Close call: Moon predicts the Pack will win the 'Bowl

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Close call: Moon predicts the Pack will win the 'Bowl

Sunday, Feb. 6, 2011
11:05 a.m.

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

The Super Bowl has had its high points in drama, ranging from the St. Louis Rams stopping the Tennessee Titans a yard short of a goal line to David Tyree making a fourth-down Velcro catch against his helmet for the New York Giants to sustain a winning drive over the New England Patriots.

And it has had its other, well, games, events where the only drama was settling on a final score in a contest won by double-digit margins. Of the last 10 Super Bowls, five have been decided by 11 points or more, including three of the last five.

But when the two best defenses in football against scoring (Pittsburgh No. 1, Green Bay No. 2) are on the field, chances rise exponentially for a smash-mouth game likely to be decided by one play, whether due to excellence or forced error, in the final 5 minutes in the fourth quarter.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are in their third Super Bowl in the past six years, all behind Ben Roethlisberger, who will assume his spot among the games elite quarterbacks past and present regardless of outcome. The Green Bay Packers were in the NFC Championship in 2007, Brett Favres last game as a Packer, but have been in the playoffs two of their three seasons behind Aaron Rodgers.

The Steelers command the high ground of experience with Roethlisberger, but Rodgers has played significantly better in playoff games than in regular-season games, the hallmark of a great quarterback.

And the hallmark of a great defense is playing to its strength, which the Steelers do, regardless of quarterback.

Our game plan never changes, said safety and defensive player of the year Troy Polamalu. Its always about applying pressure. Its about tackling after the catch. You know Rodgers receivers are going to get the ball because hes such an efficient quarterback. Tackle the guys and then not give up big plays and not let the ball get over our heads.

And finally.

Games between two good teams are the most difficult to assess. Both can play to their levels, which usually guarantees something close. Or ones strength takes away one element or enough of the others to put distance between the two on the scoreboard.

That could happen Sunday but elite defenses are rarely trampled and the guess here is that wont happen to either Green Bays or Pittsburghs. Ironically, the last time the two teams faced each other was in late 2009 when Pittsburgh defeated Green Bay in the final tick of the clock when Ben Roethlisberger connected with Mike Wallace on a 19-yard touchdown pass for a 37-36 win.

I think defensively, based on watching their body of work throughout the season, and I know firsthand that our defense has improved, so with that, their defense has improved, said Packers coach Mike McCarthy. I look for the defenses to impact this game more than they did in last years game.

Indeed, the only offenses to put major points on the Packers since October were New England and Atlanta, and Pittsburgh isnt in the firepower class with either. The Steelers were burned for 39 by the Patriots, then 24 by Baltimore and 19 by the Jets in the playoffs but are still the NFLs best at keeping numbers off scoreboards.

The Packers were No. 2 in the NFL in points differential and this is the tipping point, so to speak. The Steelers have the defensive base to pressure Aaron Rodgers out of a comfort zone and game plan but the big-play potential in the Green Bay offense rates the edge over the Rashard Mendenhall power-running option in the end.
Green Bay 17 Pittsburgh 16

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.

Bullard a prime example of how, why and where Bears can improve

Bullard a prime example of how, why and where Bears can improve

This Bears rebuild has taken longer than expected. Ideally, in year three of a GM/head coach tandem, they should be contending for the playoffs. 

That’s not to say the 2017 Bears can’t. It’s just unlikely. They don’t have enough players opponents have to gameplan for. They don’t have the depth to overcome key injuries. When franchises get on a winning roll, it’s when they have enough of those studs on both sides of the ball, and have the depth to avoid as many emergencies as possible. And that happens when second- and third-year players make a jump in their play.

Offensively, we saw an impressive jump by Cam Meredith, but another left leg injury still have us wondering exactly what Kevin White is, and how good he can be. Jeremy Langford’s growth was stunted by his ankle injury. Second-year center Hroniss Grasu missed the entire year. On the defensive side, we never got to see if Kyle Fuller could’ve proven his first-round status in his third year. Safety Adrian Amos started another full season, but is now in a battle to do the same a third straight year. We can see star qualities in Eddie Goldman, but how much of a difference-maker can he be by remaining on the field? We’ll learn the same about Leonard Floyd if he can do that this fall. And there are a handful of other second-year players we’ll be watching, from Deon Bush to Deiondre Hall to Cre’Von LeBlanc. There’s also 2016 third-round pick Jonathan Bullard, who learned what it took to become a 3-4 defensive end in the NFL.

“It was okay. I got about 17 snaps a game,” Bullard said of his rookie season during last month’s minicamp. “That’s not what I wanted coming in. But it is what is. I want to move on to the next year and hopefully be able to help this team in a big way.”

Rookie seasons for every player lay the groundwork. How high their ceiling goes starts to get established in year two, between the player’s effort, and getting coached-up correctly.

“They asked me to gain a few pounds. I was like 282 last year, and right now I’m at 296, so hopefully that helps me, said Bullard. “I’m just trying to make all this solid and not lose my burst that got me here. So I’m looking forward to it. I got a year under my belt now, I know what they expect. I’m gonna be ready.”

Part of Bullard taking things upon himself was hooking up with a former defensive end, from the same alma mater, who happens to be fourth in franchise history in sacks (albeit in a 4-3 scheme): CSN’s very own Bears analyst, Alex Brown.

“We saw each other at the Florida spring game and we kind of linked up and put in some work at his facility down the road,” Bullard explained. “We’ve met up quite a few times, just working on little things. He’s just trying to give me a better understanding of the game, and some of the veteran things he knows that I want to incorporate into my game.”

So what kind of a teacher is Alex?

“He’s alright. I make him him jump in there. I tell him he’s not that old.”

And while Pace didn’t make the big splash in free agency as he tries to match up salary with his grades for players, Bullard has to prove he’s now better than last year’s starter, Mitch Unrein, as well as a hungry fellow former Gator, Jaye Howard, who was brought in on a “prove it” one-year deal after being cut just before the draft by Kansas City.

“As far as him being a Gator, it’s exciting. But it’s a competition. He’s gonna come in and try to win the starting job, and I’m gonna do the same. It’s just gonna have to be a friendly competition when training camp comes, and may the best man win.”

Let this, and many other Bourbonnais battles, begin.

Bears linebacker Jerrell Freeman saved a man's life at an airport

Bears linebacker Jerrell Freeman saved a man's life at an airport

Jerrell Freeman played hero at an Austin airport on Sunday.

The Bears linebacker was grabbing a bite to eat before his flight to head back to Chicago for training camp when he noticed a man choking.

Freeman said an older lady tried to perform the Heimlich maneuver on the man but didn't have enough strength. That's when Freeman stepped in, and after a couple attempts, saved his life.

“I grabbed him and tried to squeeze the life out of him,” Freeman told the Chicago Tribune. “You’ve got to push in and up. So I did that and he started throwing up what he was choking on. I asked him if he was all right and he shook his head like ‘No!’

“I grabbed him again and hit him again with it. And when I put him down the second time, his eyes got big. He was like, ‘Oh, my god! I think you just saved my life, man!’ It was crazy.”

Freeman tweeted a picture after it happened:

Freeman, 31, said he had never done the Heimlich maneuver before, but his mom is a nurse and had talked to him about it. He just did what he heard, and thankfully it worked.