NFC North: Chicago Bears

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Jared Allen's streak of 113 consecutive starts ended Sunday when he missed Chicago’s loss to the Green Bay Packers because of pneumonia. But the five-time Pro Bowl defensive end returned to the practice field Wednesday, saying, “Hopefully, I’ll be back up by this weekend” as the Bears prepare to face the Carolina Panthers.

Allen said he felt sick during Chicago’s win over the New York Jets on Sept. 22, but wasn’t diagnosed until two days later with pneumonia. Because of the illness, Allen lost 15 pounds, from 254 down to 239.

The Chicago Bears list Allen at 270 pounds.

“Just due to being sick, not really eating for a few days, sweating, fever; all that good stuff,” Allen said. “I feel good now, just trying to get back. I’ve been having good workouts the last couple of days; just progressing, steadily going up. I went out and did individual [drills] today, then did a nice sprint workout on the treadmill [and it] felt good. I’m more concerned about recovery time. Everything feels good right now. I think it’s just eating, rehydrating and getting all that weight back on.”

Allen stepped onto the scale before eating Wednesday and weighed in at 241 pounds. Allen expects the weight to “come back in the next day or so,” saying “it’ll get back and I’ll be ready to go.” Allen spent a couple of days taking medications before the fever from pneumonia broke, he said.

Before the Bears' game Sunday, Allen traveled to Soldier Field to meet with team doctors and was ultimately instructed to go home. Without Allen, Chicago lost 38-17 to the Packers as Aaron Rodgers threw four touchdown passes and finished with a passer rating of 151.2 against a virtually nonexistent Bears rush.

“It was brutal. It was miserable, especially [with it being] the Packers,” Allen said. “I’ve played through a lot of things, and there are just certain things that you can’t do. Trust me, it was a long-fought battle whether I was going to be able to give it a go or not. It’s one of those things that you don’t want it to come back and then end up in the hospital. So after talking to doctors, my wife and everybody, we felt that was the best plan of attack. And it was. I wouldn’t have been worth anything out there.”

Allen’s illness serves as just the latest in what has been what the defensive end calls an “interesting” turn of events through the first four games of the season. Allen missed time in the preseason to attend the birth of his daughter, in addition to being held out of the team’s third preseason game with a bruised shoulder.

Asked if he’s back to normal, Allen said, “I’m trying to. Not right now, obviously. I’m still a little light. I haven’t gotten in that rhythm or that groove of what I’m used to playing in. But you know, it’s not anybody’s fault. Preseason is preseason. I didn’t do much in preseason in Minnesota, either. I was sad I missed this game because coming out of the San Fran[cisco] game and then the New York game, I felt like I was really starting to get in the rhythm of this defense and where we were at. Even though I didn’t get [Jets quarterback] Geno [Smith] on the ground, I had some really good rushes in the fourth quarter. I really felt my game was where it needed to be going into that week. I still feel that.”

Right now though, Allen said the main goals are to regain weight and strength while building up stamina for his expected return Sunday against the Carolina Panthers. Through the first quarter of the season, Allen has contributed 11 tackles with no sacks.

“I’m looking forward to this next 12 weeks,” Allen said. “I’m like, ‘What else can happen, right?’ I’ve got the injuries out of the way, got the sickness out of the way. Let’s go have fun.”
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The Chicago Bears received encouraging news on the health front Wednesday with the return of five previously injured/ill starters to the practice field in advance of Sunday's road game in Carolina.

Headlining the group is wide receiver Brandon Marshall (ankle), who's been battling a sore ankle since Week 1 that's limited his production the two weeks to three combined catches versus the Jets and Packers.

Marshall practiced without restrictions on Wednesday for the first time in recent memory.

"It was good to get him [Marshall] back out there at full speed," Bears head coach Marc Trestman said.

Meantime, defensive end Jared Allen (pneumonia), defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff (concussion), center Roberto Garza (ankle) and left guard Matt Slauson (ankle) were limited on Wednesday, a positive development since all four players were inactive in Week 4.

Allen said he is confident about his chances of suiting up this weekend against the Panthers. However, the defensive end did acknowledge he lost about 15 pounds during his illness, and checked-in on Wednesday morning at 241 pounds, approximately 13 pounds below his normal playing weight of 254.

The statuses of Garza, Slauson and Ratliff remain unknown for Week 5, but Trestman confirmed that Garza and Slauson will return to the starting lineup whenever they are medically cleared.

"That's the way we are going," Trestman said.

Left tackle Jermon Bushrod (knee) and cornerback Sherrick McManis (quadriceps) were also listed as having limited participation.

Safety Chris Conte (shoulder) had full participation.

Four players sat out Wednesday: linebackers Lance Briggs (knee), Shea McClellin (hand) and D.J. Williams (neck), and safety Ahmad Dixon (hamstring).
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Before getting into thick of the Chicago Bears' next matchup at the Carolina Panthers, let's first take a look at the team's first-quarter report card after a 2-2 start:


Jay Cutler has completed 65.8 percent of his passes for 10 touchdowns and four interceptions. He's shown more discipline and better command of the offense, but costly turnovers have been an issue. If Cutler maintains his current level of efficiency, he'll set a career high in passer rating for the second consecutive season. Cutler currently ranks third in completions (102), ninth in yards (1,006) and is tied for second in touchdowns, and his passer rating is currently 94.7. Grade: B

Running back

Matt Forte finally broke through for his first 100-yard rushing performance against the Green Bay Packers and is currently tied for eighth in rushing yards (258), first in receptions at his position (24) and third in yards from scrimmage (452). Rookie Ka'Deem Carey is becoming more of a factor in the offense as well, and the Bears have employed formations that feature both backs in the game at the same time. Both backs average at least 4 yards per attempt. Grade: B+

Offensive line

Injuries in the season opener to center Roberto Garza and Matt Slauson gave cause for concern, but their replacements Brian de la Puente and Michael Ola have performed well. The group has given up eight sacks through the first four games. According to Pro Football Focus, every offensive lineman graded positively in run blocking against the Packers. Grade: B-

[+] EnlargeMartellus Bennett
David Banks/Getty ImagesThe offseason work tight end Martellus Bennett put in is paying off for the Bears.
Tight end

Martellus Bennett ranks second in catches (29th) among tight ends, fourth in yards (295) and is tied for second in touchdown receptions (four). Bennett put in the work during the offseason to prepare for a more significant role, and he appears to have developed a strong rapport with Cutler. Bennett has scored a touchdown in all but one game, while averaging 7.25 receptions. Grade: A


Injuries have led to slow starts for Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall, who have combined for 36 receptions and six touchdowns through four games. But the duo is gradually getting back to full speed. The club's complementary targets such as Santonio Holmes and Josh Morgan haven't received many opportunities to showcase their talent, but they're plenty capable. Grade: B-

Defensive line

The Bears revamped the defensive line in the offseason with the additions of Jared Allen, Lamarr Houston and Willie Young in addition to drafting Ego Ferguson and Will Sutton. But the group certainly hasn't met expectations as the Bears rank 20th against the run while contributing just eight sacks (linebacker Shea McClellin is responsible for a sack as well). For the Bears to gain any level of consistency on defense with the style they play, the defensive line needs to step up its game, shut down the run and pressure the quarterback. Grade: D


The Bears are tied for fourth in the league in takeaways (eight), and rookie Kyle Fuller deserves credit for his team-high- three interceptions and two forced fumbles. Fuller became the only NFL player in the past 20 years with three interceptions and two forced fumbles in the first three games of the season. Obviously, Charles Tillman's season-ending triceps injury hurts the position. But the Bears are in decent shape with Fuller and Tim Jennings. The Bears need better play from the nickel corner spot. Grade: B-


Chris Conte gave up 46 yards on two catches and a touchdown against the Packers and missed a couple of tackles but for the most part has performed well (two interceptions). Ryan Mundy has been a solid run defender, and provided one of the team's takeaways with his pick-six Sept. 22 against the New York Jets. Overall, the safeties still need to play a little better. But they've been much more consistent than they were in 2013. Grade: C+


Shea McClellin entered the season as the starter on the strong side but has been on the shelf recently with a broken hand. Perhaps that's somewhat of a blessing in disguise as it has enabled the Bears to upgrade the overall athleticism of the starting lineup by replacing McClellin with Jonathan Bostic. The group lacks consistency in terms of gap integrity and pass coverage but is tracking positively. Grade: C-


Coach Marc Trestman caught heat for the club's clock management in the second quarter to Green Bay, and you have to admit the Bears committed a few unnecessary penalties in the defeat, not to mention the thrown challenge flag that resulted in a lost timeout. Trestman deserves credit for suspending Bennett during training camp, because the move resulted in a positive change for the tight end. And you can't deny this Bears team did manage to pull together back-to-back road wins against strong opponents. Grade: C+


The consecutive road wins at San Francisco and New York followed by the stinker at home against Green Bay point to a lack of consistency in every facet of the game, and while injuries at key positions have been an issue, Chicago's situation plays out every week all over the league. So there are no excuses here. Ultimately, the Bears will be in decent shape in the second half of the season if they can finish the second quarter headed into the bye with a record of .500 or better.
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The Chicago Bears signed cornerback Teddy Williams to the active roster off the Arizona Cardinals’ practice squad on Wednesday and waived linebacker Terrell Manning.

Williams (6-foot-1, 207 pounds) played in 10 games over two seasons with Indianapolis (2012) and Arizona (2013), contributing on offense at receiver, on defense at cornerback and on special teams.

Williams came into the league with the Dallas Cowboys in 2010 and spent the majority of that season and 2011 on the team’s practice squad.

Williams broke his ankle as a senior at Tyler (Texas) John Tyler High School and decided to pursue track at the University of Texas-San Antonio, finishing his career as the school’s only four-time all-America selection.

Williams won nine conference titles (five indoor championships and four outdoors) and was named the Southland Conference’s Indoor Athlete of the Year (2009-10) and Outdoor Outstanding Track Performer (2008-10). He set school records in the 55-meter dash, 60-meter dash, 100 (9.90 seconds), 200 (20.60) and 400-meter relay.

Manning played in two games for the Bears, primarily on special teams.

The Film Don't Lie: Bears

September, 30, 2014
Sep 30
A weekly look at what the Chicago Bears must fix:

The Bears eviscerated the progress shown recently by the defense in Sunday’s loss to the Green Bay Packers with their glaring lack of a pass rush against Aaron Rodgers. If the club conducts business this way again against Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers on Sunday, the Bears can expect similar results.

Rodgers shredded the Bears for 302 yards and four touchdowns and finished with a passer rating of 151.2. Ego Ferguson tallied Chicago’s only sack, and the Bears failed to force a turnover, as Rodgers basically played pitch and catch with Green Bay’s receivers all day with plenty of time to do it.

Here’s why: The Bears opted against trying to manufacture pressure and instead relied on the front four to disrupt Rodgers.

Bad move.

“We didn’t blitz a lot,” linebacker Lance Briggs said. “It was very simple. We thought we could get a four-man pass rush on a lot of occasions. But whether [Rodgers] was able to escape the pocket or whether he was standing there inside the pocket, he was able to pat the ball and look a couple of different ways and find somebody.”

The Bears made the curious decision to rely on the front four despite being short two contributors in defensive end Jared Allen (pneumonia) and defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff (concussion).

What’s more is the Bears were willing to take risks to get another possession on offense by trying an onside kick in the second quarter. Yet they weren’t willing to try to dial up pressure via the blitz to get something going on defense?

I get it that there are risks in putting the secondary in man-to-man situations when trying to manufacture pressure by bringing linebackers or defensive backs. And I understand Rodgers had been sacked nine times heading into Sunday’s matchup due to suspect play from his offensive line. But to simply sit back and let Rodgers pick the defense apart for four quarters seems a curious decision at best.
Last week, Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers told fans to relax after his team’s 1-2 start, but Chicago’s Jay Cutler stutter stepped that approach and opted for reality on the heels of the Bears' falling to 2-2 Sunday after a 38-17 loss to the Packers.

“I’m not gonna tell them anything,” Cutler said Monday during the “Jay Cutler Show” on ESPN 100. “We’ve got to win games at home. Green Bay, a divisional opponent … we’ve just got to play better. There is a lot of football left. [Rodgers] does have a point. It’s a long season. We’ve had a rough stretch.”

[+] EnlargeCutler
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesJay Cutler dropped to 1-9 against the Packers, but his season numbers are promising.
After back-to-back victories on the road at San Francisco and against the New York Jets, the Bears returned to Soldier Field on Sunday for the first time since the opener. The Bears sprinted out of the gate and marched 80 yards on 15 plays to start the game, only to sputter down the stretch as a result of two turnovers, shoddy play in the secondary and a pass rush that barely made Rodgers flinch as he tossed four touchdown passes.

Starting with a matchup Sunday at Carolina, the Bears play three of the next four on the road before their Nov. 2 bye. Cutler offered no assurances the club would bounce back. The club’s three upcoming road opponents (Carolina, Atlanta and New England) currently hold a combined record of 6-5.

“We’ve had a rough stretch,” Cutler said. “We’re gonna go through a pretty rough stretch, like you guys were talking about earlier, the next four games. So we’ve just got to take it one game at a time.”

The Bears rolled up 496 yards of offense and converted 64 percent of third downs. But a couple of Cutler interceptions, combined with the defense's allowing Rodgers to throw for 302 yards and a passer rating of 151.2, doomed Chicago’s prospects. In 28 pass attempts, Rodgers suffered only one sack, and Bears coach Marc Trestman said Monday that the club blitzed very little in the loss.

Asked whether he remained confident about future meetings with the Packers, Cutler said, “Yeah, you saw the stats. I think we’ve got a really good bead on them now, with Trest[man] and this group. So hopefully we can start improving on that.”

Cutler finished with a passer rating of 82.5 and two touchdown passes to go with the interceptions. Matt Forte was one of the club’s few bright spots on offense. He rushed for 122 yards on 23 attempts.

Despite the shaky outing against the Packers, Cutler has completed 65.8 percent of his throws for 10 touchdowns, four interceptions and a passer rating of 94.7, which is promising, considering he entered the season with a career passer rating of 84.6.

Cutler owns a 1-9 record against the Packers, and he’s 41-22 against the rest of the NFL. In games against Chicago’s division rival, Cutler has completed 55.6 percent of his throws with a touchdown-to-interception differential of minus-8. Against the rest of the NFL, Cutler’s completion percentage rises to 61.1 and his touchdown-to-interception ratio to plus-41.

Does the record against the Packers bother Cutler?

"Obviously, you want it to be better," Cutler said. "But there’s not much I can do about it."

In evaluating his own play after the first month of the season, Cutler said, “You’d like to cut down some of those turnovers. A couple of them are pretty stupid. The last one was unfortunate. You clean some of that up, and I’d be happy.”
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Initially, Chicago Bears head coach Marc Trestman described Jay Cutler's second interception in Week 4’s 38-17 home loss to the Green Bay Packers as a miscommunication between Cutler and wide receiver Brandon Marshall, where Marshall “was supposed to run a hook route deep at 18 yards and he turned it into a go route.”

On Monday, Trestman offered a slightly different explanation of the late third-quarter play where Packers cornerback Sam Shields picked off a Cutler deep ball intended for Marshall on the right side of the field.

“I want to be really specific on that,” Trestman said. “No. 1 is, we give Brandon and Jay opportunities -- and we’ve done this throughout the last two years -- where they’re communicating verbally or visually during the course of a game on changing routes. They had a communication error there. You can’t put it on any one person, and that wasn’t the case. What I said yesterday clearly was, the called play to Jay was a deep hook route, but they do have the flexibility to change that. Brandon ran a very good hook and go off a corner who was squatting on him. They just had a miscommunication -- the signal -- and they’ve done this countless times in the last couple years. This is one where there was a communication error between the two of them.”

Marshall has been dealing with an ankle injury he originally sustained in the regular-season opener versus the Buffalo Bills. Marshall overcame the sore ankle in Week 2, catching three touchdown passes in a road victory against San Francisco, but he had only three combined receptions versus the New York Jets and Green Bay the last two games.

The Bears have understandably rested Marshall at practice. The wide receiver sat out the entire week of practice leading up the Packers game but still played 68 of the offense’s 78 total snaps.

Is the lack of practice time hurting Cutler and Marshall's communication?

“Honestly, that would be reading way too far into it,” Trestman said. “This is something they’ve been doing not only the last year and a half here that I’ve observed but throughout their careers together. Actually, before the game this week [Marshall’s ankle] probably looked better and felt better than it had the last two weeks. We were certainly optimistic, and then walking through all the plays on Saturday, not only with the team but afterwards with [wide receiver coach] Mike [Groh], he seemed to be right on top of the game plan. So we knew he had been doing some work as well in that regard.

“That process has been going on. Brandon was ready to play. We’re going to take a good look at him this week to make sure he’s continuing to progress and he’s not getting any worse.”

Bears fail to pressure Aaron Rodgers

September, 28, 2014
Sep 28
CHICAGO – Chicago Bears defensive coordinator Mel Tucker rolled the dice.

Instead of dialing up a variety of blitzes to disrupt Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers ’ rhythm in the pocket, the Bears opted to drop the back seven into coverage and relied on the front-four to generate the pass-rush.

The results: Rodgers torched the Bears for 302 passing yards and four touchdowns and had a 151.2 passer rating.

[+] EnlargeAaron Rodgers
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesWithout pressure from a pass rush, Aaron Rodgers picked apart the Bears defense.
“We didn’t blitz a lot,” Bears linebacker Lance Briggs said. “It was very simple. We thought we could get a four-man rush on a lot of occasions. But whether [Rodgers] was able to escape the pocket, or whether he was standing there inside the pocket, he was able to pat the ball and look a couple of different ways and find somebody.

“Rodgers, to me, is the best quarterback in the league. It was his day today. You give a guy like that time to find somebody, and he’ll make them open.”

The Bears’ game plan to lean on the defensive line is understandable, even with veteran defensive end Jared Allen ruled out because of a bout of pneumonia. Heading into Week 4, the defensive line accounted for seven of the team’s eight sacks (Willie Young 4, Stephen Paea 2, and Ego Ferguson 1). On the Green Bay side, Rodgers had been sacked nine times in the first three weeks behind a suspect offensive line. Clearly, this resembled a matchup the Bears felt confident they could win.

They guessed wrong.

The Bears managed to sack Rodgers only one time (by Ferguson) in 28 pass attempts, and the defense as a whole was credited with zero quarterback hits in the official statistics kept by the NFL.

Did the Bears ask too much of its defensive line? Young balked at the suggestion after the game.

“Whether we were thinking that or not, we have to do better to try and get that guy off that spot,” Young said. “I talked about that all week – getting him off that spot. But even when we got him off that spot a few times, he’s still good. I mean, it’s Aaron Rodgers, you know? It’s just an opportunity for us to get better, to figure out how we can stop this guy. This is adversity for us. Obviously, we’ve got those guys again. We’ll be looking forward to that. It’s always a challenge, trying to figure out ways to win the game. That’s absolutely going to be one of them.

“I’m motivated. That’s what we’re about. Yeah, we lost, but that’s in the past. So, at this moment, it’s time to start putting it behind us, recover, and get ready for our next week.”
CHICAGO -- Nine seconds remained before the end of the first half Sunday, and the Chicago Bears held possession at the Green Bay Packers' 9.

But instead of walking away with momentum and a 24-21 advantage at intermission, the Bears strolled to the locker room behind four points, after Martellus Bennett's second-effort stretch failed to yield a touchdown as time expired.

Did the Bears mismanage the clock at the end of the first half? That's one of many questions being asked in the wake of Chicago's 38-17 loss at Soldier Field to the Packers.

"We had nine seconds left, and we called a play where everybody is headed to the end zone," Bears coach Marc Trestman said. "I don't know if Marty [Bennett] flattened his route working to get open. I thought we made the right call. We had plenty of time. It was really an excellent play defensive to make that stop at the 1-yard line as it was called. Clearly with nine seconds left, we were going to take a shot in the end zone. We had the play we wanted. We just came up short."

Jay Cutler moved the Bears from their own 20 to the Green Bay 9 in five plays with the bulk of the yardage on the drive coming on a pair of completions to Bennett for 53 yards. With no timeouts and nine seconds left in the half, Trestman called for a route that featured four vertical receivers.

But with little room to maneuver in the red zone, Bennett flattened out his route to get behind the linebackers. Upon making the catch, Bennett tried to stretch out the ball to break the plane of the end zone for the touchdown.

But Packers rookie Ha Ha Clinton-Dix held back Bennett, who outweighs the safety by 57 pounds.

"Four verticals, we're on the 9," Cutler said. "He's gonna bend it around that backer. You feel like he's gonna catch it and land in the end zone. If we go back, obviously [we'd] work outside and throw it away. I liked the call. I liked the throw. I thought the defender made a heck of a play. You see the replay. It looked like he had the ball over the goal line. But we didn't get that one either. Three points there didn't win or lose us the ballgame."

Trestman said the Bears discussed ways they could preserve some time for their offense after the team's failed onside kick attempt which gave Green Bay possession at its 39 with 3:46 left in the half. The Packers scored in just two minutes and 47 seconds on a 22-yard touchdown pass to Randall Cobb from Aaron Rodgers to go up 21-17 after the extra-point kick.

Chicago's ensuing drive began with 1:03 remaining in the first half.

"We talked about calling timeouts in the previous possession," Trestman said. "We did do that. I can't give you specifics, and there are reasons why we didn't. But we did have that discussion to try to save a little bit more time. There was a first down, and a second and one, if I'm not mistaken. I'm going to go through the whole litany, certainly. But we were in a position and in a discussion about how we were going to save time on the last drive, and we didn't get it done."
CHICAGO -- Jay Cutler launched a quick throw, and almost immediately his eyes widened as the ball was deflected by Tramon Williams and floated “kind of in slow motion” right into the hands of Clay Matthews for an interception.

When Cutler let that ball fly, the Chicago Bears remained very much in the hunt Sunday, trailing just 24-17 with 7:39 left in the third quarter. Six plays later, Aaron Rodgers helped Green Bay capitalize on the turnover by hitting Jordy Nelson for an 11-yard touchdown to make the score 31-17 after the extra point.

The rout was on. Cutler’s first interception played a role in setting the final 38-17 debacle in motion.

“No [it wasn't a forced throw]," Cutler said. "It's a slant. If he jumps it, he jumps it. Most of the time in three-deep, he's not going to jump it."

The call originally was for a run, but the quarterback checked the play at the line of scrimmage after seeing Green Bay’s coverage.

The first of Cutler’s two picks came on a slant route intended for Josh Morgan with Green Bay playing three-deep zone coverage and Williams lined up over the receiver. Cutler contends that Williams didn’t line up inside of Morgan and simply jumped the route, deflecting the ball to Matthews for the interception, which the linebacker returned 40 yards.

Williams, in fact, was playing inside technique on Morgan.

“He made a good play,” Cutler said. “We had the look that we wanted for that route. He steps right into it. The ball was kind of in slow motion for 10 yards and landed right in Clay’s hands. It happens.”

With Green Bay playing a three-deep zone, Cutler didn’t expect Williams to jump Morgan’s slant route because in the film prep leading up to the contest, the Bears didn’t notice the Packers showing such a tendency. Besides that, with Williams responsible for covering a deep third of the field in a three-deep zone, it’s dangerous to sit on routes or to jump them because of the likelihood of getting beaten deep on a double move.

Cutler knew as much. So it came as a bit of a surprise that Williams “decided he was gonna make a play there, and made a play,” the quarterback said.

[+] EnlargeJay Cutler
David Banks/Getty ImagesJay Cutler threw his first two interceptions Sunday since the season opener.
“He was playing tight inside,” Bears coach Marc Trestman said. “That’s all I can tell you is there was tight technique. I didn’t see [Morgan’s] release on the route. I was watching the protection. But obviously, he broke up the play. You don’t see that very often where the ball’s broken up and it travels 15 yards in the air right into Clay Matthews’ hands. It was obviously a very disappointing turnover for a lot of reasons. That’s what I saw happen.

"We had the right play on. We had a run called. We got the coverage we wanted, and we weren’t able to turn it into a positive play.”

Instead, it turned into points for the Packers, who capitalized on yet another Cutler pick on Chicago’s next possession because of a miscommunication with Brandon Marshall that set up their final score of the afternoon.

“The cornerback was [playing] inside leverage,” Morgan said. “I should’ve done more to try and bat it down.”
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The Chicago Bears released their final injury report Friday heading into Sunday’s game against the Green Bay Packers with receiver Brandon Marshall (ankle) and defensive end Jared Allen (illness) listed as questionable.

The club held out Marshall and Allen from Friday’s practice, and officially ruled out center Roberto Garza (ankle), left guard Matt Slauson (ankle), linebacker Shea McClellin (hand), cornerback Sherrick McManis (quadriceps) and defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff (concussion).

Allen visited the team facilities briefly on Friday, but was sent home by the athletic training staff to recuperate.

"He’s just back there resting, but you know where I’m going with this," Bears coach Marc Trestman said. "It’s not that things aren’t looking good because he went home. I couldn’t tell you that. I’ll leave it up to the trainers, really the doctors. They have to let us know where he’s at, and hopefully he’ll be ready to go. I really can’t tell you what it is. He just hasn’t been feeling well, and that’s been day to day."

As for Marshall, it’s still unknown whether he will be sufficiently healed from a sprained right ankle suffered in the season opener to make a meaningful contribution to the club’s offense. Marshall was hobbled during the team’s Week 2 matchup at San Francisco, but healthy enough to contribute three touchdown receptions.

Against the Jets on Monday night, Marshall caught only one pass for 6 yards. The short turnaround with the Bears playing a Monday night contest also lessens the receiver’s prospects for making a sufficient recovery. Marshall hasn’t practiced all week.

"It’s very difficult to be at your best when you don’t practice every day and there’s timing issues, there’s different formations, there’s different looks,” Trestman said. “So that’s a challenge, and you have to weigh those costs and benefits as you move through the week knowing that he may or may not play. So we’ll try to work through that, and if he’s going to play, work hard to put him in position where things we can give him he knows what to do and can play at full speed."

In other news, safety Chris Conte (shoulder) was officially listed as questionable. Safety Ryan Mundy (stinger) is probable, as is defensive end Trevor Scott (foot).

If Allen can’t play against the Packers, the Bears will insert Willie Young into the starting lineup opposite Lamarr Houston.

"Obviously it’s an opportunity, but at the same time, Jared would be missed," Young said. "Hopefully, we still have some leadership and his presence on the sidelines. We’re professionals here. When one guy goes down we’ve got to look for guys to step up and be effective. But I haven’t heard anything yet [whether Allen will play]. That’s gonna be a game-time decision I guess. I have no idea."
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte insists statistics aren’t important but admits to feeling “frustrated” about the team’s inability thus far to run the ball effectively.

After averaging 4.8 yards per attempt on an 82-yard day in the season opener against Buffalo, Forte has rushed for a total of 54 yards the last two games with an average of 2.2 yards per carry.

“It is frustrating during the game,” Forte said. “It’s not that we’re not calling runs. We are calling run plays. But sometimes, the defenses are set up so that the run play we call is not going to work against that defense. Each week we’re continuing to work on it, and we’ve got to get everybody on the same page up front. Some guys that are stepping in for injured players, we have to get everybody on the right page where we’re blocking the right looks so if they change the personnel or change to a different defensive front, we know how to block that as well.”

Starting center Roberto Garza and left guard Matt Slauson suffered high ankle sprains in Week 1 and haven’t played since. Veteran Brian de la Puente and rookie Michael Ola have filled in at those spots, somewhat throwing off the chemistry and precise timing between the offensive line and Forte.

Forte said the fill-ins along the offensive line haven’t affected play-calling.

“It’s just sometimes we might have blocked it wrong or didn’t block somebody or whatever the problem was,” Forte said. “There is a little bit of a learning curve when we’re so used to having Slauson and Garza in there, and those five [offensive linemen] solidify that line. There is a little bit of a learning curve, but that’s with every team in the league. Everybody has injuries, and everybody has to step up. We have to figure that out and make it work.”

It’s certainly possible, especially facing a 30th-ranked Packers rush defense on Sunday that is allowing an average of 156.3 rushing yards per game.

“Last year when we played them, [Clay] Matthews didn’t play and that makes a big difference when he’s in the game,” Bears offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer said. “They’re at full strength now. So we need to bring our 'A' game to gain yards and have Matt Forte gain yards. We need to continue to work a balanced attack and give him opportunities.”

Bears coach Marc Trestman downplayed the significance of de la Puente and Ola stepping into the starting lineup. After all, de la Puente came into the season having started 44 games with the New Orleans Saints, who run a system very similar to Chicago’s. Ola, meanwhile, is a rookie.

But the truth is that each of Chicago’s first three opponents -- Buffalo, San Francisco and the New York Jets -- currently rank in the top 10 in the NFL in rush defense.

“Everybody’s gonna have an opinion on that,” Trestman explained. “We’ve had two very difficult weeks against two extremely strong fronts. That doesn’t mean we’re making excuses for it. We recognize we’ve got to get better. We had a reasonable start in Game 1. We’ve been bogged down the last couple weeks. We’re cognizant of that. We’re making it a point of emphasis. But we think we’ve got to work through the next few games and try to get a sense for where we really are with things. I can tell you we’re working at it.

“The fact of the matter is Brian de la Puente has played a lot of football. Michael Ola hasn’t, but I don’t think having two new guys in there has taken away from our ability to run the football. I think it goes a lot deeper than that.”

Jay Cutler cognizant of turnovers

September, 25, 2014
Sep 25
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago's 35 points scored off eight takeaways so far this season serve as constant reminder for quarterback Jay Cutler about how quickly things can snowball for the team if he doesn’t practice ball security.

After throwing two interceptions in the team’s season-opening loss to the Buffalo Bills, Cutler hasn’t offered up the opposition any more turnovers while throwing for six touchdowns and passer ratings of 119.2 and 94.7 in back-to-back victories over the 49ers and New York Jets.

[+] EnlargeJay Cutler and Marc Trestman
AP Photo/Tony AvelarJay Cutler has a better handle on the offense in Marc Trestman's second season as coach, and that's helping Cutler reduce turnovers.
“I think just second year in the offense and just seeing how [Bears coach Marc] Trest[man] calls the game and how important ball security is and turnovers are, maybe not just second year in the offense, but you mature as a quarterback,” Cutler said. “It's definitely evolved and it's definitely in the forefront of my mind: ‘Let's punt it, our defense is playing well, and Trest is going to call up more shots for us. We're going to get more opportunities.”

But will Cutler keep that mindset Sunday when his team hosts the Green Bay Packers at Soldier Field?

In nine career contests against the Packers’ defense, headed up by coordinator Dom Capers, Cutler has thrown 17 interceptions and 11 touchdowns, with a passer rating of 65.1. Interestingly, Cutler hasn’t yet finished a game as a Chicago Bear against the Packers without turning the ball over at least once.

Cutler acknowledges the challenges he’s faced trying to attack a Capers defense.

“There’s a few wrinkles here and there, and personnel has changed a bit,” Cutler said. “You know you’re going to get some different looks and they’re going to spin it, show you different blitzes and different coverages. He does a good job of mixing it up.”

Cutler appears to be poised for a better result Sunday against the Packers. That’s not to say Cutler will lead the Bears to victory. But it seems now Cutler is much less likely to be the reason for the club’s demise because of turnovers.

Under Trestman, the Bears hold a 7-0 record when they finish the game with a positive turnover margin, 2-5 when it’s negative and 1-4 when the team finishes with an equal turnover margin. So if Cutler can play a turnover-free game, the club’s takeaway-hungry defense can score off interceptions and fumbles or, at the very least, put the Bears in advantageous field position to set up scores.

“Jay continues to grow in the system,” Trestman said. “Ball security’s an absolute priority. It is with every football team. You protect the football, you’re gonna be in every game in the fourth quarter. Every game -- it won’t matter what the situations are. If you’re ball-security conscious, you’ve got a chance to win games. So that’s No. 1. We try to do that with emphasis on our protection meetings because we’ve got to protect him so he can protect the ball.”
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- With a short turnaround to prep for the Green Bay Packers, the Chicago Bears participated in their first full practice of the week without receiver Brandon Marshall, leading to questions about his availability for Sunday’s contest.

The club held out Marshall along with strongside linebacker Shea McClellin, who has already been declared out for Sunday, as well as cornerback Sherrick McManis (quadriceps), defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff (concussion), center Roberto Garza (ankle), guard Matt Slauson (ankle) and defensive end Jared Allen (illness).

The Bears kept Allen away from Halas Hall on Thursday, and during the club’s practice time, the defensive end was visiting with a physician.

As for Garza and Slauson’s potential availability, coach Marc Trestman said Wednesday he’s "not optimistic.”

Marshall, meanwhile, has been nursing the right ankle injury since the fourth quarter of the club’s season opener against the Buffalo Bills. During Week 2 at San Francisco, Marshall caught three touchdown passes after the Bears made the decision to play him just 90 minutes prior to kickoff. Marshall was somewhat ineffective as a route runner in that game, but used his 6-foot-4 frame to shield off defenders for the three TDs.

Then, in Monday night’s win over the New York Jets, Marshall caught only one pass for 6 yards. While it’s likely Marshall will play Sunday against the Packers, the short turnaround coming off Monday night’s game puts the receiver’s availability in jeopardy.

“It’s day to day,” Trestman said. “He’s rehabbing and we’ll see where he is tomorrow.”

In other news, safety Chris Conte (shoulder) practiced in a limited capacity, while safety Ryan Mundy (stinger) was a full participant along with defensive end Trevor Scott (foot).

Bears vs. Packers preview

September, 25, 2014
Sep 25

The NFL's oldest rivalry kicks off Sunday when the Chicago Bears (2-1) host the Green Bay Packers (1-2) at Soldier Field.

The Bears enter the contest riding a two-game winning streak, while the Packers are coming off a loss to the Detroit Lions.

Here, ESPN Bears reporter Michael C. Wright and Packers reporter Rob Demovsky break down key elements leading up to Sunday's matchup.

Wright: Rob, there seem to be tons of questions regarding Green Bay's struggling offense. But what perked up my radar is Aaron Rodgers and coach Mike McCarthy seemed to contradict one another about some of the things that went wrong against Detroit and what adjustments the offense needs to make moving forward. It seems Rodgers and McCarthy have butted heads in the past about the offense. What's going on now?

Demovsky: Rodgers doesn't say anything without carefully thinking it through, so clearly there was something that bothered him about what they tried to do offensively against the Lions. That was not just an off-the-cuff remark, not when he kept using the word "adjustments" over and over. The interesting thing is, McCarthy has been criticized in the past for not sticking with the running game long enough, but against the Lions, it might have been the opposite. He stayed with the running game long after it was apparent they couldn't get anything done on the ground. Rodgers also mentioned the fact that perhaps they need to move receiver Jordy Nelson around in order to gain favorable matchups, but they did that some against Detroit -- including on the fourth-and-5 play in the red zone on which Nelson got matched up against a linebacker, and Rodgers simply missed him.

Turning to Chicago, perhaps the two highest profile signings in the NFC North were the Packers signing Julius Peppers and the Bears signing Jared Allen. Peppers had his best game as a Packer last week against the Lions, and the coaches seem pleased with his contributions. How are the Bears feeling about what Allen is giving them?

Wright: Statistically, Allen obviously got off to a slow start with two tackles in each of the first two games, but against the New York Jets on Monday night, Allen put together somewhat of a breakout performance with seven stops. The Bears are certainly pleased with Allen's contributions up to this point, but I also think the staff's feelings concerning the defensive end are more about his contributions at practices and in the meeting rooms. Remember, originally, the Bears brought in Willie Young to start opposite Lamarr Houston. Then, Allen sort of just fell in the team's lap in free agency and it had to pounce. Allen has been instrumental, in my opinion, on helping to develop Young, as well as some of the other players. Don't be surprised if Young eventually becomes one of this league's better defensive ends in the next couple years, and Allen will have had a part in that. Allen mentioned last week that ever since he left the Kansas City Chiefs, he's typically gotten off to slow starts statistically. This season appears to be no different. But the staff still is pleased with Allen.

I know Green Bay faced imposing defensive lines to start off in Seattle, the Jets and the Lions. Are this team's struggles along the offensive line a product of the teams they faced or are there real problems in protection?

Demovsky: We should find that out this week, right? It looked like the Bears did a decent job against the Jets' running game, but they still rank 26th in the league in run defense. If the Packers can't get Eddie Lacy going against this defense, then there are real problems. The interesting thing is James Starks has been able to make things happen on the ground, whereas Lacy has not. Perhaps that's why McCarthy put the onus on Lacy this week, when he said "Eddie needs to play better."

The Packers have struggled to run the ball, too, but what in the world is wrong with the Bears' running game?

Wright: Man, I think the Bears suffered from the same thing as the Packers in that they drew tough opponents for the first three contests. Think about it: All of Chicago's first three opponents rank among the top 10 in rush defense. The Jets ranked No. 1, the San Francisco 49ers are seventh and the Buffalo Bills sit at No. 6. Combine that with the fact the Bears lost starting center Roberto Garza and left guard Matt Slauson and have played the past two games with Brian de la Puente and rookie Michael Ola in those spots. In my opinion, playing the backups sort of throws off the precise timing needed to really click in the ground game.

Let's look at Green Bay's air attack. Randall Cobb and Nelson combine for 58 percent of the Packers' offense. So it looks to me like the complementary targets aren't getting it done. What does Green Bay do if the Bears find a way to take away Cobb and Nelson, especially considering this team's struggles the first three weeks running the ball?

Demovsky: It would help if they could get their tight ends involved. Remember all those catches Jermichael Finley used to make against the Bears? That's one of the things that has been missing from this offense. The Packers hoped rookie third-round pick Richard Rodgers would be able to make an immediate impact, but despite starting all three games so far, he hasn't caught a single pass. Of course, Rodgers has only thrown his way once. Andrew Quarless seemed to take over the role midway through the game against the Lions and had the Packers' only touchdown of the game, but he's not as dynamic as Finley. They probably need to turn to Brandon Bostick, who looked like Finley-lite in the preseason before he sustained a leg injury. He's back healthy again but mysteriously hasn't played on offense in the past two games despite appearing on special teams.

While the Packers seem to be a team lacking confidence, how sky-high are the Bears after winning back-to-back road games -- one on each coast against the 49ers and Jets?

Wright: Confidence is definitely sky-high, my man. When the Bears upset the 49ers on the road, coach Marc Trestman talked about how wins such as that are the ones that build a strong backbone for later in the season, when every outing is clutch. Remember, coming into the season, everyone expected the offense to carry the defense. But in the two wins on the road, it was the defense shouldering the load for what's been a fairly mediocre offense. So the Bears know they've got a really good shot to put it all together at some point. But injuries are certainly a concern. The Bears play five of their first seven games on the road, and I still contend they'll be lucky to go into the Nov. 2 bye week with a record of better than .500.




Thursday, 10/2
Sunday, 10/5