salvage their 2016 season

Three starting points for the Bears to salvage their 2016 season

As the noted philosopher once intoned, the past is for cowards and losers. Applied to the 2016 Bears, the latter already applies, though not wanting to look at the recent past shouldn’t be taken as evidence of cowardice, just not wanting to revisit pain.

Looking to the future is the obvious only option for an 0-3 football team.

“You’ve just got to go into every week like it’s a new week,” said linebacker Jerrell Freeman, one of the few encouraging parts of an injury-speckled defense, whose 34 tackles are approaching twice those of No. 2 Jacoby Glenn (19), with four tackles for loss vs. no one else with more than two.

“Every week is a new season regardless of whether you’re winning or losing. You can’t look back, you always have to look forward. Because if not, you won’t give the next team the respect they deserve and have another bad result.”

But the fan base can be excused for expecting a next bad result simply because the Bears have given zero indications that the future will be any better than the immediate past.

That is the signal concern: Who turns this around or, for that matter, even slows the rate of descent?

No Bears team has made the playoffs in a season that began with three straight losses. The 1932 team was winless in its first three, but those at least were scoreless ties. So postseason isn’t a relevant concept anymore except possibly as some sort of punchline.

But one vintage NFL axiom is that things from a game are seldom as bad upon later review than you thought they were at the time (they’re also never as good, either, but good hasn’t shown up yet). And turnarounds do happen.

But those do have to start somewhere. Any Bears season course correction for 2016 has three possible starting points:

A defensive 'village'

The Bears do not have elite talent on defense, meaning that the solution can come only from a marshaling of forces that makes the whole greater than the sum of the parts.

John Fox teams are built on defense, and consensus had the Bears as potentially a top-10 defense before the successive miseries vs. Houston, Philadelphia and Dallas. The Bears have zero defensive star power at this point, which is a problem, by way of understatement.

Fox’s 2011 Denver team started 1-4, then reversed itself and made the playoffs at 8-8 with Tim Tebow as quarterback. (It also had Marion Barber stepping out of bounds and later fumbling away the Bears game, but never mind that for now.) But that team had Elvis Dumervil and a rookie Von Miller combining for 21 sacks. The Bears have a total of four sacks, and players representing 1.5 of those (Eddie Goldman, Danny Trevathan) are out indefinitely with injuries.

But linebacker Willie Young cut to the chase: “We have to control the running game before we can have fun in the backfield,” he said after the debacle in Dallas with the Cowboys rushing for 200 yards. “I don’t know what was going on. All I could do is ask the guys to give me all you got. One play at a time, just give me all you’ve got.”

That would be a place to start.

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Remember the 'Run and Shoop' offense?

John Shoop might have been the object of ridicule as Bears offensive coordinator. But when he took over after the defection of Gary Crowton to coach BYU, the Bears won two of their last three by running to the point of tackle James “Big Cat” Williams, nicknaming the offense the “Run and Shoop” offense. The linemen loved it initially because Shoop simply loaded up and ran the football and, most important, stayed with the plan.

The point is not to become plodding, which Shoop’s offense ultimately became. But the Bears abandoned the run at Dallas when they trailed 24-3 at halftime, even though they had the ball to start the third quarter and with one defensive stop after a touchdown could have been working to get within one score.

“It could have flipped quickly,” guard Kyle Long said. “One drive, it turns into a seven-point game, and that’s the NFL.”

The need for the Bears to run the football isn’t really worth spending time on. Obvious. The offensive line was built for running the football. But for various reasons coordinator Dowell Loggains has not had success with what was supposed to be the foundation of the offense. The Bears cannot win by being a pass-based team, regardless of whether Jay Cutler or Brian Hoyer or Matt Barkley is doing the throwing.

The Bears will not be blowing out many, if any, teams. Their best option is to wear opponents down in first halves, live with Jordan Howard/Joique Bell/whomever netting 50 to 60 yards in a first half, then turning the two- to three-yard runs of the first half into four- to six-yarders in the second.

Shoop would like that.

Get one win

Playoff chances mean nothing. How good or bad the Bears are means nothing. All that matters is winning, not games, but one game. The next game. As Fox and other players have said, the Bears have not put together one complete game yet. That is not going to happen automatically, but one play, one quarter, one half at a time.

And they know it. “You want to win games,” Freeman said. “There’s no panic. There’s a sense of urgency, that’s for sure. We’ve got to put out this fire and put it out quick, like yesterday or the day before.”