NFC North: Chicago Bears
Still, Bears coach Marc Trestman draws on experience in expressing a belief the 3-5 Bears will “find themselves.”
Asked what evidence he sees to make him think the Bears can turn around their season, starting with the club’s Nov. 9 matchup at Green Bay, Trestman said, “It shows up that we can get it done.”
Regardless of what that means, the Bears need to spend the week off fixing myriad problems in every facet of the game. Offensively, Trestman needs to freshen up the attack to feature more diversity, and the team needs to strike a better balance between running and passing. Defensively, the Bears need to sift through the injuries and come up with a suitable lineup. The defense appears to be struggling down the middle, which in turn leads to problems in the secondary.
On special teams, the Bears feature an athletic lineup of speedy, yet inexperienced, mistake-prone players.
“Last year we were 25th or something in third downs going into the bye week. We came out of it and moved up significantly because we had time to look back, make corrections, as coaches do,” Trestman said. “I feel confident we’re going to find our way through this and get back in a position where we are playing more consistently, to where we are playing the kind of game we played against Atlanta that we played against San Francisco. The team has that in them. We’ve just got to put it all together."
Depending on the moves made, the offensive line could look drastically different than the groups the team utilized over the first eight games of the season. The most interesting possibility involves moving starting right tackle Jordan Mills inside at Slauson’s left guard spot.
If that move took place, it would likely mean Michael Ola would stay at Mills’ starting position at right tackle. Ola filled in for Mills during Chicago’s loss at Green Bay as the latter continues to struggle to recover from an offseason foot surgery.
"We can go with Jordan moving into that [left guard] position. We could go with [veteran] Eben [Britton] moving into that position. We’ve got some young guys we’re developing. We’ll see how that goes along the way. But that will be the starting point," Trestman said.
Offensive tackle is Mills' and Britton's natural position. But the club’s decision to consider Mills for Slauson’s spot isn’t an indictment on the second-year veteran’s performance through the first half of the season. Although it’s also no secret Mills struggled in his past two outings prior to missing Sunday’s game at New England.
Trestman said Mills’ potential move is about versatility.
"I think he could fit into any position, I really do," Trestman said. "We’ve had some discussions about it to see what is going to be best for our line with Matt moving out, and we’ll continue to do that. I’m leaving that open-ended. We’ll see where that goes."
Bears coach Marc Trestman discussed the need to find some balance offensively. In its loss to New England, Chicago called runs on five consecutive plays to start the game, but finished the contest with 25 runs and 35 passes because the Patriots built a 38-7 halftime lead, which forced the Bears to abandon the run. Moving forward, look for the Bears to work harder to establish Matt Forte and the run game, which will enable them to keep opponents off balance in third-and-short situations. Trestman also said the Bears plan to study ways to put their players in more advantageous matchups against opponents.
The Bears are on a bye this week, but they should be able to focus on the run on Nov. 9 in Green Bay as the Packers are allowing a league-worst 153.5 rushing yards per game.
One way the Bears can achieve balance is to utilize the pass-catchers on the team not named Brandon Marshall or Alshon Jeffery. Against the Patriots, Cutler completed 3 of 9 passes for 35 yards and his lone interception while targeting Marshall, while hitting 17 of 21 passes for 192 yards and three touchdowns throwing to the club's other targets. Cutler threw to Marshall and Jeffery 18 times, while targeting the other receivers a total of 17 times. What's the use in lining up in multiple-receiver sets if the opponent knows the quarterback will look only at Marshall and Jeffery?
"No, it didn't bother me. Everybody is entitled to their thoughts and opinions," Emery said. "It did hit a research project for me, so I went back and looked at their time together on the field at the same time starting the game healthy, they played 38 games together and during those games, they were 26-12. So, they definitely won together. When Jay was off the field and Brian started, they were 1-6. When Jay was on the field without Brian, they were 9-12. So the only thing that I can get from all that is they were really good for each other. They're both fine football players, lead in their own way and are both great for the organization. So, no, it didn't bother me."
"Financially, he is one of the elite guys in the NFL. ...He just hasn't produced like an elite quarterback," Urlacher said.
"You look at the Bradys, the Mannings, the Rodgers, the Brees, those guys win every year, even with no one around them. Rodgers has no offensive line. He wins. [Tom] Brady has no receivers. He wins.
Cutler has a base salary of $22.5 million this season ($5 million was converted into a signing bonus in March) as part of a seven-year, $126.7 million contract extension he signed earlier this year, putting him at the top of the list of quarterback salaries in 2014.
Despite committing 12 turnovers (eight interceptions and four lost fumbles) in eight games, Bears coach Marc Trestman praised Cutler’s worth ethic and leadership on Monday. Cutler has completed 197-of-293 pass attempts (67.2 completion percentage) for 2,093 yards, 17 touchdowns for a quarterback rating of 95.8.
"His leadership has been at a premium through all of this on a consistent basis throughout the season," Trestman said. "We have to help him more in terms of playing better complementary football, giving him more of a run game and that goes to complementary football again. And that means everybody working together to get that done. But I think there's a lot of positives here and we're going to work to try and negate some of the negatives that we do see, that we want him to get better at."
Week 8 Report Card: Bears at Patriots
When it mattered in the first half, the Bears were out of sync in the passing attack. Quarterback Jay Cutler (20-of-30, 227 yards, three touchdowns and one interception) compiled most of his statistics in garbage time, with the exception of a beautifully improvised touchdown strike to Matt Forte in the second quarter. Cutler was sacked three times and lost another fumble. Martellus Bennett made an amazing 20-yard touchdown grab. Too bad it happened with the game so far out of reach.
When it mattered, the Bears abandoned the run because of presnap penalties and the mounting deficit on the scoreboard. Forte did finish with 114 yards on 19 carries. Ka'Deem Carey chipped in 33 yards on six attempts. Forte proved again he is the most valuable player on the offense. He needs 30 touches per game following the bye week.
Tom Brady carved up the defense, completing 30-of-35 pass attempts for 354 yards, five touchdowns and zero interceptions (148.4 quarterback rating). Tight end Rob Gronkowski (nine catches for 149 yards and three touchdowns) and Brandon LaFell (11 receptions for 124 yards and one touchdown) had a field day versus the defense. Brady wasn't sacked a single time. Defensive end Lamarr Houston injured his right knee celebrating the team's lone sack against New England backup Jimmy Garoppolo in the meaningless fourth quarter. Yep, it was one of those days.
New England did most of its damage in the air but did manage 122 yards on 32 carries. The Bears stuffed the Patriots on four consecutive runs on the goal line in the first half. It was one of Chicago's few highlights before the contest turned into a blowout. But the Pats still topped 100 yards with starting tailback Stevan Ridley on injured reserve.
The Bears allowed Julian Edelman to return a punt 42 yards to set up an easy score. Rookie punter Pat O'Donnell shanked a ball off the side of his foot for just 38 yards, and return man Chris Williams ... eh, haven't we seen enough. The Bears also tried a surprise onside kick they failed to recover.
The Bears clearly looked as if they were not ready to play. That's a reflection on the head coach. The offense continues to disappoint. Mel Tucker had absolutely no answer for Brady or Gronkowski. The season is slipping away. If the Bears lose to Green Bay after the bye week and fall to 3-6, forget about it. Certain coaches will be held accountable.
With 1:07 remaining in the first half, it appeared New England was done scoring, which would have marked the first time the Bears had given up 31 points in the first half since Nov. 8, 2009 (Arizona Cardinals). But on Chicago’s ensuing possession after Tom Brady hit Brandon LaFell for a 9-yard touchdown that made the score 31-7, Jay Cutler dropped back and was stripped by Zach Moore with Rob Ninkovich recovering and returning the loose ball 15 yards for a touchdown.
Stephen Gostkowski kicked the extra point to make the score 38-7.
The previous record for points scored against the Bears in the first half was 34 points in a contest at Baltimore on Oct. 4, 1958.
Asked Friday how he’s moved on from last week’s disappointment, Marshall said, “Do what I’ve been doing my whole career. Just get up every single day, put one leg in my pants, then the next one, and go to work. That’s all I do.”
Before the team opened the locker room for reporters, Marshall could be overheard addressing the team. A source inside the locker room said some of the receiver’s remarks were directed at quarterback Jay Cutler, who on Thursday denied that was the case.
“We’ve got a really talented group, close-knit group,” Marshall said after practice Friday. “We’re in a tough spot right now, but you can really grow when there’s tension and when you’re in an uncomfortable position, and I think we are. But this team is built to persevere in situations like this. We go on the road in San Francisco, against the Jets, and we play well. We play well enough. That’s what we have to do this week is take it one game a time and fight our way back into this thing.”
Marshall took issue with how reporters characterized what they heard outside the doors of the club’s locker room as the receiver addressed the team.
“Man, you guys [in the media] are the most powerful people in the world,” Marshall said. “You guys influence the masses. When you use words like ‘rant’ and ‘tirade,’ that’s sexy. It sells papers. It boosts readings. But that’s B.S., and you guys know that.”
Did Marshall leave his frustrations from Sunday’s loss in the locker room?
“No,” he said. “It’s fuel. You’ve got to take that frustration and use it as fuel. I’m going to be frustrated until we run a few [wins together] in a row. So you just have to take it and use it as fuel. That’s the good thing about playing in professional sports. You can let the negative stuff tear you down or you can take it and build off of it, and use it as fuel. And I’ll be determined to get the job done.”
The official injury report listed Fuller as having limited participation.
“Our decision with Kyle is day-to-day in terms of how he’s working. He practiced today to the full extent of practice. We’ll see how that is tomorrow and we’ll continue to evaluate it daily. We certainly want him to feel comfortable playing and not to have the concerns that he can hurt himself more with what he has. We certainly wouldn’t put him out there if we thought that was the case.”
Linebackers Lance Briggs (ribs) and Jon Bostic (back), tight end Martellus Bennett (hamstring) and right tackle Jordan Mills (foot) were also limited.
Three players were held out of practice: defensive end Jared Allen (rest), safety Danny McCray (knee) and KR/WR Chris Williams (illness).
Safety Chris Conte (shoulder) practiced without restrictions for the second consecutive day and is expected to be available Sunday when the Bears travel to New England. Conte was inactive in Week 7 after failing to finish four of the Bears' first six regular-season games.
Allen played in 46 of the club's 70 snaps against the Dolphins, while Young participated in 54 snaps.
In the third quarter, Miami marched 83 yards in 13 plays with Lamar Miller capping the drive with on a 2-yard touchdown run. The Bears didn't utilize Allen during the drive, but defensive coordinator Mel Tucker pointed out the Dolphins weren't faced with many third-and-long situations. On that possession, Miami faced third down just twice with 2 yards to convert. The Dolphins also converted a fourth-and-1.
"Going forward, obviously we want him in the game," Tucker said. "He's been a highly-productive player for us. It was an unusual series. We had a lot of short-yardage situations. We didn't really get into third-and-long. We visited with him about it, and we're ready to move on. We'll be fine. We just tell him that we're going to make sure that we get him on the field as much as possible."
Allen wasn't concerned about a lack of playing time, but immediately after the game referred questions regarding the situation to the coaching staff.
"We haven't really talked about it," Allen said. "The rotation happened that way I guess. We'll move on to New England."
The Bears held out Allen when the team faced Green Bay on Sept. 28, but he's played in six games this season, contributing 24 tackles and 1.5 sacks.
Head coach Marc Trestman, offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer -- even the players -- constantly harp on the need for the Chicago Bears to eliminate the turnovers, and if the club doesn't start to take some steps in that direction, it faces a long day at Gillette Stadium on Sunday against the New England Patriots, who come into this contest with 10 days of prep time.
It all starts with quarterback Jay Cutler, who has spotted opponents an average of 9.25 points just off turnovers in each of the team's four losses. In each of the club's defeats, Cutler turned over the ball on multiple occasions. And while Cutler understands turnovers are the root of the problems, he's got to take corrective steps to keep his team out of the binds.
As a playcaller, Trestman can help.
Against the Miami Dolphins in the first half, Trestman -- despite the luxury of having one of the NFL's hottest backs in Matt Forte -- called just two runs, which isn't conducive to keeping opponents off balance to allow Cutler to operate off play-action. But it also places the offense in too many difficult-to-convert, third-and-long situations.
You've got a horse. Ride him, and keep the team's fate out of the hands of Cutler, who completed three of 11 passes for 52 yards and an interception on throws of 15 yards or more downfield against the Dolphins, according to ESPN Stats & Information. The Bears play a West Coast offense, which emphasizes a short, controlled passing attack. Yet Cutler insists on throwing vertical despite teams working feverishly to take that away. That partially explains why he's got the NFL's fourth-worst completion percentage (32.4 percent) on deep balls and has thrown five interceptions on such attempts, which is tied for second most in the NFL.
Trestman needs to emphasize to Cutler the need to simply take what defenses give him. In turn, the quarterback needs to stop giving it away. Ten turnovers in seven games (seven interceptions and three fumbles) is enough.
Fuller's status is unknown for the Week 8 trip to New England to face the 5-2 Patriots.
"Up to this point today, I've heard it [the broken hand] as being a non-surgical issue," Trestman said.
"He went out of the game because of his hip more than his hand, so we'll just see. He said he felt good today, but it'll be day to day. I don't know that the hand will deter him. I don't know that, I haven't talked to [the training staff] about it. But that's what I understand at this time."
The No. 14 overall selection of the 2014 NFL draft, Fuller replaced Charles Tillman (injured reserve) on the first team in Week 2, recording three interceptions and three forced fumbles in five starts.
Fuller's third-quarter exit on Sunday forced the Bears to play Sherrick McManis at cornerback opposite Tim Jennings, with Demontre Hurst lining up at nickelback.
CHICAGO -- Outside the closed double doors of the Chicago Bears' locker room in the bowels of Soldier Field after the team’s 27-14 loss to the Miami Dolphins, loud yelling pierced the busy hallway, and a source later said the noise was Brandon Marshall calling out quarterback Jay Cutler.
Just down the hall at the team’s postgame news conference, Bears coach Marc Trestman and Cutler gave contradictory statements when asked why the team handed off to Matt Forte just twice in the first half.
The contradictory statements, slight locker room friction, and subsequent frustration from Marshall, not to mention guard Kyle Long criticizing the fans at Soldier Field, underscore the dysfunction seemingly taking hold of the Bears just a week after they blasted the Atlanta Falcons 27-13 on the road. Ultimately, the root of the problem on offense proved, as usual, to be turnovers. In each of the team’s four losses this season, Cutler committed multiple turnovers, leading to a total of 37 points for the opponent.
“Turnovers obviously hurt you,” Trestman said. “When you turn over the ball, you take yourself out of it. We had three turnovers today offensively, and that was after a bad start. If you look at the games, I think there [is] some reasonably good execution in terms of how utilizing our offense, particularly.”
But none of it means anything if you can’t protect the football. Heading into the game Sunday, the Bears averaged 423.3 yards of offense in their losses, but turned over the ball a total of nine times. Chicago turned over the ball three times against the Dolphins.
“Same mistakes, same mistakes, same mistakes,” Marshall said. “We’ve got to protect the football.”
Down 7-0 in the second quarter, Cutler’s pass intended for tight end Martellus Bennett sailed with Reshad Jones picking it off and returning it 50 yards to set up the Dolphins at the Chicago 23. Santonio Holmes ran a go route down the sideline, which was expected to draw away coverage from Bennett.
But Holmes wound up running free down the sideline, while two defenders covered Bennett as he watched Cutler’s pass sail over his head.
“We got squeezed from the outside. It was a little bit high,” Cutler said. “I think Marty saw the squeeze coming. I don’t even know if he saw it coming to be honest with you. They did a good job with coverage. They really did. They mixed it up, took a lot of the deep shots from us.”
Jones’ interception gave the Dolphins a short field to work with, and Ryan Tannehill would cap the 23-yard drive with a 10-yard touchdown pass to Mike Wallace to give the visitors a 14-0 lead.
“After watching film all week, we saw [Cutler] was looking where he threw the ball,” Jones said. “He was always looking at his receivers and never looking off. I tried to take advantage of that, and it paid off.”
Miami received another short field when Cameron Wake sacked and stripped Cutler at the Chicago 16.
Four plays later, the Bears made the score 24-7 on a Caleb Sturgis field goal.
“You watched the game. What’s breaking down?” Forte asked. “Penalties and turnovers, we’re shooting ourselves in the foot.”
Trestman and Marshall called the offense’s performance “unacceptable” multiple times in their postgame remarks.
“You want me to say it again?” Marshall asked. “[A record of] 3-4 is unacceptable. It’s unacceptable. You don’t get a tomorrow in this league. We’re halfway through this season! It’s time.”
CHICAGO -- A few thoughts on the Chicago Bears' 27-14 loss to the Miami Dolphins at Soldier Field.
What it means: The Bears fell further out of the NFC North race with the Green Bay Packers appearing to be on the way toward extending their division lead with a win over the Carolina Panthers. The Bears now will travel to New England to face a Bill Belichick-coached Patriots squad that will have extra prep time heading into next week’s matchup at Gillette Stadium. The Bears remain winless at home, which is especially concerning since they will play five of the last seven at Soldier Field.
Stock watch: Strongside linebacker Shea McClellin returned to the lineup after missing the last four games due to a broken hand, but the defense may have fared better without him. McClellin proved to be a liability against both the run and pass. He slipped and fell trying to cover Charles Clay on the tight end's 13-yard touchdown in the first quarter.
Then, on a crucial fourth-and-1 in the third quarter, McClellin failed to disengage from a block as Ryan Tannehill ran to his side for a 30-yard gain to set up Lamar Miller’s 1-yard touchdown.
Jay Cutler turnovers: Fans like to say “Cutty does it.” Well, he certainly did in the loss to the Dolphins, turning the ball over twice. It’s no coincidence the Bears have lost every game in which Cutler has committed a turnover. Cutler tossed two interceptions in each of the team’s three losses heading into Sunday’s game, and he committed two more turnovers (an interception and a fumble) against the Dolphins.
Bears coach Marc Trestman, offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer and Cutler have all talked extensively about turnovers being the deciding factor in all of this team’s losses, yet the quarterback continues to give away the ball. It has to stop.
Game ball: Defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff racked up a career-high 3.5 sacks in the first half alone and contributed seven tackles. Ratliff’s 3.5 sacks against the Dolphins matched his 2010 season total. Ratliff hasn’t made more than two sacks in a season since 2011, which is impressive for a player who had missed three of the last four games recovering from a concussion suffered in Week 3.
What’s next: The Bears head to Halas Hall on Monday to do some light weightlifting and recovery work. They won’t begin preparation for the New England Patriots until Wednesday.
“We’ve just got to try to slow them down, show them different looks, run the ball well, move the pocket a little bit if we can. Things like that,” he said.
Such bullet points might be achieved a little easier this week considering the Bears, for the first time since preparation for the season opener, practiced Thursday with their entire starting offensive line. They’ll certainly need every one of them to handle a Miami defensive front that is legitimately seven or eight deep.
Defensive ends Cameron Wake and Olivier Vernon generate the headlines as they lead the Dolphins with 3.5 sacks and six hurries apiece. But other defensive linemen such as Jared Odrick, Randy Starks and Earl Mitchell are also playing at a high level, which is part of the reason Miami dropped Brady, Smith, Carr and Rodgers for a combined 14 sacks over the team’s first five games.
“As an overall defense, they’re very physical,” Bears offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer said. “They hit the quarterback in every game a bunch of times, and that’s the No. 1 goal in this game: to limit the hits on our quarterback. You look at Tom Brady. You look at Aaron Rodgers. They were hit multiple times. Our No. 1 goal coming [into] this game is to keep Jay safe and to keep him in a pocket where he can complete a pass.”
Cutler might find that a difficult task because Miami’s high-pressure front is backed by experienced corners in Brent Grimes and Cortland Finnegan, who not only understand route concepts to excel in zone coverage but also play physically as man-to-man defenders.
The Dolphins rank No. 9 in the NFL against the pass.
“They understand what they have in their front. They know they’re going to get pressure. They know the quarterback can’t sit back there forever,” Cutler explained. “They break on routes, they sit on stuff. They read concepts really well.”
They’re versatile, too, according to Bears coach Marc Trestman, who broke down the difficulty of attacking Miami’s defense as a whole.
“First of all they play very tight coverage, even in zone,” Trestman said. “Then on third down, because it's man-to-man, you're going to need an extra click. That's what they really try to do on third down is they try to hold you up long enough to be able to have the extra click to be able to get to the quarterback. They're hitting the quarterback in every game. The challenge is getting open quick enough to beat the pass rush, and that's why they play so much man [coverage] on third down.”
Miami’s penchant for man-to-man coverage in passing situations is fine by the Bears. Trestman and Kromer have asked Cutler to start utilizing his underrated mobility to make teams pay when situations warrant.
Through the first six games, Cutler has broken off seven runs for gains of 10 yards or more.
"We’ve been asking him to run in situational plays when everybody is covering and nobody is looking at him,” Kromer said.
Added Cutler: “I just think we’re doing a really good job of recognizing coverage and two-man (two-deep zone coverage with man-to-man coverage underneath). Third downs have been a big one where we’ve caught a little bit of two-man here and there and [it] gave me some opportunities to run.”
It also opens up opportunity for defenses to administer punishment to the quarterback. Remember, Cutler missed time last season on two different occasions due to injuries, and he hasn’t played an entire 16-game season since 2009.
That’s not to say Cutler lacks toughness, because he certainly doesn’t. The quarterback took monstrous shots earlier this season in San Francisco and Atlanta and popped right back up on both occasions -- and actually seemed to play more inspired.
In explaining his toughness, the quarterback pointed to a need to lead the team through adverse situations.
“I know how important it is to the rest of the guys in the huddle,” Cutler said. “I don’t want to let them down. I don’t want to let the coaches down [and] I think a lot of it is driven by that fact. I don’t want to miss plays because I know those guys in front of me and the guys on the outside, they’d do the same thing for me.”
A Wall Street Journal reporter watched two full games for every team in the NFL this season, and counted the number of times each head coach and quarterback were shown on the broadcast. Chicago Bears coach Marc Trestman and quarterback Jay Cutler don’t rank very high, but neither fall in at the bottom of the division.
The Wall Street Journal’s findings reveal that Trestman is shown an average of 26.5 times per broadcast, while Cutler comes across the screen 10 times per broadcast. Those figures rank 18th and 25th, respectively. Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer ranks 10th in the NFL and tops in the division in face time as the average TV broadcast flashes his face on the screen an average of 33.5 times per game, while his quarterback Teddy Bridgewater checks in at No. 3 overall (22.5) and No. 1 in the NFC North.
As expected, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers ranks high (seventh), but surprisingly Matthew Stafford is featured on TV broadcasts just eight times per game, which is good for No. 30 overall and last in the NFC North. Two more surprises: New Detroit Lions coach Jim Caldwell is 31st overall in face time, while Packers coach Mike McCarthy is last.