Chicago Bears

Moon View: Packers title bad news for Bears

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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
CSNChicago.com

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 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.

How Charles Leno Jr. isn't thinking about the big picture heading into a contract year

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USA Today Sports Images

How Charles Leno Jr. isn't thinking about the big picture heading into a contract year

One of John Fox’s favorite sayings is that the best ability is availability. No player exemplified that line more than left tackle Charles Leno Jr. in 2016. 

Leno played all 1,010 of the Bears’ offensive snaps last year. His effectiveness may not have matched his availability — Pro Football Focus, for what it’s worth, described Leno as being a “below average” starter. The Bears like Leno, though. But enough to give him another contract?

“He’s pretty reliable and dependable,” Fox said. “But we all have room for improvement so I think he’d tell you the same thing.”

For Leno, there’s no time like the present to make those strides. He’s due to hit free agency after this season, and, unless the Bears sign him to a contract extension, will enter a market that last spring saw five left tackles (Riley Reiff, Matt Kalil, Russell Okung, Andrew Whitworth and Kelvin Beachum) sign contracts each including eight-figure guaranteed money. But Leno, who will be 26 this spring, isn’t doing a lot of thinking about what his future could look like beyond this year. 

“It’s in the back of your mind, but at the end of the day I’m trying to go out there and just perfect my craft,” Leno said. “That’s really what I’m trying to do. I’ve been doing that the last two and a half years now. It’s the same routine every day. Just trying to go out there and perfect my craft, things will take care of itself. If I do what I need to do out there, everything will follow.”

For Leno, perfecting his craft means perfecting the basics of being a left tackle. What he rattled off: Placement of hands, base in pass set, staying square, not opening up too early. Being consistent in those areas is what Leno sees as that next step in his development. 

“I think Charles Leno does a really great job focusing attention to detail within his set,” left guard Kyle Long said. “Whether it’s a set angle, his hands or his strike, he always has a plan and he’s somebody that’s athletic enough to recover if he ever does get in a bad situation. It’s a really difficult position to play out there but I think Charles Leno is one of the most athletic guys that’s been around here.” 

Practice has provided an ideal opportunity for Leno to work on all those things, given the array of pass rushers he’s facing from his own defense. 

“I got a very fast guy (Leonard Floyd), I got a very tall, long guy (Willie Young), and I got a short, powerful guy (Lamarr Houston). I mean, what more do I need on a practice field? I got the best guys in the world to go against every day.”

But the point remains: Leno does have room for growth. A fully healthy Bears’ offensive line, with a more consistent Leno, can be one of the best units in the NFL on which the team’s level of production can be based. 

And if that’s the case, Leno can expect a significant payday next spring, either from the Bears or another team. 

“I never expected I would be in this situation, absolutely not,” Leno said. “I’m very blessed, I’m thankful for the opportunity that I’ve got into. But also, it’s a testament to the work I’ve been putting in for myself and I just don’t ever want that to stop. I don’t ever want the work ethic that I have to ever go down because I’ve got some money or because I’m in a contract year. I want to keep improving whether I have the money or not.” 

Could Mitch Trubisky have already shown the Bears he’s ready to start?

Could Mitch Trubisky have already shown the Bears he’s ready to start?

Could the Bears have already seen something in Mitch Trubisky that gives the front office and coaching staff a reason to believe he can start right away?

The short answer: It doesn’t sound like that’s happened yet from everything that’s been said publicly in Bourbonnais, Chicago and Lake Forest. But the longer answer, and a reason to ask this question, involves what happened with the Philadelphia Eagles a year ago.

Last year’s No. 2 pick didn’t show much, statistically, in his first (and only) preseason game. But Carson Wentz still was the Eagles’ starting quarterback in Week 1 of the 2016 season.

Wentz completed 12 of 24 passes for 89 yards with no touchdowns and one interception in his NFL preseason debut last August, and also suffered a hairline rib fracture in that game that kept him out of the final three weeks of preseason play. All that added up doesn’t exactly scream “Week 1 rookie starter.”

But through practices and workouts over the course of August, the Eagles came to believe they could trust Wentz with the starting job, ultimately shipping Sam Bradford to the Minnesota Vikings in an early September blockbuster.

The Eagles, as it turned out, saw something in Wentz that may not have shown up on his preseason stat line. Trubisky, on the other hand, had an outstanding preseason debut.

Trubisky showed last week he’s more than capable of making all the throws expected out of an NFL quarterback — his third-and-long completion to Deonte Thompson stands out — and put his pure talent on display throughout his two-plus quarters of play. Teammates complimented how Trubisky commanded the huddle, though his plays were coming off a call sheet he was able to study before the game.

The Bears (and Trubisky) have framed his excellent showing against the Denver Broncos as a small step in the right direction, with still plenty on which the North Carolina product can improve. Once again, Trubisky will be the third Bears quarterback to take the field Saturday night against the Arizona Cardinals.

Consider how the Eagles opened training camp last year: Bradford was the No. 1, a veteran (Chase Daniel) was No. 2 and the rookie (Wentz) was No. 3. Sounds familiar, right? Then consider what coach Doug Pederson said about Wentz as training camp began:

“You want (Wentz) to be in a position where if there’s an injury or somebody goes down, you plug him in and you don’t have any worries,” Pederson said. “You’re fully confident in his ability to take over. Because backup quarterbacks need to be ready to go in an instant.”

The Bears’ brass hasn’t said anything along those lines regarding Trubisky, at least not yet. But there has been a scenario — albeit, not one completely congruous to what the Bears have, given the draft picks involved — where a No. 2 pick convinces a coaching staff and front office that he’s ready to start instead of a more experienced veteran. And it was seemingly based on a lot less than what we saw from Trubisky last week.