Chicago Bears

Bears thankful to be playing Falcons at home

510936.jpg

Bears thankful to be playing Falcons at home

Sunday, Sept. 11, 2011Posted: 10:05 a.m.

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com Bears Insider Follow @CSNMoonMullin
During the tenure of Lovie Smith, the Bears are 5-2 in home openers. And Chicago has not been kind to the Atlanta Falcons, although Sunday marks the first trip to the lakefront for Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan.

Since 2004, Smiths first year, only Green Bay (21) has scored more than 14 points against Bears in a Game One and no team scored more than the two TDs the Packers put across in the 2009 season-starter, and that was with Brian Urlacher missing the second half with a season-ending wrist injury.

I'm glad we've got them at home, because they're really good at home down in Atlanta, Urlacher said. We've got them at home, but it's a huge challenge for us.

The last time the Falcons played in Soldier Field (where they havent won since 1983) was in 2005, the conditions were minus-3 wind chill, night game and Michael Vick so clearly didnt want to be out there that he angrily fired the ball at Urlacher after the linebacker had dropped him for a first-quarter loss in the Atlanta backfield.

In Atlanta, the Falcons have won their last two meetings with the Bears, behind Ryan, scoring 22 and 21 points in the games that both were decided in fourth quarters. The 2009 game saw the Falcons score a go-ahead TD with three minutes to play, then stop the Bears at the Atlanta 5-yard line in the final seconds to save a 21-14 victory.

Were really focused on just trying to play well this week, Ryan said. It seems like every time weve played them, its been a great game.

Playing well is something the Falcons have done well in their three seasons under coach Mike Smith. Although Atlanta has flopped in the post-season (0-2), no NFC team won more than the Falcons 13 last season.

But they also have lost their first road game in all three seasons under Smith.
Preseason indicators

The question in Chicago, however, is not about the Falcons. Its about the Bears and what kind of team is coming off an 11-5 year and NFC Championship appearance, and which has changed more than one-third of its roster.

You can go through the preseason, teams arent doing what theyre going to do during the regular season, said coach Lovie Smith. You never really know, so I think as a football team, most coaches and teams they just cant wait to get to that first game to see exactly where they are, you set the bar then and start working form there.

The warmup games mean exactly what coaches and players say they do in terms of the season: zero. The results and the numbers dont count. After all, the 2008 Detroit Lions under Rod Marinelli went 4-0 in preseason, 0-16 when it counted.

The Falcons lost all four of their preseason games this year.

But the meaningless sometimes can foreshadow.

The Bears lost all four games in the 2010 preseason and proceeded to win 12 games on the way to the NFC Championship game. But they also scored just 17 points in one game and 10 or fewer in the other three.

They were the NFLs 30th-ranked offense, 21st in scoring, and they would have ranked even worse but for a complete mid-season course correction.

Through the 2011 preseason, the Bears scored 60 total points but also allowed more than 14 in just one. For a team anchored by its defense, this is perhaps the most positive indicator in the preseason.

Our whole objective, obviously, offensively, is to score points, coordinator Mike Martz said. And we need to do that. We need to score more points than we did last year. We got going pretty good at the end of the year, but consistency is important.

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.

Kendall Wright draws a line between Marcus Mariota and Mitch Trubisky: They 'can do it all'

Kendall Wright draws a line between Marcus Mariota and Mitch Trubisky: They 'can do it all'

Kendall Wright saw two years ago what the transition for a quarterback, picked second overall and coming from a college spread offense, can look like. Marcus Mariota made that move smoothly and now looks poised to join the ranks of the best quarterbacks in the NFL this year with the Tennessee Titans. 

Can Mitch Trubisky make a similarly successful transition? Wright, so far, has liked what he’s seen.

“His overall progression from OTAs to training camp to now, his overall everything he’s done in every area has gotten better,” Wright said. “The work he puts in, it helps him.” 

It’s not a perfect comparison, of course, given the offense Mariota so effectively operated at Oregon didn't resemble the look and feel of the one Trubisky ran at North Carolina. Mariota started far more games than Trubisky, too. They’re two different quarterbacks with different skillsets. And Mariota was given the opportunity to be a Week 1 starter from the moment he was drafted, while Trubisky — for now — remains behind Mike Glennon. 

“Marcus was in a different position where he came in and he was the quarterback,” Wright said. “I think it’s different. Once Mitch starts playing, whenever he starts playing, he’ll start progressing a lot more because he’ll actually be out there in game-like situations.”

But consider why the Titans were so confident Mariota could start immediately and make a successful transition to the NFL from that flashy Oregon offense:

“I don’t think the system he had in Oregon, I don’t think that held him back when he came into the league,” Wright said. “I think he was good at making his progressions, decisive. He’s like one of those players, it doesn’t matter what system he’s in, you put him out there and he’s a guy that’s a difference-maker.”

After espousing Trubisky’s accuracy back in April, Bears general manager Ryan Pace quickly pointed out this trait: “His ability to process and see the whole field jumps out right away. 

“… All these top quarterbacks, it’s just their ability to quickly process defenses, process coverage, find open targets, not panic under pressure, deliver accurate throws when there’s a noisy pocket – things are collapsing – those guys all have those traits. And Mitch has those traits, Drew (Brees) has those traits and those are things we value.”

The point being: No matter the system, both Mariota and Trubisky have good football intelligence, and are more than what Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians once bemoaned about college spread quarterbacks. 

“They hold up a card on the sideline and he kicks his foot and throws the ball,” Arians said in 2015. “That ain’t playing quarterback.”

Trubisky, of course, still has to improve with his pre-snaps reads, calling out protections, identifying coverages, learning the playbook, etc. But he seems to have the football intelligence to make those strides and marry them with his impressive physical skillset. 

And as was the case with Mariota, Wright doesn’t see a reason why Trubisky can’t succeed in the NFL. 

“(Trubisky) can do it all too,” Wright said. “He’s still learning, he’s still getting better, he’s never complacent. He has the ability to get better and he’s willing to get better. He’s a young guy that listens. He’s just a baller. You put him out there and he makes plays.” 

With return to Tennessee looming, football is fun again for Kendall Wright

8-21kendallwright.jpg
USA Today Sports Images

With return to Tennessee looming, football is fun again for Kendall Wright

Sunday will mark Kendall Wright’s first trip back to Nashville since he not-so-amicably split with the Tennessee Titans after the 2016 season. 

Wright has said he doesn’t want to talk about his time in Tennessee, where injuries and clashes with coaches led to a steady decline in targets and production after a standout 2013 season (139 targets, 94 receptions, 1,079 yards). But it’s easy to compare how he feels practicing with the Bears to how he felt toward the end of his days with the Titans. 

“A fresh start is good,” Wright said. “Football is fun again. 

“If you don’t have fun playing the game, what the use of you playing? And I didn’t really have too much fun the past few years. But when you’re out here playing and doing what you love to do, it’s fun. So you just gotta keep the game fun.”

Wright was a little more forceful earlier this year. 

“What motivates me the most is I probably was the best receiver on the Titans roster last year and I was playing, like, 10 plays a game,” Wright said during OTAs in June. 

But while this weekend’s game against the Titans could seem to be an opportunity for revenge, Wright is more approaching it for what it is — another preseason game to continue to improve with the rest of the first team offense. 

Wright caught a touchdown from  Glennon Saturday night in Arizona (he also was the target on Glennon’s interception, though that looked to be more on the quarterback than the receiver). And he seems to be clearly ahead of Victor Cruz to be the team’s No. 1 slot receiver — Cruz wasn’t targeted against Arizona, while Wright received three targets. 

If the Glennon-led first-team offense is going to have success in the regular season, it needs improvements from every unit — quarterback, running back, wide receiver, tight end and offensive line — based on what we’ve seen during the preseason. Perhaps a motivated, fun-having Wright, playing for the same offensive coordinator under which he had his best season, can be a part of that. 

“The game of football is supposed to be fun,” Wright said. “Don’t take the fun out of it. You just gotta go out there and have fun and make plays. When you’re making plays, it’s even more fun.”