Playoffs? Cutler, Bears thinking Super Bowl

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Playoffs? Cutler, Bears thinking Super Bowl

Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2010
5:03 PM

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

The Bears dont have the NFLs permission yet to start printing playoff tickets. They really dont have permission to start talking about playoffs, although thats going to happen anyway. Sometimes the talk is going to go beyond just making the playoffs.

As far as being good enough to win the Super Bowl, quarterback Jay Cutler gave a frank opinion. I think so, he said. Of course, he added, Youve got to believe that or theres no use playing right now.

Cutler has not been to the playoffs, or even had a winning season in his NFL career for that matter. So his sense of what a championship team at this level really looks like can be considered somewhat limited.

But Israel Idonije was on the 2006 team, which was dramatically different in many ways from this edition, but that same kind of energy, you kind of feel it around here, he said. Guys are excited, working hard, and theres a lot of rumbling throughout the city. It feels good.

We want to end up in Dallas this year, and just to get there is not enough. Weve been there. Weve got to get the ring.

The one individual most responsible for both getting them to think like a Super Bowl team without talking now about the Super Bowl is not concerned about a loss of focus and with that a loss to the Detroit Lions.

We wont look too far ahead, Lovie Smith said. You have to have long-term goals. When you start the season, we have three goals for our program and that last goal is to win the Super Bowl. So thats there. You cant run from it and we dont want them to run from it.

But you dont talk about that now. Theres no time to talk about that now. That wont change with our guys and Id be surprised if you heard anything else except for that. The guys know whats at stake.

Hurtin

The Bears were without linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa (knee) practicing Wednesday and receiver Rashied Davis was limited with a sore shoulder. The Detroit Lions were not nearly so healthy.

Quarterbacks Matthew Stafford (shoulder) and Shaun Hill (finger) were joined on the DNP list by defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch (neck) and kicker Jason Hanson (knee). Four other starters were limited in practice: running back Jahvid Best (toe), receiver Nate Burleson (hamstring), linebacker DeAndre Levy (groin), tight end Tony Scheffler (rib).

Distinguished gentlemen

The performances that were instrumental in the Bears being 4-0 in November have been noticed, and rewarded.

Defensive end Julius Peppers was named NFC defensive player of the month for November after recording 4 sacks, tied for second in the NFL. His 29 yards in losses off those sacks were tops in the NFC and tied for fourth in the NFL. Peppers added 13 tackles, deflected a pass that led to an interception and recorded 2 additional tackles for losses during the month.

The Bears defense held opponents to just 65 rushing yards in the month of November (lowest in the NFL) and held opponent quarterbacks to a 69.5 passer rating during the month (lowest in the NFL).

This is Peppers third NFC Defensive Player of the Month award (Nov. 2004, Oct. 2006). Peppers is the first Bears player to win the award since Trace Armstrong in Sept.1990 and the third overall since the award first started in 1986 (Wilber Marshall, Dec. 1986).

Quarterback Jay Cutler was named NFC offensive player of the Week after completing 14 of 21 passing attempts for 247 yards and four touchdowns en route to a career-high 146.2 passer rating in the Bears 31-26 victory over the Eagles. The four touchdown passes tied a career high for Cutler, who now has three such games as a member of the Bears, tied for second most in franchise history.

When you have a game like Philadelphia, you deserve to get an award like, as does Julius Peppers, Lovie Smith said. When you play the way he has this past month, were really pleased with the progress theyre making along with the team right now.

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.

Bears hoping to get Kyle Fuller back in DB mix sooner rather than later

Bears hoping to get Kyle Fuller back in DB mix sooner rather than later

Kyle Fuller was one of the seeming fixtures in the Bears’ defense as it transitioned from the 4-3 of old to the 3-4 of Vic Fangio. And he may be again, the Bears hope very soon, as he has begun practicing after months on injured reserve following knee surgery in August.

The Bears could place Fuller on the active roster as late as Saturday after he practiced all three days this week. “He made it three days in practice, no setbacks,” said coach John Fox. “He seems to be adapting pretty well. He has another practice [Saturday] and we don’t have to make a decision until 3 p.m. because of where he is on the roster. We’ll evaluate that after tomorrow.”

Were Fuller to return — restoring one projected 2016 starter to a defense that has been forced to field five different starting secondaries in the span of 11 games — he may be phased back in with a managed number of snaps, as other certain other players returning from injury have been.

But getting Fuller back projects to be an instant upgrade for a defensive backfield among the NFL’s worst at producing takeaways.

“We all play different positions so we’re kind of used to it, people moving in and out over the year,” said Bryce Callahan, who was initially ticketed for nickel duty as the No. 3 cornerback this season but has been pressed into service starting at cornerback in four games.

“It’s always good to get someone like Kyle back.”

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The Bears would need to weigh what workload Fuller could handle vs. roster needs based on only having 46 players active on game day.

“You’re always a little bit cautious because it does affect your roster,” Fox said. “But if you feel like he makes you better, that’s a move you make. Now we’re just working through him medically, durability-wise, and how much he can play.”

Jay Cutler (shoulder) was officially declared out and is headed for surgery on Saturday, ultimately to injured reserve.

Other availability questions include receiver Eddie Royal (toe), guard Josh Sitton (ankle) and safety Adrian Amos (ankle), all questionable. Linebacker Willie Young (knee) did not practice but linebacker Leonard Floyd was able to practice on a limited basis although his status in the concussion protocol will not be known until closer to game time.

Focus on personnel issues in Bears-49ers matchup of NFL losers

Focus on personnel issues in Bears-49ers matchup of NFL losers

Once upon an NFL time a Bears-49ers game held some consequence, sometimes great import. Even last season the San Francisco game was the Bears’ chance to reach .500 in John Fox’s first year (it didn’t happen, with the Bears defense allowing a long Blaine Gabbert TD run and Robbie Gould missing a 36-yard field goal for the win, all in the last 1:42 of a game the Bears had dominated statistically).

Now the game becomes another in a string of ones in which the opponent and even the outcome matter less than some specific personnel issues for a team trying to avoid losing four straight games for the first time under Fox.

Several of those personnel questions warrant watching because of the positions involved:

Matt Barkley, quarterback   

The Barkley Era unofficially began last Sunday against the Tennessee Titans when the former USC quarterback got his first NFL start and nearly became the third Bears quarterback to win a game in an otherwise dismal season. That did happen once, in 2007 when Brian Griese, Rex Grossman and Kyle Orton also had W’s as starters.

Well, if not an actual “era,” at least the Barkley window opened, and will be open for the foreseeable 2016 future.

Barkley playing his way into a starting job in 2017 is not a front-burner thought — yet — although Kurt Warner once played his way from stocking supermarket shelves into Hall of Fame consideration.

Going against one of the only two teams with fewer wins than the Bears, Barkley’s chances are ostensibly better than they were facing the Titans, if only for “just being comfortable,” said Fox.

“Our opponent, Colin Kaepernick has been in for X amount of time. And like anything, the more you do it, the better you get. Hopefully. Just getting him more reps. More reps with the 1’s. I think there’s a drastic difference between him coming in as the back-up in Green Bay versus him being the starter last week against Tennessee. So hopefully he improves from his first start to his second start. That’s the plan and that’s what we’re working off.”

Quarterback is always a point of supreme interest and Barkley is playing for a shot somewhere in 2017. And the Bears want to know if some of the positives in the Tennessee game were real.

“With Matt, the biggest challenge was he wasn’t here in OTAs and training camp, so you don’t know him,” said offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains. “He was out there running scout team, running ‘cards,’ so you know what kind of talent he has, but he never had gotten a two-minute — that was his first two-minute drill with the first group in a game situation.”

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Daniel Braverman, wide receiver

Braverman was a seventh-round draft choice who flashed in training camp but faded in games. He was elevated from the practice squad and is projected into a slot role with Eddie Royal injured again and the future unclear at that No. 3 wideout spot.

“There are not a lot of great slot receivers out there in the game,” Loggains said. “You’ve got to be able to move the chains, and you’ve got to be able to convert third downs and do those things and score in the red area. You have to understand coverages and leverages to be able to do that stuff. Those are the things that Braverman, coming into the NFL, his biggest challenge is.”

Daniel Brown, tight end

The season-ending foot injury to Zach Miller created another vacuum at a position the Bears have struggled to fill long-term: trading away the likes of Martellus Bennett, Greg Olsen and even Mike Ditka. Brown caught his first career TD pass in the Tennessee game. With Miller’s injury history and age (32), the Bears have a need at the position.

“We thought obviously he’s a guy that has a skill set probably closet to Zach at this point to plug in and play,” Loggains said. “But he did a nice job, helped up on third down, helped us in the red area. Just his ability to catch the football, he’s played receiver before and he’s more of a pass-catching tight end.”

Kyle Fuller, cornerback

Fuller, who led the Bears with two interceptions last year, has been a starter at a position that is a defensive priority. He is coming back from August knee surgery and into a secondary that is takeaway challenged. His goals are basic at this point.

“Just getting back on the field and just performing,” Fuller said.