Biggs: 10 thoughts after Bears' win over Rams
Biggs: 10 thoughts after Bears' win over Rams
By Brad Biggs, Tribune reporter 9:11 a.m. CDT, September 24, 2012
Ten thoughts after the Chicago Bears scored their second victory of the season with an impressive defensive showing in a 23-6 victory over the St. Louis Rams on Sunday at Soldier Field.
1. No one is ever going to confuse the Bears' defensive scheme with the one Buddy Ryan put in place a little less than three decades ago. But boy, has the pass rush been strong for Lovie Smith and Rod Marinelli through the first three games.
The Bears are getting to the quarterback and they are coming from all angles. Eight players have one sack and five have at least 1 1/2 after Rams quarterback Sam Bradford was sacked six times. Defensive end Israel Idonije had 2 1/2 in the game and Nick Roach had one -- the first for a Bears linebacker since Week 17 of the 2010 season.
The 14 sacks are the most in the NFL entering the Monday night (the Green Bay Packers enter their game at Seattle with 11). It’s the most sacks for the Bears in the first three games of a season since 1987 when they had 24 in three games – nine vs. the Giants, four vs. the Buccaneers and 11 at the Eagles, which tied for the second-most in a single game in franchise history.
“It’s been good. It’s been good,” defensive end Julius Peppers said before amending his evaluation. “It’s been OK. I probably said it about 50 times already but we have a little bit more depth. Guys got better since last year, we have a good rotation that keeps us fresh and the end result is shown in the stats.
“More importantly it feels good to get the win. It feels good about the defensive stats collectively as a team, not individually, even though that was good. I'm not trying to diminish that. I think the 160 yards or whatever it was, was more impressive.”
The Rams were limited to 160 yards of offense, the third-lowest output by an opponent since Smith took over in 2004 -- just behind 145 yards by the Bills in 2006 and 147 by the Panthers last season. But the Bears bottled up the Rams because they stuffed the run and Steven Jackson on the way to Bradford. Bradford was hurried and the Bears totaled nine quarterback hits, according to press box statistics, with Idonije getting four.
“We’ve been building to this throughout the whole offseason and training camp and we really emphasized the pass rush,” said defensive tackle Henry Melton, who has a team-high three sacks. “Of course, you’ve got to stop the run to do everything but the way the league is set up now, you’ve got to get to the quarterback on a consistent basis. That is what we have been trying to do.”
Let’s put it in perspective. The Rams' offensive line is a patchwork mess at this point. Left tackle Rodger Saffold missed the game with a knee injury and was replaced by Wayne Hunter, a New York Jets castoff. Left guard Quinn Ojinnaka and center Rob Turner also were fill-ins. Not exactly an ideal situation for protecting Bradford.
But the Bears still got to the quarterback with tackles Stephen Paea and Amobi Okoye also getting involved and that is what is expected.
“I think we’re still doing the same things, but just all these years together everything’s just kind of really jelling, everything’s really coming together,” Idonije said. “Just attention to detail and just a year further along. Everybody’s a little bit older, a little more focused and just keyed into what ultimately we’re trying to achieve and it’s paying off. It’s still early, so as far as we’re concerned, we’ll enjoy this today, put it behind us and then the board’s back to zero and we’ve got a lot of work to do coming into Dallas.”
The Cowboys -- and everyone else -- are going to start their game-planning sessions by accounting for Peppers, who was credited with a half-sack in the win. The key is that so many others are contributing as Marinelli sends linemen into the game in waves.
“That is the amazing thing,” Melton said. “You try to double team one guy and another guy can get a win easy. I don’t know how the other teams are really looking at us right now because everyone can pass rush.”
2. I had an interesting conversation with Turner, the fill-in center for the Rams. He’s in his sixth season and first with the Rams after spending five years with the New York Jets. It was only his fifth career start. Turner had a very nice block in the third quarter when he pulled left and wiped middle linebacker Brian Urlacher out of the hole to clear room on a 13-yard gain for Jackson, the longest run of the day for St. Louis.
Turner was an undrafted free agent in 2007 but he knows Urlacher because he came out of New Mexico. I asked him what the Rams had seen of Urlacher in two games on film.
“I’ve got all the respect in the world for him but that is probably for more reasons than most people,” Turner said. “I met him at school twice. He’s getting older but he is still the leader of their defense whether he has lost a step or not. And whether he has truly lost a step or not, I think you may be able to tell that by the end of the season. He still makes plays. He’s still their emotional leader.
“I’ll tell you something that a player told me a long time ago. (Longtime offensive lineman) Pete Kendall said there is a point in your career where your body flies around and your mind doesn’t know what it is doing. And then it comes to a point where it levels off. And then eventually you reach a point where it goes the other direction, your mind knows it and your body is just trying to get there. I am not going to say he is at that point. Like I said, you will probably be able to tell better by the end of the season. But I have all the respect in the world for the guy. In my opinion, he is a first-ballot Hall of Famer. He’s a great player.
“He is still a game-changer. He might not still cover as much ground as he used to but he is still covering backs 1-on-1 in coverage. I hope he stays healthy.”
3. The long layoff after the Thursday game in Green Bay made everyone anxious to get to a game. Nickel cornerback D.J. Moore probably was more ready than most after a long week punctuated by his candid remarks about quarterback Jay Cutler following the loss to the Packers.
“It was over with a couple days ago,” Moore said. “But it was getting outrageous for a couple hours there. It is what it is.”
Has Moore had a conversation with Cutler?
“No, I haven’t talked to him,” he said.
But he believes the matter is done, at least as far as he is concerned.
“I would hope so,” Moore said. “Either way, I play defense, he plays offense. You do your job, I’ll do mine.”
Moore’s job was to help shut down Rams wide receiver Danny Amendola, who was coming off a 15-catch, 160-yard performance in a victory over the Washington Redskins. Amendola could not replicate that success running primarily slant routes. He had five catches for 66 yards.
“We just played different defense than the Redskins,” Moore said. “Tim (Jennings) had him a lot, too. We were just fortunate. I think the pass rush pretty much deflated (Sam Bradford) from looking everywhere to find Amendola.”
4. Safeties Major Wright and Chris Conte continue to provide solid support on the back end. There is no question their play is going to look better with the pass rush producing like it is. Wright entered the game leading the team in tackles and you’ve got to look long and hard for periods over the past decade in which Urlacher or Lance Briggs haven’t topped that chart.
Wright was in the right place when Jennings knocked the ball loose from Amendola to secure an interception and a 45-yard return touchdown.
“I feel like we’re playing great defense,” Wright said. “Tim made a great play on the ball, him breaking it up and me being in the right place at the right time. That’s just how the defense is going. You’ve got to always expect something to happen.”
We still have not see Wright and Conte tested this season. No opponent has gone after the Bears in Cover-2 and tried to push the ball deep downfield. If the pass rush is getting home, it’s going to be hard. But somebody soon is going to block it up and test the safeties. That somebody might be Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo next Monday night in Dallas.
5. Chilo Rachal stepped in to make his first start with the Bears at left guard. It had been nearly a year since he started as the San Francisco 49ers sent him to the bench after three starts last season. That is a prime reason why he talked so much this past week about being hungry for the opportunity.
“I was ansty,” Rachal said. “Could have done better. Being my first game back, I was happy. It brought back old memories like I am back up in there. I always have room for improvement, things I can clean up but overall we got the win. Hopefully, we build off this game and keep getting better.”
It’s going to take time for Rachal to get accustomed to his linemates but he feels like it was a good start.
“But I have to step my play up individually,” he said. “I probably had a couple plays, one play in particular that stood out, a 40 slash where my split was too wide and I gotta cover the dude and he hit the running back. That’s unacceptable for me. I have 10 people counting on me. I have to get better.”
Cutler was encouraged by the change.
“The line played well,” Cutler said. “They had a little edge to them. You go into a game and you’re up in the third or fourth quarter and you’re going to run the ball. Those guys came in when I needed it and opened up some holes. I thought the line played well.
“I think Chilo brings that edge to the offensive line, and he doesn’t take a lot of grief in there. He’s a big guy. He’s kind of a mauler and I feel comfortable with him in there.”
6. Geno Hayes was shaking his head coming off the field in the fourth quarter because he got a hand on Johnny Hekker’s punt from his own end zone. The ball still traveled 52 yards but Hayes was within inches of a complete block, a play that most likely would have resulted in a score.
“I was so mad about that. I knew that was open the whole game,” Hayes said. “I kept telling coach (Dave Toub), ‘Let’s go ahead and do this.’ I finally got there and it got tipped. I had my hands too high. I put them up instead of going straight, level. It hit me right here on the back side of my hand. If I would have gone straight across, I would have it, knocked it down.
“That would have been a touchdown. I would have gotten that one. That punter would have had to fight me for that one. During the course of the game you start learning more things, their calls, when they called a check I knew he was going to slide out. So, when he slid out, the wing went inside and it gave us off edge. Once you get in the game and you can hear certain things, you know what is going to happen.”
Hayes has been a valuable special teams performer in his career. He blocked three punts as a member of the Buccaneers and two of them went for touchdowns.
“I guess I have been blessed to be slippery,” he said.
7. The only Bears defender since Richard Dent in 1991 to post double-digit sack totals in consecutive seasons returned to Soldier Field as a fan Sunday. Rosevelt Colvin, who had 10 1/2 sacks in a breakout 2001 season and repeated that total the next year before departing for the New England Patriots in a major free-agent signing, attended the annual alumni weekend the team hosts. Approximately 75 former players showed up. There was a dinner for them Saturday night and they were recognized on the field before the game.
It is the first time Colvin has been able to make alumni weekend since his career ended after the 2008 season. He was the one core player that got away from ex-general manager Jerry Angelo as he tried to secure young talent after taking over control of the franchise in June 2001.
Colvin suffered a fractured hip in 2003 with the Patriots but played six years in New England and won two Super Bowl rings. He’s been to Soldier Field once previously as a fan, attending the NFC Championship Game after the 2010 season. Colvin roots for the Bears and Patriots and remains a close friend of Urlacher, who was drafted one year after Colvin. They talk regularly.
“I love the dude like a brother,” Colvin said.
Retirement from football is going well. While Colvin was playing for the Patriots he opened a UPS franchise store in Indianapolis. Since retiring, his wife Tiffany has opened SweeTies Gourmet Treats. Colvin also dabbles in media and runs youth flag football leagues through the NFL’s Play 60 program.
“I keep it active and just enjoy life really,” he said. “It is really a blessing to be where I am.
Besides family and his business interests, Colvin really enjoys being a fan of the game, something not all former players become. It was interesting to hear him talk about the transition.
“Sunday is a great day for me and not just Sunday, Saturday too,” he said. “The NFL and my football career was just a steppingstone to what I was going to do after. It’s worked out very, very good for me where I have been able to do a lot of things I can enjoy now. Financially, I am not pressed to have to go to a 9-to-5 job and work every single day. Me and Warrick Holdman sat in that locker room when we reported to training camp and we saw guys like Barry Minter, Rico McDonald and Lemanski Hall, we saw all those guys and just how broken down they were. And we were like, ‘Man, I’m probably going to play two or three years and then I am going to retire.’ We didn’t want to do that.
“Fortunately enough, I got to 10 years in and I couldn’t wait to retire so I could get back home, be with my family, be with my friends. I knew football served a purpose, financially obviously and career-wise it was a great opportunity for me. I love being a fan. There is so much pressure relieved off your shoulders because you don’t have to worry about making that play anymore. I really, really, really enjoy it.”
Colvin keeps his eye on the Bears, Patriots and Colts on Sundays. He worked in a concession stand at the old RCA Dome in Indianapolis as a teenager. Now, he’s happy to not be working Sundays.
“I have had so much favor, not just upon my life but especially my football career,” Colvin said. “I am at a loss for words about it.”
8. Colvin raised the ire of Bears fans on Twitter during the season-opening victory over the Colts.
“Hey #bears fans.....The reason the Broncos traded him cause he was a baby....well hes just a old Baby now!!!! #ineedmorefromyoubuddy”
That was the first in a series of Twitter messages regarding Cutler during opening weekend and then again during and after the Week 2 loss at Green Bay. Remember, Colvin supports the Bears and wants to see them do well.
“How bout #cutler take a page outta of the #rookie from @nflcolts book..stop #SMH...lookn like its always some1 else's fault and just play!!”
“Did #jaycutler just get mad at the crowd cause he had 2 call a time out?! Dude nobody was cheering...RUN THE PLAY!! #SMH nfl @ChicagoBears”
“I think I said it Sunday...hey #QB I need more from u buddy! the #colts were the worst team in 2011...we got work to fellas!! @ChicagoBears
“I'll end the night with this..who shoulder bumps a 300 lb O tackle..the dude he's blocking is a beast..talk 2 ur o cord & chip the guy!!”
“1 more...as I watch this #jaycutler press conf...u better hope no 1 else plays 2man...Jay how did u think u played "sum good sum bad" WHAT!!”
So, I asked Colvin how he felt about his homestate guy Cutler during the week leading up to the Rams game.
“I mentioned something on Twitter about him and some of the fans went hard on me,” Colvin said. “I’m not a controversial guy. I’m not a person that tries to knock people and make them look bad, I just think what the Bears have been looking for in a quarterback, ever since I got there. Everybody remembers Cade McNown but each year they have tried to find the quarterback that will be their Jim McMahon and it hasn’t been as successful. When they went and got Cutler, I think they traded the house for him. In my mind, Jay Cutler has a world of talent. And I have said it before, there is a difference between being a leader and leading a team and setting examples and having a world of talent and yelling at guys because they did something wrong.
“I think he has been put in a tough situation. Chicago is a sports town. The fans demand their team to be the best. They were spoiled in ’85 and they have not gotten over that, no Super Bowl victory since then. Jay is the guy that they have sort of put in position to make sure they get to that next level and he’s under a lot of pressure. I read body language a lot and a lot of the body language he gives off, it seems like it doesn’t matter or if it matters it’s not my fault. You see the episode with the tackle last week, yelling at him because he messed up and the semi-bump with the shoulder. I just feel there are better ways to handle things.
“That’s not to say guys like Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady or Eli Manning don’t get upset and yell at their players, but the dude did a decent job blocking one of the NFL’s best pass rushers. There was that one play where he got kind of caught up and didn’t block the guy correctly but you’ve got to lean on your offensive coordinator. Mike Tice has got to understand, ‘Hey, chip the guy instead of just letting the back run out in the flat.’ These are things that I came to understand in New England and made me feel like Bill Belichick is hands-down the best football coach in NFL history because of those types of things -- it’s matchups. It’s all about matchups. You’ve got to make adjustments. If you see the guy is struggling, if you’re Jay Cutler go to the coach and say, ‘Hey, instead of letting the back release out right now, why don’t we take him out and chip Clay Matthews to give the dude a little help. That will buy me an extra two seconds to allow me to read the play and be more successful.’
“But you don’t see that. He gets a bad rap. You see him yelling at another guy and you see his head down. It’s upsetting. But, you know, he represents the state of Indiana so I continue to support him.”
9. The upshot of Cutler’s lousy effort in Week 2 at Green Bay was that the quarterback must perform at a much higher level when put in tough spots later on in the season. He was far from spectacular against the Rams in completing 17 of 31 passes for 183 yards with one interception. It’s not looking ahead now to focus on the upcoming game at Dallas on Oct. 1. It is the second of five scheduled prime-time games for the Bears. Cutler is 4-1 on “Monday Night Football” starting for the Bears but two of those victories came over the Minnesota Vikings. The Bears are also 6-3 in their last nine prime-time games that Cutler starts. But they are 6-7 overall (3-7 when you take out three games vs. Vikings) and only 3-6 on the road. Here are Cutler’s statistics in prime time:
On the road: 168 completions, 288 attempts, 1,859 yards, 6.45 yards per attempt, 10 touchdowns, 18 interceptions, 63.12 rating.
Overall: 249 completions, 424 attempts, 2,791 yards, 6.58 yards per attempt, 18 touchdowns, 21 interceptions, 71.96 rating.
10. Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III complained a week ago that the Rams were “dirty” and “cheap” after their meeting in the Edward Jones Dome. Linebacker Blake Costanzo, the special teams ace, was yakking it up with Rams players after multiple plays so I asked him if it was the result of what he considered to be cheap play.
“They are a tough team but that is what happens when we had a pretty good day vs. them,” Costanzo said. “They were just talking. We just play, we don’t want to talk. They were trying to go after us. That is part of their team mentality – hit you extra, do all that kind of stuff and trying to get us to retaliate. We knew that coming into the game. We just played our ball, played hard. That was hit.”
But was it dirty?
“Nah,” Costanzo said. “Dude, it’s football. I actually enjoyed it. I like playing like that. As long as it is within the whistle, that is the kind of ball we play, we’re the Chicago Bears. That’s football, baby.”
10 a. Sure looked like Jay Cutler was forcing the ball to Brandon Marshall at times. That was the case on the interception he threw. Marshall was targeted 11 times and caught five passes for 71 yards, including a 34-yarder in the closing minutes. When Cutler finally stopped forcing the ball to Marshall, he started hooking up with Alshon Jeffery, who caught five passes for 45 yards. The Rams played a lot of press man coverage and also used some combination coverage to blanket Marshall. Press man is what the Bears can expect to see from the Cowboys and cornerbacks Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne.
10 b. Left tackle J’Marcus Webb did OK handling Rams right end Robert Quinn but he got substantial help from tight ends in handling the pass rusher. It’s going to be difficult if Webb needs routine help blocking the opponent’s right end.
10 c. Kicker Robbie Gould connected on a 54-yard field goal and he has made nine consecutive attempts from 50-plus yards. Earlier in his career, either by circumstance or because coach Lovie Smith preferred to punt and play defense, Gould rarely attempted field goals of that distance. In his first four seasons, Gould was 0-for-2 from 50-plus. He is 6-for-6 overall this season. Gould is now at 86.2 percent for his career (193 for 224) and entered the game as the fourth-most accurate kicker in NFL history.
10 d. Michael Bush rushed 18 times for 55 yards and found some nice holes in replacing Matt Forte, who was sidelined with a sprained right ankle. But some of the outside runs that suit Forte well are not a good match for Bush. Kahlil Bell gained 18 yards on one run around left end and then had two yards total on nine more carries. He was getting the bulk of the work at the end of the game. The Bears totaled 103 yards rushing but only because Cutler had a 21-yard scramble mixed in.
10 e. Packers outside linebacker Clay Matthews is off to a terrific start with six sacks through two games entering the Monday night game. But he probably will have to be great in the next two games to beat out cornerback Tim Jennings for NFC Defensive Player of the Month. Jennings has four interceptions and has deflected two other passes that teammates have picked off. Jennings has one more interception than Rams cornerback Cortland Finnegan.
10 f. Lovie Smith is lucky the three points the Rams picked up on Greg Zuerlein’s 56-yard field goal at the end of the first half did not play part in the outcome of the game. Rams coach Jeff Fisher was going to punt before Smith, confused with the Rams’ intentions, called timeout. That gave Fisher time to change his mind and send on the field goal team.
Copyright © 2012, Chicago Tribune
Last edited by Riczaj01; 09-24-2012 at 10:40 AM.
1) 3 of 5 OL were hurt for the Rams, and SJax was hobbled. But again this is starting to see a trend. The DL can get after the QB.
2) He'll be tough to replace even if we get a younger equally talented player he'll be tough to replace.
3) What's not said was how well Moore played on the field. He showed up, not as much as Jennings(pro bowl anyone?) but he did show up.
4) our DB's have all been solid; of course the DB's always look better when the DL is getting to the qb. But still all of them, not just the CB's or S's, all of them are doing well.
5) Group as a whole didn't play well, but it did play better. Much like the last few years, this OL needs the run to set up the pass. They always play better when they are pushing forward vs falling back.
6) did anyone else jump out of their seat on that? I was sure he blocked it.
7) the NFL should bring him in to talk to rookie players about how to make good business decisions, and life after football.
8) Colvin, no one cares about your opinions of Cutler, nor should they. too many folks have twitter and far more use it w/out thought...this proves it.
9) MNF on the road against a good team is going to be tough no matter who you are. Wanna know what's gonna be the difference, if the OC can call a good enough game to keep the DL off JC again. If not he's going to have a horrid night, if he does he'll be excellent to good enough.
10) StL is dirty, but they didn't have a chance to show it b/c the Bears were prepared for it, and did a good job not responding. They tried though but smarter teams will know not to respond.
a) Cutler has his toy and wants to rely on him; but he'll do himself a lot of favors finding the open man early. It will help Marshal also. Said it last week, and will say it again, Cutler needs to play better; he had time in the pocket and still was off on some of his throws.
b) No it won't make things difficult, it will ease everything. Webb's not that good, and you cannot expect him to take on any average rushers by himself. We have enough WR's to make plays that we don't need the TE's; right now or on every play.
c) Or maybe he just worked on his game and improved; that is possible, and probable.
d) I said it before the season, I'll reiterate it, Forte/Bush>Bush/Bell...a lot of people thought that this team, w/it's new toys could survive w/Bush/Bell, I kept saying it cannot. Bush is a good not great RB, and Bell is average. The team can survive Bush/Bell for a few games but if that is the starting rb's for the whole year JC had better be scared b/c no team is worried about it.
e) How amazing has Jennings been? This guy really worked on his game in the offseason and it's showing.
f) Lovie is still good for a few bad decisions during the game....and that as much as the OL or the QB can cost the Bears in games against the elite teams in the league.
High Fives / Like - 1 BEAR DOWN!, 0 Dislikes
Great point Ric.
c) Or maybe he just worked on his game and improved; that is possible, and probable.
I think this is the hardest concept for football fans (of any team) to understand. Fans (and sports journalists) want to categorize players by how they perform early in their career. But that is just a "snapshot in time" in a players career. Sure, some are great or busts, right off the bat. But a significant percentage of players can improve over time.
One other concept escapes many fans. A team won't have 53 great players (and not even 11 on each unit). And that's OK. You have your star players, but the vast majority of the team is filled up with average players. Not bad players. But not great players either. You can win a super bowl with a team like that.