Bears know wounded Lions are still dangerous

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Bears know wounded Lions are still dangerous

The Detroit Lions have inflicted their share of injury to opponents and now are limping into a Game 16 with one starting defensive lineman on injured reserve, his replacement not able to practice and their best defensive back also not practicing at the end of a season in which he has played just seven games so far.

Defensive tackle and 2011 first-rounder Nick Fairley went on IR and his fill-in, Sammie Hill suffered a toe injury in Detroits loss to Atlanta. Safety Louis Delmas has battled a knee injury all season and cornerback Jacob Lacey was lost to IR with a knee injury in the Arizona game two weeks ago.

But the Bears arent especially concerned about who wont be there. For one thing, all five of the Lions who registered sacks of Jay Cutler in the Bears 13-7 win on Oct. 22 linemen Cliff Avril, Ndamukong Suh and Kyle Vanden Bosch, and linebackers Stephen Tulloch and Justin Durant are playing.

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A couple guys banged up up front but theyve still got Suh, still got the edge rushers, new corner out there, said quarterback Jay Cutler. But its the scheme. Theyre going to try to get a lot of pressure from the front four, bring a few guys and play coverage behind it. Nothing we havent seen and we wont be prepared for.

The 2012 problem

Cutler has played as well against Detroit as against any team in his career. His teams have been 6-2 against the Lions and he has thrown 11 touchdown passes vs. one interception and put up a rating of 100.9, vs. a career rating of 83.9.

But Cutler has yet to establish himself as a championship quarterback and Sunday is one of those situations. The Bears have totaled just 13 points in two of the last three Detroit games, and the 37 in the third, game two of 2011 was deceiving. The offense netted 216 yards, the defense scored twice on interceptions and Devin Hester took a punt return to the end zone.

The Bears have won eight of their last nine games against the Lions but the credit belonged to more than the offense.

MORE: Win one for the...Lovie?

Indeed, part of the goal for the Bears offense on Sunday will be to play defense.

You want to flip the field, said coordinator Mike Tice. Theyre a very high-powered offense Detroit and we want to make sure we sustain drives.

We got back to doing pretty good in the red-zone again, so we want to get down in the red zone, because we had that stub-toe against Green Bay in the red-zone but over the last month or so, weve been pretty doggone good in the red-zone. So we want to continue that, so I told the guys this morning, Lets get in there more. And thatll be good, because we are pretty good in the red zone, actually.

Defensive disasters

The Lions have notoriety on defense Suh is a perennial top finisher in surveys of dirtiest in the NFL but the problems are more than reputation at this point.

In Detroits seven-game losing streak, the Lions have held no opponent to fewer than 24 points and have fallen to 29th in points allowed for the season (27.4).

The Bears have fallen hard in their last seven games but at least won two of the seven, the only two times (Minnesota, Arizona) they scored more than 17 points over that span.

The problem is that while the Bears rank ninth with 121.7 rushing yards per game, they have a No. 1 back (Matt Forte) dealing with an ankle injury and the No. 3 (Armando Allen) missing practice with a knee injury from the Arizona game.

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The Lions are 26th in rush yards allowed per attempt (4.5 per carry). The Bears were able to escape the first Detroit game with a 13-7 win in large part because they were able to rush for 171 yards and average 5.3 per carry, one of only five times this season they have topped 4.5 per carry.

The plan is to slow the Detroit pass rush with a running game marked by efficiency: four or more yards on first downs. The Bears struggled early in Arizona when they took and missed shots downfield early and faced too many second- and third-and-long situations. Against a Lions rush that sacked Cutler five times in the first game, the Bears want to control the tempo if not the bigger picture.

We cant control our own destiny, but we can control our half of it, which is winning a football game, Tice said. Thats what were intent on doing: going into Detroit and winning a football game.

Kyle Fuller heads to injured reserve as Bears make other roster moves

Kyle Fuller heads to injured reserve as Bears make other roster moves

The upheaval that has afflicted the 2016 Bears roster ratcheted up a notch late Tuesday when the Bears placed cornerback Kyle Fuller on injured reserve due to a knee injury and shuffled the depth chart elsewhere.

The Bears waived tight end Greg Scruggs, who was making the switch to offense from the defensive line, and linebacker Jonathan Anderson, while moving linebacker John Timu from the practice squad to the 53-man roster. To fortify the defensive line, where nose tackle Eddie Goldman is down indefinitely with an ankle injury, the Bears signed CJ Wilson, a 2010 draft pick of the Green Bay Packers who has played for the Packers, Oakland Raiders and Detroit Lions, starting 19 of 78 career games played.

Fuller, the 14th-overall pick of the 2014 draft and once identified as a building block of the Bears defense, underwent knee surgery Aug. 15 while the team went to New England for practices and a preseason game with the Patriots. He had been making significant strides in recovery as far as straight-ahead running but was still hampered with change-of-direction.

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Coach John Fox on Monday said simply that Fuller “has a sore knee. It has some medical things that kind of restrict you. When we get that healed up, he’ll go.”

The IR designation does not necessarily end Fuller’s season. Beginning in 2013, under an agreement between the NFL and Players Association, one player per team may be placed on injured reserve and later be brought back to the active roster. That player must sit out six weeks and cannot be activated for an additional two weeks.

With inside linebacker Danny Trevathan out following surgery on his thumb, Anderson had been expected to see additional playing time, possibly with the No. 1 unit. But rookie Nick Kwiatkoski started Sunday at Dallas in the base 3-4 and Christian Jones cycled in with sub packages.

Three starting points for the Bears to salvage their 2016 season

Three starting points for the Bears to salvage their 2016 season

As the noted philosopher once intoned, the past is for cowards and losers. Applied to the 2016 Bears, the latter already applies, though not wanting to look at the recent past shouldn’t be taken as evidence of cowardice, just not wanting to revisit pain.

Looking to the future is the obvious only option for an 0-3 football team.

“You’ve just got to go into every week like it’s a new week,” said linebacker Jerrell Freeman, one of the few encouraging parts of an injury-speckled defense, whose 34 tackles are approaching twice those of No. 2 Jacoby Glenn (19), with four tackles for loss vs. no one else with more than two.

“Every week is a new season regardless of whether you’re winning or losing. You can’t look back, you always have to look forward. Because if not, you won’t give the next team the respect they deserve and have another bad result.”

But the fan base can be excused for expecting a next bad result simply because the Bears have given zero indications that the future will be any better than the immediate past.

That is the signal concern: Who turns this around or, for that matter, even slows the rate of descent?

No Bears team has made the playoffs in a season that began with three straight losses. The 1932 team was winless in its first three, but those at least were scoreless ties. So postseason isn’t a relevant concept anymore except possibly as some sort of punchline.

But one vintage NFL axiom is that things from a game are seldom as bad upon later review than you thought they were at the time (they’re also never as good, either, but good hasn’t shown up yet). And turnarounds do happen.

But those do have to start somewhere. Any Bears season course correction for 2016 has three possible starting points:

A defensive 'village'

The Bears do not have elite talent on defense, meaning that the solution can come only from a marshaling of forces that makes the whole greater than the sum of the parts.

John Fox teams are built on defense, and consensus had the Bears as potentially a top-10 defense before the successive miseries vs. Houston, Philadelphia and Dallas. The Bears have zero defensive star power at this point, which is a problem, by way of understatement.

Fox’s 2011 Denver team started 1-4, then reversed itself and made the playoffs at 8-8 with Tim Tebow as quarterback. (It also had Marion Barber stepping out of bounds and later fumbling away the Bears game, but never mind that for now.) But that team had Elvis Dumervil and a rookie Von Miller combining for 21 sacks. The Bears have a total of four sacks, and players representing 1.5 of those (Eddie Goldman, Danny Trevathan) are out indefinitely with injuries.

But linebacker Willie Young cut to the chase: “We have to control the running game before we can have fun in the backfield,” he said after the debacle in Dallas with the Cowboys rushing for 200 yards. “I don’t know what was going on. All I could do is ask the guys to give me all you got. One play at a time, just give me all you’ve got.”

That would be a place to start.

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Remember the 'Run and Shoop' offense?

John Shoop might have been the object of ridicule as Bears offensive coordinator. But when he took over after the defection of Gary Crowton to coach BYU, the Bears won two of their last three by running to the point of tackle James “Big Cat” Williams, nicknaming the offense the “Run and Shoop” offense. The linemen loved it initially because Shoop simply loaded up and ran the football and, most important, stayed with the plan.

The point is not to become plodding, which Shoop’s offense ultimately became. But the Bears abandoned the run at Dallas when they trailed 24-3 at halftime, even though they had the ball to start the third quarter and with one defensive stop after a touchdown could have been working to get within one score.

“It could have flipped quickly,” guard Kyle Long said. “One drive, it turns into a seven-point game, and that’s the NFL.”

The need for the Bears to run the football isn’t really worth spending time on. Obvious. The offensive line was built for running the football. But for various reasons coordinator Dowell Loggains has not had success with what was supposed to be the foundation of the offense. The Bears cannot win by being a pass-based team, regardless of whether Jay Cutler or Brian Hoyer or Matt Barkley is doing the throwing.

The Bears will not be blowing out many, if any, teams. Their best option is to wear opponents down in first halves, live with Jordan Howard/Joique Bell/whomever netting 50 to 60 yards in a first half, then turning the two- to three-yard runs of the first half into four- to six-yarders in the second.

Shoop would like that.

Get one win

Playoff chances mean nothing. How good or bad the Bears are means nothing. All that matters is winning, not games, but one game. The next game. As Fox and other players have said, the Bears have not put together one complete game yet. That is not going to happen automatically, but one play, one quarter, one half at a time.

And they know it. “You want to win games,” Freeman said. “There’s no panic. There’s a sense of urgency, that’s for sure. We’ve got to put out this fire and put it out quick, like yesterday or the day before.”