The Chicago Bears, though 8-4, have been slumping lately and have not looked like a playoff-ready squad. In their past 4 games they have gone 1-3 with the only victory coming against the Minnesota Vikings. Throughout the season they are 1-4 against teams that have records of .500 or better, that one victory was in the opener against the Indianapolis Colts and Andrew Luck’s very first NFL game. While they are still in great position to, at the very least, make the wild card the possibility of them missing out on the playoffs still looms. With recent injuries to Brian Urlacher and Tim Jennings the defensive unit may not be able to stop upcoming opponents such as Adrian Peterson, Aaron Rodgers, Larry Fitzgerald, and Calvin Johnson. If they do miss out on the playoffs they would have been to the playoffs only one time in the past six years. At that point you have to wonder about the job security of head coach Lovie Smith.
Smith is a perennial name on the coaching hot seat along with Tom Coughlin and Andy Reid, but with a new general manager and possibly two consecutive late-season collapses this year might finally be the year that the Bears decide to move in a different direction. With they hypothetical termination of Smith, an entirely new regime would be in place and sweeping changes would come through Halas Hall.
The biggest change I see happening is something that may be tough for Bears fans to take in – the departure of 54. Since Urlacher tore his MCL in the last game of 2011 I’ve been predicting that this season would be his last not only in Chicago, but all together. His most recent injury only makes me more certain in this prediction. Urlacher has played 13 seasons in the NFL, all with the Chicago Bears. Injuries have been mounting up for him, he has clearly lost a step in his game, and his contract expires at the end of this season. He’s still better than many 4-3 MLBs, but he isn’t the once great quarterback of the Bears defense. If Lovie Smith were to be fired I believe that would serve as the icing on the cake for Urlacher to hang ’em up. Why stick around for a couple more years under a new coach who’s going to bring his own scheme that will take time to implement to a point where the team is ready to compete? I may shed a tear while watching that press conference.
Another major change I see happening (this is whether or not Smith is here) is the end of another era – The Windy City Flier. Devin Hester has brought an excitement to special teams that has never before been seen in Chicago and most of the NFL. He has set record after record and has literally changed how the NFL operates. But not anymore, the Bears switched him to a full-time receiver again (which I addressed in my last post about why it was a dumb idea) and he has been completely ineffective there as well as in the return game. Whenever he catches a pass it seems like he dives straight to the ground as if he’s going to gain an extra 15 yards. On returns it seems as though he thinks it is 2006 all over again and he could literally make anything happen, unfortunately he’s been running backwards more than he has forward. Next year Hester is owed approximately $2M plus a $10M “deescalating bonus”. With expiring contracts such as Henry Melton, Lance Louis, and Jay Cutler (in 2013) and an already tight cap space, the Bears may be looking to trim as much salary as possible to ensure they keep their core players in the fold.
The final major change I can see forthcoming is strictly dependent on Lovie Smith being fired. The trendy ting in the NFL over the past few years has been defenses switching to the 3-4 defense. The main differences between the two is that in a 3-4 you have 3 down defensive linemen and 4 linebackers, that is just reversed in a 4-3. In the 4-3 the responsibility of rushing the passer is put on the defensive line, specifically the ends. The linebackers are there for run support and dropping into coverage. The 3-4 has it so the linemen essentially act as an offensive line for the linebackers, who rush the passer. The defensive linemen in a 3-4 are bigger and will attempt to take on multiple blockers at one time so the linebackers can get through.
This past April the Bears used their 1st round pick on a LB/DE Shea McClellin out of Boise State. Leading up to the draft many draft pundits had him pegged as a player best suited for a team running the 3-4 defense. While the Bears have been playing him at DE his entire rookie season it could be a sign that Phil Emery has been thinking about making the switch, which would be an easy transition for McClellin. That being said, it would not be an easy transition for many of the other players who haven’t played in this scheme before or are simply not suited for it. Core players such as Lance Briggs and Henry Melton really aren’t suited for playing in that kind of scheme and may be forced out of town if the hypothetical new head coach wants to run a 3-4.
There are many more changes I can think of that would come, but these are just a few of the most significant ones I can see happening. Ideally the Bears would make the playoffs, Lovie will keep his job, Urlacher heals completely and plays at a high level, and everyone is happy. But unfortunately life doesn’t always work out like that and Bears fans must be prepared for the many changes to come if the team fails to make the playoffs.
On Sunday the Bears hosted the Seattle Seahawks and rookie QB Russell Wilson at Soldier Field. The Bears offense moved the ball effectively, but missed out on scoring opportunities which came back to haunt them. The momentum switched late in the first quarter when the Bears failed to convert a 4th and 1, passing up a short field goal. From that point on the Russel Wilson show began as he finished the game 23 of 37 for 293 yards and 2 touchdowns.
The Bears defense looked out of character the entire game as they struggled mightily containing the mobile Wilson and the read-option offense. Notre Dame product Golden Tate finished the game with 5 receptions and 96 yards including a 14-yard TD reception.
Brandon Marshall tore up the Seahawk secondary to the tune of 10 receptions and a season-best 165 yards. Marshall showed why Phil Emery traded two draft picks for him last March as he caught everything thrown in his general direction.
Down by 3 with less than a minute remaining on the clock, Jay Cutler rolled out and hooked up with Brandon Marshall for a 56-yard gain to the Seattle 29-yard line. This set up Robbie Gould for a 46-yard, game-tying field goal as time expired.
Seattle won the OT coin toss and Wilson lead an impressive 80-yard drive that ended with ex-Vikings receiver Sidney Rice catching a pass from Wilson and lunging into the end zone.
With this loss the Bears lose the division lead over the Packers and may have lost LB Brian Urlacher for the remainder of the season to a strained hamstring. CB Tim Jennings also left the game early with a shoulder injury after getting trucked by Seattle fullback Michael Robinson. No word has come out yet on the severity of his injury or his timetable for return.
The Bears travel to Minnesota next week to wrap up the series against the Vikings. The Bears beat the Vikings last week 28-10 at Soldier Field but are 3-5 at the Metrodome under coach Lovie Smith.
On Tuesday the Bears signed former Cowboys and Ravens center Andre Gurode after they lost guards Lance Louis (IR, knee) and Chris Specner (knee) to injuries on Sunday. The 33-year old interior lineman comes with 5 pro bowl selections in his 10-year career, but is expected to be a backup to Edwin Williams and Gabe Carimi at guard when the Bears take on the Seahawks on Sunday.
In a corresponding move, the Bears released veteran defensive tackle Amobi Okoye to make room for Gurode.
The Bears also hosted recently released linebacker Aaron Curry for a tryout on Tuesday, but he left the team’s facility without a contract.
Amid speculation that the Bears would pursue former Eagles defensive end Jason Babin, the team promoted linebacker Patrick Trahan from their practice squad and re-signed DE Aston Whiteside to their practice squad. The Bears may still pursue Babin, but this move makes it highly unlikely that they will.
UPDATE: DE Jason Babin has been claimed by the Jacksonville Jaguars. They will assume the remaining years and money left on his contract that runs through 2015.
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Yesterday Jay Cutler returned to action against the Vikings after missing a game against the San Francisco 49ers with a concussion. Cutler finished the game 23-31 for 188 yards, 1 touchdown, and 1 interception as the Bears topped the Vikings 28-10. In my last post I mentioned how the Bears average 28 points when Cutler is the starting quarterback and the Bears scored 28 points on the dot – fancy that!
After watching the Bears as a whole fall flat on their face against the 49ers seeing them beat the Vikings quite handedly was a breath of fresh air. The offense was rolling, the defense shut down Adrian Peterson in the first half, and special teams blocked a field goal attempt by Blair Walsh and gave their offense nothing to work with.
Unfortunately for the Bears, this victory came with 6 players leaving the field of play. Corner back Charles Tillman left the game with an ankle injury, but returned to the sidelines with his helmet on. Matt Forte left with what appeared to be a serious ankle injury after being bent backward at the bottom of a pile. Guards Lance Louis and Chris Spencer both left with knee injuries, Devin Hester left with a concussion, and Lance Briggs was seen leaving the locker room with a boot on his foot after the game. The extent of these injuries are currently unknown. The full injury report can be seen here.
The Bears will host the Seattle Seahawks next Sunday at Soldier Field.
Since starting the 2012 season off with a 7-1 record, the Chicago Bears have received plenty of praise and time in the spotlight by the mainstream sports media. Inevitably, when a team is winning its quarterback gets put under the microscope and his every move critiqued. A team deprived of a quarterback for so many years, the Bears seem to have finally found some stability at that position with Jay Cutler after looking under every rock and in every nook and cranny.
After a tumultuous 26-interception season in his debut with the Bears, Cutler has seemed to have settled down. Since his first season in Chicago, the Bears have a record of 25-10 with Cutler as the starter and Jay has averaged about 11 interceptions per season. In 2010 they won the NFC North and played in the NFC Championship game, losing to the Green Bay Packers. In 2011, the Bears jumped out to a 7-3 start and the Bears’ offense was 4th in the league in scoring, averaging over 30 points per game. Cutler then injured his thumb against the San Diego Chargers and was lost for the season. That 7-3 record turned into 8-8 thanks to backup quarterback Caleb Hanie and his complete and utter ineptitude.
Even more recently, Jason Campbell, a seasoned veteran with plenty of experience starting games, failed to do anything noteworthy with the Bears offense in a game and a half at the helm. But hey, at least they almost came close to scoring twice against the 49ers defense!
If anything, these past two seasons have shown just how important Jay Cutler is to the Bears offense. In the 18 games Cutler started the past two seasons the Bears have averaged over 28 points per game, in the games he missed they averaged a measly 13 points per game.
When Cutler haters are shown these stats they jump on him for being a poor leader, for being weak, etc. Jay Cutler takes more hits than any other quarterback in the league and gets up from every single one of them, not to mention he has to face Jared Allen, Clay Matthews, and Ndamukong Suh twice every season. There are several instances in which he has not returned from one of those crushing blows – after suffering several concussions and when he tore his MCL in the NFC Championship game.
Cutler was lambasted by the media, blogs, and message boards for exiting that game with a knee injury only to be seen on the sideline on the exercise bike and stretching his leg out. People said he quit on his team, that he just didn’t want to play anymore, and they used his sideline actions as evidence. That’s all good and well, but actual doctors came on air and explained to purpose of the MCL and how it affects side-to-side motion of the knee, not front-to-back. Side-to-side, as in a quarterback planting his leg and shifting his weight while making a throw. Not front-to-back, as in riding a bike.
So when all else fails for Cutler haters, they point to his droopy facial expressions that he is always sporting on the sideline. Cutler may not be a “pretty-boy” or “golden boy” like Tom Brady or Tony Romo, and that is exactly what I like about him. He isn’t going to give you cookie cutter answers in post-game conferences, he’s going to tell you the truth whether you want to hear it or not. If a teammate isn’t playing well, he’s not going to caudal him, he’s going to tell him to get his ass in gear. Hell, just last year he told his offensive coordinator, Mike Martz, to fuck off on national TV…
Now, I’m not blind. I realize that Cutler isn’t destined for greatness, he might win a Super Bowl, but he’s never going to be mentioned in the same sentence as Montana, Manning, or Brady. And he does have a droopy looking face. However, he’s a good, not great, quarterback who is a risk when playing at his worst, but an asset when playing at his best.
After all, I think I’ve found the real reason why most people hate Jay Cutler…..
Jay has a message for those people…..