Briggs a difference-maker this time vs. Seahawks?

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Briggs a difference-maker this time vs. Seahawks?

Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2011
8:58 AM

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

The Bears have had to listen all year to critics who pointed to one lucky break after another giving the Bears games, and wins, against teams missing elite players. While no one seemed to be noticing, the Bears occasionally were on the wrong side of injury luck.

Matt Hasselbeck noticed. The Seattle quarterback had the good fortune of facing the Bears without perhaps their best single defensive player at the time.

Linebacker Lance Briggs was out with an ankle injury and Hasselbeck is of the opinion that Briggs absence took something away from the accomplishment of beating the Bears in Soldier Field.

Hes arguably one of the best defensive players in the game, Hasselbeck said. Going into that game, we fully expected him to play. He didnt play, and that was a big deal.

So for us to sit back and say, Oh, hey, we beat them at their place. We can do it again, that would be a dangerous way to feel. Because Lance Briggs did not play in that game. He is a big, big-time difference-maker and a great football player. As hard as this game was going to be the fact that hes back up, that takes it to a whole other level, Hasselbeck said.

Mike-minded

Zackary Bowman, Tim Jennings and Charles Tillman didnt leave the practice field Monday with the rest of their teammates. The three cornerbacks went off to a corner of the field and worked against each other.

Only they werent working against each other. They were working against Mike Williams, the one-time bust as a 10th-overall pick of the Detroit Lions in 2005 who did so little in three seasons that he was out of football for the 2008-09 seasons. It was Williams who had a career game against the Bears back in October with 10 receptions for 123 yards

Hes not the same guy as he once was, Jennings said. You can tell. Hes in shape, hes learned how to run routes a little better and you can tell hes been working on stuff outside football when he wasnt in football. Hes more committed to the team, working hard and hes gotten better in certain areas.

Hes huge. Hes gotten better.

The Bears played their cornerbacks on their respective sides rather than assign one to match up exclusively with Williams. His size (6-5, 230) makes Tillman the logical assignment but the Williams had just 55 catches in the other 15 games this season and may not warrant jury rigging the defense to stop him specifically.

We have to play a lot better against him, and we do plan, said coach Lovie Smith. Its like that each week. If you dont have success, you look for a better way of doing things. Maybe a better way is just to play what we had planned in a little bit better. Show up Sunday and youll see.

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 defensive backs using off-field bonds to improve on-field ones

Bears defensive backs using off-field bonds to improve on-field ones

Every Thursday night, Bears defensive backs try to all get together at Tracy Porter’s house for dinner. But it’s not about the food.

"None of us can cook," said cornerback Bryce Callahan, laughing.

At the risk of channeling some inner Marc Trestman, it’s about the get-together itself, which always involves popping on some game film and doing extra study beyond the time at Halas Hall. And it’s also building something off the field that they believe they can take onto it.

One of the keys to excellence in any working group is the individuals connecting in ways that make the whole greater than just the sum of the parts. That’s the point ultimately, taking some personal connections onto the field and making the entire defensive backfield collectively better.

Relationships among players have never been recorded as intercepting or even deflecting an NFL pass.

"For me it starts off the field, getting to know one another, how that person is," said cornerback Cre’Von LeBlanc, familiar with a similar internal chemistry from his time with the New England Patriots.

"You get that feeling for every individual, and you take that on the field. It creates a close bond, and we’ve got that bond. We try to look through each other’s eyes, communicate what you were thinking and he was thinking on this play or that, and that’s the biggest thing."

Offensive lines are generally thought of as the group most benefited by camaraderie and closeness. They typically have an O-line dinner most weeks, with checks for the meal not uncommonly reaching into four-figures.

"Those boys can EAT," LeBlanc marveled. "We stick to wings or ribs."

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

But the secondary consists of four individuals rotating coverages the way a line moves with different protections or assignments. Double-teams in the defensive backfield require the same cohesion and familiarity as ones on the other side of the football.

The Bears have started the same base four defensive backs in all three games — Porter and Jacoby Glenn at the corners, Adrian Amos and Harold Jones-Quartey at the safeties — but the Bears are working in multiple rookies, and Callahan (hamstring) has been inactive along with Kyle Fuller, projected to be the starter at right corner but now on IR. Rookie safety Deon Bush was inactive the first two weeks, then played at Dallas. Rookie corner Deiondre’ Hall was pressed into action on defense for 18 plays at Houston and 28 against Philadelphia.

With the in-game mixes-and-matches necessitated by injuries, the familiarity among secondary members is looked at as nothing short of vital. Comments, right or wrong, from a friend can be taken better/more constructively than ones from a relative stranger.

"Just more of being ready to pick each other up, be ready," Amos said. "It just shows you how quick you can go from scout team to on the field, so everybody has to be talking together.

"The closer we are on and off the field, the better we are together."

LeBlanc agrees.

"We talk to each other like friends, in a unit, trying to dissect a play right after it happens, rewind and see how we can to it better.

"You can’t be out here trying to communicate and you don’t even really know the guy next to you."

Bears facing Lions with Jay Cutler likely out, Alshon Jeffery dealing with hamstring issue

Bears facing Lions with Jay Cutler likely out, Alshon Jeffery dealing with hamstring issue

The official injury designation is “doubtful” but Bears quarterback Jay Cutler is unofficially expected to be out of Sunday’s game with the Detroit Lions after not practicing on Thursday or Friday due to his injured right thumb.

“It is a pretty critical area on the quarterback, especially when it's your right thumb and you're a right handed quarterback,” Bears head coach John Fox said. “So you know we're going to get him healthy and that's our main objective and we'll see if he's any further along [Saturday].”

The designation — “questionable” — was brighter for wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, except for the mild surprise that he was limited in practice Wednesday and Thursday with a knee issue and then was limited on Friday because of a hamstring.

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

Jeffery missed six games last season, two separate instances, because of hamstring problems.

Besides Cutler, running backs Ka’Deem Carey (hamstring) and Jeremy Langford (ankle), nose tackle Eddie Goldman (ankle) and linebacker Danny Trevathan (thumb) also did not practice and are listed as doubtful. Carey, Cutler, Goldman and Trevathan all were inactive in Dallas, and Langford suffered his ankle sprain against the Cowboys.

Limited but listed as questionable: guard Josh Sitton (shoulder), outside linebacker Willie Young (knee); and defensive backs Sherrick McManis (hamstring), Tracy Porter (knee) and Harold Jones-Quartey (concussion, cleared).