Category Archives: Bears

Earl Bennett Deserves Credit


By: Brady Stiff

Earl Bennett is not a “sexy” receiver. He’s not the biggest, fastest, strongest, or flashiest guy in the NFL. He is, though, ultra-reliable, and the best receiver on the Bears.

Earl Bennett lays out for extra yardage in Week 2 against the Cowboys.

If anyone on the offensive side of the ball from the Bears deserves Pro Bowl consideration, it’s Earl Bennett. Yes, Jay Cutler has played well (most of the time). Sure, Devin Hester and Johnny Knox are speed demons. But there’s no question in my mind that Cutler’s number one target is Bennett. It was demonstrated yesterday against the Lions. Cutler hit him seven times for 104 yards. The one I remember most is when he made the catch, then dragged several Lions for 5-10 more yards.

A quick look at Bennett’s numbers shows 39 catches for 457 yards and three scores. What that stat line doesn’t show, however is the number of third down conversions from Cutler to Bennett. It seems like every time the Bears need to pick up a first down through the air, number 80 is option number one.  During this current five game winning streak, the Bears are 36 of 68, which is just better than 50%.  The top team this year in third down conversions is the Falcons at 48%.  Cutler has thrown to Bennett on third down 14 times, and completed 9 of those throws.  It amy not seem like a lot, but it’s clear Cutler trusts Bennett.  He’s a smart, sure-handed receiver and he hasn’t fumbled all year.

The top receivers in the league this year as far as yards go are Brandon Lloyd (an excellent mid-season fantasy pickup for me I might add), Roddy White, Reggie Wayne, Andre Johnson and Terrell Owens. Lloyd, White, and Wayne all have close to three times the amount of receiving yards as Bennett. Dwayne Bowe leads the league with 14 touchdowns this year to Bennett’s three. Three other guys are in double digits.

The point I’m trying to make is that while his numbers don’t stack up with the league leaders, and probably not too many people know his name outside of Chicago, there’s been nobody more valuable to the Bears on offense this season. Bennett won’t win the MVP, and he may not even get a single Pro Bowl vote, but there’s no doubt in my mind that the Bears wouldn’t be 9-3 without the services of Earl Bennett.

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Maybe…


Maybe this team is back to playing good football.  Or, maybe they are who we thought they would be.  Either way, the Bears played a really good football game yesterday.  They beat the Vikings up and down the field, in every aspect of the game.

Devin Hester continues to haunt opponents on special teams.

Maybe the Vikings were just what the Bears needed to wake back up.  Maybe Mike Martz finally found some balance in his offense.  Maybe the fact that the Bears were finally able to run the ball gave Martz the balance he’s been looking for all along.

Maybe Lovie Smith finally came to his senses and put Devin Hester back on kickoff returns.  Maybe he’ll be back there the rest of the season, and he can finally get back to his rookie season ways, returning kicks for touchdowns.

Sensing a theme here?  There’s no doubt that the Bears played a good game yesterday.  Some may even call it great.  I wouldn’t go that far, but the Bears looked like a playoff contender yesterday.  What I’m saying though, is I’m not jumping on the Super Bowl Or Bust bandwagon just yet.

There are just too many questions, too many maybes left for this team to answer.

The three biggest story lines to come out of yesterday’s game are:

1.  Devin Hester’s Special Teams Play

  • Hester returned two punts for 47 yards, and two kickoffs for 100 yards.
  • While he didn’t score, his returns helped the field position game, led to points.

2.  The Running Game

  • Both Matt Forte and Chester Taylor got involved, combining for 104 yards on 32 carries.  It was a much better performance than the 66 yards they put up against the Bills last week.
  • Credit the Bears’ offensive line, which despite more than their fair share of penalties, opened holes as well as kept Jay Cutler upright.

3.  Defense

  • It’s not often that a team can hold Adrian Peterson down.  Especially when that team is the Bears.  Historically, Peterson has always played well against the Bears, but he was held to just 51 yards on 17 carries.
  • Credit the defensive line for constantly getting penetration in the backfield.  Also, the Bears swarmed the ball whenever they had a chance.  Peterson was not allowed to use his strength to break tackles.  It’s a welcome change from the Bears’ normal style of strip the ball first, tackle second.
  • The secondary may have gotten lucky a couple of times with receivers falling down, but hey, we’ll take three picks any time.

One point that definitely belongs in the top three storylines of the game is the Bears’ third down efficiency.  I’m just too lazy to go back and change things around, but it worked out because this deserves a paragraph of its own.  It’s no secret that the Bears have struggled on third down this year, and it’s hard not to when you’re constantly in 3rd and 10 or longer because of sacks.  The Bears went 11-for-19 on 3rd down, good for 57%.  The icing on the cake came on 3rd and short midway through the 4th quarter.  The Bears easily could have run it, and probably picked up the first down, but they went with a play action pass for an easy touchdown to Kellen Davis.  It was the kind of inventive play call that Bears fans have been waiting for.

It’s nice to have a lead and to be able to afford to risk passing on 3rd and short, right?

I’ve been reluctant to give Lovie Smith any credit this season, because I’m so sick of his act (and I truly believe it’s an act).  But him and his staff deserve high marks for their game plan against the Vikings.  Like I said, this win could be misleading because of the state of the Vikings, but a win is a win.

Despite themselves, the Bears now sit at 6-3, tied atop the NFC North.  The real test for the Bears’ coaching staff comes with a short week.  The Dolphins always present a tough matchup, but I believe Thursday’s game is winnable because of the turmoil the Dolphins have at quarterback.  The Bears should be able to handle Miami’s wildcat package, but they run it better than anyone.

Could the Bears find themselves in an unfamiliar situation after 10 games?  Only time will tell, but the momentum gained from Sunday’s good effort should help.

 

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Lovie’s Act Getting Old


I think most Bears’ fans would agree that Lovie Smith is not the long-term solution for the Bears in the head coach’s office.

I think we’ve known this for a long time, but Lovie’s press conferences are getting to be insulting.  The Bears have been around for a long time, and they have one of the biggest fan bases in the  NFL.  Maybe it’s just Lovie’s personality, but I think a lot of Bears fans are ready to storm Halas Hall with pitchforks and torches.

Lovie Smith's deadpan personality is painful to listen to.

His decision to not challenge when Jay Cutler “fumbled” early in the second half on Sunday is one moment that Bears fans will remember for a long time coming.  Honestly, I didn’t have a problem with the challenge on the previous play, when Earl Bennett was tackled at the one yard line.  Considering the Bears’ track record with first and goal from the one this season (0-for-10 now I think), I thought it was a no-brainer challenge.  I can somewhat understand Lovie’s trepidation to use two challenges on two consecutive plays, especially early in the second half in a close game.

That being said, the replays were pretty darn conclusive that Jay Cutler reached the ball over the goal line, and Lovie admitted yesterday that he should have challenged the play.  What we don’t know, is whether or not the people upstairs told him to challenge.  Maybe they did, and maybe he just ignored them.

The fact remains, Lovie sucks at challenging.  I’m not sure what his record is, but it just seems like he hardly ever wins challenges.  Anyways…

This season especially, I’ve noticed that Lovie has tried to take some accountability for the team’s struggles.  Great, but I’m not sure how effective it is to admit that you’re not doing your job as well as you could.  Frankly, it’s time for him to stop apologizing for himself, and start doing something to fix what’s wrong.  The offensive line’s struggles are well-publicized, Jay Cutler looked like the 2009 edition on Sunday, and Johnny Knox really struggled.

What can Lovie do to fix all those things?  Well, it’s his job as head coach to figure it out.

Despite themselves, the Bears sit atop the NFC North.  The Packers have injury problems, and the Vikings future is uncertain as Brett Favre has a legitimate injury.  That all being said, I think the Bears still miss the playoffs.

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Lovie Had Better Grow Some Hair…


…on his face.

What's wrong with this picture?

The Bears are 3-0, the only NFC team that can say that.  There’s only two other teams in the entire league that can say that.  Say what you want about the Chiefs, but the Steelers certainly are legit, and they don’t even have their quarterback yet.

The key to the Bears’ season, whether they make a deep playoff run or not, has nothing to do with the Tampa 2, Jay Cutler, or Juilus Peppers.

Nope, it has nothing to do with Devin Hester returning punts, Tommie Harris being inactive, or Mike Martz’s 400-page playbook. Continue reading

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Inside the Film Room–Week 2


It’s time to get back into the film room to go over the Bears’ impressive win over the Cowboys.  Say what you want about how bad the Cowboys are this season, it’s still a game that the Bears were an underdog for, so to be 2-0 is a great thing.

OFFENSE

Jay Cutler had the kind of game Bears fans envisioned when he signed with Chicago.

Quarterback

Jay Cutler was as impressive in this game as he’s been in his entire Bears’ career.  His line: 21/29, 277 yards, 3 TD’s, ZERO INTERCEPTIONS.  Any Bears fan knows exactly why I CAPS LOCKED the ZERO INTERCEPTIONS.  The Cowboys blitzed him often and early, and while early on it looked like he was going to have a long day, Cutler adjusted by keeping plays alive and finding hot reads on several occasions, once even leading to a touchdown.   Continue reading

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Inside the Film Room–Week 1


Each week, I’ll take a closer look at the Bears game, after the fact, and try to figure out why they won or lost.  We’ll start with the nearly disastrous win over the Detroit Lions.  While the Bears have a 1-0 record according to the standings, many (including me) feel that the Bears should be 0-1.  We’ll talk about that controversial play a little bit later, but we’ll start with the…

OFFENSE

Quarterback–Jay Cutler

Was this a touchdown? By rule no, but I say the Bears should be 0-1

When you look at Cutler’s numbers after the game, you’d probably think they were pretty impressive.  He was 23-of-35 for 372 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.  Not a bad display for the first real game in Mike Martz’s new offense.  A guy like Cutler should thrive in a system like this, though we’ll see just how much he’s thriving when he plays against a real defense next week.  His QB rating of 108.3 is well above his career average. Continue reading

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Who is This Franchise, and What Have You Done With the Real Bears?


By Brady Stiff

The free agency period in the NFL began last night at 11:01 Central Time.  For the Bears, it started out as many expected, with the Bears saying no Antrell Rolle’s price tag right away.

The Bears are already major players.

That’s right, that’s exactly what I said.  No need to restart your computer, get your eyes checked, or pinch yourself to wake up.

The Chicago Bears are major players in free agency.

As I was driving into work this morning, the Bears reportedly were close to signing TE Brandon Manumaleuna.  By the time I got to my computer, the Chicago Tribune was reporting that Manumaleuna agreed to a five year deal with the Bears.  He was in St. Louis with Mike Martz and Lovie Smith, so he’ll easily feel at home here in Chicago.  He’s known as more of a blocking tight end, something the Bears were lacking in Greg Olsen.

Does that mean Olsen is as good as gone?  Not necessarily, but it should light a fire under him.  Hopefully the trade rumors swirling around him and the acquisition of Manumaleuna make him play better.

Julius Peppers would be a huge acquisition for Jerry Angelo and the Bears

The other interesting nugget I heard on the radio this morning was that Julius Peppers would be visiting Halas Hall today, and some are reporting that he could sign today.

What?  Peppers wants to come here?  Now?

The Bears are applying the full court press too, sending Lovie down to Charlotte to fly back to Chicago with Peppers and his agent.  As David Haugh points out, that may simply be to ensure that Peppers’ plane actually gets to Chicago, and not Washington, DC.  It seems that while Peppers will certainly command a large sum of money ($15 million/year?), the Bears seem willing to put up the cash.  In an uncapped year, it appears the Bears might finally be doing what’s necessary to win now. Continue reading

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