Moon View: Packers title bad news for Bears


Moon View: Packers title bad news for Bears

Sunday, Feb. 6, 2011
Posted: 5:41 p.m. Updated: 9:29 p.m.

By John Mullin

Bears coach Lovie Smith very methodically stresses the value of takeaways (he would, being a defensive coach n all). He felt the sting of them when his 2006 Bears team lost a Super Bowl after an interception of a Rex Grossman pass was returned for a touchdown, and he was able to see it come to pass in Super Bowl XLV.

And it helps explain why the Bears are expected this offseason and draft to strengthen a defense that already is among the NFLs best but which the organization wants to raise even to a higher level.

Green Bay put 21 points on an elite Pittsburgh defense off turnovers -- 14 from interceptions, seven after a Rashard Mendenhall fumble. The Packers were a combined 7-0 when they held a positive turnover ratio. The Bears threw three interceptions vs. Green Bay, one for a TD to D-tackle B.J. Raji, or it would have been the Bears playing for the Lombardi Trophy instead of the Packers. The Bears were 7-0 in 2010 when they held a positive turnover ratio. ...

The Bears are likely to be looking up at the Green Bay Packers for the foreseeable future, because Green Bay accomplished far more in its significant draft positions than the Bears. The Packers passing game also proved good enough to get the better of the NFLs elite defenses, without the benefit of run-pass balance. So unless Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, Jordy Nelson and James Jones are leaving anytime soon, which theyre not, the Bears have won their last NFC North division title for a few years. ...

Add to the overall worry about the Packers ascendancy the fact that they won a Super Bowl as a No. 6 seed, meaning that they won three road games to reach the Super Bowl, then put 31 points on the NFLs No. 1 scoring defense to win a Super Bowl. This may have been the end of the 2010 season but the future is in the Green Bay youth as well as its cohesion. The Green Bay quarterback and offensive line get running back Ryan Grant back in 2011 and this is significantly bad news for the Bears. ...

If the Packers won a Super Bowl with 14 players going on IR and the reigning defensive player of the year (Charles Woodson) going out with a shoulder injury for the second half, what will they be like when they lose six offensive starters for the year?

QB legends

Aaron Rodgers played exactly the way he did all postseason, specifically, better even than he did in the regular season. As good as Bart Starr and Brett Favre were, Rodgers plays his best in the biggest games and the shock will be if he does not have his teams in Super Bowls or in conference championship games with the regularity that the Joe Montana, Steve Young, Terry Bradshaw and the other greats did.

Rodgers was the MVP of the Super Bowl and somehow it was a pick you could have made with reasonable assuredness before the game was even played.
Hurtin' Pack
When two great defensive teams get together, the chances of turnovers deciding the game increase exponentially. So it has been for the Green Bay Packers, who turned 2 interceptions into 14 points in the first half.

Ironically perhaps, Green Bays two defensive linchpins (Clay Matthews, Charles Woodson) did not figure prominently into either takeaway. The growing problem for the Packers, however, is the quietly increasing number of injuries, between wide receiver Donald Driver, DB Sam Shields and DB Woodson.

Good call

Lovie Smith was criticized after the NFC Championship game for deferring after winning the coin toss, giving the Packers the ball to start the game. The criticism was ill-informed, because the fact is that Aaron Rodgers produces far fewer points on opening drives of first halves than in the ones to start a second half.

Notably perhaps, then, the Packers won the toss and also chose to defer. They know Rodgers is better after a half.

No losers

Israel Idonije was a finalist for the Walter Payton Man of the Year award but Minnesotas Madieu Williams was accorded the honor. There are no losers for this award, though. The world is a better place for all of the honorees.

John "Moon" Mullin is'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.

Three quick fixes for some Bears woes while searching for a turnaround

Three quick fixes for some Bears woes while searching for a turnaround

Positives were difficult to find in last Thursday’s 26-10 loss to the Green Bay Packers. So maybe the place to look for improvement lies in just getting rid of a few negatives.

As far as positives, Leonard Floyd would be the obvious one, with two sacks, one a strip and fumble recovery for a TD. Ka’Deem Carey would be another, with 10 carries for 48 yards, his second straight game with high-impact running; Jordan Howard has been shackled for two weeks, so the Bears have needed another backfield-committee member contributing. Jeremy Langford may have trouble finding work when he comes back from his ankle injury.

But negatives have far outweighed positives, which is how you get to 1-6. Fixing three of those will go a long way toward improving their chances against a Minnesota Vikings team that appeared eminently beatable in losing at Philadelphia on Sunday:

Stop the penalty hemorrhaging

For the third straight game the Bears had 10 penalties walked off against them. This "streak" started after eight infractions in the win over Detroit. The 10 in Green Bay cost the Bears 108 yards in a game where their offense netted just 189. Seven of the penalties were charged to the defense, six of which gave the Packers first downs.

The three offensive penalties were mental. A wide receiver (Alshon Jeffery) lined up offsides. The quarterback (Matt Barkley) drew a delay flag. An offensive lineman (Ted Larsen) was illegally downfield.

All of which point to a discipline problem getting worse, not better. Whether the fault lies with players losing focus or coaches not instilling a mindset is a debate, but meaningless if the problem is not addressed. “There were a lot of penalties out there,” said cornerback De’Vante Bausby, who committed three of those penalties. “We had a good scheme and plan but we just didn’t finish in the second half as a group.”

Stop the dinking

While Brian Hoyer replacing Jay Cutler scaled back the downfield element of the offense, the loss of an emerging Kevin White should not be understated. The de facto rookie may not have gotten in the end zone but he was leading the team in receptions before he suffered a broken leg in the win over Detroit.

Since the loss of White, however, the offense has shrunk. The Bears averaged 7.5 yards per pass attempt through four games with White. Without White the average is 7.0, and that is including the blip in Indianapolis, which stands as a complete anomaly. The average was 5.9 in the Jacksonville loss and 5.0 in Green Bay.

Hoyer’s ball-security orientation has been a positive, but also a limiting factor. Cutler last year had one of the best ball-security seasons of his career, yet the offense was able to average 7.5 yards per attempt.

The Bears scored two of their three rushing touchdowns in games with White, who may not yet be the field-stretcher his 4.35 speed but the prospect of White arguably made for a more threatening offense than even with the contributions of Cam Meredith.

Stop the Vikings

The Minnesota Vikings have suffered injuries at a rate like the Bears’ but have overcome them. Until Sunday in Philadelphia, when the Eagles sacked Sam Bradford six times and hit him more than a dozen other times. The Vikings never sacked Carson Wentz, who wasn’t special but was good enough while Minnesota was self-destructing.

The Vikings have beaten the Bears the last three times they’ve met, the first time that’s happened since 1999 and 2000, which is also the last time the Bears started 1-6. And the Bears have lost three straight.

The Bears were able to end the first three-game skid by focusing on one game: the Lions. The result was shutting down a very good offense, the lowest yardage-allowed (263) of the season and the firmest commitment to the run game (29) attempts.

Morale inside the locker room can only be revived by a win. One game. This game.

Report: Bears looking for Jay Cutler return against Vikings; Matt Barkley on stand-by

Report: Bears looking for Jay Cutler return against Vikings; Matt Barkley on stand-by

FOX insider Jay Glazer confirmed on Sunday that the Bears expect quarterback Jay Cutler will be back from his sprained thumb and able to start against the Minnesota Vikings next Monday night in Soldier Field.

That would put Matt Barkley back where he has been pretty much his entire three-plus-year NFL career. Waiting.

That's the Bears want what every team wants – a young quarterback in the developmental pipeline – is no secret. Ryan Pace is among the NFL executives who speak of drafting a quarterback as much as every year, even if they don’t.

Could the Bears already have that player on their roster?

If Barkley, who was pressed into service when Brian Hoyer went down with a broken arm in last Thursday’s loss to the Green Bay Packers, is in fact that player, he might not be surprised. But the rest of the NFL would be.

"I'm confident that no matter where I am or what the deal is,” Barkley said, after going 6-for-15 with no TD’s and two interceptions, “I can play in this league.”

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

He may be one of the few still holding onto that belief. The Bears picked up Barkley after the Arizona Cardinals discarded him in early September. The Cardinals didn’t see Barkley as even a practice-squad option, which the Bears did and where Barkley was working before Cutler’s thumb injury forced the Bears to sign him to the active roster.

“The [Bears] personnel people thought he was a taller [6-2] guy that stood in the pocket pretty well,” said coach John Fox. “A guy that we thought we could work with, that had some experience and, hopefully, he got a little bit more experience [at Green Bay].”

Barkley has gone from possible No. 1 pick in the 2012 draft to just another touted USC quarterback who failed or were no better than just-OK at the NFL level (Todd Marinovich, Rob Johnson, Matt Leinart, Mark Sanchez), who has thrown 65 NFL passes, none for a touchdown and six that were intercepted, including two in the Bears’ 26-10 loss last Thursday in Green Bay.

The question for Barkley at this point in his career is whether Chicago is his last stop and/or chance. Fourth-round draft picks have played their ways into prominence (Kirk Cousins in Washington, Dak Prescott in Dallas, even Sonny Jurgensen and Norm Van Brocklin if you want to find Hall of Famers), but Barkley has the added challenge of being on his third team and learning yet another offense after beginning this season running Houston and Philadelphia plays for the Bears’ defense.

Barkley offered no excuses for his poor showing (18.3 passer rating). Sort of.

“It definitely would be more beneficial [to have gotten more snaps before Green Bay],” Barkley said. “I’m not going to say what Coach should do; that’s his decision and you’ve got to deal with what you’re dealt.

“Just since I’ve been here, you know, scout-team reps and trying to put our plays into what we’re seeing on cards, you try to do every little thing you can to get better no matter what you’re doing. That’s no excuse.”