Archive for the ‘Chicago Bears pre-season games’ Category

Pre-Season Indications: The Pass Rush Is Back

September 2, 2009

While most fans and analysts agree that the pre-season isn’t a great indication of how things will go, I’m going to step up and disagree with that assessment. Having seen all three of the Bears’ pre-season games to this point I can clearly say without much hesitation that the pass rush is back.

The Bears’ defense struggled last year against the pass, and it was the main reason they missed the playoffs. Meanwhile in 2009 the CB situation is far from settled and most fans would prefer to see a ball hawking free safety back there, the bottom line is thee success of this defense starts with the front four.

The top off-season priority was to find a way to fix the pass rush and to do it without overhauling the current crop of defensive lineman who were so successful in 2006 together. Enter Rod Marinelli one of the preeminent defensive line coaches in the league, if not the last couple decades. Marinelli’s resume speaks for itself although most Bears fans see only 0-16 and the coach of the Detroit Lions.

However Lovie Smith knows Marinelli well and knew that he was just the guy to fix the front four. There was a reason Smith called him the biggest free-agency acquisition of the 2009 off-season. Marinelli is a motivator of men, and is all football all the time. Toss in that he may be one of the best teachers of the game and is a disciple of the Tampa-2 defense and the choice was an easy and obvious one.

I predict and can say that it has already paid huge dividends for the Bears’ defense. While most fans remain skeptical the fact of the matter is the Bears’ pass rush has improved and it has improved drastically. The Bears currently rank eighth in the league with a pre-season total of 11 sacks. So? It’s the pre-season come the naysayers, fine but consider the opponents the Bears’ pass rush has looked the best against, the Giants and the Broncos.

Then the naysayers come with “the Broncos only allowed one sack the entire game”. Yes I’m aware of the stat, but the Broncos’ offensive line was also the cause of numerous holding penalties. A sign that the Bears’ defensive line was particular aggressive and dominating to the point that they had no choice but to grab and hold.

The Broncos mind you were the best offensive line in the league in pass protection last year. The Broncos only allowed 12 sacks on the season which good for first overall. Part of this has to do with Jay Cutler’s ample mobility and the other part would be they simply were good. Considering how many pass attempts the Broncos and Cutler attempted last year you can certainly see just how well they were in protecting the passer.

Cutler attempted 616 passes last year and was sacked the aforementioned 12 times. An average of 1 sack every 51 pass attempts. A phenomenal stat in pass protection for the Broncos. Yet the Bears’ offensive line did well to attack that well protecting front.

Not only are the sack totals up during the pre-season the intensity level is up. The D-Line seems to never quit on the pass rush and it shows. If one player gets the penetration forcing the QB to step up or move around in the pocket, typically someone else is there to make the sack. The front’s motor never seems to stop where as last year if they were stopped on their initial moves they seemed to just stop.

There is a clear difference in motivation along the front four. A never ending collective effort to get pressure and they have been successful. What also is a healthy indication is it’s not just the starters that have performed well. The backups have been just as intense and just as focused. Add on that the Bears will use a healthy rotation among the 11 members of the front four they could keep and the future looks bright.

There seems to finally be an intense focus as well as a realization of how important the “rush men” are to the success of the defense. The line has bought into what Marinelli is yelling, but more importantly they are learning from what he is teaching. The improvement to this point, has been visible to the untrained eye and that has the makings of what could be a very exciting season of Chicago Bears football.

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Looking Forward to Denver?

August 27, 2009

To be honest I’m not the type of guy to buy into a ton of hype, especially manufactured media hype about a particular game or situation. It’s nice to hear initial news about something, but after the initial pop of the story wears off, unless something else major happens I could honestly care less.

Which brings me to the Denver vs. Chicago pre-season game and the Kyle Orton Jay Cutler hype. I don’t care if Orton or Cutler get booed and I honestly don’t care if one out performs the other in the game. I don’t think Orton will out perform Cutler, if for no other reason the situation he’s in in Denver.

Let me be frank, I wasn’t a big Mike Shannahan fan, but I didn’t let a bias get in the way of respect and admiration for him. Mike Shannahan was and still would be one of the best head coaches in the NFL. The fact that the Broncos fired him boggles my mind, the fact that they did it in favor of Josh McDaniels makes it even more confounding.

All you need to know about Mike Shannahan is that he could take just about ANY running back, plug that back into his system and get production out of him. Very good to great production on a near annual basis, that says it all right there. Yes the Broncos struggled on defense especially in recent years. But none of this takes away from the fact that Shannahan won two Super Bowls and made Jake Plummer look like a good QB in Denver after being horrible in Arizona.

Now beyond Shannahan you break into the Josh McDaniels saga. Going beyond what happened with the whole Cutler fiasco you now get into the Brandon Marshall fiasco and then questionable idea of drafting Knowshon Moreno. Moreno may end up being a great ‘back in this league but prior to this you had Shannahan getting more production out of lesser talents there by putting himself in a better position to address other needs.

To say that the Broncos have other needs may be a complete understatement. Their defense is deplorable and seems to be getting worse. Adding to the pressure Broncos fans and media will never be happy until they find someone that is as good or better than John Elway, which will likely never happen.

With all this in mind I suspect the Broncos will probably be worse off this year than they were last year. They are in for a big shock in Denver and it wouldn’t surprise me to see them battling the Raiders for cellar dweller supremacy in the AFC West. As my thoughts wander towards the Bears’ pre-season game I tend to think this game won’t matter even more than a regular pre-season game.

With a nod towards the cocky side of me, I think the Bears should fully dominate this game. There should be some pretty obvious game planning going on against Kyle Orton. Now on the flip side the Bears should not lose this game and I’ll be pretty disappointed if they do. You might get a pretty awful taste of nastiness if the Bears do in fact lose this game. Because as with tradition most teams get ready for the regular season in their third game of the pre-season and do so by playing their starters for most of three quarters.

I suppose the most interesting aspect of this game will be watching the Bears’ defensive line go up against the starters on the Broncos offensive line. Their offensive line is one of the youngest and best in the NFL. They get the job done in pass protection and I’m assuming they can still run block adequately even without Shannahan’s scheme.

I’d like to believe that Kyle Orton is capable of playing at a high enough level to present a challenge to the Bears’ defense but after some of his most recent pre-season play even that’s questionable.

So what is there to focus in on? Focus in on the Bears playing well, not getting injured showing a good rhythm in the passing game. I’d like to see more from Devin Hester than what we have seen the first two pre-season games. I’d like to see continued improvement from Kevin Jones showing he’s ready to be an ample back up to Forte. All this plus the battle in the trenches should really make this a fun game to watch.

If you can cut through the drama of it all there are things that we should as fans focus on more intently than just the media hype and drama of it all.

Defense Dominates as the Bears Win 17-3

August 22, 2009

The Chicago bears looked like they were in dominant mid-season form. The offense looked as good as it did in the early stages of 2006 when the Bears made their Super Bowl run. Nearly 300-yards of total offense, a 92-yard touchdown scoring drive, big runs from Matt Forte including a big touchdown run. Complete destruction of a Giants team that is a Super Bowl contender out of the NFC.

Yes we need to reel it in and realize it’s only the pre-season but the flashes of excellence are there by the starters. Both offensively and defensively the Bears stepped up and made plays. Their execution was top notch with only a few shaky plays here and there in what was overall something that made the Bears look like a Super Bowl contender.

If there was a way for the Bears to play like this against for 18-games this team will not lose a lot of games. Sure they had some trouble tackling the big Brandon Jacobs, but they swarmed to the football and stopped the Giants cold.

Some brief criticisms would be Devin Hester misjudging a deep pass, one questionable pass by Cutler on a slant and Frank Omiyale missing a major block on a linebacker that led to a run only gaining one yard.

On the flip side Hester did make plays, Cutler made great throws and was able to use his athleticism to roll out and make throws and Omiyale made a big block later on that sprung Forte for a touchdown. On defense Urlacher had trouble squaring up on Brandon Jacobs, but later dropped him for a loss once he got low on him. Kevin Payne made a huge pass break up on a third and long and pressure come consistenly from the defensive line. Alex Brown caused a fumble, and Adewale Ogunleye got a sack.

If this is a sign of things to come the Windy City will be buzzing with excitement well into January 2010.

The second half was more of the same for the Chicago Bears, at least on defense. The offense didn’t get anymore points on the board but they did play well. Caleb Hanie solidified himself as the backup to Jay Cutler.

The defense all the way around dominated the New York Giants getting consistent pressure on their QBs. Whether it was Mark Anderson or Henry Melton the Bears got after the QB. If you were to point to an example of Rod Marinelli’s influence it would be tonight in this game for four quarters the line played and played hard.

Dusty Dvoracek stood out and made plays in a game he likely needs to stake his spot on the roster and did as much playing through to the whistle on one sack he made. There was just a mentality on the defensive line that had been lacking for the past two seasons that is back in full effect now.

The defense finished with five sacks on the night, but that doesn’t even begin to cover the amount of carnarge the “rushmen” caused in the backfield. Time after time Giants QBs had lineman in their face and were unable to set their feet or make even a good throw to their receivers. Knockdowns, pressure, QBs with happy feet it was just an all around exciting game.

Overall this is the type of game the fans of the Monsters of the Midway have been waiting to see, and must be happy to witness. Optimism will only get stronger after tonight as the Bears march forward to what will hopefully be a great 2009 season.

Absurd Level of Criticism After Bears Lose to Bills

August 17, 2009

The reasons why I chose to start this blog came into full view after the Bears’ pre-season loss to the Buffalo Bills on Saturday. The media, and some members of the fan base have a major problem when it comes to watching football games and have a short memory when it comes to watching a game. People tend to focus on the negative and completely gloss over the positive.

So I have to come in here with my platform and add my knowledge and analyze the facts and try to make those as clear as possible for Bears fans and Chicago media types alike. You won’t often get a fair and balanced approach and the media usually likes to stir up crap when nothing exists.

Example would be the Urlacher Cutler story on the first day of camp to the now Jay Cutler putting the blame on Devin Hester for not making a play on the INT that happened in front of him. The media especially in Chicago like to make mountains out of mole hills. We have a mountain and molehill situation right now after this loss.

While the Bears didn’t play a perfect game versus the Bills, it’s important to note a few things.

1) The Bills started practice a week before the Bears did

2) This was the Bills’ second pre-season game

3) The Bears were without three of four starters in the secondary

4) Struggles in the secondary were expected even before Trent Edwards complete 10 of 10 passes, most of the dump off variety.

To hammer home some of my points with the non-believers and the negative nancys already out there, I’ll back up my points.

Trent Edwards’ 10 pass completions out of 10 attempts performance that was good for 79 yards in the game. Edwards had a completion to Lee Evans for 36 yards. Take away Nathan Vasher getting burned, and say it’s 9 out of 9 for 43 yards. Nine completions at 43 yards is an average of slightly less than five yards per completion. There is why Edwards was so accurate in his throws and why it looked like the Bears were getting blitzed via the pass the same way as last year. If Edwards had only completed nine out of nine for 43 yards I don’t think everyone would be as upset as they are now.

Another point of focus, the fourth quarter when the Bills won the game by scoring two touchdowns in the fourth quarter against the Bears’ scrub defense. Hamdan and Fitzpatrick were a combined 17 out of 24 the previous week against the Tennessee Titans. Against the Bears the pair combined for 18 out of 28 and in both games the Bills made their run in the fourth quarter.

Now would a Bears fan look at that game and that performance by the Titans and level the same amount of criticism towards the Titans? Most certainly not because the Titans have always had a consistently good defense and they get a golden ticket pass go card the old “it’s just the pre-season” excuse.

What we do know by looking through just the stats is that the Bears’ defense did very well against the Bills. Trent Edwards completed many passes of the dink and dunk variety, through a pretty good pass rush. A pass rush the Bears didn’t mount much of last year was evident in this game. The Alex Brown sack came from a great collapse the pocket rush from Israel Idonije up the middle. The move forced Edwards to step to his left right into the waiting arms of Alex Brown. The intensity level of the defensive line was also on another level. Last year the line looked lackadaisical and almost like it didn’t care. The motivation to get a rush and to be aggressive wasn’t there.

Now you can tell that there is Marinelli’s intensity there. From Anthony Adams to rookie Jarron Gilbert and Dusty Dvoracek in between, the line is ready to rock and get pressure.

Also we saw Brian Urlacher shoot a gap and make a tackle the way Urlacher used to. He was also pretty aggressive in coverage as well.

The player of the game on defense was likely Al Afalava. The rookie stepped up early and often in the game and made four tackles overall. His astute instincts and aggressive tackling style looked reminiscent of Mike Brown. All positive signs the direction the defense is heading in for 2009.

Bears versus Bills What To Watch For

August 15, 2009

Well I’d like to say there is more that Bears fans should watch for in this game as far as the Bears being able to compete against the Bills’ strengths or weaknesses. However it’s the pre-season and there wasn’t a lot to observe last week in the Bills’ pre-season game.

The Bills looked pretty bad in the game that’s for sure. They didn’t execute well and the Titans’ starters had their way with them. Then when the Titans put their back ups into the game they started working their way down the depth chart the execution of non-NFL level talent had a lot of trouble executing. Things began to fall apart for both teams with the Titans victimizing themselves with a lot of momentum killing penalties in the fourth quarter. They also victimized themselves with a fourth quarter interception return for a touchdown.

The touchdown return off of the INT was the ONLY touchdown the Bills scored during the game. While I don’t expect the Bears’ defense to shut out and shut down the Bills’ offense, you hope that they will. Buffalo may have a slight advantage in this game since it will be their second pre-season game so they’ll have a better feeling for game rhythm and flow. Plus the Bills have been in their pre-season camp longer and practiced more than the Bears.

So what we’ll be watching for is the Bears’ execution. They should be able to execute like a well-coached football team just like the Titans were able to do with their starters in. The Bears should be able to run the ball pretty effectively. I’d like to see Kevin Jones show some of the burst and see the success he has had in camp translate over. Especially if the Bears see it fit to take it easy on Matt Forte and his hamstring.

Obviously you want to see if the front four can generate a pass rush. Most of what we want to see is fairly obvious so there should be no real surprises in this game.

Going outside the box I’d like to see how Al Afalava performs in the game at safety. If he has good instincts in the zone coverage and he understands his responsibilities in the Cover-2 better than what Danieal Manning did as a rookie and better than he seems to understand at this point. Afalava is a rookie so you don’t expect him to be perfect, but you’d like to see instincts in the game that Manning has never seemed to have.

Trumaine McBride, Corey Graham and how they’ll look in pass coverage. They will likely be the TWO back up CBs to Vasher, Tillman, Bowman etc. Hopefully they have a good game against some lackluster Bill receiver talent.

There is an argument that can be made however even though it is a pre-season game. The subtle signs that the defense was going to be bad reared it’s ugly head in week one of the pre-season against the Kansas City Chiefs. The Chiefs marched 91 yards on the Bears’ starters for a touchdown. Even after they shot themselves in the foot with 10 penalty yards the Bears’ defense was still unable to stop the Chiefs. It was the starters and the starters seemed to struggle on defense throughout the entire pre-season. Additionally it seems that a lot of the players that were backups in that game are important starters or players who’ll need to step up for the Bears in 2009.

Against the 49ers where the starters played for most of the game, the Bears made J.T. O’Sullivan look like Joe Montana guiding the 49ers offense down the field almost at will. O’Sullivan was seven out of eight for 126 yards and a touchdown in a pre-season game against the Bears’ starting defense.

So yes there is the importance of seeing the Bears’ defense perform well. Usually at this time of the season defenses are ahead of offenses so the Bears defense should be able to stop the Bills in this game fairly regularly. Especially with Terrell Owens out of the game.

So while everyone will have their eyes on Jay Cutler and his receivers the main point of focus should be the Bears’ defense and can they slow down a team. This is a team that is built on defense so the Bears should show signs of being a good team based on how their defense performs.

For more in-depth discussion on the Chicago Bears’ training camp go to Midway Illustrated