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Match-Up That Matters: Bears at Bucs

| November 10th, 2016

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The Bears travel to Tampa for a match-up of two pretty evenly-matched teams. What will tell the tale?

Bears Rushing Attack

vs.

Tampa’s Poor Rush Defense

Three thoughts:

  • The Bears ran the ball with toughness and determination against a terrific Vikings defense with backup guards. From all reports, Josh Sitton and Kyle Long will return to the lineup Sunday. Long and Sitton aren’t just their two best offensive linemen. They are two of the best players on the team and leaders on the field. Their return should be worth 25+ additional yards.
  • Bucs are allowing more than 117 yards per game on the ground at 4.1 yards per carry. If Bears stay committed to the run,  and we know they will, they should have tremendous success on the ground.
  • Only one back in the league has a better yards per carry than Jordan Howard. (That would be the revelation that is Jay Ajayi in Miami. Reason #31 you don’t break the bank for CJ Anderson.) Howard isn’t going to beat a healthy Ezekiel Elliot for Rookie of the Year but I expect him to make a formidable argument over the second half of the season. That starts in Tampa.

If the Bears run it well, they win. I think they will…and do.

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Across The Middle — Week Nine

| November 2nd, 2016

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There were a lot of reasons why the Bears beat the Vikings. The biggest is the simplest: the Bears had a QB who could make plays under duress and the Vikings didn’t.

That’s right, Jay Cutler is back and he reminded us all why the talk of moving on from him is premature (and probably stupid).

Everyone wants to talk about the arm but the arm isn’t what makes Cutler so good. Against arguably the best defense in the NFL, without his two best offensive linemen and two of his three or four best receivers, Cutler was in complete control. After a shaky start, he threw strike after strike, converting third down after third down, time after time.

When the shit hit the fan — and it did quite often — Cutler stayed cool and made the throws he needed to make. The Bears came into the game as one of the worst third-down offenses in the league. Thry were 7-for-14 against the Vikings.

This came days after a report that John Fox was “done” with Cutler. The report clearly got to the quarterback, who showed as much emotion as he ever has, including an somewhat teary embrace with QB Coach Dave Ragone after the Bears clinched the win.

I don’t know if these last eight games will be Cutler’s last with the team. I don’t think anybody really knows. But Cutler has the ability to control his own destiny. And regardless of what anyone in the front office thinks, it has been made crystal clear that the guys in the locker room love him.

If Cutler keeps playing like he did Monday night and like he has for most of the last two seasons, the Bears would be crazy to move on for an unknown.

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Bears Dominate Vikings in Jay’s Return

| November 1st, 2016

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Jay Cutler was great. The defense was great. And the Bears dominated a team someone (me) told you was a great match-up for them. Rapid fire.

  • The pass rush did exactly what it should against that Vikings offensive line. Minnesota had no answer for McPhee, Floyd or Hicks.
  • Jordan Howard is the real deal and it seemed John Fox came to that realization at some point Monday night. This is not a player who should be rotating at the running back position. He is their best runner at the position, their best pass catcher at the position and a solid pass blocker. Spell him, of course, but he should be getting twenty-five touches every week.
  • Two plays stood out to Jon Gruden Monday night when it came to Cutler. One, obviously, was the step up in the pocket shuffle pass to Howard for a big gain. The other was far more subtle. Later in the game. First down. The pocket collapsed on Cutler and he scrambled to his left and ran for a gain of one or two. Was it a big play? No. Does Brian Hoyer lose seven or eight yards on it? Absolutely. That’s the difference.

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Across The Middle – Week Seven

| October 19th, 2016

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We entered this season believing in John Fox for one reason above all else: Thanksgiving 2015. He needs a repeat performance to restore the faith.

As mediocre as the Packers have been this season, the Bears roster should not be able to compete in this game. They’ll likely be down their top four cornerbacks and three of their top four pass rushers. Oh, and Brian Hoyer is going to be the quarterback. The same argument was made about the Thanksgiving night game last year, but the Bears won because they played their butts off and John Fox was a large part of the reason why.

Fox has never been and is never going to be a good in-game coach. His teams are never going to be known for their discipline and his philosophies will always be simple. But Fox has survived because his players fight for him and give him everything they have. Fox needs to show he can still get that out of them this week.

I don’t know if winning the game is realistic. The Packers are ticked off and the “what’s wrong with Aaron Rodgers” questions are guaranteed to bring out his best. As important as wins and losses are, this Bears season should have never been defined that way.

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Across The Middle — Week 6

| October 12th, 2016

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Well, now what?

The loss to the Colts may have been the most disappointing of the season to me because it ended any chance the Bears had of becoming relevant this season.

I didn’t think they’d make the playoffs but I expected the Bears to be relevant. I expected them to a be a team nobody wanted to play and I expected to see serious signs of growth. A win over Indianapolis would’ve put them at 2-3 with a  chance to go 3-3 next week before they played the Packers in a Thursday night game. At that point, anything would’ve been possible.

But they lost to the Colts, a bad team. Making the loss worse, they Colts are a bad team that was coming off of a trip to another country, while the Bears were coming off of their first win. It was a game the Bears had to win and didn’t.

There are still bright spots this season and I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I think the Bears have a very good GM and a lot of excellent young talent. They actually have a better record through Pace’s first 21 games than the Packers did with Ted Thompson. But that doesn’t make me feel better today.

There’s always next year, for most of us anyway. Depending on how the rest of this season goes, that could bring some very difficult questions.

The biggest question is the coach and there is no easy answer.

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Across The Middle — Week Five

| October 5th, 2016

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After parading my son around the house while playing “Bear Dowwwwwnnn Chicago Bears…” my wife gave me a puzzled look and said: “The Bears won?”

“Of course they did,” I replied.

To which she asked one question: “Jay Cutler is going to get fired, isn’t he?”

I had to think for a second, but I could only come to one answer: “Probably.”

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Bears Get on the Board, Beat Lions in a Snoozer: Rapid Fire Reaction

| October 3rd, 2016

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 02: Jordan Howard #24 of the Chicago Bears tries to break away from Devin Taylor #98 of the Detroit Lions at Soldier Field on October 2, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

The argument I made all offseason as to why the Bears would be more competitive in 2016, especially within the division, was because they were already competitive within the division LAST season. Yes, they went 1-5. But both Detroit games and the home Vikings game were complete coin flips. The only time a division opponent clearly outclassed them was in Minnesota, a game the Vikings needed and Bears didn’t.

Yesterday the depleted Bears weren’t just better than Detroit. They dominated them. If their special teams show up, the game is never close. Other thoughts…

  • Brian Hoyer is going to be the story this week. Nobody thinks less of Hoyer than I do but that kind of efficiency will excite John Fox in the tape study sessions. He dinks and dunks, sure, but the offense looked like a real offense for the first time this season.
  • So why so few points? Well, Hoyer is why. Alshon Jeffery will be reduced to basically the third option as long as Hoyer is playing quarterback. Hoyer is a timing/crossing route quarterback. Jeffery is a downfield home run hitter. There were a few moments yesterday where Jeffery was isolated in man coverage and Cutler would have unquestionably tossed a jump ball for him. Hoyer (a) doesn’t think that way and (b) can’t physically do it.
  • And so begins the Jordan Howard era? 23 for 111. 4.8 average. He’s big. He’s quick. He’s tough to bring down. And against Detroit he showed his versatility in the passing attack. Jeremy Langford’s role changed yesterday.
  • The offensive line is improving every single week.

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DaBearsBlog Weekend Show – Week 4 (9/30/16)

| September 29th, 2016

On the Weekend Show:

    • Christy Moore songs! A shitload of em!
    • Jordan Howard as the season savior?
    • Reverend Dave talks about seeing Jay O. Sanders naked and somehow brings it home.
    • Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free-Press breaks down where the Lions currently stand as an organization and talks me off the ledge.
    • Prediction: Bears 23, Lions 20

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Match-ups That Matter: Detroit Lions at Chicago Bears

| September 29th, 2016

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The Detroit Lions are putting up big time offensive numbers right now. You can criticize their opponents – and there’s much to criticize there – but that’s irrelevant for Sunday. Kill the Colts, Titans and Packers all you want but all three teams have better quarterbacks than Brian Hoyer and healthier defenses than the Chicago Bears. The Lions are going to score points at Soldier Field. Breaking that match-up down makes little sense. Here’s the match-up that might swing the game.

Jordan Howard & the Bears Offensive Line

vs.

Detroit’s Rush Defense

  • Jordan Howard has opportunity to change the narrative of the 2016 Bears season. Think that’s a bit of an overstatement? It may be. But consider the headlines in Chicago Monday morning should the Bears beat Detroit on the shoulders of a 22 carry, 125 yard, 2 touchdown performance by a rookie running back. Hope for the future is dependent upon the emergence of young stars. Howard can emerge Sunday.
  • It was obvious the strength of this offense was going to be their guard and center play by the middle of the season. Unfortunately the Bears can no longer wait that long. They’ve cut their fullback and a tight end brought in to strengthen the rushing attack. The right tackle is a nightmare, surprisingly in the run game as well as the passing attack. The Bears need Sitton-Whitehair-Long to be the toughest guys in the room. They’re capable of doing it.

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