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 numbers don't indicate 3-13, yet still lie

Bears numbers don't indicate 3-13, yet still lie

In doing some post-season wrapping up of my Nerdy NFL Notebook as we begin turning the page to the 2017 season, part of it involves compiling where each team finished in big-picture team offensive and defensive categories: overall ranking (total yards), as well as team rushing and passing ranks on both sides of the ball.

So if the Bears wound up ranked 15th overall in total yards gained and allowed, they should've finished…oh, 8-8, right? It adds to the deception of some of the deeper issues that focus on a lack of playmakers, which tied into their inability to make plays when it matters most. In John Fox's 9-23 start, 18 of those games have been decided by six points or less. They've won just six of those games. 

Offensively, the Bears ranked higher in total offense than five playoff teams: Kansas City (20), Detroit (21), Miami (24), New York Giants (25) and Houston (29). They wound up 17th in rushing offense, better than four teams who advanced: Seattle (25), Green Bay (26), New York Giants (29) and Detroit (30). And their 14th-ranked passing offense ranked better than the Giants (17), Kansas City (19), Dallas (23), Miami (26), Houston (29).

On the other side of the ball, they'd be even better off before allowing 109 points over the final three losses. Their total defense ranked better than Detroit (18), Green Bay (22), Kansas City (24), Atlanta (25), Oakland (26) and Miami (29). After being gashed for 558 rushing yards the last three games, they fell to 27th in the NFL against the run (better than only 30th-ranked Miami). But the seventh-ranked pass defense, despite collecting a measly eight interceptions (among only 11 turnovers), was better than nine playoff teams: Miami (15), Pittsburgh (16), Kansas City (18), Detroit (19), the Giants (23), Oakland (24), Dallas (26), Atlanta (28) and Green Bay (31).

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

What do all the hollow numbers indicate? A lack of complementary, opportunistic football, playmakers on both sides of the ball, a minus-20 turnover ratio, and a lack of quality and continuity at the quarterback position — to name a few. All of those playoff teams have more impact players (or kept more of their impact players healthy) than the Bears in 2016.

While some of the numbers aren't that bad to look at, and some even raise an eyebrow, there's still a deep climb from the most significant numbers: 3-13.

Bears' best rookies will have another learning curve

Bears' best rookies will have another learning curve

There's a sense of irony and, to a certain degree, concern about what changes the Bears' coaching staff has undergone.

Think of the best of Ryan Pace's 2016 rookie class: Leonard Floyd, Cody Whitehair, and Jordan Howard. They were brought along under the position group tutelage of outside linebackers coach Clint Hurtt, offensive line coach Dave Magazu and running backs coach Stan Drayton. The latter was the first to depart, shortly after the season ended, to return to the collegiate ranks on Texas' new staff.

He's been replaced with former 49ers and Bills offensive coordinator Curtis Modkins (also serving as that position coach in Detroit, Buffalo, Arizona and Kansas City). Howard certainly adapted to the NFL game well, more than anyone expected, as the NFL's second-leading rusher. One would think Drayton played a part in that.

Longtime John Fox assistant Magazu was also let go after the season despite the impressive move of second-round pick Whitehair to center the week of the season opener after Josh Sitton was signed following his release by Green Bay. Whitehair was sold as a "quick study" following his selection out of Kansas State, where he was a four-year starter at three different positions (but not center).

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

Like Howard, he wound up making the All-Rookie team, but whether he remains in the middle of the line or not, he'll be getting his orders now from Jeremiah Washburn.

Rounding out the trio of All-Rookie selections was Floyd, who was brought along by Hurtt. He impressed Fox enough to be kept around from Marc Trestman's staff, and moved from defensive line to outside linebackers.

That's where he assisted Willie Young in morphing to a foreign role, yet still managing 14 sacks over the last two seasons. The Bears have yet to name a replacement for Hurtt, who's joined the Seahawks in taking over one of their strengths in recent years, the defensive line.

These three were already good, and the jewels of last year's draft. But if they're to grow and ascend into impact contributors if and when this team becomes a regular playoff contender, it'll come from new faces, new voices in their respective classrooms and position groups.