Moon's Gameday Blog: Bears get banged up


Moon's Gameday Blog: Bears get banged up

Sunday, Sept. 18, 2011
Posted: 11:32 a.m. Updated: 6:40 p.m.

By JohnMullin BearsInsider Follow@CSNMoonMullin
New Orleans -- The Bears made it through 2010 with minimal injuries. They are making up for that in record speed, unfortunately.

By the end of Sundays third quarter the Bears were without two wide receivers, both starting safeties and two starting offensive linemen. And this is only week two.

With running back Marion Barber still out with a calf injury and Roy Williams inactive with a groin strain, sick bay filled in earnest Sunday. Wide receiver Earl Bennett left with a chest injury early in the game after catching a quick slant from Jay Cutler then a big hit to the midsection by a Saints tackler. Bennett held onto the ball for a nine-yard gain but was down for several minutes and had to be helped off the field.

Rookie right tackle Gabe Carimi was lost with a knee injury late in the second quarter and was gone from the sideline in the second half. Right guard Lance Louis already was on the inactive list with an ankle injury from the Atlanta game.

And the deep secondary took a scary hit late in the third quarter when safety Major Wright, struggling already in coverage against the speed and size of the Saints receiver corps, was down for 5 minutes with a head injury, had to be helped off the field and was out for the remainder of the game. Starter Chris Harris already was on the inactive list with a hamstring injury.

We lost a couple guys, coach Lovie Smith said. Were starting to get a few injuries but were feeling good about the 53-man roster so other guy will get an opportunity. But today give the Saints credit. They played better than we did, made critical plays were we didnt.
Smart throws

The Bears reached the New Orleans 20 on their first drive of the second half and netted just three points on a Robbie Gould field goal. But while it may have appeared to be just another red-zone settle-for, Cutler's throws on three incompletions at that point were smart, all three in places where either his receiver or no one was going to make the catch.

The result was avoiding a devastating red-zone interception, something Cutler too often in the past committed in efforts to force passes places they didnt belong.

The Saints were the better team today. Cutler said. They rushed me hard and forced our offense to do things we didnt want to do.

Safety First
The safeties were badly burned on a third-and-12 situation when Major Wright appeared to misjudge the speed of New Orleans wideout Devery Henderson, who blew past Wright for a 79-yard touchdown, the kind of disaster play that reverses game momentum.

Rookie Chris Conte, coming over from the opposite side, couldnt get there in time but the problem was Wright. Instead of a possible stop on third-and-long, turning the ball back to the offense, the play gave New Orleans a touchdown and forced the offense to start its next drive after a kickoff into the end zone.

You have to be on your toes at all times because thats a high-powered offense we were playing against, said linebacker Brian Urlacher. We gave up a big touchdown early and that never helps.

Matt Toeaina started again in place of Anthony Adams and appears to have supplanted Adams with the No. 1 unit.
Receiving end

Dane Sanzenbacher continues to be a nugget in the offense. As he has done on more than one occasion, Sanzenbacher forced a holding call from the defense before working his way open in the back of the end zone three plays later to give the Bears a 7-3 lead in the first quarter.
Who's in? Who's out?

As expected, the starting lineups took some hits due to injuries, Williams (groin) down for the game and Johnny Knox starting at wide receiver. Brandon Meriweather will start at free safety and Wright goes to strong safety, where Harris is on the inactive list with a hamstring problem.

Corey Wootton still isnt far enough back from his knee surgery so hes again inactive. But the need to get edge pressure on Drew Brees clearly is a priority and the actives this week not only include Nick Reed, coming off a good game against Atlanta, but also undrafted rookie free agent Mario Addison. Both are speed rushers and should be factors on the artificial turf.

But right guard Lance Louis is active after missing practice this week with the ankle sprain suffered in the first half of the Atlanta game. Also inactive: defensive tackle Stephen Paea, quarterback Nathan Enderle and running back Marion Barber, who hasnt been able to play since his calf injury in the Tennessee preseason game.

The Saints will be without wide receiver Marques Colston (broken collarbone). But No. 2 wideout Lance Moore is active despite limited practice this week.

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.

For Bears QB Jay Cutler, an unwanted second chance – audition? – presents itself

For Bears QB Jay Cutler, an unwanted second chance – audition? – presents itself

Some decisions have ways of simply making themselves. Decisions like, say, who will be the starting quarterback for the Chicago Bears.

Regrettably, one aspect of that decision was made for the Bears when Brian Hoyer went down with a broken left arm in the second quarter of Thursday’s 26-10 loss to the Green Bay Packers. At that moment the Hoyer-or-Cutler question was rendered moot. As FOX’s Jay Glazer had reported, the No. 1 job was Hoyer’s to lose, and the injury unfortunately took care of that. Coaches never had to make that decision.

This is clearly not the way Cutler would like to have been returned to his job. No player is pleased to have an opportunity made possible by a catastrophic injury to a teammate.

Bigger picture: The 2016 season was always a prove-it year for Jay Cutler, more so than even last year because of guaranteed money, which is now gone. The rest of the 2016 now becomes a condensed prove-it crucible, where Cutler is playing for his job in Chicago or his next team. His price for 2017 ($15 million) is modest by starter standards, but so is his resume.

Without a strong final nine games, assuming his injured thumb is sufficiently recovered after nearly six weeks off, Cutler may find himself as next offseason’s Ryan Fitzpatrick, sort-of wanted by a team but for money nowhere close to the value he and his agent had in mind.

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

The play of rookies Dak Presott in Dallas and Carson Wentz in Philadelphia will reinforce the message that you can start and win with a rookie right away, which projects to depress any Cutler market. Why pay a marginal veteran, which Cutler has been and certainly is at this point and age (34 next April), when a rookie can be had at a fraction of the cost?

Without a massive contract renegotiation, a scenario of Cutler staying on as a bridge to a young successor is beyond a longshot. Hoyer, far more likely to fit that role, and his price will not approach Cutler’s.

Cutler now has his second chance. Whether he likes it or not, it’s an audition.

Bears Grades: Defense wears down under assault from Aaron Rodgers and Packers

Bears Grades: Defense wears down under assault from Aaron Rodgers and Packers

GREEN BAY, Wisc. — It was a bright spot, a small one on an otherwise dismal night of losing to the Green Bay Packers. But it was at least something.

After struggling for months to stay healthy and gain NFL weight, Leonard Floyd finally played like the ninth-overall pick of an NFL draft.

The rookie outside linebacker collected a sack in the first half, then exploded past Green Bay right tackle Brian Bulaga as part of stunt with fellow linebacker Willie Young on the third play of the second quarter for a second sack of Aaron Rodgers, one that came with a strip of the football and recovery in the end zone.

"We had a great play called,” Floyd said. “Willie came down and picked the guard for me and I looped around and the play was done and I made it. It felt great [to get a touchdown], but at the end of the day I wanted a win."

That was one of the very few bright spots as the Packers piled up 311 yards through three quarters, at times using wide receivers Randall Cobb and Ty Montgomery as running backs because of injuries. The drumbeat continued with touchdowns on three straight Green Bay possessions in the late third and early fourth quarters.

The defense has allowed 23 or more points in five of seven games this season, with the Packers rolling off consecutive touchdown drives of 85, 84 and 57 in the second half as the Bears were limited to 2:49 time of possession in the fourth quarter.

“It helps when you’re playing [defense], to actually have a little bit of a break,” head coach John Fox said. “Unfortunately in the second half, I think that probably caught up with us a little bit.”

The defense had its fullest complement of personnel yet this season, with outside linebackers Floyd and Pernell McPhee both active (McPhee for the first time this year following offseason knee surgery), in addition to starting cornerbacks Bryce Callahan and Tracy Porter, both of whom were injured during the Jacksonville game. It was not enough.

[BEARS GRADES: Quarterback woes take offense to new low in loss to Packers]

Defensive line: F

The interior of the line was quiet for most of the game, with wide receivers lining up as running backs averaged more than five yards per carry. Cornelius Washington had the only hit by a defensive lineman on Rodgers as the line rarely collapsed the pocket with center-push or even kept him in the pocket.

Linebacker: B-

Floyd started after two games inactive and a zero stat sheet vs. Detroit. He struggled too often getting disengaged from Green Bay left tackle David Bakhtiari at the outset before breaking through with second effort for his first career solo sack. That was topped by the strip-sack and recovery for a touchdown in the third quarter. Floyd had a third hit on Rodgers and a tackle for loss.

"It is very tough,” Floyd said. “He gets the ball out pretty quickly. You just have to keep rushing every snap. He is at his best when he is scrambling around playing backyard football."

McPhee was a welcome addition to a slumping defense, even in his limited capacity (19 snaps). McPhee was not credited with any tackles but was surprisingly fast off the ball initially, and got penetration to alter running lanes and some pressure on Rodgers, although he appeared to slow somewhat, not unexpected considering how limited he has been throughout the year because of the surgery.

Sam Acho provided some edge pressure with two hits on Rodgers and a pass deflected. Jerrell Freeman had a quarterback hit and delivered a game-high 13 tackles.

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

Secondary: D

The secondary was forced to cover long into plays because of absent pressure on Rodgers but the coverage had its own problems with an offense that threw 56 times but was never intercepted. Three Green Bay receivers totaled double-digit receptions: Davante Adams (13), Cobb (11) and Montgomery (10).

Cre’Von LeBlanc started at corner as the Bears opened with six defensive backs, and delivered a goal-line stop in the first quarter, stuffing Montgomery, who was used as a running back because of injuries to the Green Bay backfield. LeBlanc finished with seven tackles and a hit blitzing Rodgers.

Porter matched up with Jordy Nelson and allowed the Green Bay wideout just one catch on four targets through three quarters. But breakdowns were deadly, allowing the Packers to stage their two longest scoring drives of the season in the second half. The second came when Porter and safety Harold Jones-Quartey both covered the same man in the end zone early in the fourth quarter, leaving Adams alone for his second TD catch of the game.

Adrian Amos interfered with Nelson to give the Packers a 44-yard penalty pickup in the first quarter. De’Vante Bausby had a number of solid plays despite a lack of meaningful pressure from the front. But Bausby had two holding penalties on the Packers’ second fourth-quarter scoring drive.

"There were a lot of penalties out there.,” Bausby said. “We had a good scheme and plan, but we just didn't finish in the second half as a group. Facing Rodgers is a challenge, but I felt like our play calling was excellent. We just didn't finish."

Special teams: B

Connor Barth converted from 39 yards to tie the game in the second quarter. It was Barth’s seventh in his last eight attempts. Pat O’Donnell turned in another strong night punting, averaging 43.8 net on five punts. Coverage helped keep three of those inside the 20.