No accolades, but Bears offense still jelling just fine


No accolades, but Bears offense still jelling just fine

Wednesday, Dec. 29, 2010
4:40 PM

By John Mullin

No member of the Bears offense was voted to the NFC Pro Bowl roster. No giant surprise there, given that the unit ranks 30th in yardage, 18th in points per game and has absolutely been pantsd in a number of national games before putting 40 on the Minnesota Vikings in a game played after most votes were in.

The Bears scored one TD in each of the Miami and New England games, had more sacks than points against the Giants, and have been out-gained in five of their 11 wins. Not impressive.

But the Chicago offense right now is the quintessential case of the whole being greater than the sum of the parts. And that is a very good thing.

Matt Forte is averaging 4.7 yards per carry over the last eight games. Only LeSean McCoy in Philadelphia, Jonathan Stewart in Carolina and Tampa Bays LeGarrette Blount have averaged more. Forte and McCoy are the only backs in the NFC with 900 rushing and 400 receiving yards and Forte is poised to join Walter Payton as the only Bears with 1,000 rushing and 500 receiving yards in the same season.

The Bears have converted 46.3 percent of their third downs in the past eight weeks. The only teams ahead of them (New Orleans, Green Bay, Atlanta, Pittsburgh, New England) are all in or near the playoffs. The reason: Jay Cutler is the NFLs best in third-down passes completion percentage for first downs (92.1) and in percent of overall attempts completed for firsts (54.7).

When the Bears played the Green Bay Packers the first time, only center Olin Kreutz and left tackle Frank Omiyale were starting in those positions, and Omiyale was making his first start there. Roberto Garza was out of position at left guard, and the right side consisted of Lance Louis at guard and Kevin Shaffer at right tackle.

When Cutler met with the media Wednesday, the subject of Pro Bowl never came up, maybe because the only Bears on the all-star roster were from defense or special teams. But you have the distinct feeling that the Bears could not care less about things like Pro Bowls at this point.

We dont really want to take a step back as a team or as an offense the way we have played the last couple games, Cutler said. Were kind of putting things together. We want to keep that going.

Obviously you cant take the last eight games and treat it like its own separate season.

Or can you? The Packers, who had two members of their offense (tackle Chad Clifton, receiver Greg Jennings) selected and three others named as alternates, are looking at the Bears exactly that way.

I think overall, theyre just starting to jell and come together, said linebacker Clay Matthews, one of three Pro Bowlers on the Green Bay defense. Obviously, Cutler has got a nice little rhythm going. Knox continues to make big plays. Obviously, Olsen at tight end and Forte has really got it going. I think more so than them changing, theyre really jelling. I think thats the biggest difference is theyre on a roll.

And that is a whole lot more important than being on a Pro Bowl roster.


Kudos to Jay Glazer, FOXSports.coms NFL maven and good friend of View from the Moon (Glaze IDd the Bears as the NFC darkhorse team back when we hooked up in Bourbonnais) on breaking the 50,000 fine Brett Favre was tagged with by the NFL for failure to cooperate in the Jenn Sterger mess and investigation (http:tinyurl.com29666xz).

Glaze notes that the fine wasnt for violating a policy but for non-cooperation. Not exactly the Al Capone to Alcatraz for income tax evasion, but you get the idea.

Welcome thoughts

Compliments to a few of you for thoughts, even ones I disagree with, on recent columns. Geeman215 thinks staying healthy is the key through this final regular-season game vs. my point that the Lovie Smith Bears have stumbled badly when they phone in their last game. Gee notes that this isnt Rex Grossman were talking about, as we were in 2006. But Id just note that Grossman had more 100 passer ratings (seven) than Jay Cutler has this season. He wasnt the Bad Rex that ran off the rails in subsequent seasons. My point is that this team needs to stay focused and not take an excessive amount of time off before its playoff game.

dcrutch15 weighed in with an intriguing prospect for a Bears wide receiver: Plaxico Burress. Burress was one of three players the Bears were prepared to take in the 2000 draft (plus Thomas Jones and Brian Urlacher) at No. 9, whoever was left, and that turned out to be Urlacher after Pittsburgh grabbed Burress.

Burress is serving time for weapons charges and even managed to shoot himself in the leg. But hell be eligible for parole in early 2011 and I like dcrutchs alluding to Michael Vick as a successful rehab story.

Burress, like Vick, could well have been humbled by his fall and may be a superb low-risk gamble on a towering wideout who caught a Super Bowl-winning touchdown pass.

The comments are always welcome. Always enjoy things you all notice.

Kaping if off

Today is All-Kap All The Time Day here at "View from the Moon" where I spend more time with good buddy David Kaplan than his family does. Ill do a little talk-back (Kap considers it back-talk, but hey, he just doesnt like being sassed) on Comcast SportsNets Chicago Tribune Live at 5:40 p.m. and give Kap a chance to make his prediction for the score of the Bears-Patriots Super Bowl.

Then Ill visit with Kap on WGN-AM 720 a little after 8 p.m.

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.

Bears In-Foe: Vikings defense is Purple People Eaters, Part II

Bears In-Foe: Vikings defense is Purple People Eaters, Part II

It's bad enough that Jay Cutler will be rusty and he may not have Kyle Long and Josh Sitton protecting him. But even if all the Bears' offensive hands were on deck, Monday night's challenge would've been formidable anyway.

The Vikings' defense leads the league in fewest yards allowed (279.5 per game), is tied for the league-lead in allowing fewest points (14.0), third in rushing defense (81.7), fourth in pass defense (197.8), and sixth in third-down defense (34.2 percent). And oh yeah, they lead the league in turnover ratio (plus-11), courtesy of their nine interceptions (tied for second), seven fumble recoveries and 19 sacks (seventh-most in the NFL).

It's nice to have quality and depth up front. That's where that push comes from, especially off the edges, with ends Brian Robison, Everson Griffen and sophomore Danielle Hunter supplying four sacks apiece. That trio combined for 21.5 sacks a year ago (when the Bears totaled 35 as a team). And while injury-prone Sharrif Floyd finds himself sidelined again since the opener, tackle Linval Joseph (three sacks) is back playing at the All-Pro level he was at a year ago before an ankle injury slowed him. And Tom Johnson contributed 6.5 sacks a year ago rotating in with Floyd at three-technique.

[RELATED: Bears In-Foe: Purple a fitting color for Vikings' battered, bruised offense]

Reunited UCLA linebackers Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks are in their second year together in a run the Bears will likely have to deal with for another decade. This is the 11th and final year they'll see Chad Greenway, who's more leader than playmaker now in the middle of that defense.

Ryan Pace, Vic Fangio and position coach Ed Donatell must also be jealous of the Vikings' deep defensive backfield. Top cover man Xavier Rhodes, last year's top pick Trae Waynes and Andrew Sendejo have two picks each. Waynes still hasn't taken a job away from ageless 37-year-old Terence Newman. The Vikes were trying to upgrade on Sendejo, who answered the challenge and should be able to play Monday after departing the Eagles game with an ankle injury he suffered almost taking an interception to the house. It's almost unfair that second-round rookie Mackensie Alexander can't even surpass fourth cornerback Captain Munnerlyn for playing time.

But we must not forget Harrison Smith. The humble Golden Domer, humorously nicknamed "Gangsta White Boy" by Adrian Peterson, became the NFL's richest safety by inking a five-year, $51 million deal this summer, is coming off a first Pro Bowl that probably would've come sooner if not for a couple injuries. Two of his four career pick-sixes have come against the Bears, and Pro Football Focus has him as the only safety to grade positively in coverage, run support, and pass rush over each of the last two seasons.

Special teams

Just as Robbie Gould fell under the microscope of the current Bears brass with last season's rough finish, the strong-legged Blair Walsh probably feels a few more eyes on him after missing the 27-yard game-winning attempt in the frigid playoff loss to Seattle. He's 10-of-13 on field goals this season, 11-of-13 on extra points.

But while the Vikings' kickoff coverage was burned by Josh Huff's return Sunday in Philadelphia, the Bears coverage units have to be disciplined and smart against Cordarrelle Patterson and Marcus Sherels. Both have burned the Bears more than once before. With more than his seven kick returns, Patterson's 29.9 average would lead the league. Sherels' 14.6-yard return average on punts ranks third in the NFL. He's already returned two for touchdowns this season after burning the Bears at Soldier Field a year to the day short of Monday's contest.

Bears In-Foe: Purple a fitting color for Vikings' battered, bruised offense

Bears In-Foe: Purple a fitting color for Vikings' battered, bruised offense

Mike Zimmer couldn't hold back his frustration after Sunday's 21-10 loss in Philadelphia.

Realistically, big picture-wise, he should feel fortunate. Not that his team isn't any good. We've seen these Vikings coming for awhile. But his offense, minus so many pieces that have been subtracted due to injuries, hadn't turned the ball over once in its 5-0 start.

That's when Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, who'd seen Sam Bradford for all of training camp before he was traded a week before the opener, dialed things up. The result? Four turnovers, including Bradford's first interception of the season, coupled with a pair of fumbles. Schwartz doesn't have as many pieces as the Vikings' defense, but he had enough to sack Bradford six times, deliver 19 hits and 14 knockdowns.

Bradford's managed to step in for Teddy Bridgewater more easily than starting tackles Matt Kalil (hip) and Andre Smith (triceps) have been replaced. T.J. Clemmings is capable after starting all of his rookie season a year ago, but the hope that former No. 1 overall pick Jake Long had anything left took a serious hit Sunday. He'd gone unclaimed for quite a while (even reportedly going through a workout with the Bears), and we saw some of the reasons against the Eagles. He was replaced by journeyman Jeremiah Sirles. The middle of that line seems OK, thanks in part to the free agent signing of guard Alex Boone to anchor the interior with Brandon Fusco and center Joe Berger.

[RELATED: Bears In-Foe: Vikings defense is Purple People Eaters, Part II]

The great Adrian Peterson's torn meniscus in week two has him on injured reserve, with little hope he'll make it back. And while Jerrick McKinnon (3.2 yards per carry) and Matt Asiata (3.3) are serviceable, the line hasn't been able to help those replacements rush for an average of even 75 yards per game (31st in the NFL).

And think about this: Yes, the Bears have played one more game than the Vikings, but they have four receivers who've matched or surpassed the dangerous Stefon Diggs' team-leading total of 27 receptions. Three of Bradford's seven touchdown passes have gone to tight end Kyle Rudolph. Former Illinois High School Player of the Year Laquon Treadwell was targeted to be the big target Bridgewater/Bradford needed, but had just two snaps the first three games and has yet to catch his first NFL pass. It's part of the Zimmer Way to bring along draft picks slowly (think Trae Waynes last year, albeit at a much deeper position on this team). Zimmer's indicated the 23rd overall pick's still too mechanical, still thinking too much at this level to earn snaps over Adam Thielen, Charles Johnson and now, even the once-exiled Cordarrelle Patterson, who scored the Vikings' lone touchdown Sunday on a pass from Bradford.

Like the Bears, this banged-up unit has trouble in the red zone (touchdowns on just 47 percent of their trips inside), and their 21.5 points per game average is boosted by four touchdowns combined from its defense and special teams. It'll be interesting to see if Leonard Floyd, Willie Young and perhaps Pernell McPhee can have themselves a good night next Monday against that susceptible line, and who's able to go among the Bears' defensive backs versus a passing offense that's averaged only 225 yards a game.