Chicago Bears

Teammates making it hard for Hanie to succeed

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Teammates making it hard for Hanie to succeed

As the Oakland Raiders game ended, Caleb Hanies quarterback arrow was pointing decidedly up. Since then

What has happened to Hanie?

It is not as simple as just declaring him an unfit quarterback for the NFL, denigrating Bears personnel staff for allowing 2011 to begin with him as the No. 2 behind Jay Cutler. Or ridiculing the coach staff for going with him as first alternate.

Thats hindsight, second-guessing, selective memory, whatever you want to call it. And it somehow doesnt add up to an adequate explanation for three straight losses with an increasingly inept offense.

Something isnt making complete sense here. Maybe its as simple as. Maybe its. Answer at the end.

Respectable history

On three separate occasions last season Hanie entered games as an emergency throw-in after utter Todd Collins failures. One was against the New York Giants after their nine-sack half against Cutler. Hanie threw four passes, completed three for 36 yards, and his 102.1 passer rating was a relief from Collins 8.1.

A week later Hanie succeeded Collins again and completed two of his three attempts for 19 yards.

Hanie didnt play again until the NFC Championship game when he again replaced Collins after Cutler was lost to the knee injury. Hanie completed 13 of 20 passes, threw an INT that was returned for a touchdown, but recovered from that to a degree that even doubting coordinator Mike Martz was impressed. Hanie had the Bears with a third-and-3 at the Green Bay 27 before Martzs end-around call to Earl Bennett backfired and Hanies last attempt was intercepted at the Green Bay 12.

That was enough of a body of work for the Bears to invest some hope in Hanie, who managed to spit the bit for a time in training camp with his interceptions but not enough for the organization to make another Collins-type move.

Put another way, Hanie gave the Bears more on-field reasons for at least guarded optimism than Matt Cassel had by the time he succeeded Tom Brady several years ago, than Matt Leinart and T.J. Yates had by the time they came on for Matt Schaub in Texas, and any number of backups.

Oakland fourth quarter, and then

In the second half of the Oakland game, Hanie recovered from the interception nightmares of the first two quarters and posted a passer rating above 97. He completed 11 of 21 passes for 182 yards and a TD in the second half and directed three straight scoring drives in the fourth quarter.

The problem is that hes managed just 13 points in the eight quarters since then.

The problem I have with that is its not a full picture.

Hanie has made too many bad passes to escape any sort of blame. He whiffed on Bennett in the Kansas City game and on Marion Barber in Denver.

But whats wrong with the Bears offense right now is so clearly Barber, Roy Williams and points given away. This isnt all that complex.

Hanies problem is that he has not been able to raise his game enough to overcome the 14 lost points by Barber (formation) and Williams (drop) against Kansas City, plus the missed Robbie Gould field after sacks on consecutive pass calls at the Chiefs 7-yards line. And the Gould opportunity that vanished in Denver with the Barber fumble.

The difficulty right now is knowing exactly how good or not good Hanie is. Hes been without franchise running back Matt Forte since mid-first quarter vs. Kansas City. Leinart and Yates at least still had Arian Foster to hand off to, and Carson Palmer threw more INTs (7) in his first three Oakland starts than Hanie (6) has in his first three.

Hanie isnt good enough yet to carry a team past the plays of a Barber and a Williams (at least not both).

Maybe nothing actually has happened to Hanie after all.

Why the Bears ‘f***ing loved’ what Jordan Howard showed them on Sunday

Why the Bears ‘f***ing loved’ what Jordan Howard showed them on Sunday

After fighting off the Pittsburgh Steelers’ defense for Jordan Howard, the Bears’ offensive line still sounded as if they wanted to keep blocking for a running back who wowed them with his toughness in Sunday’s 23-17 overtime win. 

Howard, who NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported has a sprained AC joint in his shoulder, was clearly playing through pain against Pittsburgh. He was helped off the field multiple times by trainers and was trying to protect his banged-up shoulder on some of his runs in the second half. But he quickly returned to the game after those scares, which was not lost on the guys leading the way for him. 

“He’s tough,” right guard Kyle Long said, emphasizing the word tough. “And toughness is something that’s talked about in football a lot, but Jordan Howard’s tough. He really is.” 

“He’s a f***ing soldier, man,” right tackle Bobby Massie said. “He was a Pro Bowler for a reason.” 

“F***ing loved it,” left tackle Charles Leno Jr. said. “I loved it. It showed that he cared and wanted to be out there for us, and it made me go harder. I just told him that — it made me want to block for him extra hard. And when he does that and he shows that courageousness, man, comes out there and keeps battling back after we know he’s hurting, I’m going to give it everything I got for that guy.”

The Bears’ offensive line (and tight ends and wide receivers, it should be said) continually opened up lanes for Howard despite the Steelers knowing what was coming. Mike Glennon and the Bears’ passing attack didn’t stretch the field and only saw one wide receiver catch a pass (Deonte Thompson about halfway through the fourth quarter), but no matter how much the Steelers schemed to play the run, Howard kept hitting creases and getting into the second level, where he’s at his most effective. 

“He’s a tough son of a gun,” coach John Fox said. “The more you have of those, the better off you are and the better chances you have to win.”

Howard finished with 138 yards on 23 carries — an average of six yards per attempt — after only gaining 59 yards on 20 carries in his first two games of the season. His walk-off touchdown was a fitting end to This was a reminder, as Massie said, of why Howard was a Pro Bowler and the NFL’s second-leading rusher last year — even as he wasn't at 100 percent. 

“Sometimes I was hurt pretty bad,” Howard said. “I didn’t feel like I could finish. But Benny Cunningham, he kept pushing me through, and my coach, and I just saw my team – they kept fighting, so I had to keep playing.”

Under Center Podcast: Bears run strong in OT win against Steelers

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USA TODAY

Under Center Podcast: Bears run strong in OT win against Steelers

Alex Brown and Jim Miller join Laurence Holmes to break down how the Bears got themselves in the win column on Sunday against the Steelers.

Jordan Howard was the game’s MVP but how well can the Bears run the ball going forward if he is banged up and the Bears continue to struggle throwing the ball?

Plus, Marcus Cooper’s fumble on the goal line nearly cost the Bears the game. What do the guys think about the effort level after a gaffe like that – especially on a short week heading into Thursday night’s matchup against the rival Packers?

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below: