Bears notes: 'The most incredible play'

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Bears notes: 'The most incredible play'

Sunday, Sept. 25, 2011
Posted: 11:39 a.m. Updated: 10:13 p.m.

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com Bears Insider Follow @CSNMoonMullin
It was the perfect play, one in a game that had precious few for the Bears. And it still produced nothing.

With the Packers leading 27-17 and just over a minute to play, the Bears forced a Green Bay punt. Scheming for a pooch punt to their right, the Bears staged a collective feint, with returner Devin Hester drifting to his left, and blockers going his way.

Except that the ball was not going anywhere near Hester.

Johnny Knox quietly had made his way deep along the right sideline and punter Tim Masthay dutifully punted that way. But the coverage team was suckered into going for Hester, while the ball was going to Knox all alone at the Chicago 11.

Knox gathered in the ball and went 89 yards for a touchdown that appeared to bring the Bears back to within a score and with a chance to recover an onsides kick and pull out a win.

But as Knox neared the Green Bay goal line, he looked back upfield and saw yellow, a penalty flag. Far on the other side of the field, away from the play, Corey Graham had been called for holding.

It wasnt explained, just a hold on me, said a visibly angry Graham. I should have just let him go. I shouldnt have even touched the dude. But the call was ticky-tack.

Other Bears used far stronger words for the call. The Packers, for their part, were impressed.

That was the most incredible play I had ever seen in seven years, said Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. And being a sports fan in that situation, it was incredible. I think everyone on the sidelines was wondering what the heck just happened as he was running down the sideline with two blockers in front of him. Honestly, it was the most incredible play that I have ever seen.

Bad trend

The Green Bay victory makes coach Mike McCarthy 7-0 in road openers.

Early problems

The TD pass from Rodgers to Jermichael Finley at the end of the first Green Bay possession marked the third time in the last four games that the Packers scored first. Ironically, the Packers scored first in game three last season and lost; the Bears scored first in the second meeting between the teams and lost.

Bad break

Looking down the schedule a ways, the Eagles may be in bad standings shape by the time the Bears visit them on Nov. 7. Quarterback Michael Vick suffered a concussion last week against the Atlanta Falcons and now has a broken right hand (not his passing hand) from the New York Giants game Sunday.

Nice repair job

The Detroit Lions were able to get the wheel fixed on their Cinderella carriage up in Minnesota. After trailing 20-0 at halftime to the Vikings, whod lost halftime leads in their first two games, Detroit pulled to within a score at 20-17 on a second TD pass from Matthew Stafford to Megatron, a.k.a wide receiver Calvin Johnson.

Then the two teams traded field goals to reach 23-23 until the Lions won on a field goal in OT. Bad news for the Bears.
For starters

Last year it was Green Bay needing huge contributions from backups as one starter after another went down with injuries. The injuries arent the season-enders that a lot of Packers suffered but the Bears hopes Sunday and possibly for longer hinge on reserves playing at starter levels.

Brandon Meriweather was signed with the intention of him being a starting safety and he will, for free safety Major Wright (head injury). Craig Steltz was tasked with standing up to Rodgers and the Green Bay offense as the fill-in strong safety for Chris Harris.

The offensive line struggled with injury based shuffling last year and Sunday was without the starting right side of Lance Louis and Gabe Carimi, although Louis was active. Chris Spencer started again at right guard and Frank Omiyale remained at right tackle, where he filled in last week for Carimi.

Sitting out

Rookie quarterback Nathan Enderle is active for the first time as the Bears inactives line up this way: Marion Barber, Earl Bennett, Carimi, Harris, Wright and Corey Wootton.

The Wootton inactive status is a little eyebrow-raising. Wootton was having an excellent training camp before needing a minor knee scope and being idled for some time. In his place, Mario Addison and Nick Reed consistently made impact plays, to the point where the Bears kept both of them on the 53-man roster.

Now Wootton isnt getting on the game-day roster while Addison and Reed are. Good for the Bears to have what they consider impact, quality depth at their outside-rush position but disappointing for Wootton, whos fought back twice now from knee injuries and looked close to his breakout before the camp setback.

Continuity, anyone?

After a 2010 in which the Bears started the same safety tandem Chris Harris, Danieal Manning for all 16 games, the Bears will start their third different pairing in as many games.

Harris and Major Wright started against the Falcons. Harris was out with a hamstring strain and missed New Orleans, so Wright moved to strong safety and Brandon Meriweather at free. Wright suffered a head injury against the Saints and will miss the Packers, leaving either Harris (listed as questionable) or Craig Steltz to start in his place.

The offensive line began to function well last season when it stopped needing weekly changes. The state of flux, unfortunately, has returned, and the Bears played third game with a different starting five:
Atlanta: Webb - C Williams -Garza - Louis - Carimi
New Orleans: Webb- C Williams - Garza - Spencer - Carimi
Green Bay: Webb - C Williams - Garza - Spencer - Omiyale

Must-read

Comcast SportsNet colleague Jim Miller gives an excellent analysis of a key Bears crisis; that they still have not established an identity on offense under Mike Martz. Jay Cutler said something to that effect last week, that it will take 5-6 games for that to shake out, which is head-shaking at this level and had the ring of excuse-making.

Jim also gets into why the Packers may in fact be struggling a little on defense, and it has some roots in the lost offseason and lockout. Great stuff.

Impact wideouts

If the Bears are indeed going to run the football with any measure of success, help has traditionally had to come from blocking by more than the offensive line and tight ends. It will come from a wide receiver group that coach Darryl Drake demands be blockers.

Two of the better ones were missing in New Orleans with Roy Williams inactive with a groin injury and Bennett down early with a chest injury that has him still out. Williams was back this week, bringing with him a veteran grasp of how best to get into the minds of defensive backs.

Corners dont want to tackle, Williams said. Thats the last thing a corner wants to do. So if you can run, it brings the safeties down which gives no help on the outside for corners. That puts them on an island and not many corners in this league can play by themselves on that island.

The thing safeties dont like is receivers coming down to block them. Thats the thing that makes them grumpy.
Anybody notice...

The only undefeated team in the NFC East is the Washington Redskins and that Rex Grossman is their quarterback.

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.