Lovie: Still comes down to one-on-one football


Lovie: Still comes down to one-on-one football

Thursday, Jan. 20, 2011
Posted: 12:11 p.m. Updated: 5:04 p.m.

By John Mullin

Much attention this week has been on defensive schemes, the Green Bay 3-4 and its myriad blitzing, the Bears Cover-2 and how much the Bears actually will play it. On offense, how will and can the Bears stop Dom Capers subterfuge, can the Packers run on the stout Bears.

But sometimes the over-thinking needs to pull back. Even in the most intricate scheming, once the ball will be snapped, it still comes down to a one-on-one football game, coach Lovie Smith said.

Then he revealed his game plan:

For the most part you know what were going to do, Smith said, and were just going to try to out-execute you.

Somehow that seems about right for a Bears-Packers game in January, doesnt it?

Missed opportunity?

The Bears wouldnt be forced to endure the national Aaron RodgersPackers love-in if they had beaten Green Bay back on Jan. 2. And the Packers believe that may be in the backs of the Bears minds this weekend.

They didnt want us in the playoffs, said defensive tackle Ryan Pickett. They knew if they didnt knock us out theyd have to face us again. They wanted to win.
Sick bay

The health index continued to favor the Bears through Thursdays practices.

Safety Chris Harris (hip pointer) and Pisa Tinoisamoa (knee) were the only Bears unable to practice. But cornerback Charles Woodson, the reigning NFL defensive player of the year, was limited in practice with a toe injury.

Defensive linemen Cullen Jenkins (calf) and Ryan Pickett (ankle) were limited, as were guard Jason Spitz (calf), linebacker Clay Matthews (shin) and running back John Kuhn (shoulder).

Left tackle Chad Clifton, who was forced out of the Atlanta game with knee problems, returned to full-practice status Thursday, as did cornerback Pat Lee.

The Big Fella

The legend of the Refrigerator was truly launched by a Bears-Packers game in Soldier Field in 1985 when William Perry lined up in the backfield and turned Green Bay linebacker George Cumby into road kill on behalf of a Walter Payton run.

Green Bay defensive tackle B.J. Raji has been lined up as a fullback lately in short yardage situations but he is not a serious student of football history. Was he familiar with Fridge?

Didnt they win the Super Bowl in 85? Raji asked. I was born in 86.

Perry eventually was handed the ball and even scored a touchdown in Super Bowl XX. Would Raji like the ball in his hands too?

"It came across my head, he said. Obviously Ive thought about it, yeah. Who hasnt?

Chillin out

The Packers have practiced inside their Hutson Center near Lambeau Field but they took the temperatures down below freezing to help acclimate to the real key to managing the football in cold weather.

We're working as much as we can handling the football in this type of weather, said Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy.

Catching on

Cornerback Charles Tillman is rarely given to frivolous hyperbole. He has defended the best over the years, from Randy Moss in his prime to Calvin Johnson and just about everyone in between.

WATCH: Tillman calls Solder Field turf what?

So Tillmans assessment of the Green Bay Packers pass-catchers carries some cred:

I would say this receiving corps is the best in the NFL, Tillman said matter-of-factly.

Forget about flash. Forget about big numbers. No Packer receiver caught more than Greg Jennings 76, and that was only 18th in the NFL. No receiver other than Jennings (1,265) had even 700 receiving yards.

What makes the group of Jennings, Donald Driver (51), James Jones (50) and Jordy Nelson (45) dangerous is their ability to get a lot of yards after catch, Tillman said. They run hard. They make the difficult catch. They block well down the field.

Now, something really important

In the middle of Bear-Packer mania and the run-up to the biggest single event in Chicago sports history comes some important news.

The lovely wives of receiver Earl Bennett and cornerback Zackary Bowman delivered babies and their husbands were able get back to preparation for Sunday with certainly a little better focus. Congratulations to the new dads!

Safety Chris Harris was unable to practice for the second day because of the hip pointer he suffered in the Seattle game.

Back to the dad business for a moment:

Charles Tillman isnt really aware of the Bear-Packer cyclone bearing down on Soldier Field this weekend. And hes unaware for all the right reasons.

Because I havent been in bars and restaurants and things like that, Tillman said. Ive just been at home with my kids just trying to do the daddy thing.

But Im sure its big. They said when I first got here that this was a Bears town, so Im sure everyone is extremely excited about this game. Ive heard its a Super Bowl within a Super Bowl and all the media and the hype. I think all of that is great, but I dont think you can get caught up in that. I try to stay out of that and just approach it as another game.


View from the Moon operatives thought that the super-shiny Halas Trophy unveiled Wednesday for the first time was possibly chrome. Our peeps report back that the NFL confirms: not chrome, but sterling silver. Nice, but not sure its as classic as the original.

Halas vs Lombardi?

By the way, ever wonder why the NFC trophy is named for George Halas while the Super Bowl trophy, the Lombardi Trophy, the award for the NFLs ultimate prize, is named after a coach?

View from the Moon has always considered that a mistake, since the Hall of Fame Packers coach was Mr. NFC and despised the AFC, and Halas obviously was the driving force behind a sport, not just a team.

The Super Bowl trophy was named for Vince, however, for a simple reason, as one insider said bluntly, because he died first. Lombardi, who won five NFL championships, including the first two NFC-AFC championship games, died of cancer in 1970; Halas, who won six NFL championships as a coach, died in 1983.

Oh well. The Bears still think those both would be nice thing to win no matter what the NFL chooses to call them.

Devin Time

Greg Olsen and Devin Hester were teammates at The U (Miami) and now theyre going to a Super Bowl together. As far as Olsen is concerned, this is Devin Time.

The Bears rank No. 2 in the NFL in starting field position after kickoffs (31.5 yard line) and they are No. 1 in punt returns (17.1-yard average), and Hester is the linchpin of the return game that sets all that up.

And Hester returned the opening kickoff of the Bears last Super Bowl for a touchdown, the same year that Olsen was the Bears first-round draft pick (2007). So now, This would be a typical Devin time to do it, right? Olsen said, smiling.

He's the one

Few picked the Bears to finish anywhere close to where they finished record-wise. For once, Brian Urlacher wants the experts to be considered experts, because that means that Lovie Smith did an even better job of coaching.

And Smith should be coach of the year, in Urlachers thinking.

I dont see how they cant give it to him, Urlacher said.


Charles Tillman doesnt see an advantage for anyone, including offense or defense, in the shaky condition of the Soldier Field turf. He almost, almost offered a no-no description of the sod.

People say its a sh--, Tillman started to say, then realized what he was about to say, went wide-eyed and self-corrected. Sorry, a bad field.

The censors exhaled.

Youre going to slip, linebacker Brian Urlacher said. Thats all there is to it. The faster you run, the more chance you have of slipping coming out of a break.


Good weekly visit at 10 a.m. on WSCR-AM 670s The Danny Mac Show and a chance to noodle over a few of the angles flying around this weekends game.

The thrust of thinking so much is Aaron Rodgers vs. Jay Cutler. Not so much head-to-head obviously, but how will each react to the moment. I mentioned the aspect of Rodgers that in each of his three playoff games, hes put up a significantly higher passer rating than hed had for the season. He topped this years regular-season rating of 101.2 with a 122 and then a 136 in Green Bay wins over Philadelphia and Atlanta.
LISTEN: John 'Moon' Mullin's complete appearance on "The Danny Mac Show"
Cutler was significantly better against Seattle (111.3) than he was on the season (86.3). The only qualifier to me, at this point, is that Cutlers was against the Seahawks, at home, and Rodgers were on the road against considerably better opposition.

The boys wanted a prediction and at this point, I am leaning toward a one-score win for the Packers, possibly a last-possession game. And the nub of it is that a scenario like that means that one turnover, one misplay will decide this game. Thats probably as it should be in a playoff, but if this is a 10-point win by either, Ill be very surprised.

That said, tune back in Sunday for what I finally decide. I saw the Bears at 10-6 or better this season and Im still not sure that this team doesnt get the Roman numeral game. I said a couple weeks ago that I did see the Bears going to the Super Bowl and my only hesitation now is how good Green Bay is.

In fact, the more I think about it...

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.

For Bears QB Jay Cutler, an unwanted second chance – audition? – presents itself

For Bears QB Jay Cutler, an unwanted second chance – audition? – presents itself

Some decisions have ways of simply making themselves. Decisions like, say, who will be the starting quarterback for the Chicago Bears.

Regrettably, one aspect of that decision was made for the Bears when Brian Hoyer went down with a broken left arm in the second quarter of Thursday’s 26-10 loss to the Green Bay Packers. At that moment the Hoyer-or-Cutler question was rendered moot. As FOX’s Jay Glazer had reported, the No. 1 job was Hoyer’s to lose, and the injury unfortunately took care of that. Coaches never had to make that decision.

This is clearly not the way Cutler would like to have been returned to his job. No player is pleased to have an opportunity made possible by a catastrophic injury to a teammate.

Bigger picture: The 2016 season was always a prove-it year for Jay Cutler, more so than even last year because of guaranteed money, which is now gone. The rest of the 2016 now becomes a condensed prove-it crucible, where Cutler is playing for his job in Chicago or his next team. His price for 2017 ($15 million) is modest by starter standards, but so is his resume.

Without a strong final nine games, assuming his injured thumb is sufficiently recovered after nearly six weeks off, Cutler may find himself as next offseason’s Ryan Fitzpatrick, sort-of wanted by a team but for money nowhere close to the value he and his agent had in mind.

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

The play of rookies Dak Presott in Dallas and Carson Wentz in Philadelphia will reinforce the message that you can start and win with a rookie right away, which projects to depress any Cutler market. Why pay a marginal veteran, which Cutler has been and certainly is at this point and age (34 next April), when a rookie can be had at a fraction of the cost?

Without a massive contract renegotiation, a scenario of Cutler staying on as a bridge to a young successor is beyond a longshot. Hoyer, far more likely to fit that role, and his price will not approach Cutler’s.

Cutler now has his second chance. Whether he likes it or not, it’s an audition.

Bears Grades: Defense wears down under assault from Aaron Rodgers and Packers

Bears Grades: Defense wears down under assault from Aaron Rodgers and Packers

GREEN BAY, Wisc. — It was a bright spot, a small one on an otherwise dismal night of losing to the Green Bay Packers. But it was at least something.

After struggling for months to stay healthy and gain NFL weight, Leonard Floyd finally played like the ninth-overall pick of an NFL draft.

The rookie outside linebacker collected a sack in the first half, then exploded past Green Bay right tackle Brian Bulaga as part of stunt with fellow linebacker Willie Young on the third play of the second quarter for a second sack of Aaron Rodgers, one that came with a strip of the football and recovery in the end zone.

"We had a great play called,” Floyd said. “Willie came down and picked the guard for me and I looped around and the play was done and I made it. It felt great [to get a touchdown], but at the end of the day I wanted a win."

That was one of the very few bright spots as the Packers piled up 311 yards through three quarters, at times using wide receivers Randall Cobb and Ty Montgomery as running backs because of injuries. The drumbeat continued with touchdowns on three straight Green Bay possessions in the late third and early fourth quarters.

The defense has allowed 23 or more points in five of seven games this season, with the Packers rolling off consecutive touchdown drives of 85, 84 and 57 in the second half as the Bears were limited to 2:49 time of possession in the fourth quarter.

“It helps when you’re playing [defense], to actually have a little bit of a break,” head coach John Fox said. “Unfortunately in the second half, I think that probably caught up with us a little bit.”

The defense had its fullest complement of personnel yet this season, with outside linebackers Floyd and Pernell McPhee both active (McPhee for the first time this year following offseason knee surgery), in addition to starting cornerbacks Bryce Callahan and Tracy Porter, both of whom were injured during the Jacksonville game. It was not enough.

[BEARS GRADES: Quarterback woes take offense to new low in loss to Packers]

Defensive line: F

The interior of the line was quiet for most of the game, with wide receivers lining up as running backs averaged more than five yards per carry. Cornelius Washington had the only hit by a defensive lineman on Rodgers as the line rarely collapsed the pocket with center-push or even kept him in the pocket.

Linebacker: B-

Floyd started after two games inactive and a zero stat sheet vs. Detroit. He struggled too often getting disengaged from Green Bay left tackle David Bakhtiari at the outset before breaking through with second effort for his first career solo sack. That was topped by the strip-sack and recovery for a touchdown in the third quarter. Floyd had a third hit on Rodgers and a tackle for loss.

"It is very tough,” Floyd said. “He gets the ball out pretty quickly. You just have to keep rushing every snap. He is at his best when he is scrambling around playing backyard football."

McPhee was a welcome addition to a slumping defense, even in his limited capacity (19 snaps). McPhee was not credited with any tackles but was surprisingly fast off the ball initially, and got penetration to alter running lanes and some pressure on Rodgers, although he appeared to slow somewhat, not unexpected considering how limited he has been throughout the year because of the surgery.

Sam Acho provided some edge pressure with two hits on Rodgers and a pass deflected. Jerrell Freeman had a quarterback hit and delivered a game-high 13 tackles.

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

Secondary: D

The secondary was forced to cover long into plays because of absent pressure on Rodgers but the coverage had its own problems with an offense that threw 56 times but was never intercepted. Three Green Bay receivers totaled double-digit receptions: Davante Adams (13), Cobb (11) and Montgomery (10).

Cre’Von LeBlanc started at corner as the Bears opened with six defensive backs, and delivered a goal-line stop in the first quarter, stuffing Montgomery, who was used as a running back because of injuries to the Green Bay backfield. LeBlanc finished with seven tackles and a hit blitzing Rodgers.

Porter matched up with Jordy Nelson and allowed the Green Bay wideout just one catch on four targets through three quarters. But breakdowns were deadly, allowing the Packers to stage their two longest scoring drives of the season in the second half. The second came when Porter and safety Harold Jones-Quartey both covered the same man in the end zone early in the fourth quarter, leaving Adams alone for his second TD catch of the game.

Adrian Amos interfered with Nelson to give the Packers a 44-yard penalty pickup in the first quarter. De’Vante Bausby had a number of solid plays despite a lack of meaningful pressure from the front. But Bausby had two holding penalties on the Packers’ second fourth-quarter scoring drive.

"There were a lot of penalties out there.,” Bausby said. “We had a good scheme and plan, but we just didn't finish in the second half as a group. Facing Rodgers is a challenge, but I felt like our play calling was excellent. We just didn't finish."

Special teams: B

Connor Barth converted from 39 yards to tie the game in the second quarter. It was Barth’s seventh in his last eight attempts. Pat O’Donnell turned in another strong night punting, averaging 43.8 net on five punts. Coverage helped keep three of those inside the 20.