Moon: It's more than just beating the Packers

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Moon: It's more than just beating the Packers

Saturday, Jan. 1, 2011
1:19 p.m.
By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com
There is only one real objective when the Bears face their most storied rival Sunday in Green Bay. Lovie Smith set forth that target way back in 2004 when he succeeded Dick Jauron as Bears coach.

It is not to defeat the Packers. The Bears have done that more often than not under Lovie Smith, including in a nationally televised Monday night game in week three of this season.

It is not to win the NFC North. The Bears have done that already. It would be an accomplishment for the Bears to go 6-0 in the division, something they have never done under Smith. They were 5-0 twice before, in 2005 and 2006, but basically chose to rest starters and lost last games to the Minnesota Vikings and the Packers in successive years.

No, the only meaningful target now is the Super Bowl, Smiths third stated goal from 2004 and one which can only be accomplished by advancing in the playoffs. And that now is the only objective that matters when the Bears visit Lambeau Field.

The debate has been whether or not to rest key players ranging from Jay Cutler to Brian Urlacher. Actually, rest is not the mission statement so much as play it safe so the Bears stay as healthy as they have been.

But more important is to lay in a course based on playoff preparation, whatever that is determined to be. Nothing else matters.

Beating the Packers does carry some significance. The Bears are all too familiar with what Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay defense are capable of, and they would not like the prospect of the Packers showing up in front of them again in something like the NFC Championship game, which could happen if Green Bay wins, qualifies for the playoffs as the No. 6 seed and wins two games.

The Packers are a great team, and I dont want to keep facing the Packers, said receiver Devin Hester. So Im hoping we can go out and eliminate another great team, because I do give them credit. They are a great team, and Id hate to see them three times in one year.

Limited exposure

The Bears are expected to pull selected starters as Sunday plays out. One scenario is to look at the Green Bay game as a form of third preseason game that counts: a game in which the No. 1 units overall need to play for purposes of continuing development but not at the expense of health or getting in-game experience for reserves who may be called upon due to injuries in the playoff run.

Hester does not need extra punt returns for developmental purposes. Nor does Matt Forte need work on his receiving or cuts. They and others will be among No. 1s who will see some cutbacks in playing time Sunday.

Receiver Earl Bennett (ankle) and linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa (knee) are expected to be on the inactive list in order to give them two full weeks of rehab and recovery.

Weve asked our players to get better each week, said offensive coordinator Mike Martz. Thats how we coach; thats how we play. Thats what were going to try to do this week. This is a very important game for us, pure and simple.
Take it away

The primary interest and concern for the Bears is turnovers. It was their undoing last season when Jay Cutler couldnt stop committing the. It is the key to their 2010 postseason if the defense cannot resume creating them at a level that had the Bears among the league leaders in turnover ratio.

Now they are a pedestrian 10th with a plus-4 largely because the defense has forced zero or one takeaway in five of the last six games. By comparison, only once in the first nine games did they have fewer than 2 takeaways.

As far as getting it back, one of the things that we havent been pleased with is just the amount of takeaways, Smith said. This time of the year, that turnover ratio is big. We havent taken the ball away enough. Hopefully we can get back to that this week.

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.

Good or better? Why offseason moves are making 2017 Bears better

Good or better? Why offseason moves are making 2017 Bears better

Improvement typically comes in incremental steps, not leaps. And the Bears of 2017, based on what they have done at a handful of positions, the latest being Thursday’s signing of wide receiver Victor Cruz, fit that template.

The clear organizational commitment is to build through the draft, even if injuries have undermined some otherwise apparent upgrades to starting lineups on both sides of the football. But if there is a “theme” to what GM Ryan Pace is doing to muscle up a sluggish roster, it is that the Bears are willing to take flyers on veteran players – with additions like four veteran wide receivers with injury and issue histories – that arguably point to a win-now mindset while draft picks develop and contribute.

Jaye Howard and John Jenkins. Make the defensive line “better?” Than Jonathan Bullard and Will Sutton, probably. But “good?” Mmmmm…..

The game-one tight ends last year were Zach Miller-Logan Paulsen-Gregg Scruggs. Now they’re Miller-Dion Sims-Adam Shaheen (based on a second-round draft choice). “Good?” Maybe, maybe not. “Better?” Obviously, based on Sims alone.

Mike Glennon-Mark Sanchez-Mitch Trubisky. Bears “better” at quarterback? Than Jay Cutler-Brian Hoyer-Matt Barkley, probably. “Good?” Mmmmmm…..

The decisions to sign Glennon and Sanchez to the quarterback depth chart have sparked their shares of understandable cynical skepticism. But Kirk Cousins and Jimmy Garoppolo were not available in trade, so the Pace decision was to gamble on upside with Glennon over the known quantity of Brian Hoyer (the preference of some coaches) and certainly Jay Cutler, for whom “potential” and “upside” no longer applied.

Add in the aggressive draft of Trubisky and the result was three possibilities of hits on a quarterback (Sanchez and Connor Shaw being combined here as a pair entry in the hit-possibility scenarios). All three were deemed an improvement over Cutler and/or Barkley.

The results may not vault the Bears all the way up to “good” at the pivotal position for any franchise. But “better” is sometimes all you can realistically manage.

Taking a wider-screen look at wide receiver in this context… .

Coach John Fox has cited the need for the Bears to establish the ability to get yardage in bigger chunks. Accordingly, all four of the veteran wideout signings this offseason – Cruz, Rueben Randle, Markus Wheaton, Kendall Wright –  have posted yards-per-catch seasons of 14 or longer.

All four won’t be on the opening-day roster, but all four offer the promise of major impact. Cruz, Randle and Wright have had seasons of 70 or more receptions, and Wheaton topped out at 53 in 2015 with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Randy Moss, Terrell Owens and Jerry Rice weren’t available, so “good” was hard to achieve in an offseason in which Alshon Jeffery and Eddie Royal were expected departures long before their exits. But are Cruz, Randle, Wheaton and Wright, with Kevin White and Cameron Meredith, a “better” starting point than Jeffery, Royal, White, Bellamy, etc. of a year ago?

Obviously. But players with even moderately established NFL “names” (like Cruz, Randle, etal.) are typically available for a reason; teams do not routinely give up on talent. And none of the four come without significant shadows on their NFL resumes, whether for injury or other questions.

Cruz missed most of 2014 and all of the 2015 season, and hasn’t played a full season since his Pro Bowl year of 2012.

Randle was described as a head case by scouts and was so bad that he was let go in the Eagles’ cutdown to 75 last year, followed by disparaging comments from those in and around the organization.

Wheaton flashed promise in his 2014-15 opportunities as a part-time starter but played just three games before a shoulder injury landed him on IR last season.

The Tennessee Titans thought enough of Wright, their 2012 first-round draft choice, to pick up his fifth-year option going into las season. But by week 14 he was benched for tardiness and was a healthy DNP in game 16, announcing after the game that he already knew he was not in the Titans’ plans for 2017.

The prospect of the Bears going from 3-13 to “good” borders on fantasy. But if being among the NFL’s busiest this offseason hasn’t propelled the Bears to that level, the results point to “better.” At this point, that’s something,.

How big of an impact will Victor Cruz have on the Bears?

How big of an impact will Victor Cruz have on the Bears?

The Bears inked Victor Cruz to a one-year deal on Thursday, adding another receiver to an already crowded corps.

But it never hurts to add a veteran one to a young group, especially with a new starting quarterback.

Cruz is 30 years old and isn't the same Pro Bowl-caliber player he was before missing the entire 2015 season with a calf injury, but he surely has a lot left in the tank and can serve as a great mentor for the Bears receivers.

Just how big of an impact will he have on his new team? See what the SportsTalk Live panel had to say in the video above.