Time to sound the alarm? Bears' defense says no

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Time to sound the alarm? Bears' defense says no

Friday, Dec. 31, 2010
3:27 PM

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

Throughout most of this season the Bears defense has been little cause for concern. Yardage allowed has been no worse than 10th since the off week. Points allowed has ranked no worse than 10th since week two. The rushing defense has been no worse than No. 4 since week four.

And yet...

The Bears have held just one of their last five opponents to fewer than 20 points per game. That compares with allowing just one of their first five opponents in 2010 to score as many as 20 points in a game. The yardage-per-game ranking that was No. 4 (300) after the second Detroit game has fallen to No. 10 (316). Only the Minnesota Vikings in the Monday Night snowfest (273) totaled less than 300 yards.

I wouldnt say that its time to sound the alarm, linebacker Lance Briggs insisted. Everything weve done is correctable. Plus at the end of the year, offensive coordinators have all years worth of tape to study and scheme off of us. Theres been some good schemes, good game plans against us the last couple games, and its really good for us to see those kinds of things.

We have an idea how teams are going to attack us, whats been successful and what teams are going to continue to do. Weve seen things this year alone that we havent seen in the seven years weve been playing this defense.

The Bears have no plans of any sort to modify dramatically their defensive scheme or even their approach.

The reason is that the sense is not so much that teams are outsmarting the Bears, but rather that the Bears are not playing like the Bears.

I just think that when there are breakdowns, usually theyre our own, said defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli. And they attack us and all of those things. Thats all part of the game. But usually, theyre all correctable and we can adjust to them. And we have our little wrinkle here and there, but basically weve got to go out and really execute well, which were planning on doing.

Sunday would be a very good place to start, even with several starters likely to be pulled at some point of the game. The Packers gained 379 yards on the Bears in their first meeting, fifth-highest output against the defense this season.

Only Tom Brady (351) and Tony Romo (374) passed for more than the 316 yards Aaron Rodgers threw for against the Bears, who did not sack him even once.

Sick Bay

Wide receiver Earl Bennetts ankle improved enough to allow him some work at practice but Bennett is being listed as questionable for Sunday in Green Bay and could be held out of that game to ensure that he is fully recovered when the playoffs start for the Bears two weeks later.

Green Bay placed guard Marshall Newhouse on injured reserve and declared defensive end Cullen Jenkins, safety Atari Bigby, linebacker Frank Zombo and fullback Korey Hall all out with injuries.

No other Packers were listed as anything less than probable, including tackle Chad Clifton, cornerback Charles Woodson, linebacker Clay Matthews, safety Nick Collins and defensive end Ryan Pickett, all of whom were limited in practice at one time or another this week.

Party animal

Lovie Smith isnt making any lavish plans for New Years Eve, just planning on spending the night watching TV in the basement with wife MaryAnne. No game film allowed.

No video, he said. Im going to take tonight off and just spend it with her tonight. Looking forward to that.

But if there isnt any excessive celebration in the works, it doesnt mean that there isnt a true sense of accomplishment as the calendar year comes to a close. Its a great feeling to go through what we have, Smith said. Everybody is upbeat because of what we have accomplished so far. And then to have an opportunity to play against our rival.

Smith clearly likes the idea of facing a team that creates an edge for his own. Indeed, he endorses the NFLs idea of having final games of seasons against division opponents. But even more than that, everyone should play against their main rival the last game of the season, always, where you have a lot to be pumped up about, Smith said. Were looking forward to going up to Lambeau. Weve had some success up there. We hear theyre anxious for us to get up there, and we cant wait to go, too.

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' first round pick Leonard Floyd leaves practice on a cart

Bears' first round pick Leonard Floyd leaves practice on a cart

The Bears are underway on their second day of training camp, but will do so without Leonard Floyd.

The first-round draft pick left practice on a cart. Team rules prohibit reporters from discussing the extent of injuries, but head coach John Fox is expected to meet with reporters later this morning.

The Bears moved up in April's NFL Draft to select Floyd with the ninth overall pick. The outside linebacker tallied 17 sacks at Georgia and was projected to be in the mix as an outside rusher in the Bears' 3-4 defense.

Jay Cutler has answered doubters in Bears locker room, coaching staff

Jay Cutler has answered doubters in Bears locker room, coaching staff

When Jay Cutler came to the Bears in that 2009 trade with the Denver Broncos, he was “the new guy.” The locker room belonged to Olin Kreutz and Brian Urlacher on their respective sides of the football, and while the quarterback position by definition places its occupant in a necessarily leadership position, that wasn’t the Bears. They weren’t going to be “Cutler’s team,” not for a while.

But Matt Forte exited this past offseason and with him went the last position player – on either side of the ball – who had been here longer than Cutler now has. The reality wasn’t lost on Cutler.

“I was looking at the roster a couple of weeks ago and I feel like there’s been a major shift in experience — especially on the offensive side,” he said. “I’m at 11 [years] and then you look down, there’s a couple of nines, a couple of eights and mostly five and under, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I think a new talent and new guys in the building, there’s new energy and new attitude. I’ve embraced it. I’ve enjoyed it. I think the coaching staff’s done a great job of getting all these young guys up to speed. It’s a good group right now.”

It is also a group that looks to Cutler perhaps in ways teammates haven’t. Where Forte was at least the template for an NFL professional for his position group, Cutler now becomes the go-to veteran for everything ranging from details on a play-call to how to behave as a rookie.

It is a role that at times Cutler did not always appear to fit into comfortably, particularly with established veterans and personas that were the Bears’ identity for, in cases like Kreutz and Urlacher, a decade or more. Now, a player once sometimes perceived by outsiders as poutish or petulant has become something of a standard-setter for teammates.

“Obviously Jay does a great job with the younger guys,” said guard Kyle Long. “He brought me along, and continues to bring me along. He can be a little honest and blunt with me from time to time, but beyond a shadow of a doubt it’s the right thing to do in his position, as the leader and vested player.

“The quarterback is the leader of our team. I think he’s done a great job. I see him with the defense a lot, which is something I didn’t see a lot the first few years. I don’t necessarily know if that’s on Jay, or if it’s a perception-of-Jay basis. He’s a great guy. People in that locker room love him. He’s tough as hell. He’s got a cannon. He can run. And he’s a competitor. We love him. He’s been great this offseason and we’re looking forward to seeing how he’ll be this season with this new O-line and with the defense getting us the ball back a lot.”

Tough love approach

Cutler has earned the respect of his teammates. But gaining the confidence of his head coach and general manager through last year were possibly career turning points.

Cutler had been given a contract extension six games into his first (2009) year with the Bears. He responded by leading the NFL in interceptions.

When Phil Emery arrived as general manager, he spoke from the outset of Cutler as a “franchise quarterback” and “elite.” Emery gave Cutler a seven-year contract after the 2013 season, whereupon Cutler again led the league in interceptions in a 5-11 season marked by friction with coordinator Aaron Kromer and coach Marc Trestman, whose staff was fired after that year.

Instead of fawning treatment, Fox, coordinator Adam Gase and GM Ryan Pace were decidedly noncommittal on Cutler through last offseason and into the year. Cutler produced the best statistical year of his career, still not as good as Aaron Rodgers’ poorest single season, but with an overall performance that settled the Bears’ quarterback situation for the foreseeable future.

"I had questions on everybody," Fox said. "You come in, you take a job, you evaluate and you have to make decisions oftentimes before you even meet somebody in Year 1 as a head coach or general manager. They could be robots for all you know. But the game is still about people and relationships.

“I will say this: At the conclusion of the whole season working with Jay, I was very impressed. So I feel way more confident about him."

Bears make front office changes

Bears make front office changes

The Bears announced in a press release on Wednesday that the team has made numerous changes in their front office this offseason.

One such move included the hiring of Brandon Faber as the VP of Communications. Faber was with the Blackhawks communications department since 2008, where his most recent position was Senior Director of Communications and Community relations. 

"The club created a new executive layer of SVP’s to better lead and develop various areas of business with a focus on innovation & strategy," the release detailed. "The club promoted Scott Hagel, Karen Murphy, Cliff Stein and Lee Twarling to the newly created SVP level. The Bears have also added three new members to the VP level, promoting Doug Carnahan to VP of Corporate Partnerships and Jake Jones to VP of Finance and hiring Brandon Faber as the VP of Communications."

Hagel has been promoted to SVP, Marketing and Communications after 20 years with the Bears. Murphy has been promoted to SVP, Business Strategy and CFO. She has been with the Bears for 17 years.

Stein has been with the Bears for 14 years and has been promoted to SVP and General Counsel. He is the legal advisor for all of the club.

Twarling, who has been with the club for 12 years, has been promoted to SVP, Sales and Customer Relations.