Random News of the Day: Would you rather...

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Random News of the Day: Would you rather...

Tue. Jan 4, 2011
9:52 AM

By Joe Collins
CSNChicago.com

Happy New Year!

I hope that the start of 2011 was a good one for you. It certainly was for the Monsters of the Midway. A lot of critics figured that the Bears will be on the couch watching the playoffs come January 8th. And wouldnt you know itthose critics were absolutely right. The Bears earned a first round bye and the right to channel surf during the start of the NFL postseason. The Bears will practice Wednesday and Thursday before awaiting the New Orleans-Seattle and Philadelphia-Green Bay games over the weekend. If the 3-seed Eagles win, then Michael Vick and company come to Soldier Field. If the Packers win, then the Bears host the winner of the Saints-Seahawks game.

I was going to do a preview of each NFL playoff game, but then quickly realized that a preview of this nature would end up looking like that scene in Mr. Mom when Jack Butler (Michael Keaton) is trying to fight the out of control washing machine. Its a futile exercise and its just going to leave you looking like an idiot if you even try to outsmart the menacing beast. This season, the NFL has been that out of control washing machinestuffed up with too many potential surprises. Take the 7-9 Seattle Seahawks for that matter. Given this crazy season, would you even flinch if they shock New Orleans? Doubt it. I mean, outside of maybe penciling the New England Patriots in for a win or two, what rock-solid locks are there? Good luck on trying to outsmart the machine.

And yes, I just referenced Mr. Mom.

So I figure that, since the prediction game is out, why not try an NFL variation of the game Would You Rather? Apparently this is an actual card game that adults play as a sort of ice breaker at parties (picture a PG version of Truth or Dare, crossed with a Choose Your Own Adventure book and a typical eHarmony first date conversation). Its a game that focuses on what you would do in hypothetical situations. But lets focus Would You Rather on the Bears' first opponent in the playoffs.

If you were the Bears, would you rather

1. play the Saints? The Super Bowl champs? Really? I wouldnt mind it. Yes, the Saints racked up 11 wins. Yes, Drew Brees and his receivers can carve up a secondary like Zorro slashing a Z into somebodys chest. But they have shown they are susceptible to dumb mistakes (-5 turnover ratio). Have they played their best football yet? I don't think so. Yes, they lost to Cleveland and Arizona but they were also hampered by injuries. Maybe the Seahawks will smack a little wake-up call into the Saints? Hey, with this crazy NFL seasonwho knows. Speaking of which

2. play the Seahawks? Ha! Sure, why not! A 7-9 team that ends up playing the Bears after beating New Orleans? Wowthe Saints would really have to mail it in for this to happen. The Seahawks have very few playmakers on their offense, not to mention a shaky offensive line. Their defense is iffy at best. They were the kings of the NFC Westa division that was the butt of constant jokes this season. But hey, theyve already come into Chicago and dealt with the Bears (23-20 on October 17th). By the way, is it just me or does their quarterback Charlie Whitehurst look a little like a younger Bob Seger? Given the insanity of this NFL season, I wouldnt be surprised if Bob Seger comes off the bench and quarterbacks a team to victory. Too bad his hometown Detroit Lions arent in the postseason.

3. or play the Eagles? Again, why not? The Bears already grounded Michael Vick and the Eagles earlier this year (31-26 on November 28th). But can anybody figure this Philly team out? Which group comes to Chicago: the team that staged an epic comeback against the Giants? Maybe the team that beat the Colts? Or Atlanta? Or the team that looked like raw sewage against the Vikings? Keep in mind that the Packers have already beaten the Eagles this yearin Philly. The Eagles have loads of injuries and who knows if that situation will get any better when a physical Packers team shows up this weekend.

Its up to you, Bears fans. What do you think? What team poses the biggest threat? Or the smallest one? What will it take to put a smile on your face? I insist on playing the Would You Rather game. Dont end up making predictions about the playoffs. Heck, dont even listen to any of the blowhards making predictions. Pssshlike they have any clue whats going on, you know? They should know that the NFL is unpredictable.

Like an out-of-control washing machine.

Or something like that.

Bears defensive problems vs. Cowboys not complicated (unfortunately)

Bears defensive problems vs. Cowboys not complicated (unfortunately)

That the Dallas Cowboys were able to put 447 yards, almost 200 of them running the football, and 31 points on the Bears was concerning in itself. The way much of it happened, however, was perhaps more concerning, even if not completely surprising.

And the issues were in more than one area.

The rushing yards, of which 140 were provided on 30 carries by rookie Ezekiel Elliott, were largely gained by simply pounding away on an undermanned Bears front seven. The Bears have allowed 10 runs of 10 yards or more; five of those came in Dallas.

The problem was an alarmingly simple one. Not scheme, not missed assignments.

“We were getting blocked and not getting off blocks well enough,” defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said on Wednesday. “But basically getting blocked most of the time, a guy or two every time was just getting blocked.”

The defense was without linchpin and nose tackle Eddie Goldman (ankle) as well as inside linebacker and co-captain Danny Trevathan. In Trevathan’s spot, rookie Nick Kwiatkoski started and played on 18 of Dallas’ snaps (26 percent).

He did OK,” Fangio said. “Again, he was part of those guys that got blocked some. Had some good plays, some not so good. The first play of the game that popped out of there for 21 yards, he was at the point of attack on that one. It was OK, hope for better, expect better moving forward.”

The Bears use something of a hybrid form of gap control, not strictly two-gap with linemen responsible for gaps on either side of the blocker in front of them, and not strictly one-gap, with a tighter responsibility but with expectations that the defender get more penetration and disruption.

The system is what one lineman described as “gap-and-a-half,” playing their assigned gap but also with responsibility to help out with one other assigned gap. They are not head-up on offensive linemen, being slightly shaded toward a gap a’la one-gap schemes most of the time.

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The Bears generally were unable to control either their assigned or their secondary gaps.

The issues were not confined to the run defense. The Bears’ pass rush was virtually non-existent (zero sacks, one hit on Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott) and yet it allowed Prescott to scramble free three times, converting first downs on all three.

“Our rush wasn’t good enough when they weren’t throwing it quick,” Fangio said, “and it was evident by the times [Prescott] scrambled. He scrambled three times for first downs and they hurt us.

“Our rush wasn’t good enough. There are a lot of passes that the rush won’t be a factor because it is coming out fast. But we have to get better coverage to make them hold the ball longer, too.”

Bears have run hurry-up offense, Brian Hoyer style

Bears have run hurry-up offense, Brian Hoyer style

Brian Hoyer spent Wednesday’s practice as the presumptive No. 1 quarterback, sources said, and with Jay Cutler limited due to his thumb injury, the Bears began prep for the Detroit Lions next Sunday in Soldier Field with Hoyer getting more used to the offense that he has only sparingly run since training camp.

Some of Hoyer’s teammates spent Wednesday’s practice getting a little more used to him.

A veteran of 27 NFL starts, Hoyer doesn’t do things the way Cutler does them. He doesn’t throw as hard. He doesn’t throw as far. And he runs a sort-of hurry-up offense compared to Cutler.

“Hoyer has a real good sense of urgency to him,” said left tackle Charles Leno Jr. “He’s more fast paced. He likes to quicken up things, whether it’s the cadence, the flow – he just has a real natural sense of urgency about himself.”

This involves more than just a feeling. The Bears ARE faster under Hoyer, based on one very unofficial measure, because game situations differ even though the Bears ultimately lost all three games.

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Based on snaps and time played, the Bears have run 2.2 plays per minute with Cutler. They have run 2.6 per minute, approaching 20 percent more, under “urgent” Hoyer.

The play rate, however, is not entirely on the quarterback. Like all teams, the Bears build tempos into their system, and defenses also dictate some of how the Bears elect to work.

Still, “Jay is more laid back, more relaxed, even-keeled,” Leno said, smiling. “But that’s just Hoyer, more sense of urgency."