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.

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.”