Moon: Rodgers and Lovie men of one mind?

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Moon: Rodgers and Lovie men of one mind?

Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2011
Posted: 1:00 p.m.
By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

You have the feeling that Aaron Rodgers and Lovie Smith have undergone some sort of Vulcan mind-meld.

Rodgers, appearing by phone on The Dan Patrick Show Tuesday morning on Comcast SportsNet, didnt hesitate even briefly answering Patricks question: Youll beat the Bears if you guys?

If we dont turn it over, I think, Rodgers said, in the first of three references to turnovers in one answer. They have a defense built by Lovie to really make you go the distance, not allow the big plays.

Big plays indeed cost the Bears dearly in their 2010 loss to the Packers as Rodgers had completions of 20 yards or longer to three different receivers, including ones of 33 and 44 yards to Greg Jennings. Green Bays winning touchdown in Green Bay last season was a 50-yarder to Jennings. The Packers first score in 2009s win No. 2 started with a 62-yard TD run by Ryan Grant.

But Rogers and Smith are of one mind especially on turnovers. The Bears committed 4 turnovers (Jay Cutler interceptions) to zero by the Packers in the 2009 first game. In game two, 2-2.

The Bears were plus-1 when they won in Game Three this season, even in the loss at Lambeau.

Simple point: The Bears need to win the turnover edge to win the game.

Rodgers ran through various defensive players, likening cornerback Charles Tillman to defensive player of the year Charles Woodson.

Theyre opportunistic on defense, Rodgers said. Theyre very athletic across the board so the key to playing Chicago is not to turn the ball over. I think thats the biggest key.

Rodgers confirmed a cordial relationship with Cutler, probably to the chagrin of rivalry purists who never had to ponder texting and Twittering by Sid Luckman, Bart Starr or Jim McMahon with their opposite numbers.

Jay and I are buddies and we hit each other up here and there throughout the season. We probably wont text much this week but Ill look forward to playing him Sunday.

What did we learn?

The Bears and Packers will be conducting their normal levels of scrutinizing each other, both from games against each other and also against particular opponents. What can be gleaned from those is always interesting in itself.

One difficult game to critique was No. 16, which meant everything to the Packers playoff chances and virtually nothing to the Bears. The Bears played their starters throughout but no player prepares to the max and beyond for a game that they know full well doesnt matter.

How much the coaches did is another matter. While it would be simple to assume that the Bears went vanilla against Green Bay on both sides of the ball, the results dont square with that.

The defense allowed 17 points and 379 yards of offense to Rodgers and the Packers. Green Bay owned time of possession with nearly 36 minutes on the field.

In the second, meaningless meeting, with nothing to play for, the Bears allowed nearly 100 fewer yards (284), only 10 points and 2.6 yards per rush vs. 6.3 in the teams first game. Green Bays time of possession: 29:20.

And if the Bears were playing not to lose (bodies as well as on the scoreboard), then calling 45 pass plays and getting Cutler sacked six times was a strange way to do it particularly considering that the Bears had won the first game with a saner, safer 30 pass plays (3 sacks).

Maybe what the Bears learned then was what not to do against the scheming of Dom Capers.

And what to do: Matt Forte and Chester Taylor ran 14 times in the first game for 38 yards (2.7 per carry). They called 18 runs tailback runs in the second game and averaged 5.6 (102 yards).

If Cutler is called on to throw 45 times and is sacked six times in a one-score game this Sunday, Mike Martz should be fired. On the spot.

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.

Bears hoping to get Kyle Fuller back in DB mix sooner rather than later

Bears hoping to get Kyle Fuller back in DB mix sooner rather than later

Kyle Fuller was one of the seeming fixtures in the Bears’ defense as it transitioned from the 4-3 of old to the 3-4 of Vic Fangio. And he may be again, the Bears hope very soon, as he has begun practicing after months on injured reserve following knee surgery in August.

The Bears could place Fuller on the active roster as late as Saturday after he practiced all three days this week. “He made it three days in practice, no setbacks,” said coach John Fox. “He seems to be adapting pretty well. He has another practice [Saturday] and we don’t have to make a decision until 3 p.m. because of where he is on the roster. We’ll evaluate that after tomorrow.”

Were Fuller to return — restoring one projected 2016 starter to a defense that has been forced to field five different starting secondaries in the span of 11 games — he may be phased back in with a managed number of snaps, as other certain other players returning from injury have been.

But getting Fuller back projects to be an instant upgrade for a defensive backfield among the NFL’s worst at producing takeaways.

“We all play different positions so we’re kind of used to it, people moving in and out over the year,” said Bryce Callahan, who was initially ticketed for nickel duty as the No. 3 cornerback this season but has been pressed into service starting at cornerback in four games.

“It’s always good to get someone like Kyle back.”

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The Bears would need to weigh what workload Fuller could handle vs. roster needs based on only having 46 players active on game day.

“You’re always a little bit cautious because it does affect your roster,” Fox said. “But if you feel like he makes you better, that’s a move you make. Now we’re just working through him medically, durability-wise, and how much he can play.”

Jay Cutler (shoulder) was officially declared out and is headed for surgery on Saturday, ultimately to injured reserve.

Other availability questions include receiver Eddie Royal (toe), guard Josh Sitton (ankle) and safety Adrian Amos (ankle), all questionable. Linebacker Willie Young (knee) did not practice but linebacker Leonard Floyd was able to practice on a limited basis although his status in the concussion protocol will not be known until closer to game time.

Focus on personnel issues in Bears-49ers matchup of NFL losers

Focus on personnel issues in Bears-49ers matchup of NFL losers

Once upon an NFL time a Bears-49ers game held some consequence, sometimes great import. Even last season the San Francisco game was the Bears’ chance to reach .500 in John Fox’s first year (it didn’t happen, with the Bears defense allowing a long Blaine Gabbert TD run and Robbie Gould missing a 36-yard field goal for the win, all in the last 1:42 of a game the Bears had dominated statistically).

Now the game becomes another in a string of ones in which the opponent and even the outcome matter less than some specific personnel issues for a team trying to avoid losing four straight games for the first time under Fox.

Several of those personnel questions warrant watching because of the positions involved:

Matt Barkley, quarterback   

The Barkley Era unofficially began last Sunday against the Tennessee Titans when the former USC quarterback got his first NFL start and nearly became the third Bears quarterback to win a game in an otherwise dismal season. That did happen once, in 2007 when Brian Griese, Rex Grossman and Kyle Orton also had W’s as starters.

Well, if not an actual “era,” at least the Barkley window opened, and will be open for the foreseeable 2016 future.

Barkley playing his way into a starting job in 2017 is not a front-burner thought — yet — although Kurt Warner once played his way from stocking supermarket shelves into Hall of Fame consideration.

Going against one of the only two teams with fewer wins than the Bears, Barkley’s chances are ostensibly better than they were facing the Titans, if only for “just being comfortable,” said Fox.

“Our opponent, Colin Kaepernick has been in for X amount of time. And like anything, the more you do it, the better you get. Hopefully. Just getting him more reps. More reps with the 1’s. I think there’s a drastic difference between him coming in as the back-up in Green Bay versus him being the starter last week against Tennessee. So hopefully he improves from his first start to his second start. That’s the plan and that’s what we’re working off.”

Quarterback is always a point of supreme interest and Barkley is playing for a shot somewhere in 2017. And the Bears want to know if some of the positives in the Tennessee game were real.

“With Matt, the biggest challenge was he wasn’t here in OTAs and training camp, so you don’t know him,” said offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains. “He was out there running scout team, running ‘cards,’ so you know what kind of talent he has, but he never had gotten a two-minute — that was his first two-minute drill with the first group in a game situation.”

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Daniel Braverman, wide receiver

Braverman was a seventh-round draft choice who flashed in training camp but faded in games. He was elevated from the practice squad and is projected into a slot role with Eddie Royal injured again and the future unclear at that No. 3 wideout spot.

“There are not a lot of great slot receivers out there in the game,” Loggains said. “You’ve got to be able to move the chains, and you’ve got to be able to convert third downs and do those things and score in the red area. You have to understand coverages and leverages to be able to do that stuff. Those are the things that Braverman, coming into the NFL, his biggest challenge is.”

Daniel Brown, tight end

The season-ending foot injury to Zach Miller created another vacuum at a position the Bears have struggled to fill long-term: trading away the likes of Martellus Bennett, Greg Olsen and even Mike Ditka. Brown caught his first career TD pass in the Tennessee game. With Miller’s injury history and age (32), the Bears have a need at the position.

“We thought obviously he’s a guy that has a skill set probably closet to Zach at this point to plug in and play,” Loggains said. “But he did a nice job, helped up on third down, helped us in the red area. Just his ability to catch the football, he’s played receiver before and he’s more of a pass-catching tight end.”

Kyle Fuller, cornerback

Fuller, who led the Bears with two interceptions last year, has been a starter at a position that is a defensive priority. He is coming back from August knee surgery and into a secondary that is takeaway challenged. His goals are basic at this point.

“Just getting back on the field and just performing,” Fuller said.