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.

Jordan Howard wants to lead Bears... and lead the league

Jordan Howard wants to lead Bears... and lead the league

So Jordan Howard finished second in the NFL in rushing in his rookie season, despite just a dozen carries in the first three games. The fifth-round pick joined the man who beat him out for the rushing title, Ezekiel Elliott, as one of just five rookies in history to average five or more yards per carry on over 250 carries. And he set the Bears' rookie rushing record with his 1,313 yards while becoming just the fourth in franchise history to rush for that many yards in a season.

Sounds pretty hard to top, like we might be set up for the dreaded sophomore slump.

But...

"Things are a lot different this year because I know what to expect," Howard said during the team's minicamp two weeks ago. "I know all the plays and things like that. I’m not out there thinking, so I can just play free and fast.

"I definitely feel like a veteran 'cause I know what to expect and can help the young guys on the plays that they're not understanding. I’m just more comfortable and want to be a leader."

One of the other things we learned about Howard last year is he's low-key, a man of few words. So the Indiana product by way of UAB will make his points verbally when needed, but his actions will speak louder.

"He was a rookie a year ago and didn't even go in trying to be a leader, telling a five-year guy what was up," said head coach John Fox. "I think with time, and obviously with production like he had, I think it's a role he can fall in to. We're in a performance-based business and even in that locker room, what they do on Sundays gives them some credibility."

One of the concerns about Howard coming out of college was durability, but he answered the bell once he became the starter in week four against Detroit. And he probably wasn't used nearly as much as he should have. The good news about that is he was subject to less wear and tear, averaging just 18 carries per game from that Lions game on.

But besides taking more of a leadership role, Howard wanted to work on his speed without sacrificing the strong base that, paired with keen vision and work by the offensive line, allowed him to hit holes quickly and charge toward the second level of opposing defenses.

"Just improving on the little things – my conditioning, my weight, catching passes. And looking for ways to finish runs better," says Howard. "I feel like I’m in much better shape than I was at this time last year, a little more toned-up."

"It's just training," said Fox. "When you get to that it's more like track speed than football speed and I think he proved pretty worthy of that a year ago as a rookie. Y'know we all can improve on things, and that's the expectation. He's trained hard.

"This time of year last year he wasn’t even practicing," Fox remembered. "I like where we are, we’ve brought in more competition, and he’s better for it. He’s kind of gotten used to an NFL season, he’s come back ready to roll, but he still has work to do before we get to training camp."  

Oh, and the 22-year-old has a couple of other goals he didn't mind sharing, besides being a leader and getting a little faster.

"First off, make the playoffs. Be the leading rusher, and just help the team in any way I can and stay consistent."

Did Brandon Marshall disrespect Jay Cutler with Hall of Fame shade?

Did Brandon Marshall disrespect Jay Cutler with Hall of Fame shade?

Brandon Marshall is no stranger to keeping it real.

The outspoken All-Pro receiver never minces his words and that continued over the weekend when he showed off his signed jersey collection.

Marshall took to Instagram and showed off "Santa" hanging all of the jerseys he's swapped with other NFL players:

Santa doing work.. . #jerseychallenge

A post shared by Brandon Marshall (@bmarshall) on

The list includes a host of current and future Hall of Fame players: Champ Bailey, Cris Carter, John Lynch, Darrelle Revis, Lance Briggs, Adam Vinatieri, Adrian Peterson, Larry Fitzgerald, Joe Thomas.

When almost all the framed jerseys were hung, Marshall took his followers through:

@nfl #jerseychallenge

A post shared by Brandon Marshall (@bmarshall) on

Marshall compliments each player before, calling them "Hall of Famers" before getting to Jay Cutler at the end and going "Hall of..." multiple times.

Was that Marshall throwing shade at his former quarterback in both Denver and Chicago? If it was an innocent mistake or whatever, there's no way Marshall would've posted the Instagram video, right?

Marshall and Cutler were good friends from the beginning of their careers with the Broncos. So much so that the Bears traded a pair of third round draft picks in March 2012 to allow the two to continue their bromance by the lake:

But Marshall and Cutler have had a contentious relationship since.

Last summer, Marshall responded to a Tweet saying "of course" he misses Cutler. Last August, Marshall hopped on ESPN's First Take and said he thought Cutler could win the MVP Award in the 2016 NFL season.

At the same time, Marshall talked about his relationship with Cutler and said he was the only person on the Bears with the "huevos" to hold the enigmatic quarterback accountable. Marshall also said he was "sad" he didn't talk to Cutler much in the year leading up to August 2016.