Biggs: 10 thoughts after Bears' big win
By Brad Biggs, Tribune reporter
9:43 a.m. CDT, October 8, 2012
Ten thoughts after the Chicago Bears' 41-3 rout Sunday of the Jacksonville Jaguars that keeps them atop the NFC North with the Minnesota Vikings at 4-1.
1. Brandon Marshall is on pace this season for 112 catches and 1,587 yards. Imagine that for a minute.
Marshall had 12 receptions for 144 yards Sunday, with the majority coming in the second-half demolition of the Jaguars. In doing so, he became the first Bears wide receiver to have consecutive 100-yard games since Marcus Robinson in his jump-ball, 1,400-yard season in 1999. Robinson would run deep and the quarterback of the week would chuck it up for him.
The 12 catches tied (with Marty Booker) for the third-most in a single game in club history, just two shy of Jim Keane’s 1949 record of 14. Marshall now has 35 receptions (sixth among NFL wide receivers) for 496 yards (fourth in the NFL) and three touchdowns. Marshall is tied for third in the league with eight catches for 20 or more yards and 22 of his catches have resulted in first downs.
“That’s why we brought him here, to be that guy and to be that No. 1 receiver,” quarterback Jay Cutler said. “Whenever he gets one-on-one, we expect him to win 100 percent of the time, hands down. If he comes to the sideline, and says, 'I just didn’t win,' I say, 'Why not?' He’s that guy and he’s living up to it.”
Marshall had one of those moments when he had to talk to himself about not winning the one-on-one battles with Jaguars cornerback Derek Cox in the first half.
“Hats off to 21, Cox,” Marshall said. “I played against him last year in the preseason and he really got better. He honestly beat me in the first half (when Marshall had four catches for 44 yards). The first half he won that and really humbled me and I was on the sideline talking to myself like, ‘Man, these guys get paid too.’ Just to try to talk myself into (why he was) not winning. So, there are a lot of things that I need to improve on. Be more consistent. There is a couple times when I was out of position on a few routes, a few plays, so I’ve got to be more consistent in my play.”
Jaguars coach Mike Mularkey said he was pleased with Cox’s work all the way up until Marshall’s 24-yard touchdown midway through the fourth quarter when he put a stop-and-go move on that sprung him free for an easy score.
“They move him all around,” Mularkey said. “I said it during the week when you try to match up receivers with DB’s, that can dictate coverages as well. When somebody goes inside and they are not matched up, they’re already getting an answer to the test of what the coverage is. I thought Derek did well all the way up until … I thought we had a chance to get him. We came with a zero blitz, meaning it was one-on-one across the board. They can’t block them all and (Cutler) had to get rid of the ball and they made a great throw. It was an all-out blitz to get him.”
Marshall made critical plays earlier, catching five passes for 37 yards on the 17-play drive to open the third quarter that resulted in Robbie Gould’s go-ahead field goal. Cutler targeted Marshall 17 times and while the quarterback declined to answer the fair and reasonable question two weeks ago – can he target Marshall too much? – the answer is definitively no.
The Bears’ record book at wide receiver is pretty skimpy when it comes to big numbers. It stands to reason the franchise that has conducted decades-long searches for quarterbacks hasn’t had gaudy production from wideouts. Heck, 1,000-yard seasons have been a rarity and it’s been a decade since Booker last accomplished it in 2002.
Here are single-season marks that could be in Marshall’s sights:
Catches in a season – 100 by Marty Booker, 2001.
Catches in a game – 14 by Jim Keane in 1949.
Yards in a season – 1,400 by Marcus Robinson in 1999.
100-yard games in a season – 7 by Jeff Graham in 1995, Harlon Hill in 1954, Ken Kavanaugh in 1947.
Consecutive 100-yard games – 3 by Jeff Graham in 1995, Harlon Hill in 1956.
Touchdowns in a season – 13 by Dick Gordon in 1970, Ken Kavanaugh in 1947.
“I haven’t thought about (a place in the record books),” Marshall said. “It is always an honor to have that opportunity, that platform to have that chance. But it’s all about winning. If we continue to win, we’re all going to be special, we’re all going to go down in some record books.”
2. You can make a compelling case that Charles Tillman will be remembered as the finest cornerback in franchise history. Five games into his 10th season, he’s not showing signs of slowing down, not after returning an interception 36 yards for a touchdown to break the game open in the third quarter. More on exactly what happened on the play in a little bit. I even received a Twitter message during the game wondering if Tillman would one day be Hall of Fame-worthy. That won’t happen and it’s no knock against Tillman, but he has been to just one Pro Bowl.
Tillman has 32 career interceptions, tying him with Donnell Woolford (another one-time Pro Bowl player) for third-most in club history and leaving him within six of Gary Fenck for the all-time most as a Bear. He also has 30 forced fumbles, joining retired Philadelphia Eagles star Brian Dawkins (37 picks, 36 forced fumbles) as the only member of the 30-30 club since 1991, according to STATS LLC.
Tillman’s touchdown gave him eight, the most of any defensive player in club history, breaking a tie with former teammate Mike Brown. More on that in a bit as well.
But all this talk of greatest this and best that leaves Tillman understandably uncomfortable.
“I’m just glad I have been on one team the last 10 years,” he said.
But what about the statistics and his rankings and place among all-time Bears?
“I am hungry,” Tillman said. “I am greedy. I am competitive. Stay hungry. Be competitive. It is tough but it is fun. That’s why we play this game. I am competitive and I think that is what brings out the best in everyone. I am always competing.
“I wish they wouldn’t tell me stats and stuff like that. Tell me when I’m old and the day I retire about all the stats I break. It’s cool, its’ an honor. The Bears go back 200 years, they’re so old and all the great players who’ve come here and what they’ve done. To be that guy, yeah man, it’s an honor to represent this organization with that.”
It’s hard to say if Tillman is the best defensive back ever for the Bears. Fencik, Richie Petitbon, Dave Duerson and Brown all were very skilled safeties and among the best in the NFL at the position during their careers. But Tillman continues to excel.
3. The interception was a pretty easy play for Tillman to make two plays after the Bears went ahead 6-3 following a 17-play drive that consumed 9 minutes, 18 seconds. You only see drives like that about once or twice a season and the Jaguars, who were still waiting to touch the ball in the second half, were antsy. On their second play, after a holding penalty on Eugene Monroe that backed them up into a first-and-20 on their own 15-yard line, the Bears disguised their coverage, dropping safety Major Wright down toward the line of scrimmage. Quarterback Blaine Gabbert thought a hitch route would convert to a fade for rookie wide receiver Justin Blackmon, but they were not on the same page for the timing of the throw – on three steps. Gabbert didn’t realize Tillman turned and bailed and was watching the play develop the entire time. That’s what happens with inexperienced quarterbacks and receivers.
Unlike last Monday at Dallas, when Tillman had nothing but a clear field ahead of him, this time he had to pick and weave a little bit. Brian Urlacher blocked tight end Marcedes Lewis out of the play and defensive end Julius Peppers was careful not to make a block in the back. Tillman credited former Bears teammate Mike Brown with showing him how to set these plays up. Brown was a talented high school running back before he went on to play safety at Nebraska, being named Arizona’s top running back as a senior at Saguaro High School in Scottsdale, Ariz.
“Sometimes, it’s being in the right place at the right time,” Tillman said. “On that one, I give that credit to Mike Brown. I know he’s not playing with us, but I learned a great deal from him, the way he scores and sets up the blocks and he cuts it back. That’s the only person I thought about as I was running. All right Mike B. He runs it, all right, set up the blocks and cut it back, that’s who I was thinking about while I was running. That’s what he woulda did. It worked, I scored. Oh cool, celebrate with your teammates.”
Brown had seven return touchdowns in his career and had injuries not wrecked the second half of his tenure with the franchise, surely that number would have been higher. He just had a knack for being around the ball at the right time.
4. Talked to one veteran coach who has seen plenty of tape of nearly every team in the NFL this season. He did not mention the San Francisco 49ers, who are playing at a high level, but did talk about what he has seen from two good defenses: the Bears and the Houston Texans.
“As far as personnel-wise from what I have seen, the best are Houston and Chicago,” the coach said Sunday night. “The Bears are playing a little better right now. Julius Peppers, Brian Urlacher, Charles Tillman, Lance Briggs, they are the fountain of youth. They shouldn’t be playing as good as they are. I don’t think they should be playing that well at this age but they are. But they just look really good at this point. You hope you don’t have a muscle pull, sometimes with the older guys that is what you have to look out for.
“Every GM in this league is always worried about Year 10. Can a guy make it through the season at that age? But they have proven, great leadership. They’re mature and those guys know what they are doing in that scheme because they have played in it for so long. What they are doing with (Julius) Peppers is phenomenal. They are moving him everywhere on the defensive line and now they’re monitoring his snaps because they have some depth on the line with other guys. So, that should help them keep him healthy.
“Because of their defense, they could be a team that makes a deep push in the playoffs.”
5. So, who pegged Corey Wootton for having more sacks going into the off week than Julius Peppers? It’s not taking a shot at Peppers, who has been a little nicked up and still gotten the bulk of the double teams from opposing offenses. Wootton is playing well coming off the first two-sack game of his career. He made arguably the biggest defensive play of the game and I write that knowing that Charles Tillman and Lance Briggs returned interceptions for touchdowns in the second half.
The game was tied 3-3 in the second quarter when the Jaguars went on a drive with a chance to take the lead. Blaine Gabbert hit Cecil Shorts for a nine-yard gain on third-and-7 to move the chains and then Shorts shook cornerback Tim Jennings on his release at the line of scrimmage for a 34-yard gain to the Bears’ 20-yard line. One play later after the two-minute warning, Wootton blew around right tackle Cameron Bradfield to knock the ball loose from Gabbert, a forced fumble that was recovered by Peppers to end the threat. Surprisingly, it wasn’t reviewed by officials but it looked like Gabbert’s arm was cocked and not moving forward.
It was a big play for Wootton. He did not play well Monday at Dallas and the coaching staff had challenged him to step up his game.
“I was just trying to get off the football,” he said. “Last week I didn’t have too good of a game. Coaches were on me and needed me to pick up my play. I knew I needed to come in and show an impact off the bench.
“I think I was just more focused on my get-off and being able to hit the edge when last week I was going too deep around the quarterback. I just really got a good take-off all day and was able to get a couple.”
Wootton looked like he was reading the snap count but what he was doing was studying Bradfield.
“I felt the tackle leaning a little bit so I kind of figured it would be on one,” he said.
He now has 3 1/2 sacks and two forced fumbles and surely will remain a big part of the mix.
6. Did you see Armando Allen pull up near the goal line on his 46-yard touchdown run, the first play after the two-minute warning in the fourth quarter? It looked odd. Jaguars safety Dawan Landry came up and shoved Allen as he was crossing the goal line.
“There were so many things going through my head,” Allen said. “I am running down the field and I was looking at the clock and I thought, ‘Am I suppose to stop at the 1?’I thought this is my first (NFL touchdown) so I am just going to take it, they can yell at me later. They didn’t say anything to me.”
The inside tackle trap was perfectly executed. Chilo Rachal blocked down. J’Marcus Webb kicked out defensive end Andre Branch and right tackle Gabe Carimi pulled through the hole, clearing out linebacker Julian Stanford. It left Allen to shake free from safety Chris Prosinski once he was through the hole and that was no problem.
“It was just great blocking up front,” Allen said. “Cut to the right, cut to the left and it was just great blocking for my offensive linemen. I didn’t have to do too much but use my speed to get to the outside.”
It would take an extreme circumstance for the sideline to be unhappy with someone crossing the goal line – at any time. Allen should keep that in mind.
7. Kellen Davis got involved early in the game again. A week after three catches for a career-high 62 yards at Dallas, quarterback Jay Cutler looked for his big target. Davis only caught two passes for 26 yards but he was targeted four times, three in the first quarter. The numbers are not huge, but Davis has caught eight balls for 129 yards and one touchdown through five games. He is averaging better than 16 yards per catch and last season he made only 18 receptions for 206 yards.
“The passing game, sometimes it comes to you and sometimes it doesn’t,” tight ends coach Mike DeBord said. “Sometimes you are first in the progression and they cover you, and you’ve got to move on. Sometimes, you’re second. It comes around. He had three big catches in that game and sometimes he wasn’t the first read in that game too. He’s not worried about that. Neither am I.
“Everybody wants to see tight end production and we also have great receivers and great backs. For him to catch three balls in a big ballgame like (Dallas), that is huge. Kellen and everybody here is well aware some days Matt (Forte) might have a lot of catches, and some days Brandon (Marshall) might have a lot of catches and some days Earl (Bennett) might have them. You don’t know how people may change up and play us.”
Davis, at times, has seemed quick to lose his balance when he makes a catch, eliminating the opportunity for the 6-7, 267-pounder to stiff-arm a defender and pick up valuable yards after the catch. DeBord laughed about it but it’s a serious matter.
“It seemed like it in that (Dallas) game a little bit,” DeBord said. “He has a tendency to fall away when he catches it a little bit. Sometimes it’s the catch and sometimes it’s him. Being able to run with it and all that. He’s caught the ball on the run some.”
8. Pat Mannelly added to his franchise record by playing in his 220th game Sunday. Along the way, he’s helped quite a few teammates, including Jeremy Cain, who is now in his fourth season as the long snapper for the Jaguars. Cain originally entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent in 2004 from Massachusetts. He was a linebacker and he bounced between the practice squad and the 53-man roster for two seasons, appearing in a total of eight games.
The Bears allocated Cain to the now-defunct NFL Europe in 2006 and he played linebacker and was the long snapper for the Amsterdam Admirals. It was there that he got some game tape snapping but that chance never would have materialized had it not been for some horseplay before a Saturday walk-through one day.
Cain recalls he was getting ready for a walk-through – practice at very slow speed – when safety Cameron Worrell urged him to snap a few balls. Worrell was one of the few guys that knew Cain had been a long snapper for four seasons at UMass. Cain whipped a few snaps Worrell’s directions and special teams coordinator Dave Toub just happened to see it.
“He came up to me after walk-through and he said, ‘Jeremy, I really think you should take this seriously. You could pursue it if linebacker doesn’t work out,’” Cain said. “That was when all the balls started rolling.”
As fate would have it, his career as a linebacker didn’t go much further. The Bears released Cain at the end of OTA’s in June 2006. Chances are if he had not picked up long snapping, he’d have been out of football years ago.
“There is a strong possibility,” Cain admitted. “There have been a lot of different coaches and players along the way but that was a true turning point when Toub took me aside and said I had a real opportunity to be a long snapper in this league.”
Before he was released, Cain began studying from Mannelly. He did what he could to pick up the nuances of snapping, mostly the stance and blocking techniques.
“Pat was very influential,” Cain said. “He taught me the right footwork for punt protection and learning from just watching him. I was always able to emulate people, whether it was linebacker or a long snapper. He sets the standard for NFL snappers. So, it was good to see him every day while I was considering pursuing a career as a long snapper.
“I would really learn from him just from watching. I watched film of him (last week).”
Now, Cain is much thicker at 6-1, 245 pounds, probably 15 pounds bigger than he was when he was playing linebacker.
He was out of football for nearly a year before the Philadelphia Eagles added him in the 2007 offseason and had him play fullback and try long snapping. They released him after training camp and he signed with the Tennessee Titans in mid-October. Their long snapper Kenny Amato suffered a season-ending knee injury in a matter of days and Cain won a competition to hold the job for the remainder of the season, the first time he snapped in an NFL regular-season games.
Amato came back in 2008 and won his job and Cain was out of football for the season. The Washington Redskins signed him in the 2009 offseason and he was doing well before he was released at the end of OTA’s. This time, he was claimed by the Jaguars and he stuck. He’s been snapping for them since.
Mannelly downplayed his role in helping Cain’s career take off.
“At this level, if you are going to work with a guy, he can either snap or he can’t snap as far as form, grip and spinning the ball,” Mannelly said. “I guess you’ve got it. He had it. He had the ability and the ball came off his hands great and he had all that stuff. But then there are a lot of little things you have to learn, protection-wise, scheme wise, knowing and anticipating what is coming and footwork stuff.
“In college all the kids can snap but they can’t snap and set back. We worked on snapping and setting back and getting your body in position to be able to block after you snap.”
Toub said it’s natural to always be looking for a backup snapper. He had a quality one in fullback Tyler Clutts last season. Tight end Matt Spaeth held the role for the first three games but now swing offensive tackle Jonathan Scott is Mannelly’s backup.
“He’s got ability, he’s accurate and he’s got great zip on the ball,” Toub said. “He’s not going to do much in coverage but he can snap it.
“Jeremy took the ball and ran with it and carved a niche for himself. Usually, they come find you if they can snap. They want to show you. He did a lot of work on his own.”
9. With the momentum the Bears are enjoying during a three-game winning streak, especially the way they are playing on defense, it is worth wondering if the off week comes at a good time for them.
“Guys are playing well,” defensive end Julius Peppers said. “There is no other way to put it. We’ve got to continue. The bye is not coming at the best time. It is, but it isn’t. We want to continue to riding this wave but it is a good opportunity for us to rest up and get guys healthy.”
Peppers is one player who could benefit from a rest. He’s been battling plantar fasciitis this season and more recently an ankle issue. A little time off might do the body right. The Bears are expected to practice Tuesday and Wednesday before a four-day weekend.
10. The Bears go into the off week knowing it has been good to them in recent years. Lovie Smith is 5-3 in the game following the off week and 5-1 in the last six seasons, with the only loss being 21-14 at Atlanta in the 2009 season that backed Smith into a win-or-else position. The most impressive thing about the 5-1 record is that four of the victories have come on the road, including last year at Philadelphia.
10 a. Here is a positive statistic that jumps out: On offense, the Bears are converting 42.9 percent of third downs. That is what a big play wide receiver can do.
10 b. Condolences to the friends and family of William Christopher Pettry, 42, of Lake Villa. He was killed in a bar during the early-morning hours Sunday, a block from the hotel where the Bears were staying. Pettry had traveled to Jacksonville to attend the game. Police have a suspect in custody.
10 c. Jahvid Best could make his 2012 debut when the Bears play next. The Detroit Lions running back has been on the physically unable to perform list but will be eligible to return to practice Oct. 15 and could potentially be in action Oct. 22 when the Lions come to Soldier Field on “Monday Night Football.” Best last played on Oct. 16, 2011 when he suffered a concussion against the San Francisco 49ers. Best, who reportedly will undergo tests this week, rushed for a career-high 163 yards and one touchdown (an 88-yarder) against the Bears in Week 5 last season.
Arguing on the internet is like winning the special olympics, even if you win your still messed up.
Restore the roar!
One point that stands out is the two player touch down return on defense // first time in nfl history /// well the football gods are with da bears this sesaon double check that
High Fives / Like - 1 BEAR DOWN!, 0 Dislikes
no discount double check either....that is a full priced football gods blessing double check.
High Fives / Like - 1 BEAR DOWN!, 0 Dislikes
He stole that move from MMA and pro-wrestlers who have been using that for years.
Originally Posted by Riczaj01
Arguing on the internet is like winning the special olympics, even if you win your still messed up.
Restore the roar!
I like the thought that Jerry Angelo is no longer employed by the bears.