Moon: Forte reaches a Payton milestone


Moon: Forte reaches a Payton milestone

Sunday, Jan. 2, 2011
Posted 8:27 PM

By John Mullin

GREEN BAY Running back Matt Forte began the day needing 22 rushing yards to reach 1,000 for the second time in three NFL seasons and he had that before the game was one-quarter over.

Forte circled his left end behind blocks by left tackle Frank Omiyale and pulling right guard Roberto Garza and streaked 25 yards to top the 1,000-yard target. He then immediately went after 1,100 with 21 more yards on the next play.

That run and his 54 total for the first half, plus 41 more on 4 pass receptions, made Forte the first Bear since Walter Payton to rush for 1,000 yards and total 500 receiving yards in the same season. In a strong show of consistency, Forte netted 961 yards of total offense over his last nine games.

For him to get 1,000 yards is our goal, said guard Roberto Garza. Hes without a doubt one of the best backs in the league and he makes us look good.

Forte will be entering the final year of his rookie contract in 2011 so as far as any lavish gifts right now for his offensive linemen, I cant, he said. I dont have any money.
To play or not to play

Bears players were very unhappy with the outcome Sunday but not with the situation in which no starters were given the day off. Indeed, the unmistakable feeling was that playing was a good thing.

I think it was good coaching to let us play the whole game, said linebacker Lance Briggs.

The Packers, going after the No. 6 seed for the playoffs, gave the Bears an early look at playoff football. It was definitely a playoff atmosphere and they were coming after us, said center Olin Kreutz.

To Brian Urlacher, it was nice to play the whole game. It keeps us in shape because were off next week. We have a bye, then weve got to come back and play a game that counts for something.
Nice gesture

Julius Peppers took time out Sunday morning to reach out to John Fox, the embattled Carolina Panthers coach who was Peppers coach since the defensive end came into the league in 2002 and until this year.

I textd him this morning and told him I was proud of him, Pepper said. Hes been through a lot there and I really wish him the best always.

Peppers isnt likely to send as nice a message to Sundays officials after he was called for roughing the passer. Peppers hit Aaron Rodgers with his shoulder just after Rodgers got rid of a pass on a scramble and the yellow flag came out.

I thought it was a bogus call, Peppers said. I thought it was for helmet-to-helmet contact but the official said I didnt have to hit him.
Pick it

The defense went into Sunday looking for turnovers and got one early when cornerback D.J. Moore punched the ball out of receiver Donald Drivers hands in the first quarter, a fumble recovered by Charles Tillman.

Tillman put the offense in scoring position with a third-quarter interception and return of 42 yards to the Green Bay 15. The interception gave the Bears two players (Tillman, Chris Harris) with 5 interceptions for the first time since Tillman and Ricky Manning each had 5 in the 2006 Super Bowl season.

Tillmans twisting return confirmed the informal consensus that all defensive backs are secretly running backs and wide receivers at heart. Im a big Devin Hester fan, Tillman said. Im just not as successful as he is.

Sick bay

Safety Major Wrights run of first-year injuries continued Sunday with a leg injury in the first quarter that took him out of the remainder of the game. Wright was injured during training camp, in the Bears second game and again on Sunday, a surprise for a player who missed not so much as a practice while playing at Florida.

Safety Chris Harris suffered a stinger making a tackle on the next-to-last series Sunday but said afterwards he will be ready to practice this week.
Duly noted

Wide receiver Johnny Knox needed 40 yards to reach 1,000 for the season but was thoroughly throttled by the Green Bay secondary. Knox caught none of four passes thrown to him through three quarters.

Creepy: Strong-side linebacker Nick Roach was injured on the first play Sunday. A year ago when the Bears played the Packers, Pisa Tinoisamoa injured his knee on the first play of the game.
Zackary Bowman, a starting cornerback to open the season but replaced by Tim Jennings after breakdowns in coverage, did his chances of regaining the job no good when he was beaten for a 47-yard completion to set up a go-ahead Green Bay touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Restful Sunday

The Bears placed wide receiver Earl Bennett on their inactive list to give his injured ankle a game day off to heal. Otherwise the Bears made no changes in their lineups or game-day roster for a game that carried little meaning with Atlanta blowing out Carolina to clinch the No. 1 seed.
Welcome back

Tight end Desmond Clark was active for the first time since the Seattle game and responded with a special-teams tackle on Brad Maynards first punt.

John "Moon" Mullin is'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.