Chicago Bears

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.

Marcus Cooper, Bears move on from viral mistake: ‘We’re not firing him’

Marcus Cooper, Bears move on from viral mistake: ‘We’re not firing him’

Marcus Cooper’s viral mistake on Sunday was so blatantly embarrassing, did special teams coordinator Jeff Rodgers even have to say anything to the Bears cornerback on the sideline after it?

“Sure,” Rodgers said. “Score."

That'll do from a brevity standpoint. Continued Rodgers: "I mean, there's not much to add. He knows he made a mistake and he obviously knows the rules.”

The Bears aren’t dwelling on what Cooper did at the end of the first half against the Pittsburgh Steelers, partly because it didn’t cost them a win. It very well could’ve, though, and is one of those things that never should’ve happened, to say the least. 

“With a loss, maybe it’d be a lot worse,” Cooper said. “But (I need to) just finish the play and make sure Thursday we come out and play (well).”

Cooper, for what it’s worth, responded well in the second half with a few pass-break ups. Even with Kyle Fuller and Prince Amukamara playing well, the Bears didn’t consider benching Cooper — or, drastically, eating $8 million in guaranteed money to cut him — after his gaffe. 

“I mean, we’re not firing him,” coach John Fox said. “He’s too much a part of our team.”

How the Bears' receivers helped beat Pittsburgh while only catching one pass

How the Bears' receivers helped beat Pittsburgh while only catching one pass

Mike Glennon didn’t complete a pass to a wide receiver until he found Deonte Thompson for a nine-yard gain with just under six minutes remaining in the fourth quarter on Sunday. That was the only of Glennon's 15 completions that went to a wide receiver in a 23-17 overtime win over the Pittsburgh Steelers. 

But the Bears’ receivers weren’t necessarily invisible on Sunday, frequently showing up on tape delivering solid blocks that helped spring second-level gains by running backs Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen. Most notably, Deonte Thompson was key in making a path for Howard to score his game-ending touchdown in overtime. 

“We got a rule in our room, make sure your guy doesn't make the tackle,” Thompson said. “… We take pride in it. Our coaches make sure we take pride in blocking. We just go what we gotta do to win. Whatever the job description is, we do.”

This isn’t to say that everything is fine with the Bears’ receivers because they can block. Their primary jobs are to get open and catch the football, and this unit hasn’t done enough of that through three games. In total, Bears receivers are averaging about 14 targets, nine receptions per game and 98 yards per game. Since the beginning of the 2016 season, 26 times has an individual wide receiver had at least 14 targets, nine receptions and 98 yards in a game (including Cameron Meredith last October). 

And being a productive receiver doesn’t have to mean that player isn’t a good blocker. SB Nation listed familiar names as its best blocking receivers: Tampa Bay’s Mike Evans, Los Angeles’ Robert Woods, Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald, Miami’s Jarvis Landry and New York’s Brandon Marshall. 

But for the Bears, if Sunday’s offensive plan — for a game in which the team was never losing — is what future wins could look like, this receiver unit will be asked to do quite a bit of blocking. 

“We haven’t won as much as we want to around here, and when you see that (blocking effort), you see these guys are fully invested and they care, and they care about the guy next to him,” offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said, “and not about their own individual stats because it would’ve been real easy to sit on the sideline and pout and say hey, I’m not getting the ball — like, one receiver caught a ball in the whole game out of 22 passes, 15 completions, one guy catches a ball. But you know what, they’re a huge part of those wins.”

Howard had seven carries of five or more yards that went toward the sideline, while Cohen had two explosive gains into the second level and beyond. Runs like those are where blocking from guys like Thompson, Bellamy, Kendall Wright and Marcus Wheaton are important. 

“Those are the blocks that spring us to the next level,” Cohen said. “Without the receiver blocks, there would be a lot of 10-yard gains, 9-yard gains, but the bigger gains are the receivers blocking down field.”

The Bears still need more out of their receivers, but their blocking success on Sunday was a contributing factor to beating one of the better teams in the AFC. And it didn’t go unnoticed inside Halas Hall, especially the block Thompson threw to end the game. 

“They know who we have in the backfield, they know who we’ve got up front,” offensive lineman Kyle Long said. “And they know that if we want to have success at an elite level running the ball they need to do their part too and that’s just what he was doing. He was doing his job.”