Chicago Bears

No matter the outcome vs. NE, Bears are A-list team

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No matter the outcome vs. NE, Bears are A-list team

Sunday, Dec. 12, 2010
12:50 PM

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

The Bears do not need to show well against the New England Patriots to establish that they are a legitimate A-list team in 2010. They already are, and the result Sunday will not change that.

If the Bears defeat or hang with the Patriots, thats a statement that skeptics and anxious fans can respect. But New England has beaten Pittsburgh, Baltimore and split with the New York Jets and my guess is that no one is dismissing those teams as contenders, especially the Steelers, who were double-digit losers.

The Bears have beaten the Green Bay Packers and Philadelphia Eagles. The Bears have won five straight, tied with New Orleans behind only Atlanta (six) for the longest active win streak this season. That alone is a statement of legitimate no matter what happens Sunday.
Snow birding

The damage from snow to the Metrodome this weekend has forced the NFL to shift the Minnesota-New York Giants game from noon Sunday in Minneapolis to Monday night in Detroits Ford Field. It is unclear whether the Bears visit to the Dome is in jeopardy but the University of Minnesotas TCF Bank Stadium could be readied in a matter of days for an NFL game. And the extent of damage and repairability of the dome is still being assessed.

The Big Fella

The sometimes-struggles of the New England defense have not dimmed the luster of one of its anchors: nose tackle Vince Wilfork, a former No. 1 draft choice and the linchpin of the Bill Belichick 3-4 schemes.

Wilfork is listed at 350 pounds, but that typically gets an eye-roll for being on the low side. But Wilfork is enough of an athlete that Belichick has shifted him out to an end position, although since the defeat in Cleveland, he has been anchored at nose, which puts him opposite Pro Bowl center Olin Kreutz.

Kreutz has faced the likes of Pat Williams from Minnesota and was a teammate of Ted Washington. He sees Wilfork in precisely the same class.

Hes like Pat, smart, hard to move, and they are better athletes than people give them credit for, Kreutz said. All the elite nose guards are the same: Theyre big guys who can run, can use their hands and they know their scheme and whats going on around them.

And finally

Each weeks game seems like it is the new most difficult to assess but this one really is. No, I mean it. The issue isnt weather; New England is used to this. It is that there are so many aspects to the Patriots that isolating one on which to base a decision.

What I keep coming back to is Belichicks lackluster performances in games after short weeks. Also, Greg Olsen and others have always, and correctly, stated that it is more difficult to come back from a good win than a bad loss. What the Patriots did to the New York Jets last Monday night is akin to the Bears upending the Packers in Game Three on a Monday, then being pounded by the Giants the following Sunday on the road.

New England is coming off a hugely emotional win over its chief division rival and off a short week. In a game of small factors, that is a big one. Tom Brady, Jay Cutler, Bears defense, Patriots offense, Mike Martz, Bill Belichick those are all major elements in what will play out Sunday afternoon. In the end, the Bears are three-point underdogs, equating to roughly a handicapping equivalent of a touchdown, given the home-field advantage being worth about a field goal. They will win by three, not lose by three.

Bears 17 Patriots 16

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.

Can Markus Wheaton fix what ails the Bears’ offense?

Can Markus Wheaton fix what ails the Bears’ offense?

Markus Wheaton was a full participant in practice on Wednesday and wasn’t on the Bears’ injury report Thursday, signaling that the 5-foot-11, 189 pound speedster will make his Bears debut Sunday against his former team, the Pittsburgh Steelers. He’s not the solution for the Bears’ offense, but he could be part of it. 

For an offense that’s woefully lacked someone who can reliably stretch the field, Wheaton can at least provide the threat of going deep. Two years ago, while with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Wheaton averaged 17 yards per reception. Mike Glennon’s longest completion this year went for 22 yards. 

“It definitely adds another dimension,” Glennon said. “It’ll be great having Markus back.”

But Wheaton only played in three games last season (four catches, 51 yards) and, at his best, averaged 48 catches, 696 yards and four touchdowns a year from 2014-2015. Is it fair to expect Wheaton to be a big part of the Bears' offensive solution given he hasn't played much recently, and was limited to only a handful of reps in training camp and preseason practices due to a pair of freak ailments?

Maybe not, but with the Bears 0-2, he's the best hope they have at a skill position. 

Wheaton needed an emergency appendectomy the first weekend the Bears were in Bourbonnais — “I thought I had to poop,” Wheaton said, maybe providing too much information, before realizing the excruiating pain in which he was in was something worse. Shortly after returning to the practice fields at Olivet Nazarene University, Wheaton fractured his pinkie finger in gruesome fashion (he said the bone was sticking out) when he was awkwardly grabbed while trying to catch a pass. 

That Wheaton broke a finger wasn’t only significant for his ability to catch passes. Consider what his former quarterback — Ben Roethlisberger — had to say about what makes Wheaton an effective deep threat:

“He’s got a very good ability of using his hands,” Roethlisberger said. “When you’re trying to stretch the field, you’ve gotta have some little techniques to help you get open because DBs can run as much as receivers can. So you gotta be able to use your hands to swim, kinda, get some swiping, get the hands off, I thought that he really had some good technique when it came to the deep ball and getting away from DBs.”

Roethlisberger and Wheaton shared a good rapport in Pittsburgh, with the quarterback clearly communicating to the receiver what he expected timing-wise in his routes. It’s been a challenge to develop something similar with Glennon given the lack of practice time, but Wheaton said putting in extra work after practice has helped. 

If Wheaton and Glennon can get on the same page, perhaps that can lead to at least some deep ball attempts. The Bears have to find a way to prevent opposing defenses from stacking the box and focusing on stopping Jordan Howard, who only has 59 yards on 22 carries this year. 

“We're going to face overpopulated boxes, we know that,” offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said. “There's going to be seven, eight guys in the box every time and we have to execute better and it comes down to that.”

According to NFL’s Next Gen Stats, only three of Glennon’s 85 pass attempts have traveled 20 or more yards beyond the line of scrimmage. The only completion of those was Sunday’s garbage-time touchdown to Deonte Thompson, which was caught near the back of the end zone. 

The threat of Wheaton going deep won’t be enough, though. Glennon still has prove he can complete those deep balls — the last time he completed a pass of 25 or more yards was on Nov. 2, 2014 (though he’s only attempted 96 passes since that date). 

But Wheaton feels ready to go and is confident he can do his job — which, in turn, could, in a best-case scenario, help his other 10 teammates on offense do their jobs, too. 

“It’s been a long time coming,” Wheaton said. “I’m excited and hopefully this is the week.”

Kris Bryant is all aboard the Mitch Trubisky bandwagon

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AP

Kris Bryant is all aboard the Mitch Trubisky bandwagon

Count Kris Bryant among the Chicagoans who are calling for Mitch Trubisky to start at quarterback for the Bears.

OK, that may be a bit extreme as Bryant simply said he would supporting giving Trubisky a "shot", but still:

After a rough game for incumbent starting QB Mike Glennon last week, most of Chicago has been clamoring for the No. 2 overall pick to get some snaps under center.

Why wouldn't the crown prince of Chicago baseball get in on the noise?