First round of Bears 'playoffs' starts Sunday vs. Pats

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First round of Bears 'playoffs' starts Sunday vs. Pats

Monday, Dec. 6, 2010
Posted: 2:31 p.m.

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

In the first round of the 2010 playoffs, the Bears have drawn the New England Patriots.

In the second round, they have the Minnesota Vikings. Then the New York Jets. And don't forget the Green Bay Packers; the Bears certainly have not.

The de facto "playoffs," the time of year when one loss effectively ends your season, have in fact begun for the Bears. They are ahead of the Packers in the NFC North in the standings but losing in Green Bay the final week of the season could cost the Bears dearly even if their record is superb. The Patriots and Jets may not be NFC opponents but the win-loss totals can't tell the difference.

"Absolutely," said safety Chris Harris. "Every game in December is a playoff game for me. We're at 9-3 right now. We definitely don't want that to slip away. We're going to approach every game like it's a playoff game becaues it's going to be tough. The Packers are a good football team as well. Every single game right now counts."

Some Bears appeared to forget that on the way to Ford Field but they are unlikely to make the same mistake again. A little check of NFL history will show them why.

Pittsburgh, Houston and Atlanta all missed the playoffs last year with 9-7 records. Cleveland missed in 2007 with a 10-6 mark. None other than the Patriots missed last season with an 11-5 record.

"There could possibly be a 10-6 team or 11-5 team that doesn't make the playoffs this year," Harris said. "We just have to take care of business and win our division and not worry about that. We don't want to be that team on the outside looking in."

Depth charging

Pisa Tinoisamoa underwent arthroscopic surgery Monday on his injured right knee, a procedure described as "minor" and at this point not something expected to land the veteran strong-side linebacker on injured reserve.

Rod Wilson, whose listed position is No. 2 middle linebacker, filled in well and is expected to start in Tinoisamoa's spot, which points to a subtle strength of the Bears' depth chart. The Bears also are without Nick Roach (hip) after he was injured against Detroit and was unable to finish the game.

Wilson and Brian Iwuh are standouts on special teams and they also can be quickly retrofitted to play multiple linebacker spots. Iwuh came off the bench to start against Seattle in place of injured Lance Briggs and calmly delivered 12 tackles, including 10 solos.

And speaking of linebackers ...

Brian Urlacher did not have 17 tackles against the Lions. Coaches' review of game tape put the final total at 19. Considering that the Lions only ran 53 plays total, that puts Urlacher intimately involved in nearly 36 percent of Detroit's snaps.

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 Camp Shorts: Leonard Floyd debuts, front-7 goes on the attack

Bears Camp Shorts: Leonard Floyd debuts, front-7 goes on the attack

BOURBONNAIS, Ill. – Leonard Floyd, sidelined by illness almost as soon as Thursday’s first practice began, was in full pads on Saturday, with coaches limiting his workload and with the kind of mixed results usually associated with rookies.

The rush linebacker, working primarily with the No. 3 defense, set a defensive edge and flashed in a stop of running back Senorise Perry. But Floyd struggled in some of his pass drops and followed a play fake and lost containment on one quarterback rollout in team sessions.

Floyd likely dropped some pounds over the course of week with a stomach virus but “Leonard is exceptionally quick and explosive,” said coach John Fox. “We saw that on tape as a college player and all through the OTAs. A lot was made of his weight but that takes care of itself. He’s just a good football player”….

[RELATED: Bears agree to extension with Willie Young]

…The defense has wanted more pass rush from its down-linemen and has seen just that from Akiem Hicks in the early camp going. Hicks overwhelmed rookie guard Cody Whitehair with a bull rush in a two-man pass-protection drill, and Hicks again was in the face of quarterback Jay Cutler during team sessions, combining with Mitch Unrein for one simulated sack and breaking in solo for another.

“Somebody told me [Cutler] said, 'Do that in pads,'” Hicks said of his Friday encounter with the quarterback. “He said that yesterday when I got him and then today I got him in pads, and he didn't say much”….

Lamarr Houston was involved in the first dust-up of camp as he and guard Ted Larsen engaged in post-whistle hostilities. But the rush linebacker also was involved in myriad impact plays ranging from coming clean for a simulated sack in pass-rush work to stacking up two different run plays in team...

For Willie Young, Bears contract extension more than just a simple business transaction

For Willie Young, Bears contract extension more than just a simple business transaction

BOURBONNAIS — Sometimes football is just a business. Sometimes it’s that and a lot more.

For Willie Young, the business side was taken care of late Friday night when the Bears added two years to his contract, projecting him as a Bear through the 2018 season.

The emotional side was still being taken care of on Saturday, when a former seventh-round draft choice was able to step back and realize what effectively a third NFL contract means to someone who was passed over time after time in the draft and never expected to be much.

“I’m slightly speechless right now but excited,” said Young, someone rarely at a loss for words.

“It means a lot,” Young said after a long pause, reflecting on how seventh-round picks rarely even make teams. “All the teams that passed me over ... My big thing is who I am and what the name on my back stands for.”

[MORE: Bears sign Willie Young to two-year contract extension]

Young was able to call his family and give them the news, “We’re going to be in Chicago a little while longer.”

Just as his entry into the league was shaky, his tenure in Chicago was seldom secure before this weekend.

When Young signed with the Bears in the 2014 offseason, leaving the Detroit Lions, he did so assuming that he was coming in as a starting defensive end. That changed when the Bears landed Jared Allen to position opposite Lamarr Houston. That season ended nevertheless with Young leading the Bears in sacks (10) before suffering a torn Achilles late in the season.

Allen was traded away last season, giving Young a job opportunity as he was coming back from Achilles surgery. Trouble was, the defense Young was returning to had changed completely, and Young was now a linebacker, now with coverage responsibilities and playing in situations.

Despite that second major change from what he’d expected, Young still managed 6.5 sacks, second on the Bears. That, combined with his work through the offseason to date, convinced the Bears that he was more of a fit than even he perhaps thought once upon a time.

[SHOP: Gear up for the 2016 season, Bears fans!

The result was a two-year contract extension agreed to late Friday night and added to the final year (2016) Young had from his initial Bears contract which locked him up only through the end of this season.

“It feels good to reward somebody that’s worked as hard as he’s worked and overcome the injury last year, and the leader that he is out there mentoring our younger players,” said GM Ryan Pace. “I feel really good about it. It’s good for our locker room, it’s good for our team.”

Where he once struggled to fit in – and was not reluctant to say so – Young now is securely ensconced as one of the starting outside linebackers in the Bears’ 3-4 scheme. When the Bears go to a 4-3 in nickel situations, Young lines up as the defensive end he had been for his career.

“There’s not a big difference [between 3-4 linebacker and 4-3 end],” said coach John Fox. “I think that [‘don’t call me a linebacker!’] was a little tongue-in-cheek. Some guys up to a point have had their hand on the ground, it’s a little bit of an adjustment. But there’s way more carryover They are involved in coverage a little bit more but I think he’s adapted to it quite nicely actually.”

With Ted Larsen, Bears O-line doesn't yet need SOS call

With Ted Larsen, Bears O-line doesn't yet need SOS call

The story from about five years ago goes like this: Ted Larsen and his girlfriend were out on the water, deep sea fishing, when they heard a Coast Guard warning about three kayakers in distress. Realizing the location was relatively nearby, Larsen immediately headed to the area, found the trio, and pulled them aboard before any other help could get there.

The Bears offensive line isn't in nearly as much distress, but after the retirements of veterans Manny Ramirez and Nate Chandler before they would even play a game for them, along with Kyle Long going down on with a calf strain in Thursday's opening practice of training camp, the former Buccaneer and Cardinal may be an important lifeline on Dave Magazu's unit.

"We gotta get some depth there. We have very little depth," Larsen said earlier this week in Bourbonnais. "The guys we do have are good. I think it's just finding the five best guys we have and throw them out there. There's competition everywhere, obviously besides Kyle, so...I'm ready to play whatever position. I've started ten-plus games at every position inside. Wherever they need me to help the team out, I'm ready to go."

Which he wasn't back in June, missing the last half of OTAs and the entire three-day mandatory minicamp with a calf strain of his own. Long was on the sidelines Saturday watching practice without the boot he'd been wearing the previous two days in hopes of speeding the healing process. And while the team's encouraged it's not a long-term injury, flashbacks of Alshon Jeffery's struggles that began with a calf strain a year ago will force them to proceed cautiously.

[MORE: Bears sign Willie Young to two-year contract extension]

As a result, Larsen's stepped in for Long at right guard when the original plan was to have him compete with second-round pick Cody Whitehair and Hroniss Grasu (who have one season of NFL experience between them) at left guard and center, respectively. In his six-year career, Larsen's started 34 games at left guard, 13 at right guard, and ten at center.

"As the unit gets better, the whole team gets better. I'm not scared of any rookies or younger guys. I've played a lot of games, some playoff games. We all have experience in this league. Whoever's out there is out there, whether I'm playing center and helping Cody, or I'm helping Grasu, or whatever it is. You don't want guys to play worse, you want `em to play better, so when you're in there, you're playing at a high level."

The Bears struck on the opening day of free agency to sign Larsen's Arizona teammate from the last two seasons, Bobby Massie, to become their new right tackle. Two weeks later, Larsen followed.

"It's a program on the rise," the 29-year-old explained. "Bobby had signed here.  We played together and it was just another opportunity to come in on a one-year ($1.65 million) deal. It's kinda what I wanted. Play well, have a chance to start, and be on a competitive team."

[SHOP: Gear up for the 2016 season, Bears fans!

The deal came a day after Ramirez originally signed and a month before Whitehair was drafted and Matt Slauson subsequently cut. Things have changed again since then, and for a team adapting to more of a zone-blocking scheme under new offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains, cohesion and communication and comfort is crucial before the regular season starts.

Larsen originally played alongside Willie Young as a defensive lineman at North Carolina State before being switched to the other side of the line his junior season. Larsen was a sixth-round draft pick of New England in 2010, but was subsequently cut. Young was a seventh-rounder by Detroit that year. As Young earned a two-year contract extension Saturday, Larsen hopes to prove his worth to the Bears this season, as well. While avid fisherman Young reeled in a new deal, Larsen shares the same off-field passion, part of the reason he was around to help rescue those kayakers.

"We actually were on a flight to Fort Lauderdale this offseason, same day. He was actually going to fish somewhere else and I was going to the (Florida) Keys. It's definitely a mutual interest, same for Bobby Massie - he's another big fisherman."

Who's the best?

"I dunno," Larsen answers. "We just do it for fun."