View from the Moon: Vikings' stadium shuffle

340011.jpg

View from the Moon: Vikings' stadium shuffle

Tuesday, Dec. 14, 2010
11:15 AM
By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

Best guess now for a decision on the venue for the Bears game Monday night is set for today after repair crews have taken a more thorough look at the collapsed Metrodome roof and there is a clearer idea whether or not the University of Minnesotas TCF Bank Stadium could be readied in time to keep the game at least in the area, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune Access Vikings" blog by Chip Scoggins and Judd Zulgad.

The situation is shaping up like a small domino chain. The state of the Metrodome needs to be clarified in order to decide on the need for TCF Stadium. And officials at Minnesota need some time to get that stadium ready for an NFL game. Ford Field in Detroit is the third option but at this point is the only sure thing, if the Vikings in fact would even want to go back there after being routed 21-3 Monday night to the New York Giants.

If theyre asking me, I vote Detroit. The amount of snow removal and start-up staffing and provisioning needed for TCF Bank Stadium will require most of this week and still not have a first-rate facility for an NFL game. Questions are rightfully raised as to whether the Metrodome is truly safe after the repair, at least until there has been another snow test -- and what if snow shows up Saturday, Sunday or Monday, the dome isnt deemed OK, and now the scrambling starts.

Besides, I can drive to Detroit and sit out a dance with TSA screening. Come to think of it, Ill drive a team bus over to Motown, if thatll help.

Good win

Make no mistake: The Giants pasting of the Vikings on Monday night was a positive for the Bears. The Vikings had won two straight under interim coach Leslie Frazier and were building some late-season momentum much as the Dallas Cowboys were under Jason Garrett, and you do want teams that are down to stay down and not start playing like it matters for a new coach.

Interesting perspective

Longtime Patriots guy and colleague Kevin Curran at CSNNE.com puts a wrap on the New England game that Bears fans may find strangely encouraging. Kevin looks at how the Patriots have gone from rebuilding to remarkable, from a team that had few outside expectations going into this season and then even fewer after they let Randy Moss go.

The Bears have not gone anywhere near remarkable to this point but from where consensus expectations had to where they are now even after the New England embarrassment is something most fans wouldve gladly accepted three months ago when this season was starting. ...

If Brett Favres career has come to a close, he will leave with a spectrum of passing records. Hell also walk away as a true anomaly, particularly for a great quarterback:

Favre will have played for four different NFL teams. His last pass for each of them was intercepted. His final pass in each of his last four seasons was intercepted as well.

In his rookie, one year as an Atlanta Falcon in 1991, Favre threw four passes. The first one was intercepted and returned for a touchdown. His last one also was picked off in mop-up duty in a rout by the Washington Redskins.

His final pass as a Packer, an inane heave in overtime of the NFC Championship game, was intercepted.

His final pass as a New York Jet in 2008 was picked off.

And Minnesota gets a two-fer of final-Brett picks. His final throw of 2009 was intercepted by the New Orleans Saints in the NFC Championship game loss for the Vikings.

Favres current last pass as a Viking, thrown as he was taking the hit that injured his shoulder and ended the streak, was intercepted.

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 establishing smash-mouth core with Jordan Howard

Bears establishing smash-mouth core with Jordan Howard

Eric Kush was in some pain after the Bears win over the San Francisco 49ers. But it was a “good” pain, particularly since part of it was inflicted by a teammate.

The teammate was running back Jordan Howard, and the Bears left guard was learning along with his linemates that when Howard is coming, “he’s a-comin’,” Kush said.

“Oh man, sometimes you’re, ‘[groan-groan-groan], and he’ll hit you right in the back, you fall and try to take your guy down with you and stick him in the snow so you’re not the only one getting soaking wet and cold. But Jordan’s a lot fun and we try to kick some butt for him.”

The rookie running back has become more than simply a draft nugget from the fifth round of this year’s draft. Howard has established himself as an integral part of a winning formula of complimentary football, the concept long favored by John Fox, Lovie Smith and coaches who operate from the foundation of a premier running game, impact defense and solid special teams.

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

The Bears’ three wins have come this season in the only games in which Howard has been given 20-plus carries: 23 vs. Detroit, 26 vs. Minnesota, 32 vs. San Francisco. Add to those the 3 pass receptions against the Lions and the 4 against the Vikings and the true centerpiece of the 2016 Bears offense is more than a little apparent.

For obvious reasons beyond simply the rushing numbers.

“Especially pass protection,” said offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains. “I think he's taken a big jump that way. When you're young in this league, those are the things that can get grey for you. You run the football, he's obviously a talented player there, but in pass pro, he's made his biggest growth.”

As a corollary to Howard, San Francisco was only the second game this season in which the Bears called fewer than 30 pass plays (the only other time was at Green Bay, when the Bears only ran a total of 45 plays, 27 of them pass plays). In that respect, the snow was viewed as an ally by some in the locker room who have been unhappy at the run:pass balance, which was just 36-percent-run coming into the 49ers game.

“It was one of these games where, with the weather, we couldn’t pass the ball like we normally do —  30 times — so we had to keep it on the ground,” said one member of the offense.

Howard’s breakout game as an NFL ball carrier came against the Lions (23 carries, 111 rushing yards, 3 receptions). The Bears, looking for a breakout of their own in the form of a first two-game win streak in more than a year, are expected to keep it simple — and in Howard’s hands.

“I always expected a lot out of myself,” Howard said. “I didn’t really think that things would happen maybe this soon or this fast. I’m definitely grateful for it.”

Bears looking into Teryl Austin’s past for clues on how Lions will scheme vs. Matt Barkley

Bears looking into Teryl Austin’s past for clues on how Lions will scheme vs. Matt Barkley

The adage “play the man, not the board” seems somehow appropriate for what the Bears are doing to prepare for the Detroit Lions behind quarterback Matt Barkley.

“The man” is Detroit defensive coordinator Teryl Austin, and the Bears have been scouting him as well as his defenses, beyond just Bears games, beyond this season and last, taking in his 2014 Detroit season when Austin prepared defenses for Jay Cutler and Jimmy Clausen.

How did Austin scheme for rookie Carson Wentz when the Lions played (and beat) the Philadelphia Eagles? How did he structure is defense to stop a rookie Teddy Bridgewater when Detroit played Minnesota? (Not very well, apparently, since the Vikings won both games and scored 54 points combined in the two games).

While the John Fox Bears staff went against Austin’s Lions defense twice last year, Cutler was the Bears quarterback. When the Bears beat Austin and the Lions two months ago, it was with Brian Hoyer.

Now the Bears quarterback is Matt Barkley, who has fewer NFL games played (seven) than Cutler has NFL seasons (11), Hoyer (eight), too, for that matter.

“Different defensive coordinators attack young quarterbacks differently,” said offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains. “Some guys blitz, some guys play a bunch of zone. This group on defense there, they have a really good defensive coordinator, they're really smart, they do a bunch of stuff. On the back end, they run all the coverages.

“As a game, we'll have to make adjustments as the game goes and see what their plan to come out is early.”

Coaches and players may talk about how they prepare for a scheme irrespective of which opposing quarterback, running back, linebacker or whatever they will be facing. But in fact, preparations start with who is orchestrating the opponent’s offense or defense – play the man, not the board.

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

A risk can be out-thinking yourself trying to anticipate what a coordinator will do. The first point, Loggains said, is to start with your own strengths.

“We definitely look at that,” Loggains said. “As you go in the league long and longer, you face these guys, you see them in crossover games. We always know how a guy attacks a rookie quarterback or attacks a young quarterback, a veteran, or, in Matt's case, a guy who hasn't played as much.”

Evaluations of Barkley’s performance will broaden, particularly now that he is on tape for defensive coordinators to scheme for and scout. And while they are watching Barkley, the Bears are watching them.