View from the Moon: History in Bears' favor

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View from the Moon: History in Bears' favor

Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2011
9:34 PM

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

Sundays divisional playoff will be the second meeting of the Bears and Seattle Seahawks in the span of about three months. While it may be convenient to say that rematches benefit both teams from the standpoint of knowing each other, that is not likely to be the case.

And that has potentially ominous implications for the Bears.

Playoff rematches, typically have a couple of patterns:

1.) Unless the winner of the first encounter borders on legendary stature, rematches favor the lesser of the two teams;

2.) They tend to reduce the point differential between the two;

3.) There is frequently a very wide point swing from first game to second.

What the Seahawks did to the Saints last weekend fit the pattern; the lesser team closing the gap and surpassing a decent but hardly superior team. (The Packers defeating the Eagles did not, but an Aaron Rodgers team with a Dom Capers defense is capable of breaking more than a few rules.)

These unofficial rematch rules have usually worked to the detriment of the Bears, in both of their playoff appearances under Lovie Smith and in previous trips regardless of head coach.

The Bears arent expecting to obliterate the 8-9 Seahawks despite the double-digit point spread that has stretched out in front of them like a trap. Nor are they expecting to embarrass themselves again with a home loss giving up 6 sacks and 353 yards to an offense that averaged less than 300.

Every team grows and gets better as the year goes on, said receiver Devin Hester. Teams are not up to their A-game the first couple weeks of the season. I can honestly say we werent up to our A-game.

We gradually got better and weve still got growing to go. We have been feeling a lot more confident than we had, which is really helping us out a lot.

That confidence also could be dangerous, however, whatever its source. The Bears have Seattles 23-20 win to remember in addition to the Seahawks handling of the New Orleans Saints last weekend, if overconfidence starts to set in because of the Seahawks record.

Roots of the problem

Second-meeting woes involving the Bears, although not always at their expense, go as far back as the birth of the Monsters of the Midway in 1940. The Bears, with a roster sprinkled with Hall of Famers, muddled to a 7-3 loss to the Washington Redskins in the regular season, then laced the Redskins 73-0 in the championship game.

Closer to modern times, the 12-4 Bears of 1988 got by the San Francisco 49ers 10-9 in a Monday Night Football regular-season game. That 49ers team, in the midst of its decade of dominance, destroyed the Bears 28-3 in the NFC Championship game.

Point swing: 26 points. The Bears were very good; the 49ers were legendary good.

The Bears were on the better end of the rematch pattern in 1994 when they lost by 28 in their first meeting with the Minnesota Vikings, by 6 in overtime the second, and then won by 17 in a playoff road upset.

Point swing, all games: 45. The lesser team learned a little bit each time.

Lovie Smiths 2005 team was good enough at 11-5 to drop the Carolina Panthers 13-3 during the regular season. In the divisional round, after their bye week, the Bears were embarrassed 29-21 at home.

Point swing: 18. The lesser team learned the Bears couldnt cover Steve Smith.

The Super Bowl team of 2006 crushed Seattle 37-6 in the regular season and went on to another first-round bye in the playoffs. When the Seahawsks came to Soldier Field in the divisional round, the Bears needed OT to escape with a 27-24 win.

Point swing: 28. Whether the Bears took the Seahawks seriously enough, only they know for sure.

The first thing Lovie Smith did this week was to show the players film of the Seattle win in October. It was a good message to send: Remember what they did to you.

Hopefully, well play better this time, Smith said. They played well, to beat a good New Orleans team this past week. But all of the teams are good this time of the year.

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 cut 10 players, trim roster to 80

Bears cut 10 players, trim roster to 80

The Bears have until Tuesday to move their roster down to 75, and they began Sunday by cutting 10 players.

The following players were waived: DL Keith Browner, WR Kieran Duncan, WR Derek Keaton, OL John Kling, RB Senorise Perry, WR Darrin Peterson, DB Joel Ross, TE Gannon Sinclair, OL Martin Wallace, FB Darrell Young

The Bears' roster currently sits at 80 players. After getting the roster down to 75 on Tuesday, the team will then cut down to 53 for the start of the regular season.

The Bears open their regular season on Sept. 4 in Houston against the Texans.

For the Bears, defense can’t pick up all the pieces from broken offense

For the Bears, defense can’t pick up all the pieces from broken offense

The current state of affairs for the 2016 Bears is seriously concerning when, after adding multiple starting players and investing high draft choices, the best that can be said about the Bears defense is that it isn’t as bad as the Bears offense.

A unit predicted to contend for a spot among the NFL’s top 10 this year was pushed around for 378 yards and 23 points in a 23-7 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. To push all of it off onto the fact that it was a preseason game won’t work, if only because the No. 1 defense allowed 239 of those yards and 20 of those points in the first half.

One mitigating fact is that the Bears offense hit a new preseason low and was coming back off the field before most members of the defense had had time to look at photos and to hydrate. Five of the Bears’ first seven possessions lasted less than 1 minute 30 seconds. Defensive players usually had time to get water or get with their coaches; not both.

And the defense did stiffen in the red zone, forcing the Chiefs twice to settle for field goals with the ball inside the Chicago 10 and a third time at the 23. And players at least bristled at the suggestion that the Bears are soft. “I take that personally,” said safety Harold Jones-Quartey. "I have never heard that word… . The first time I’ve ever heard anybody call us ‘soft’ is [now].”

Coach John Fox found some good in “the way our defense improved. We got a couple turnovers down in the lower-red area.”

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But those were scant positives in a game that saw Kansas City put together drives of 50 yards or longer five of the first six times it had the football, and those were against the supposed front liners.

The Chiefs drove 53 and 62 yards on their first two possessions, which included conversions of third-and-5 and third-and-14, part of the Chiefs converting six of 10 third downs in the first half. (“Obviously our third-and-long defense wasn’t real sufficient,” Fox allowed.)

Kansas City piled up 106 yards in the first quarter and what defensive “stops” there were might just as easily be credited to Kansas City execution as Bears playmaking. The Chiefs arguably had their initial drive stopped as much by tailback Spencer Ware colliding with blocking back Darrin Reaves on a third-and-short (2) for no gain. A fourth long drive of the half ended only when the Chiefs had a Bears blitz blocked, only to have Smith miss wide open wideout Albert Wilson inside the Chicago 10.

Special teams did the defense few favors. Kansas City punt returns of 18 and 15 yards put the ball at the KC 36 and the 50. The Bears did well to leave those possessions giving up only 3 points.

The game, in which starters and first-alternates play the longest of the preseason, had its points of player evaluation. Rookie cornerback Deiondre’ Hall, whose preseason has been marked by impact plays (not all of them good, of course), did generate another in the third quarter with an interception that thwarted a Kansas City scoring drive deep in the Chicago end. This was, however, after he had lost the ball and the receiver on a 58-yard completion the previous Chiefs possession.

And rookie defensive end Jonathan Bullard, after missing practice last week to attend to family matters, collected two quarterback hits, a sack and two tackles for loss among his three solo stops, according to initial game stats.

But rookie linebacker Leonard Floyd, who has missed practice time with three different health issues since the start of training camp, was limited in practice this week with a hamstring strain, and missed an important opportunity for much-needed work against unfamiliar competition.

“We got a chance to look at some young guys and make evaluations,” Fox said, “and that’s what preseason’s for.”

Best thing about Bears’ preseason loss to Chiefs: 'It wasn’t all bad'

Best thing about Bears’ preseason loss to Chiefs: 'It wasn’t all bad'

John Fox’s hopes for this preseason game No. 3 actually were fairly modest: show improvement. The Bears gave their coach pretty much the exact opposite in a dismal 23-7 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, which wasn’t really even as close as that score.

Tellingly perhaps, Fox was moderately damning with faint praise: “I don’t think it was all bad,” Fox said. “It might have looked like that but so do a lot of preseason games.”

And any presumed correlation between Saturday’s woeful performance and how the season may be a stretch. Five of the last six times the Bears have lost their third preseason game, they finished .500 or better, last year’s 34-6 drubbing at Cincinnati being the lone time the game-three result foreshadowed the course of the season.

But Fox was accurate in how the 2016 game-three loss looked. With quarterback Jay Cutler and the No. 1 one offense – or what was healthy of it – played into the third quarter, by which time the Chiefs were leading 20-0, had out-gained the Bears 331-94 and had allowed the Bears into plus-territory just once in seven possessions and with the Bears picking up zero first downs on five of the seven “drives.”

“It was good and bad, like anything else,” Cutler said.

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Concerning perhaps, while not easily quantifiable from a distance, the play by too many players looked lethargic and disinterested, whether it was the cause or the result of repeated breakdowns that killed Chicago drives and extended Kansas City ones. Whether success grows out of confidence or confidence follows from success is a relevant question but one that really doesn’t matter until the Bears have at least one or the other.

“I’ve never had a problem, whether it was all of last year or this year, as far as effort,” Fox said. “Our guys try hard and work hard. Now it’s just crossing that gap to having it happen under pressure. I think with young people sometimes that’s the growing pains. We’ve got the talent to do it. Now we’ve just got to execute better."

Cutler appeared frustrated on more than one occasion, which in the past has been a source of problems. Some of it clearly was with teammates and failed assignments. But this is a young Bears team still in a molten state and frustration, even when justified, can be an accelerant for tension.

This is still only preseason, but the critical trust relationship between Cutler and offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains is still a work in progress. The No. 1 offense has done less than nothing – 29 total points from 12 quarters of work – other than a brief burst early in New England. History suggests that Cutler is among those who need success to believe in his chief architect, and if Cutler’s attitude is fraying even a little bit, the danger is that it spread without something positive.

“We’ve got a great attitude,” Cutler insisted. “We’ve got a good team. Coach Fox put together a heck of a staff. Dowell and his staff are doing everything possible. Vic [Fangio, defensive coordinator] is a proven vet… . It’s just up to the guys.”

[RELATED: Bears No. 1 offense moving in wrong direction after three preseason games]

The game was one of the poorer examples of complementary football, with no phase of the Bears – offense, defense, special teams – doing anything remotely setting up another in field position, momentum or whatever. That is unsettling, since it is unusual for a game to be marked by none of a team’s units performing well.

The offense went without a first down on its final four possessions going into halftime. That was capped off by an abysmal final three trips to the line of scrimmage that produced a false-start penalty, incomplete pass to a wide-open receiver and a sack.

The defense, which wasn’t getting much recovery time from those brief series, failed to stop any of the Chiefs’ possessions through three quarters without at least one first down. The Chiefs had six drives of 40 yards or longer and had the ball approaching 30 minutes to the Bears’ 15 through three quarters.

Special teams did the defense few favors. Kansas City punt returns of 18 and 15 yards put the ball at the KC 36 and the 50. The Bears did well to leave those possessions giving up only 3 points, but the Chiefs had three different punt returners with at least one runback of 10 yards or longer.

As far as what might be positive in all of that: “It IS preseason,” Fox stated.