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.

Good or better? Why offseason moves are making 2017 Bears better

Good or better? Why offseason moves are making 2017 Bears better

Improvement typically comes in incremental steps, not leaps. And the Bears of 2017, based on what they have done at a handful of positions, the latest being Thursday’s signing of wide receiver Victor Cruz, fit that template.

The clear organizational commitment is to build through the draft, even if injuries have undermined some otherwise apparent upgrades to starting lineups on both sides of the football. But if there is a “theme” to what GM Ryan Pace is doing to muscle up a sluggish roster, it is that the Bears are willing to take flyers on veteran players – with additions like four veteran wide receivers with injury and issue histories – that arguably point to a win-now mindset while draft picks develop and contribute.

Jaye Howard and John Jenkins. Make the defensive line “better?” Than Jonathan Bullard and Will Sutton, probably. But “good?” Mmmmm…..

The game-one tight ends last year were Zach Miller-Logan Paulsen-Gregg Scruggs. Now they’re Miller-Dion Sims-Adam Shaheen (based on a second-round draft choice). “Good?” Maybe, maybe not. “Better?” Obviously, based on Sims alone.

Mike Glennon-Mark Sanchez-Mitch Trubisky. Bears “better” at quarterback? Than Jay Cutler-Brian Hoyer-Matt Barkley, probably. “Good?” Mmmmmm…..

The decisions to sign Glennon and Sanchez to the quarterback depth chart have sparked their shares of understandable cynical skepticism. But Kirk Cousins and Jimmy Garoppolo were not available in trade, so the Pace decision was to gamble on upside with Glennon over the known quantity of Brian Hoyer (the preference of some coaches) and certainly Jay Cutler, for whom “potential” and “upside” no longer applied.

Add in the aggressive draft of Trubisky and the result was three possibilities of hits on a quarterback (Sanchez and Connor Shaw being combined here as a pair entry in the hit-possibility scenarios). All three were deemed an improvement over Cutler and/or Barkley.

The results may not vault the Bears all the way up to “good” at the pivotal position for any franchise. But “better” is sometimes all you can realistically manage.

Taking a wider-screen look at wide receiver in this context… .

Coach John Fox has cited the need for the Bears to establish the ability to get yardage in bigger chunks. Accordingly, all four of the veteran wideout signings this offseason – Cruz, Rueben Randle, Markus Wheaton, Kendall Wright –  have posted yards-per-catch seasons of 14 or longer.

All four won’t be on the opening-day roster, but all four offer the promise of major impact. Cruz, Randle and Wright have had seasons of 70 or more receptions, and Wheaton topped out at 53 in 2015 with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Randy Moss, Terrell Owens and Jerry Rice weren’t available, so “good” was hard to achieve in an offseason in which Alshon Jeffery and Eddie Royal were expected departures long before their exits. But are Cruz, Randle, Wheaton and Wright, with Kevin White and Cameron Meredith, a “better” starting point than Jeffery, Royal, White, Bellamy, etc. of a year ago?

Obviously. But players with even moderately established NFL “names” (like Cruz, Randle, etal.) are typically available for a reason; teams do not routinely give up on talent. And none of the four come without significant shadows on their NFL resumes, whether for injury or other questions.

Cruz missed most of 2014 and all of the 2015 season, and hasn’t played a full season since his Pro Bowl year of 2012.

Randle was described as a head case by scouts and was so bad that he was let go in the Eagles’ cutdown to 75 last year, followed by disparaging comments from those in and around the organization.

Wheaton flashed promise in his 2014-15 opportunities as a part-time starter but played just three games before a shoulder injury landed him on IR last season.

The Tennessee Titans thought enough of Wright, their 2012 first-round draft choice, to pick up his fifth-year option going into las season. But by week 14 he was benched for tardiness and was a healthy DNP in game 16, announcing after the game that he already knew he was not in the Titans’ plans for 2017.

The prospect of the Bears going from 3-13 to “good” borders on fantasy. But if being among the NFL’s busiest this offseason hasn’t propelled the Bears to that level, the results point to “better.” At this point, that’s something,.

How big of an impact will Victor Cruz have on the Bears?

How big of an impact will Victor Cruz have on the Bears?

The Bears inked Victor Cruz to a one-year deal on Thursday, adding another receiver to an already crowded corps.

But it never hurts to add a veteran one to a young group, especially with a new starting quarterback.

Cruz is 30 years old and isn't the same Pro Bowl-caliber player he was before missing the entire 2015 season with a calf injury, but he surely has a lot left in the tank and can serve as a great mentor for the Bears receivers.

Just how big of an impact will he have on his new team? See what the SportsTalk Live panel had to say in the video above.