Moon: Bears - not Packers - will hoist Halas Trophy

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Moon: Bears - not Packers - will hoist Halas Trophy

Saturday, Jan. 22, 2011
Posted: 8:35 PM

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

Random thought: Do you realize that there are no teams in the Final Four from west of the Mississippi?

Somehow this week leading up to the Bears-Packers NFC Championship game has been more enjoyable without the silly rancor and venom flowing out of the two sides. The players dont hate each other or even really dislike each other. The coaches are the antithesis of Ditka-Gregg or even Halas-LombardiLambeau.

No, the point of the week is the Bears playing for a place in the Super Bowl. Theyre also playing for their own and Lovie Smiths place in Bears history, which is very close to being secure in the long term with his record and in the short term with a contract extension.

A win over Green Bay will give Smith his second trip to a Super Bowl in five years, something Ditka accomplished just once in 11, although he had the good sense (and team) to win his.

But is that going to happen?

I believe it is.

The reasons no

In a game likely to turn, like so many playoff ones do, on the quarterback, the Packers hold a significant edge. Jay Cutler has the capability of playing at a high level; his 111.3 passer rating, one sans interceptions, against Seattle said he can deliver a solid performance in a game of huge import.

But Aaron Rodgers has done the same, at higher levels, more often, against better opposition and in two different postseasons. He is simply a better quarterback as well as a better passer.

And as good as the Bears defense is, the Green Bay defense is as good, better even at allowing points. The Packers ranked No. 2 in the NFL, giving up 15 points per game while standing fifth-overall in passing yards allowed. The Bears are No. 4 at 17.9 per game and rank No. 2 in rushing defense at 90 yards per game, although running the ball is not the key element in the Green Bay offense.

But that is not the entire story.
The reasons yes

The Bears defense held the Packers to 10 points in Game 16, one that meant everything to Green Bay. The Bears played their starters but no player prepares as hard for a game of no consequence as he does for one of significance, and games often are won or lost in preparation, or lack of it. And that game was in Green Bay, on a good field.

Comparative scores arent always a true measure. To that point, the New York Jets, the team I expect to be in the Super Bowl with the Bears, the one that lost 45-3 to New England, took the Patriots to the shed barely a month later. But while it is obvious that the Green Bay defense has throttled the Chicago offense more often than not, its less obvious but accurate to say that the Bears defense has done its due diligence dealing with the Packers.

In their past five games the Packers have lost by 4 points on the road to the New England Patriots, then successively defeated the New York Giants, Bears, Philadelphia Eagles and Atlanta Falcons to reach this point. All teams with 10 wins or more. They have played the best single five-game stretch of football by any team in the NFC to earn their place in the conference championship.

And as good as I thought the Packers would be going into this season (projected division champions), I have a difficult time seeing any team hold to that level of excellence under that much pressure that often.
And so

I dislike picking upsets, and the Packers are favored by 3-12 points, meaning basically by a touchdown given 3 points generally accorded for home-field advantage. And a run like the Packers have had over the past five games against very good opponents is too much to expect.

The Miami Dolphins scored 23 in beating the Packers. The Lions (26) and Vikings (24) scored 50 in losses to Green Bay. None of those teams had a quarterback the equal of Cutler, a true wild card in a championship setting, something he has not seen since high school.

The Bears will score more than all of them. And that will be enough.

Bears 28 Green Bay 21

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.

Ryan Pace focusing on 'best player available,' at No. 3: Could that be Deshaun Watson?

Ryan Pace focusing on 'best player available,' at No. 3: Could that be Deshaun Watson?

Last month, Ryan Pace described his day-before-the-draft press conference as being one of the “hardest” he does all year.

With only a little over 24 hours until the Bears go on the clock with the third overall pick in the NFL Draft, the third-year Bears general manager wasn’t tipping his hand while answering the media’s questions on Wednesday.

One of Pace’s overarching points, though, was that the Bears have to focus on taking the best player available at No. 3 Thursday night. Pace said the Bears have three players targeted for that spot, and what the Cleveland Browns or San Francisco 49ers do ahead of them won’t impact their decision.

What also won’t impact the Bears’ decision is the need to draft a quarterback.

“I think you get yourself into trouble if you’re not sticking with our philosophy of best player available,” Pace said. “When you start trying to manufacture things or create things, that’s when teams get into dangerous water. I think if we just stay with guys we have a consensus on and best player available we’ll be in good shape.”

Plenty of draft observers — ESPN’s Mel Kiper, Rotoworld’s Josh Norris, NFL Network’s Mike Manock, CBS Sports’ Rob Rang — don’t have a quarterback in the top three of their respective “big boards,” which are headlined by the likes of Texas A&M edge rusher Myles Garrett, LSU safety Jamal Adams, Stanford defensive end Solomon Thomas and/or Alabama’s Jonathan Allen, among a few others.

But what if the Bears’ consensus is that a quarterback is a top-three player?

Over the last few months, Pace has consistently touted intangibles as being of prominent importance when evaluating a quarterback. At the combine in Indianapolis, he pointed to Drew Brees taking Purdue — a perennial Big Ten bottom-feeder — to a Rose Bowl. Pace, of course, knows Brees’ NFL success well having watched him in New Orleans before becoming the Bears’ general manager. 

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There’s one quarterback in this year’s draft class that could have those intangibles to be considered at No. 3: Clemson’s Deshaun Watson. 

Before Watson took over as a full-time starter in 2015, Clemson established itself as a perennial Orange Bowl contender that’d win 10 or 11 games a year. But Watson took Clemson to a different level, going 28-2 and reaching the College Football Playoff title game in 2015 (a loss to Alabama) and 2016 (a win over Alabama). 

“It's big with every position, the intangibles,” Pace said. ‘That's what I continue to stress to our guys right now, because you can get enamored with these physical qualities or these traits. There's enough good players where we don't need to change our standards.

“I really like our locker room right now. I really like the vibe right now in that locker room with the guys that we have here, it feels good, and I want to continue to add to that vibe and add to that excitement. It's up to me to impress that to our scouts and to our coaches that, hey, we've got to make sure we're adding the right kinds of guys, the right kinds of intangibles to our room.”

If Watson isn’t among the team’s consensus top three, he could fit into one of the “clouds” Pace talked about if the Bears trade down into the middle or later part of the first round. But trading down (or back into the first round) carries risk if the Bears believe Watson could be a franchise-changing quarterback. The No. 3 pick is the highest the Bears have had since the early 1970s, and it’s a position the team hardly wants to be in again.

Pace, of course, wasn’t going to reveal much the day before he and the Bears make a critically-important selection. The Bears know who they want, and Thursday night, so will everyone else.

“There’s been so much that’s come into this since August, so you’ve just trust what your eyes see and don’t over-think it,” Pace said. “Trust your conviction and trust your instincts and trust your gut.

“You can get into trouble right now if you’re up there watching additional tape and doing all that; I think you can over-scout players. By now we’ve got enough opinions. We’ve met with enough players. We’ve been through the Combine and been through the Pro Days and seen players play live. At this point we feel good. I don’t think we’re in a situation where we’re overthinking anything.”

2017 NFL Draft Profile: Tennessee QB Joshua Dobbs

2017 NFL Draft Profile: Tennessee QB Joshua Dobbs

As part of our coverage leading up to the 2017 NFL Draft we will provide profiles of more than 100 prospects, including a scouting report and video interviews with each player.

Joshua Dobbs, QB, Tennessee

6'3" | 216 lbs.

2016 stats:

2,946 YDS, 63.0 CMP%, 27 TD, 12 INT, 150.6 QBR | 150 CAR, 831 YDS, 12 TD

Projection:

Fourth-to-fifth round

Scouting Report:

"Dobbs is hardly incompetent as a passer, but he hasn't shown as much growth with his ball placement and accuracy as scouts had hoped to see from this former four-star prospect. Dobbs has decent size and is an outstanding runner outside the pocket which could appeal to a team looking for a developmental quarterback with play-making ability." — Lance Zierlein, NFL.com

Click here for more NFL Draft Profiles