Chicago Bears

Lovie: Business as usual for veteran Bears

Lovie: Business as usual for veteran Bears

Tuesday, April 5, 2011
Posted: 3:45 p.m.

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

Right now the NFL players are locked out of their football homes. For the Bears, nothing is really all that different.

And yet everything feels different. The NFL may ultimately be a business but on another level its very, very personal, including relationships with coaches.

Theyre like family, said defensive tackle Anthony Adams. Its separating your family... Its a shame that we have to go through something like this, something that couldve been resolved two, two-and-a-half years ago.

Offseason workouts would only have begun last week, and one player told CSNChicago.com that one start date for the offseason program actually was to have been April 11. Regardless, the first two weeks are devoted to lifting weights and running, which is what players are doing anyway at myriad facilities around Chicago and elsewhere on the States.

READ: Re-signing Adams a high priority for Bears

But while its fun, Adams said Tuesday before receiving the 2010 Ed Block Courage Award at Maryville Academy in Des Plaines, its just not the same.

Professional athletes are creatures of routine and its awkward for us because were used to being on a set structure, Adams said. Its different but were all professionals and have to handle ourselves as such.

Unlike a number of teams, the Bears have a coaching staff virtually intact and players vested in its systems, for the most part. The Bears do not have the difficulties that will beset Carolina, Denver, San Francisco and other teams with new head coaches waiting to install new systems with a roster that is in a molten state because of a vast group of free agents and a prohibition against signing and bringing in draft choices and other rookies.

The lockout is hurting some of the teams that are just getting started but we have a veteran staff, a veteran team, and its not like we have to be out telling the guys what they need to be doing, said coach Lovie Smith. They know that we eventually have a season and you have to be ready to go once were told to go back to work.

The lawsuit to end the lockout and its expected appeal by the losing side is expected to take weeks to play out. Veteran players who have put in the work to stay in the NFL to this point arent waiting for any court decisions.

Ive been in the league for a while and I understand how hard I have to work, what I need to do, what works for me and what doesnt, Adams said. By me being a veteran, being 30 years young, I understand the rigorous amount of work youve got to do.

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 Week 3 grades: Offensive line, running backs lead the way for first win

Bears Week 3 grades: Offensive line, running backs lead the way for first win

Quarterbacks: D+

The Bears didn’t ask much of Mike Glennon, with the 22 passes he threw accounting for just 101 yards. The red zone interception he threw was bad, with him either woefully throwing behind tight end Zach Miller or not being on the same page as the tight end, who cut outside instead of sitting down (Glennon, if this were the case, was expecting him to sit down). Either way, that’s another mistake on Glennon’s season resume. 

Glennon might’ve had an opportunity to connect with Markus Wheaton on a deep ball in the first quarter but wasn’t able to move away from pressure quick enough and was forced to throw the ball away. He did make a good throw deep down the sideline to Wheaton later in the game, but that pass was dropped. 

Glennon also almost threw a catastrophic interception in Bears territory with just over a minute left, but it was dropped by safety Mike Mitchell. 

Running backs: A

Jordan Howard, playing through a reported sprained AC joint, continually hit the holes created for him by the Bears’ offensive line and was dangerous in the second level. Pittsburgh’s defense wasn’t threatened by any deep passes, so they were able to play up and scheme against the run, but Howard (23 touchdowns, 138 yards, two TDs) was outstanding. Howard also caught all five passes thrown his way for 26 yards. 

And then there’s Tarik Cohen, who ripped off a 36-yard run in overtime that nearly was a game-winning 73-yard run (he thought he stayed in bounds, replays were inconclusive and left the call on the field to stand). Cohen finished with 78 yards on 12 carries and also caught four passes for 24 yards. Add in the three receptions for 23 yards from Benny Cunningham and the Bears’ running backs combined for 35 carries, 216 yards, 13 receptions and 73 yards.

The only thing keeping this group from an A+ was Howard’s fumble in the third quarter, which gave the Steelers the ball deep in Bears territory. That was a mistake, but Howard was so good the rest of the game that he largely covered for it. 

Wide receivers: D+

The negatives from this unit are clear: Glennon targeted his receivers only four times, with Wheaton dropping a deep ball and Deonte Thompson recording the first catch by a receiver with just under six minutes left in the fourth quarter. Wheaton dropped a pass over the middle late in the first quarter, too, but was bailed out on the box score by a roughing the passer penalty. The limitations this group faces with Glennon as the team’s quarterback and Cameron Meredith and Kevin White were clear on Sunday. The Bears only ran 22 snaps with three wide receivers on the field. 

A positive, though: Thompson’s outstanding block on Howard’s walk-off touchdown in overtime. This group as a whole contributed in run blocking, raising their grade from a low D/F to a high D. 

Tight Ends: B

Adam Shaheen caught his first career pass for a two-yard touchdown and Zach Miller’s lone reception was the Bears’ longest completion of the game (17 yards). But while this group didn’t make much of an impact in the passing game, it did well to contribute to the Bears’ run blocking efforts as Dowell Loggains deployed plenty of two- and three-tight end sets. Dion Sims, in particular, did well blocking to set up Howard's penultimate run of the game. 

Offensive line: A

This wasn’t a perfect game from the Bears’ offensive line, but given the circumstances — without Josh Sitton and, during the game, losing Hroniss Grasu to a hand injury that forced Bradley Sowell in at left guard — its play was outstanding. Kyle Long’s return was noticeable, with the three-time Pro Bowler mauling in the run game. Charles Leno Jr., Cody Whitehair and Bobby Massie all blocked well for Howard and Cohen, and fill-ins Grasu and Sowell held their own. Howard and Cohen combined to average 6.2 yards per carry and frequently got to the second level, as good a sign as any that the offensive line did its job blocking on a play. 

Defensive line: B

The defensive line didn’t record a sack, but Akiem Hicks and Eddie Goldman were key in holding Le’Veon Bell to only 61 yards on 15 carries. The Bears never trailed on Sunday, and the tone for the game was set by the defense holding Pittsburgh to 1.7 yards per play in the first quarter. 

Linebackers: A-

Sunday was another quiet day for Leonard Floyd in the backfield, who had a shot a Ben Roethlisberger but couldn’t hit home. Both Pernell McPhee and Willie Young recorded key sacks in the fourth quarter, though. McPhee was active in stopping the run as he continues to see more snaps (four in Week 1, 24 in Week 2, 28 in Week 3) and put being on PUP during training camp behind him.  

Secondary: B

There were plenty of negatives from this group, but the positives out-weighed those. Let’s start with the negatives: Marcus Cooper was beat by Martavis Bryant on the first play of the game, but the Steelers receiver dropped Roethlisberger’s deep heave. Kyle Fuller missed a handful of tackles. Antonio Brown had too easy a time gaining 45 yards on two receptions to set up Pittsburgh’s field goal attempt at the end of the first half. And Cooper’s holding foul on Brown in the end zone on third and 1 set up an easy touchdown that brought Pittsburgh within three points midway through the third quarter. 

But the positives: Good coverage allowed Bryce Callahan to hit home with a strip-sack on Roethlisberger. Prince Amukamara played well in his return, breaking up a pass in the end zone toward JuJu Smith-Schuster, and was the only Bears’ cornerback to not be flagged for a penalty during the game. Cooper had three pass break-ups — all of which came after his special teams gaffe — and nearly recorded his first interception of the season. 

Overall, while Brown got his (14 targets, 10 receptions, 110 yards, 1 TD), the Bears’ secondary successfully limited Smith-Schuster and Bryant to a combined four catches on 14 targets for 69 yards. 

Special teams: C-

If we’re breaking this down a little further, Sherrick McManis gets an A+ and everyone gets gets an F. McManis beat the man across him to get in a perfect position to recover Eli Rogers’ dropped punt in the first quarter, and his field goal block at the end of the second half was the kind of thing that’ll get him to Orlando for the Pro Bowl again. His impact on a six-point win was significant. 

But the rest of this group made far too many critical mistakes to make up for how good McManis played. Connor Barth missed a 47-yard field goal that would’ve put the Bears up 10-0 in the first half, and Cre’von LeBlanc committed a holding penalty that gave Pittsburgh an extra 10 yards on a kickoff return. Pat O’Donnell had a punt bounce the wrong way, leading to Pittsburgh getting the ball on their own 38 with just over five minutes remaining. 

And then with Cooper, that’s the kind of mistake that gets people fired and loses you games. Fortunately for the Bears, it didn’t cost them a win. But if it did…yikes. 

Coaching: C+

High marks are deserved for coordinators Dowell Loggains and Vic Fangio. The Bears’ offense leaned on the run and designed some good blocking schemes to get Howard going early and often (the Bears called for 12 runs and only two passes on the game’s first two drives, and then didn’t pass the ball at all in overtime). While the defense didn’t blitz much, it shut down the run game and made enough plays in coverage against a potent passing attack and only allowed one extended scoring drive (a 13-play, 77-yard drive in the second quarter). 

But there were too many penalties committed in critical moments, like Leno’s false start on the untimed down from the one-yard line at the end of the first half. Undisciplined play — like those penalties and Cooper easing up and fumbling before the goal line — falls on the coaching staff, which drags this grade down. 

Why the Bears ‘f***ing loved’ what Jordan Howard showed them on Sunday

Why the Bears ‘f***ing loved’ what Jordan Howard showed them on Sunday

After fighting off the Pittsburgh Steelers’ defense for Jordan Howard, the Bears’ offensive line still sounded as if they wanted to keep blocking for a running back who wowed them with his toughness in Sunday’s 23-17 overtime win. 

Howard, who NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported has a sprained AC joint in his shoulder, was clearly playing through pain against Pittsburgh. He was helped off the field multiple times by trainers and was trying to protect his banged-up shoulder on some of his runs in the second half. But he quickly returned to the game after those scares, which was not lost on the guys leading the way for him. 

“He’s tough,” right guard Kyle Long said, emphasizing the word tough. “And toughness is something that’s talked about in football a lot, but Jordan Howard’s tough. He really is.” 

“He’s a f***ing soldier, man,” right tackle Bobby Massie said. “He was a Pro Bowler for a reason.” 

“F***ing loved it,” left tackle Charles Leno Jr. said. “I loved it. It showed that he cared and wanted to be out there for us, and it made me go harder. I just told him that — it made me want to block for him extra hard. And when he does that and he shows that courageousness, man, comes out there and keeps battling back after we know he’s hurting, I’m going to give it everything I got for that guy.”

The Bears’ offensive line (and tight ends and wide receivers, it should be said) continually opened up lanes for Howard despite the Steelers knowing what was coming. Mike Glennon and the Bears’ passing attack didn’t stretch the field and only saw one wide receiver catch a pass (Deonte Thompson about halfway through the fourth quarter), but no matter how much the Steelers schemed to play the run, Howard kept hitting creases and getting into the second level, where he’s at his most effective. 

“He’s a tough son of a gun,” coach John Fox said. “The more you have of those, the better off you are and the better chances you have to win.”

Howard finished with 138 yards on 23 carries — an average of six yards per attempt — after only gaining 59 yards on 20 carries in his first two games of the season. His walk-off touchdown was a fitting end to This was a reminder, as Massie said, of why Howard was a Pro Bowler and the NFL’s second-leading rusher last year — even as he wasn't at 100 percent. 

“Sometimes I was hurt pretty bad,” Howard said. “I didn’t feel like I could finish. But Benny Cunningham, he kept pushing me through, and my coach, and I just saw my team – they kept fighting, so I had to keep playing.”