Could Tommie Harris be key for Bears vs. Pats?


Could Tommie Harris be key for Bears vs. Pats?

Thursday, Dec. 9, 2010
Posted: 11:23 a.m.
By John Mullin

Another thoughtful Thursday go-round with Mac and Spiegs on "The Danny Mac Show" on WSCR-AM 670, which I always like not just because the guys are fun to hang and talk football with, but because I get story ideas when we visit...

Like it occurring to me that there is likely to be a surprise player for Bears who could have a dramatic influence on this game if the Bears are going to win. Danny and Matt didn't instantly buy in (they will) but my quick pick for that player is Tommie Harris.

Harris has done little of note all season, making him one of the few legitimate personnel disappointments in a season otherwise relatively free of them. But Harris also has been played sparingly and at this time of year, when he has traditionally worn down a bit, he has a chance to be the impact player against a New England offensive line that is one of the NFL's best but also gave up three sacks of Tom Brady last Monday night. We'll see.

Harris or Julius Peppers or Israel Idonije or Henry Melton rank as keys to the game if only because pressure is the only reliable way to cope with Tom Brady. The Bears have fared well through this mid-section of the season relying primarily on their front four creating pressure, with the occasional D.J. Moore blitz sack, and leaving the back seven to create a weed patch for Brady to get through is crucial.

But the game strategically could be taken out of Harris' and a lot of others' hands if, as we talked over, Bill Belichick can goad, scheme, entice, force, whatever, Mike Martz into abandon the offensive recipe that has been instrumental in the Bears' 5-0 run the past month-plus.

I do expect Chester Taylor to play Sunday, by the way. The veteran running back was held out of Wednesday's practice with a sore knee but he has missed just five games in a career of nearly nine years.

Taylor and Matt Forte have been instrumental in the Bears' season turnaround simply by their utilization in Mike Martz's "new" offense. The two have caught 19 passes over the last five games while combining for no fewer than 20 carries in any of those five.

Some observers want to dismiss the New England wins over Martz's Detroit and San Francisco offenses in 2006 and 2008, respectively. The reasoning is that Martz simply didn't have the personnel to match up with Belichick's defense.

The problem with that, as I detailed in a previous blog, is that the Lions turned the ball over on their final three possessions to lose. The 49ers led 14-7 roughly 10 minutes into their game with the Patriots and then could score just once in the final 50 minutes.

The point really isn't to pick on Martz so much as to look objectively at his history vs. one of the elite defensive schemers in the NFL.

Looking forward now to visiting with the guys again next Thursday. By then we'll know how Harris, Martz, Belichick and all the rest played out.

John "Moon" Mullin is'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.

Vikings handling of Sam Bradford offers object lesson for Bears transition to next QB

Vikings handling of Sam Bradford offers object lesson for Bears transition to next QB

Call it variations on a theme. The Bears on Monday night will face not only the Minnesota Vikings, but also Sam Bradford, the latest quarterback opponent that hints at possibilities in the Bears’ own future far beyond what was once the norm.

That norm is what can reasonably be expected from a new quarterback, one coming into a new system, new environment, even a new league, and having near-immediate success. Quarterback changes can involve upheaval of staff, personnel and even franchise identity, as the Bears can confirm based on their last eight years with Jay Cutler.

The experiences in Dallas, Minnesota and Philadelphia point to the kinds of quarterback transitions the Bears may be in search of after the 2016 season.

Bradford arrived in Minnesota via trade just eight days before the season opener, yet has proceeded to post the best results of his career: for completion percentage (67.5), interception percentage (0.6 percent; 7 TD’s vs. 1 INT), yards per attempt (7.4) and rating (100.3, vs. a previous best of 90.9).

More important, without the Vikings’ starting left tackle (Matt Kalil) and running back (Adrian Peterson), Bradford has the Vikings leading the NFC North and tied for the NFC lead at 5-1.

“[The Vikings] had the misfortune of losing their quarterback, they go out and make a bold move to get him and they haven’t missed a beat offensively,” said Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. “He’s been getting better and better.”

This all holds particular relevance for the Bears, who saw Brian Hoyer step in and deliver four straight 300-yard passing games, something he’d never done in his career and no quarterback in Bears franchise history had done. Cutler’s personal best was two straight, for purposes of comparison.

The Bears are expected to have a new quarterback in some form or other next year. In the meantime they have been victimized by two rookie quarterbacks already this season (Carson Wentz, Philadelphia, and Dak Prescott, Dallas). The experience of Bradford, Prescott and Wentz, all new in 2017 to their situations, suggests chances of dramatic improvement over the Bears’ recent history with Cutler, for example.

“A good quarterback can influence the guys and make guys around him better,” Wentz said. “So it’s one of those things where the quarterback usually gets too much credit and too much of the blame as well. It’s just kind of the nature of the position.”

Prescott and Wentz were 2016 draft choices and had offseasons and training camps with their respective teams. Bradford had none of that, yet began his year throwing 130 passes without an interception.

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

How that happens may be illustrative for the 2017 Bears. The Vikings traded for Bradford, a one-time starter for the Rams and Eagles. But because of the late-offseason timing of the deal, necessitated by the season-ending leg injury for Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, Bradford had to be eased into the new offense.

“I think that’s honestly one of the bonuses of coming during the regular season,” Bradford said on Thursday. “Obviously it would’ve been nice to have some practices in training camp. But once you get into the regular season, it’s not like you have the whole playbook in each game plan. Each game plan is very specific for that week’s opponent, so it’s considerably less than would be in your training-camp installs.

“So I think that helped a little bit. But as far as it being cut down, the volume wasn’t so much cut down as how the plays were called, naming some concepts with some things I was familiar with. That really helped me.”

Bears Talk Podcast: Jay Cutler returns against one of NFL's best defenses


Bears Talk Podcast: Jay Cutler returns against one of NFL's best defenses

Jim Miller joins Pat Boyle as they discuss the return of Jay Cutler as he gets ready to face one of the toughest defense’s in football. Plus, the key to a Bears win on Halloween night.

Listen to the latest Bears Talk Podcast here: