Bears try to clinch NFC North title outdoors in Minny

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Bears try to clinch NFC North title outdoors in Minny

Monday, Dec. 20, 2010
9:35 AM

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

The 2010 season has continued to play out as Lovie Smith envisioned it (or as much as it can with three losses in seven home games.) The Bears played their way into a reasonable (4-3) if not commanding position through October, then ran off a 4-0 November that carried over one week into December.

The New England game rocked them backwards but the Bears are now in a new position that has been missing in two of the last three seasons and was blown in 2008 when they had a playoff berth in front of them before a final-game loss to the Houston Texans.

Its nice to have games that mean something in December, said linebacker Brian Urlacher. We havent had that in a while. Two years after the Super Bowl, we had a chance to go to the playoffs, and we lost that game at Houston.

But to have a few games here at the end of the season that actually mean something, its fun. Youre practicing for a reason, for a purpose. Its easy to come to work when you know you have a goal in mind to get to, and its still attainable.

It clinching the NFC North division title for the first time since 2006 -- is indeed attainable after the Green Bay Packers teetered to the brink of playoff elimination with their loss to the Patriots. The Bears can accomplish that with a win over Minnesota.

But it is far from a given.

The 2008 missed opportunity should still be seared into their minds, losing on the road to a team that had nothing particular to play for beyond an 8-8 record, not unlike the 2010 Minnesota Vikings. It helped place Smiths job in jeopardy.

Be careful with teams like that. They got one mission and thats to start knocking off playoff teams and guys still in it will make a run for it. So weve got to take them seriously, a tough team. We played well against them the first time. Still doing a lot of similar stuff offensively and defensively.

The 1993 Dave Wannstedt Bears stood 7-5 and proceeded to lose their final four games, failing to score more than 14 points in any of them.

The 7 points scored against New England last Sunday should be an anomaly for an offense that has averaged just under 20 per game. But the home team has won 15 of the last 17 games between Minnesota and Chicago and last year it was the Bears who upset the playoff-bound Vikings, at home.

And Minnesota is the only NFC North opponent against which Smith does not own a winning record.

Playoffs is one thing that youre playing for, but theres a lot more than that, especially when youre playing a division opponent, Smith said. Well get their best effort. I dont have any doubt on that.

Whats missing? The football

The running of Adrian Peterson, the play of a rookie Minnesota quarterback (Joe Webb), the ability of the Bears offensive line to control the line of scrimmage against a stout defensive front all are points of analysis. Same with Bears LT Frank Omiyale vs. Vikings DE Jared Allen; footwear and field conditions; or Jay Cutler playing at night, which he doesnt do very well.

But Bears defensive players and coaches are of one mind on the one true key to this game and most:

Take what the offense gives you, beginning with the football.

During the Smith era the Bears are 36-7 when they have a more takeaways in a game than giveaways. They are 5-0 this season with a plus-turnover ratio.

They are also 3-2 with a negative turnover margin, a tribute to their defense delivering stops after giveaways. But they are 1-2 when the defense produces zero takeaways, which was the case against New England and Detroit the past two weeks. They were also takeaway-less in the loss to Seattle.

And that has killed not only some chances for wins. It also sapped out some of the swagger that had come to characterize the defense through the Bears winning streak.

Weve got to get takeaways, Urlacher declared. We havent gotten a takeaway in two weeks. So we need to get takeaways again, start getting to the quarterback, and just start having fun again. Were a fun group when were playing well. So weve got to start doing that again.

Peterson once could be counted on to turn the ball loose. He has not done it once yet this season.

Obviously hes very conscious of it, said defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli. You can tell. Its not been popped out yet so its credit to him. Hes cleaned that up but part of our deal is weve got to go take it away.

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 release Omar Bolden, sign Charles Tillman to one-day contract

Bears release Omar Bolden, sign Charles Tillman to one-day contract

The Bears released a player who was expected to be a special teams contributor next season and signed a player who officially retired from the NFL on Friday.

After signing Charles Tillman to a one-day contract to retire as a member of the Bears, the team terminated the contract of defensive back Omar Bolden.

Bolden originally signed a one-year deal with the Bears last March after spending the first four seasons of his career with the Denver Broncos, including the first three years under current Bears head coach John Fox and special teams coordinator Jeff Rodgers.

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

The 27-year-old Bolden, who won a Super Bowl with the Broncos in 2015, has amassed 27 special teams tackles and 24 defensive tackles in 56 career games. Bolden has also added 1,085 yards on 44 kickoff returns and 123 yards and a touchdown on five punt returns.

The Bears 90-man roster currently sits at 89.

Bears: The one thing Charles Tillman will miss the most in retirement

Bears: The one thing Charles Tillman will miss the most in retirement

When Charles Tillman arrived at Halas Hall Friday morning, after a season in Carolina as a Panther but now retiring from the game, Bears President Ted Phillips was there to bring Tillman back where he and the Bears knew he belonged.

“Welcome back home,” Phillips said to Tillman.

For Tillman, it was a 13-year love affair with a passion of his – football – that officially ended on Friday, with the 2003 second-round draft choice of the Bears signing a one-day contract that allowed him to retire as a Chicago Bear.

“I think I’ve done OK,” Tillman reflected as his family and members of the Bears organization looked on.

But Tillman, named the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year in 2013, was also clear beyond the “I” part of his observation: “I didn’t do this all by myself,” he said, repeatedly remembering Lance Briggs, Brian Urlacher, Tommie Harris, Chris Harris and a litany of teammates he credited with much of what he was able to do.

[RELATED - Athletes react to Tillman's retirement]

Bears Chairman George McCaskey spoke of Tillman in terms beyond football.

“Every once in a while a player comes along with uncommon ability and tenacity on the field and unsurpassed compassion and charitable spirit off the field, the kind that makes us grateful as fans and proud as an organization,” McCaskey said. “Charles Tillman was such a player and is such a person.

“For 12 seasons, he made life miserable for Bears opponents, revolutionizing his position and adding ‘Peanut Punch’ to the football vernacular. In the community, in countless hospital rooms, he counseled the worried parents with a 'been there' perspective and a sympathetic ear and offered them hope. He also supported the brave men and women who defend our great country.”

The decision to leave the game after starting 12 games last season with the Carolina Panthers was not difficult in the end for Tillman.

“I woke up one day and said, ‘I’m done,’” said Tillman, who’d been talked out of several retirement impulses by his wife over recent years, the last three of which ended with him on injured reserve.

A career marked by myriad highlights contained a couple that were the most notable. The first one that Tillman mentioned was the game in 2003 when he got the better of legendary wideout Randy Moss of the Minnesota Vikings, including out-fighting Moss in the end zone for a game-saving interception.

“It showed the world I could play with anybody,” said Tillman, acknowledging that he carried a chip on his shoulder, coming out of a small unknown college (Louisiana-Lafayette) and working to overcome doubters.

Tillman also cited the 2006 season, which ended in the Super Bowl in no small part because of efforts like Tillman’s in the comeback win at Arizona, in which he returned a fumble for one of the Bears’ second-half touchdowns in the 24-23 win over the Cardinals.

But it was less the highlights than one specific off-the-field part of his football life that will miss. Asked what he in fact would miss the most, Tillman’s answer was immediate:

“The locker room. The locker room, more than anything. Not the games, not the… just the locker room in general. The games that we played in there: the ‘box ‘em up,’ the ‘4-square’…

“You know, we’d have a 10-minute break out a meeting and we would literally, I called it ‘Team Got Boredom.’ You get bored so you just make up a game. And we would make up some of the craziest games. We had a soccer game that we used to play. I think the most volleys we had off this little soccer ball was like 90 and the entire team was playing. So more than anything that’s what I’ll miss the most.”

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

Tillman has been hired by FOX to be part of their NFL coverage. But as for staying involved in the game as, say, a coach?

“Absolutely not,” Tillman declared.

He will be coaching his kids in their various activities, but overall, “I’m going to try to enjoy retirement, being the dad, I drive all my kids around, so I call myself the ‘d’uber guy. I’m a duber. Really, just be a family guy. I’ve got the Fox gig, so I’m one of [the media] now. So I guess I’m a journalist. I’m a black anchorman. That’s what I’m going to do. The black anchorman. We’re going to get into fights. We can meet up at like Jackson Park. I’ll have my crew. You’ll have your crew. We can get down. Get a little anchorman fight going on. Something like that. But we’ll keep it casual, respectful.”

Former NFL, Northwestern coach Dennis Green - famous for Bears rant - dies

Former NFL, Northwestern coach Dennis Green - famous for Bears rant - dies

Former NFL coach Dennis Green passed away Friday morning, according to Adam Schefter:

Green was the head coach for Northwestern from 1981-85, his first head coaching position. 

He later went on to become head coach for the Minnesota Vikings for 10 years from 1992-2001 and held the same position with the Arizona Cardinals from 2004-06.

It was in 2006 when Green really became a household name.

Following a loss to the Bears, Green delivered maybe the most memorable postgame press conference tirades in the last couple decades, if not ever:

In that game on Oct. 16, 2006, the Bears clawed back from a 20-point deficit to beat Green's Cardinals 24-23.

The Bears committed six turnovers and were trailing 23-3 with less than a minute remaining in the third quarter when safety Mike Brown recovered a fumble and returned it for a touchdown.

From there, Charles Tillman also recorded a fumble return TD and then Devin Hester put the finishing touches on the comeback with an 83-yard punt return TD. 

During his time at Northestern, Green was named the Big Ten Coach of the year in 1982. He was also the second African-American head coach in Division I-A history.