View from the Moon: Bears business-like after win


View from the Moon: Bears business-like after win

Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2010
2:31 PM

By John Mullin

The Bears did some celebrating on the field after Monday nights pasting of the Minnesota Vikings. They were wearing party hats and T-shirts that said 2010 NFC North Division Champions.

But in the locker room there was a mood and universal demeanor best described as business-like. The elation over Devin Hester setting the NFL record was shared throughout, an accomplishment truly group in nature, which Hester will honor with elegant watches for those whom he considers responsible for his honor.

The reason for the lack of other celebration was pretty obvious: The Bears havent won anything yet. And this is where the quality core of veterans becomes crucial.

Division titles are nice; a number of Bears have a handful of them. Lance Briggs, Olin Kreutz, Julius Peppers, Charles Tillman, Brian Urlacher, others.

They also have something else a failed trip to a Super Bowl. They know how important first reaching the playoffs is but they also know painfully well how incomplete a win that really is.

This is a great accomplishment for me, for this team, for the young guys, everybody, Peppers said. But weve got to stay focused at this point. We have to realize that its only one of the first steps toward the ultimate prize. Thats our role as veteran leaders, to let guys know that, and let guys know that it only gets harder from here.

And there is a deeper realization the leaders are beginning to pound into younger heads. Rookies and NFL newbies think this sort of thing, even reaching a Super Bowl, happens every year.

Lovie Smith reached the divisional round of the playoffs in his second year as Bears coach. He was in the Super Bowl (and lost) his third year. Both accomplishments were achieved faster than Mike Ditka managed. He went to a Super Bowl his first year as a defensive coordinator with the St. Louis Rams (and lost).

He now joins his veterans in delivering the same strong message to young players in particular.

You assume youll be back every year, Smith said. It just doesnt work like that.

Peppers was a member of the Carolina team that lost to the New England Patriots in the Pats first Super Bowl win. He experienced that same sense of NFL entitlement.

That was my thought, Peppers said. My rookie year we didnt do well but the next year we went to the Super Bowl and you think its going to happen all the time. I was lucky enough to win a couple of division championships but Ive never been able to get back to the Super Bowl.

The stats, even things like the divisional title, theyre nothing compared to the big things.

Favreing it up again, or...

Corey Wootton has been active only occasionally this season, four games in fact, counting Monday night. Yet here was this rookie defensive end setting up a Pro Bowl left tackle, beating him and putting his first career sack on a Hall of Fame quarterback.

The nerve of that kid...

Wootton beat Bryant McKinnie on a second-quarter rush, got the edge on the massive blocker, and took down Brett Favre with enough of a smash-down to put the quarterback out of the game with head and shoulder injuries.

McKinnie is a great player, Wootton said. I was able to get a good jump on the snap, use a little bit of power, rip outside and get to Favre and get him down. I kind of set him up wit a little inside pressure to make him think I was coming inside and then went outside. Coach Marinelli has done a great job of helping me get better every week and thats what I want to do, just keep improving.

The rookie impressed an important teammate, whose first thought was worry.

He got a sack? linebacker Brian Urlacher said Hell probably get fined.

The sack could give Wootton a place in Favre history, although a part of Favres NFL history the QB wouldnt mind forgetting about.

Favres last passes as an Atlanta Falcon, Green Bay Packer and New York Jet all were intercepted. His last 2009 pass as Minnesota Viking was intercepted in the playoff loss to New Orleans but Favre returned for 2010.

And given that injury and the lost cause that is the Minnesota season, the sack could well be Favres final pass play.


The Bears indeed have something very, very important to play for. The Nos. 1 and 2 playoff seeds, the two division winners with the best records, receive a bye week (as distinguished from the mis-named bye week in-season, which is simply a week off, not a bye, because no one advances in that week).

The others face wild-card qualifiers, meaning they need to play an extra game, meaning they can see their playoffs come to abrupt endings. In each of the last three postseasons, fully one-half of the wild-card games were lost by the division winners.

Chicago Bears Facial Fur Society

A number of Bears are looking a little ratty around the edges but its a good thing. They are letting beards grow until after the Super Bowl or after the Bears lose in the playoffs, whichever comes first.

Not all the chin upholstery looks bad by any means. Wide receiver Johnny Knox is letting his grow, although he looks to me a little like a Mennonite, very distinctive, actually. Special teams coordinator Dave Toub has his trimmed in a fashion a little like my own (mine is not coming off, regardless of playoff outcome, in case you were wondering).

It helps keep a little warm in this cold weather, too, Toub said, laughing.

Yep, sure does.

Lez e-talk

If youve got any Bears thoughts, lets chat tonight at our usual 7-8 p.m. on Should be some good fodder to noodle on. Always is.

John "Moon" Mullin is'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.

Three quick fixes for some Bears woes while searching for a turnaround

Three quick fixes for some Bears woes while searching for a turnaround

Positives were difficult to find in last Thursday’s 26-10 loss to the Green Bay Packers. So maybe the place to look for improvement lies in just getting rid of a few negatives.

As far as positives, Leonard Floyd would be the obvious one, with two sacks, one a strip and fumble recovery for a TD. Ka’Deem Carey would be another, with 10 carries for 48 yards, his second straight game with high-impact running; Jordan Howard has been shackled for two weeks, so the Bears have needed another backfield-committee member contributing. Jeremy Langford may have trouble finding work when he comes back from his ankle injury.

But negatives have far outweighed positives, which is how you get to 1-6. Fixing three of those will go a long way toward improving their chances against a Minnesota Vikings team that appeared eminently beatable in losing at Philadelphia on Sunday:

Stop the penalty hemorrhaging

For the third straight game the Bears had 10 penalties walked off against them. This "streak" started after eight infractions in the win over Detroit. The 10 in Green Bay cost the Bears 108 yards in a game where their offense netted just 189. Seven of the penalties were charged to the defense, six of which gave the Packers first downs.

The three offensive penalties were mental. A wide receiver (Alshon Jeffery) lined up offsides. The quarterback (Matt Barkley) drew a delay flag. An offensive lineman (Ted Larsen) was illegally downfield.

All of which point to a discipline problem getting worse, not better. Whether the fault lies with players losing focus or coaches not instilling a mindset is a debate, but meaningless if the problem is not addressed. “There were a lot of penalties out there,” said cornerback De’Vante Bausby, who committed three of those penalties. “We had a good scheme and plan but we just didn’t finish in the second half as a group.”

Stop the dinking

While Brian Hoyer replacing Jay Cutler scaled back the downfield element of the offense, the loss of an emerging Kevin White should not be understated. The de facto rookie may not have gotten in the end zone but he was leading the team in receptions before he suffered a broken leg in the win over Detroit.

Since the loss of White, however, the offense has shrunk. The Bears averaged 7.5 yards per pass attempt through four games with White. Without White the average is 7.0, and that is including the blip in Indianapolis, which stands as a complete anomaly. The average was 5.9 in the Jacksonville loss and 5.0 in Green Bay.

Hoyer’s ball-security orientation has been a positive, but also a limiting factor. Cutler last year had one of the best ball-security seasons of his career, yet the offense was able to average 7.5 yards per attempt.

The Bears scored two of their three rushing touchdowns in games with White, who may not yet be the field-stretcher his 4.35 speed but the prospect of White arguably made for a more threatening offense than even with the contributions of Cam Meredith.

Stop the Vikings

The Minnesota Vikings have suffered injuries at a rate like the Bears’ but have overcome them. Until Sunday in Philadelphia, when the Eagles sacked Sam Bradford six times and hit him more than a dozen other times. The Vikings never sacked Carson Wentz, who wasn’t special but was good enough while Minnesota was self-destructing.

The Vikings have beaten the Bears the last three times they’ve met, the first time that’s happened since 1999 and 2000, which is also the last time the Bears started 1-6. And the Bears have lost three straight.

The Bears were able to end the first three-game skid by focusing on one game: the Lions. The result was shutting down a very good offense, the lowest yardage-allowed (263) of the season and the firmest commitment to the run game (29) attempts.

Morale inside the locker room can only be revived by a win. One game. This game.

Report: Bears looking for Jay Cutler return against Vikings; Matt Barkley on stand-by

Report: Bears looking for Jay Cutler return against Vikings; Matt Barkley on stand-by

FOX insider Jay Glazer confirmed on Sunday that the Bears expect quarterback Jay Cutler will be back from his sprained thumb and able to start against the Minnesota Vikings next Monday night in Soldier Field.

That would put Matt Barkley back where he has been pretty much his entire three-plus-year NFL career. Waiting.

That's the Bears want what every team wants – a young quarterback in the developmental pipeline – is no secret. Ryan Pace is among the NFL executives who speak of drafting a quarterback as much as every year, even if they don’t.

Could the Bears already have that player on their roster?

If Barkley, who was pressed into service when Brian Hoyer went down with a broken arm in last Thursday’s loss to the Green Bay Packers, is in fact that player, he might not be surprised. But the rest of the NFL would be.

"I'm confident that no matter where I am or what the deal is,” Barkley said, after going 6-for-15 with no TD’s and two interceptions, “I can play in this league.”

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

He may be one of the few still holding onto that belief. The Bears picked up Barkley after the Arizona Cardinals discarded him in early September. The Cardinals didn’t see Barkley as even a practice-squad option, which the Bears did and where Barkley was working before Cutler’s thumb injury forced the Bears to sign him to the active roster.

“The [Bears] personnel people thought he was a taller [6-2] guy that stood in the pocket pretty well,” said coach John Fox. “A guy that we thought we could work with, that had some experience and, hopefully, he got a little bit more experience [at Green Bay].”

Barkley has gone from possible No. 1 pick in the 2012 draft to just another touted USC quarterback who failed or were no better than just-OK at the NFL level (Todd Marinovich, Rob Johnson, Matt Leinart, Mark Sanchez), who has thrown 65 NFL passes, none for a touchdown and six that were intercepted, including two in the Bears’ 26-10 loss last Thursday in Green Bay.

The question for Barkley at this point in his career is whether Chicago is his last stop and/or chance. Fourth-round draft picks have played their ways into prominence (Kirk Cousins in Washington, Dak Prescott in Dallas, even Sonny Jurgensen and Norm Van Brocklin if you want to find Hall of Famers), but Barkley has the added challenge of being on his third team and learning yet another offense after beginning this season running Houston and Philadelphia plays for the Bears’ defense.

Barkley offered no excuses for his poor showing (18.3 passer rating). Sort of.

“It definitely would be more beneficial [to have gotten more snaps before Green Bay],” Barkley said. “I’m not going to say what Coach should do; that’s his decision and you’ve got to deal with what you’re dealt.

“Just since I’ve been here, you know, scout-team reps and trying to put our plays into what we’re seeing on cards, you try to do every little thing you can to get better no matter what you’re doing. That’s no excuse.”