Star power: 5 Bears selected to Pro Bowl, most since 2006

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Star power: 5 Bears selected to Pro Bowl, most since 2006

The up-and-down season of the Bears was not enough to sour voters among players, coaches and fans entirely on a team that has lost five straight as five Bears have been voted to the Pro Bowl, the most since the Super Bowl season of 2006.

Linebacker Lance Briggs, running back Matt Forte, special teamer Corey Graham, cornerback Charles Tillman and linebacker Brian Urlacher will represent the Bears on the conference all-star team.

Of the group, only Graham, who leads the Bears with 20 special teams tackles, is a starter.

The 49ers led the NFC with eight selections, matching the total for the New England Patriots. Green Bay had seven and the Bears and Saints had five.

Briggs becomes just the fourth Bears linebacker to be selected to seven straight Pro Bowls, joining Dick Butkus (eight), Bill George (eight) and Mike Singletary (10) at that elite level. Clay Matthews from Green Bay and Dallas Demarcus Ware are the starting outside linebackers.

Forte, who was leading the NFL in total yardage prior to his injury and still ranks fifth with 1,487 yards despite missing the last two games, is the first offensive player drafted by GM Jerry Angelo to make the Pro Bowl. Philadelphia Eagles tailback LeSean McCoy is the starter, with Gore listed along with Forte as the reserves. Forte went on injured reserve Tuesday and will not make the trip.

Tillman has two interceptions on the season, matching his season-low since 2004, but he also forced his 27th fumble against San Diego, most by any defensive back since 2003. Tillman returned an interception of Detroits Matthew Stafford for a TD in Week 10 and also turned in an acrobatic INT against Tim Tebow in Denver in a nationally televised game.

Urlacher is returning to the Pro Bowl roster for the eighth time. Patrick Willis of NFC West champion San Francisco was selected as the starter.

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."