Chicago Bears

Bears prepare for Jets, wonder if they're true 'closers'

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Bears prepare for Jets, wonder if they're true 'closers'

Sunday, Dec. 26, 2010
10:05 a.m.

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com
Few weeks of the 2010 season have passed without at least one question being raised or answered by the Bears performance. Its just been that kind of year.

So the question going into Sundays meeting with the New York Jets (10-4) is there:

Are the Bears true closers yet?

The elite teams in the NFL typically seize true opportunities when they are before them. The Bears have flirted with elite status at times, only to slip back and leave themselves open to doubt, sometimes within their own locker room.

That the Bears (10-4) are a good, even very good, team they have never doubted. But elite has been another matter.

So among the usual tactical questions going into a game is the one as to whether the Bears can finish off a good opponent when the stakes are a step toward a vitally important goal such as the No. 2 seed in the NFC playoffs and earn a bye through the first round of the postseason.

Things have been a little lighter, obviously, since we played on Monday night and this has been a short week, said linebacker Lance Briggs. For us, weve got to keep getting better. Weve got a lot of fight for the rest of the season and into the playoffs so this game is very important to us just securing things in the playoffs.

To take that step toward being the kind of closer that wins championships means taking several specific smaller steps.

Get on the Mark

Mark Sanchez is expected to start for the Jets despite some shaky practice days because of an injury to his right (throwing) shoulder. That could be good news for the Bears, who have gotten some of the best coverage play from their secondary in decades.

Three Bears defensive backs Chris Harris, D.J. Moore, Charles Tillman have 4 interceptions. No other team in the NFL has three DBs with 4 and no Bears team since the 1983-86 teams have had three with that kind of production.

On the other side is Sanchez not throwing a touchdown pass in his last 106 attempts and none in his last three games, two of them losses in which the Jets managed just 9 total points.

Before the last two games before the Pittsburgh game, I wouldve said Im making better decisions., using my legs a little more, sliding a lot better, getting rid of the ball, getting to my check-downs a lot faster, Sanchez said. But those two weeks we didnt play very well, I reverted back to some of those poor decisions, not having two hands on the ball and just got sloppy with my fundamentals.

The Bears have two edge rushers in Israel Idonije and Julius Peppers who are 6-6 and 6-7, respectively, and both with 8 sacks. No team has more than the Bears 21 sacks over the last seven games, six of them wins, and that may be enough to help Sanchez get sloppy again with his fundamentals.
New identity?

The problem is in the run game. The last three opponents each have gained more rushing yards and the last four averaged more per carry than the Bears, a disturbing trend for a team that had allowed 100 rushing yards in just two of the previous six games.

What has changed, however, is any belief that the Bears will go only as far as their defense takes them.

I disagree with that, linebacker Brian Urlacher said. Were known as a defensive team, but our offense scored 40 points last week. I know special teams scored seven of them, but it still goes to the offense.

I disagree with that. I think were a good team, all-around. The offense has been there for us the last eight or nine weeks. Theyve been playing better. Once they figured out the offense, and how to run stuff, theyve been playing well.

They carried us in the Philly game. Detroit; we didnt play well. They carried us. There have been a few games here lately where we needed them and they came through for us

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.

Bears: Where does Kyle Fuller fit with Prince Amukamara back?

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USA TODAY

Bears: Where does Kyle Fuller fit with Prince Amukamara back?

Prince Amukamara (ankle) is expected to make his 2017 regular season debut against the Pittsburgh Steelers after being a full participant in practices Thursday and Friday (he wasn't listed on Friday's injury report). But that leads to the question: What does defensive coordinator Vic Fangio do with Kyle Fuller?

Fuller acquitted himself well in starts against the Atlanta Falcons — in which he helped limit Julio Jones to four catches on five targets — and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Bears signed Amukamara to start opposite Marcus Cooper, but Fuller has at least earned the opportunity to keep his job — or a job — on Sunday. 

And it's worth noting that both Fuller and Amukamara are in contract years, so both should be motivated to not lose playing time going forward. 

“I was pleased with the waay Kyle played overall,” Fangio said. “There's obviously some plays he'd like to do over and play them a little better, but overall I thought he did a good job. I like where he's at right now.”

Fangio didn’t play Fuller as a nickel corner in 2015. But if the Bears want to get their best defensive players on the field could Fuller force his way into a nickel role with Amukamara and Cooper as the outside guys? 

That’s an especially pertinent question given Pittsburgh’s explosive trio of receivers: Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant and JuJu Smith-Schuster. 

“No matter where a receiver lines up, it’s not going to be a down to take off,” Amukamara said. “We’re always going to have to have our ‘A’ game.”

What Mitchell Trubisky learned in that pre-draft workout with Ben Roethlisberger

What Mitchell Trubisky learned in that pre-draft workout with Ben Roethlisberger

Ben Roethlisberger came away from his pre-draft workout with Mitchell Trubisky — the two share the same agent — impressed, an opinion which the longtime Pittsburgh Steelers detailed on Wednesday. The feeling was mutual for Trubisky. 

“Yeah, Big Ben’s awesome,” Trubisky said. “It was really special and really a privilege to learn from him. … “I’ve really looked up to him ever since he came out because he’s an Ohio guy as well. He came from Miami, Ohio. And it’s unique he was able to have success early on in his career and that’s what you try to duplicate as a quarterback coming into this league, and just how he carries himself, how competitive he is. I just try to take those things and hopefully add them into my own game as well.”

Roethlisberger — who went to high school in Findlay, Ohio, which is about two and a half hour west of Trubisky’s hometown of Mentor — won every game he started his rookie year and won his first of two Super Bowls a year later. Beyond his success quarterbacking the Steelers over these last 14 years, though, Trubisky felt he could learn something from how Roethlisberger has been a leader in Pittsburgh’s locker room. 

“(He) owns the locker room, no matter where you’re at,” Trubisky said. “I think it’s just the type of person you are. You’re competitive. You’re an alpha. You know how things are supposed to be done and you won’t settle for anything less than what has to be done. You’re settling for nothing less than excellence. That’s what he strives he for and, I mean, that’s what we’re all striving for.”

Eventually, the Bears expect Trubisky to command the locker room in the same fashion (he certainly has the self-belief and confidence to do so). And perhaps he'll have the same kind of trophy-driven success over a long period of time enjoyed by Roethlisberger, too. While Trubisky isn't in control of his career just yet, that was another lesson he took away from Roethlisberger.

"One of the big pieces of advice he gave me was really take control of your career," Trubisky said. "And I think that's kind of how he instills how he carries himself in the locker room, on the practice field, at the line of scrimmage. The play is going to go how he wants it and that's really how I want my career to go. Just exactly what you dream of, and take control and get everyone to buy into the same plan. I think that's how you create a winning culture -- really taking control, really taking ownership and hopefully that trickles down through the rest of the team."