Kickoff rule change would greatly impact Bears

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Kickoff rule change would greatly impact Bears

Thursday, March 17, 2011
Posted: 11:13 a.m.

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

The Bears stand to take a hit this offseason and thats with everything right now at an official standstill.

The NFL and NFLPA are stalled on making changes to the collective bargaining agreement but the league is going ahead with a couple other needed changes, a couple of them particularly interesting.

Once upon a time NFL teams kicked off from the 40-yard lines. Not too many years ago, in an effort to inject more excitement into the game, the league moved kickoffs back to the 30. The league also took footballs out of the hands (literally) of kickers and instituted the K balls, kept in their wrappers and away from creative equipment managing, in order to keep balls from being booted as far. The express intent was to reduce the number of touchbacks.

Now the league is intent on giving the pendulum a healthy shove back the other direction.

At their meetings next week in New Orleans, a proposal to move kickoffs up to the 35-yard line will be voted upon, expressly to reduce the number of kickoffs. The feeling is that kickoff returns are a source of serious injuries, which they are. Along with that, receiving teams will be given the ball at the 25-yard line instead of the 20, making it less enticing for returners to bring a ball out of the end zone.

The Bears wont take it personally but this all hits them as hard as any team in the NFL.

The Bears had 10 kickoff returns of 40 yards or longer in 2010, most in the NFL. And they have three returners capable of and delivering these field-position gems: Devin Hester (five), Danieal Manning (four) and Johnny Knox (one).

Hesters 35.6-yard return average was highest in the NFL among players with at least 10 returns.

Mannings 17 returns of 40 or more yards since 2008 are No. 1 in the NFL over that span.

It gets worse.

The Bears ranked No. 1 in the NFL in starting field position for a receiving team, with an average start at the 31.5.

Seven teams (San Diego, Kansas City, Houston, Indianapolis, New Orleans, Dallas and San Francisco) posted average starting field positions of no better than the 25. Wonder how theyll vote on the bring-it-out-to-the-25 proposal?

Mike speaks

FOXSports Mike Pereira, formerly the NFLs vice president of officiating and now one of the top rules analysts in the game, is slated for a visit with Dan on The Dan Patrick Show tomorrow (Friday) on Comcast SportsNet.

Mikes got a great in-depth analysis of the rules changes, including the non-change expected to the Calvin Johnson Rule that saved the Bears in game one last season. Hes got a vote on each of the proposed changes and the best guess is that hell elaborate on each tomorrow with Dan.

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.

Three Bears necessities to lay a broom on the Lions

Three Bears necessities to lay a broom on the Lions

If the Lions beat the Bears in Detroit, it'd be a recent rarity. No, not the Bears losing, but in this long series that reaches 175 games Sunday. One team or the other has swept the season series 11 of the last 12 years (the lone exception being 2011). The 17-14 Bears win Oct. 2 ended a string of six consecutive losses to their division rivals. At that point, both clubs were 1-3. The Bears have remained at that pace since, while the Lions have taken off, winning seven of eight.

It was Brian Hoyer's steady hand that guided that win, while a Vic Fangio defense missing Eddie Goldman, Pernell McPhee and Danny Trevathan forced Matthew Stafford into easily his worst game of the season.

1. STAY COMMITTED

That first meeting was Jordan Howard's first start, and his first 100-yard game, and the rook ran it 23 times for the first of five 100-yard rushing efforts (113). And since the two Bears touchdowns were scored by a couple of players who won't suit up Sunday (Eddie Royal and Zach Miller, from a quarterback who also won't be suiting up), keep feeding the beast. He's 117 yards from reaching the 1,000-yard mark (after just a dozen carries the first three games), and another 100-yard effort would give him the most for a rookie in Bears franchise history.

2. A FASTER START FOR MATT

...meaning Barkley, not Stafford. The Bears want to avoid a faster start by Stafford and the home offense, which was held to just one first down and 14 total plays on their first four possessions back in October. As Barkley makes his first NFL road start in a dome, he and his offensive teammates need to get out of the gate quicker than they have the last two home games. Before they got things rolling on the final drive of the first half against the San Francisco 49ers, they had four possessions that totaled 14 plays, 27 net yards and two first downs. In Barkley's first start two weeks ago against the Tennessee Titans, they surrounded one 13-play touchdown drive in the opening half with five possessions, totaling 16 plays, 108 yards, three first downs, and an interception.

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

3. HOO-RATIO

The Bears have lost the turnover battle in eight of their 12 games, and just twice have they won it. One of those instances was in Week 4. For a team that has just five interceptions all year, against a quarterback who's thrown just five picks, two came in the first meeting on the lakefront. And those picks were by (....wait for it....) Deiondre Hall (the rookie who'll play for the first time since that game), and Jacoby Glenn, who's now back on the practice squad. Now, yes, Stafford is a different beast in his den, and there's a completely different confidence level now for the NFC North leaders. But what if the defense can pull an encore? And can Leonard Floyd and Akiem Hicks pick up where they left off against another mobile quarterback? The Bears had just two sacks in the first meeting, registered by (....wait for it....) Mitch Unrein and Cornelius Washington.

** Finish up your snow removal by 11 a.m. Plop yourself in front of CSN, and watch ex-Bears Lance Briggs, Jim Miller and Alex Brown join Chris for Bears Pregame Live. Then as soon as the second quarter ends on CBS, log on here to CSNChicago.com as Jim and Chris break down the first 30 minutes and go over second half adjustments on Bears Halftime Live. Finally, as soon as the team's start sharing handshakes, flip back to CSN as the three ex-Bears and Chris provide 90 minutes of reaction, analysis, press conferences and locker room interviews from Detroit on Bears Postgame Live. **

Complete Bears-Lions coverage on CSN

Complete Bears-Lions coverage on CSN

The Bears and Detroit Lions square off Sunday at noon and CSN Chicago has you covered along the way.

Check out a schedule of Sunday's events:

— Meijer Bears Pregame Live with Chris Boden, Lance Briggs, Alex Brown and Jim Miller airs at 11 a.m. on CSN.

— Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois Bears Halftime Live streaming live on CSNChicago.com and ChicagoBears.com.

— State Farm Bears Postgame Live airing immediately after the game on CSN.

Important Twitter follows:

— John "Moon" Mullin (@CSNMoonMullin), CSNChicago

— Bears Talk (@CSNBears), CSNChicago

— Kip Lewis (@CSNKipLewis), CSNChicago

— Chris Boden (@CSNBoden), CSNChicago