Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Bears Fans

There are two types of Bears fans - the one's who recognize the Lovie is a good coach and the Bears are a fairly well run organization and the ones who complain about everything.

I've read all about the Bear-Raider game and I am just amazed by how many ignorant fans criticize everything from Hanie to the play calling to the organization. The Bears just won five in a row and had to go to the West Coast to play a pretty tough Raider team without Jay Cutler. Sure Hanie had a few bad plays but people need to get a grip.

What I cannot stand is the Bears' "fan" who is constantly complaining about Lovie and Martz being horrible coaches, or the organization for being "cheap." I've talked about the way the hard cap works in the NFL. The Bears always spend appropriately. They are going to use up their extra cap space this year on contract extensions. They were hoping to get Forte's deal done first but are not starting to look at other players (Garza got his extension).

I did not like the play call that led to the Caleb Hanie interception right before halftime, but the call could have easily worked and I blame the error more on Hanie than on the coaches for calling it.

I expect to see more running against KC, and I expect to see a win this weekend. If we lose to what I perceive to be a weaker KC team then I will start to worry about the playoffs. In fact, I expect to win the next three (KC, at Denver, Seattle). If we do that we probably clinch a spot in the playoffs.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Bears Lose

Caleb Hanie played a horrible first half, but settled in and played a solid second half and nearly pulled out a win. His inexperience showed with 3 first half interceptions. His first one was a bad throw that he should have thrown out of bounds. His second just soared on him but it wasn't a bad decision. His last one was just plain awful. The Bears D had kept them in the game and Hanie had gotten the Bears to the Oakland 6 yard line. There was 35 seconds left, the Bears were second and 1 yard, the clock was stopped, and the Bears were trailing 9-7. Mike Martz called a play action sprint out to the right with a throw back to the tight end on the left. Hanie got out the right and just turned and flipped the ball to the left without looking. The Raiders intercepted it and ended up kicking a field goal to end the half. Terrible play by Hanie.

I would have run the ball three straight times - the Bears were able to open up some holes and had some success. The Bears could have taken the lead 14-9 at the half - at the least it should have been 10-9 Bears, but a questionable play call and even worse execution blew that up.

All that said, the Bears had a chance to beat a solid Raider team on the road - they just didn't. I fell pretty comfortable with Hanie and as long as he beats KC this week in Chicago, things should be fine. I expect to see Orton at QB this week, but the Bears seem to be the better team.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Let the Caleb Hanie Project Begin

I have full confidence in Caleb Hanie keeping the Bears roll going. He is a vet and can make all the key throws. The Bears defense and special teams just need to step up and the Bears offense should be able to work through Forte and Barber to get things done. The Bears passing game has a lot of short passes, slants, outs, and screen passes - all of these are easy throws for Hanie. We will need for him to take a few shots down the field, and he has the arm to do it.

Quite honestly, I expect the Bears to win at least 4 of the last 6. With Cutler I expected 5 of 6.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Bears Roll . . . But . . .

As expected the Bears easily handled the Chargers to run their winning streak to 5 games. However, Jay Cutler fractured his right thumb. We'll know more later but it could be season ending.

The Bears were really getting things going so this is a major setback. Caleb Hanie gets his shot and the Bears can win games with him but we need Jay to beat the Packers in the playoffs.

Couple of thoughts about the game. The O-line didn't give up a sack and I thought Edwin played reasonably well for injured Chris Williams. There were a few QB pressures but no major breakdowns. Run blocking was not as good. That is where we really missed Chris.

The D was OK. Major Wright had a big interception - third week in a row. The D line played well but there were some missed tackles/assignments by the linebackers. I thought Tillman struggled with Vincent Jackson, but he forced a critical fumble. Overall it wasn't a dominating defensive performance but it was a good one.

Hester nearly broke two punts and the special teams were good. We missed the pass on the fake punt. It was an odd call but I had no problem with it.

With Jay's injury I still expect the Bears to win at least 3 of their last 6 and make the playoffs. We'll see.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Bears - Chargers Thoughts

I've been avoiding predictions the last few weeks - more because of time constraints than anything else.

I like the matchup this weekend for the Bears. They play a reeling Charger team that is banged up on the O-line and struggling on D. Rivers is struggling with pass protection and it is resulting in tons of turnovers. With the Bears D getting turnovers each week since they changed their starting safeties, I expect that trend to continue. Add to that the Cutler-Rivers rivalry from when Cutler was in Denver and I think it is set up nicely for a big win at home for the Bears.

I'd like to see continued balance on offense with Forte/Barber running the ball and a solid passing attack. However, this is a week where I would like to see Cutler take some big shots down the field to try to build higher confidence in the passing game. The offensive line should be able to handle the Chargers rush and with some play action and deeper dropbacks the Bears should be able to take some shots down the field.

Can't wait.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Accuscore Playoff Odds

The Bears have gone from having a 20 percent chance of making the playoffs to a 60 percent chance in the last two weeks because of their two huge wins against Philly and Detroit.

I like the way the D is playing and special teams are always a plus for the Bears. The offense is going to have to become a bit more consistent in the passing game and with pass blocking. To have any chance of beating the Packers, they will have to make some offensive plays to keep drives going, but they have the right type of team to beat them. You need to be able to play great D to slow down the Packers' offense, you need special teams to make some plays, and you need to be able to run the ball to keep Rodgers off the field.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Bears D Moving Away from Tampa 2

For anyone who has watched the Bears the last couple of weeks it is obvious that the Bears are shifting away from the Tampa 2 and playing much more press, man coverage.

Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings have been great and they have a very solid nickel corner in D.J. Moore who also excels in man. Chris Conte and Major Wright have been huge at the safety positions, but even they have excelled in press man when necessary. All five guys have forced fumbles and/or gotten big interceptions.

This shift is critical to try to close the gap with the Packers. You just cannot expect to play straight zone against Aaron Rodgers - he will pick you apart. You have to mix it up and get some pressure from the front 4 if you expect to win.

I like what the coaches are doing and I think the players like the opportunity to be more aggessive. We'll see how it works out as the season wears on, but it is looking good so far.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Bears Roll Over Lions

Four wins in a row. The Bears are who I thought they were.

This was as good a defensive performance as you will ever see in the NFL. The Bears dominated the Lions. They had constant pressure on Stafford, they stripped balls away and they got four interceptions including two pick-6 returns. The Lions had a lot of garbage time yards in the second half, but they were meaningless yards and as the Bears tightened up their D near the goal line the Lions just couldn't do much. If anything, I thought the Bears should have had 2 more interceptions. D.J. Moore dropped an easy one in the end zone and Chris Conte had a deflected pass go through his hands.

Devin Hester is ridiculous. No one should ever kick to him, but his 82 yard return made it 20-0 and pretty much ended the game in the first half. He had another 29 yard return that led to a short field drive for a field goal. Gould hit a couple of field goals (he did miss one from 45 yards that looked like the wind hit it) and pretty much all of his many kickoffs were touchbacks. Needless to say, special teams did their part.

Offensively the team was efficient, but nothing special. The first three drives were TD, FG, FG. Then, the fourth drive was a Cutler fumble inside the Bears 20 where he just lost the ball on his way to giving a Forte handoff. It could have allowed the Lions to claw back in but the D held them to a field goal. The Bears closed out the first half with a nice drive but they missed the field goal. I think part of the problem for the offense was that they had long stretches where they weren't on the field (Hester TD, 2 pick-6's).

There was a pretty serious injury for the Bears. Chris Williams hurt his wrist and had to have emergency surgery last night. He is probably done for the season, which sucks because he was playing well. Edwin Williams looks like he is going to start, but I expect that we will see Carimi back at RT soon and Lance Louis moving over to the guard position. It may have some impact, but you got to just roll with injuries.

The Bears now play four straight against the AFC West. San Diego comes to town next week. The Bears should take that one.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Paterno Fired

Good!

His legacy is tarnished by his own hand and he won't ever get the celebratory sendoff that he probably expected.

While he likely won't face criminal prosecution, it is likely that if he does not set up a restitution fund he will be facing significant litigation and civil penalties for his inaction in stopping a child predator.

Supporters of Paterno who think the Board was wrong to terminate him should think about the kids that are permanently scarred by Sandusky, and think about the fact that it appears that Paterno and Penn State officials could EASILY have prevented much of the abuse. Look in their faces and talk to them before crying that Paterno was wronged in some way.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Paterno to Retire

He is going to announce that he is going to retire at the end of this season. That is just not good enough. He should step down right now. What he allowed to happen is so horrifying that he should not be allowed to continue.

It is clear that Paterno knew something was up with Sandusky. He said in his statement, "If this is true we were all fooled, along with scores of professionals trained in such things, and we grieve for the victims and their families." I'm sorry but he was not fooled. We know that he was aware of at least 2 issues with Sandusky in 1998 (which led to Sandusky's forced retirement) and in 2002 when a graduate assistant witnessed Sandusky attacking a 10 year old boy in the Penn State shower and told Paterno about it. (I'm not at all clear why the GA didn't intervene and/or call police himself.)

When asked about why he didn't do more after the GA came to his home and told him what he saw in 2002, Paterno admitted that the GA was "distraught," but then claimed that the GA did not tell him about the "very specific actions" that are now in the grand jury report. This is truly unbelievable. What more did Paterno need? If one of my students came to me "distraught" and told me that they saw a colleague touching a 10 year old boy in a shower that is enough for me to call police. I don't need details, especially when I know there was at least one other allegation of child sexual abuse for this colleague.

Joe needs to go right now. I don't know how he lives with himself knowing that he allowed this to take place. But he should not be allowed to walk out on his own terms and have a celebratory sendoff. He should meet any of the victims who want to face him and answer any questions they have. Then he should take his millions in pension and retirement money and give it to them. They paid a far heavier price than he could ever pay for his mistakes.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Joe Paterno and Penn State

There is a full scale crisis that has hit Penn State and its legendary coach Joe Paterno. The news this weekend that long-time defensive coordinator allegedly raped young at-risk boys that were under his care is shocking.

The problem for Joe Paterno is that he was told by an upset graduate assistaint in 2002 that he saw Jerry Sandusky abusing a boy in the Penn State locker room shower. Now, aside from the fact that this graduate assistant should have stopped the abuse immediately and called police, it seems clear that Paterno knew about it. Inexplicably, the GA called his Dad that night and then reported it to Paterno the next day at his house. What did Paterno do? He waited another full day and then told the athletic director. Then apparently it just died as there is no evidence that anything happened. Unacceptable.

There is also information that a custodian saw Sandusky on another occasion and reported it to the athletic director. Sandusky also took a young boy to the Alamo Bowl. This boy stayed with him in his room at the team hotel. If I was Paterno I would have thought this odd.

Obviously it is shocking that Penn State never called the police. They just swept it under the rug. Sandusky retired in 1999 after a 1998 allegation of child sexual abuse emerged. But Penn State still allowed him to have an office on campus and use Penn State facilities for his camps to help at-risk kids. He used the Nittany Lions name and reputation to lure kids into his nightmarish web, and he was fully enabled by Paterno and Penn State.

It is beyond comprehension how anyone could allow this to happen, but that is just what Paterno did. I don't care that Paterno is 84 and he has helped so many people out. There is no excuse and Paterno's legacy is forever tarnished - that is the least Paterno will have to live with.

Franchise Tag Fact

Under the new CBA the franchise tag values have dropped significantly. It used to be that if you were slapped with the franchise tag you got paid the average of the top five salaries at your position. Now it is the average of the top salary in each year over the last five years. Obviously this has a big impact on salaries.

For Matt Forte, under the old rules he would get about $8.6 million next year, but under the new rules he will get about $7.7 million. Given that, getting $14 million guaranteed is a very fair offer. He can risk injury or take the money and security.

The Bears have no need to go way over the franchise tag figure - it represents a very high salary. If Forte is franchised twice he will earn about $16 million for two years but it would only be guaranteed each year, meaning that if he is hurt this year he gets nothing. If he is hurt next year then he will "only" get $7.7 million. If he signs his extension now, he gets $14 million even if he is hurt in practice today.

Garza Extended

The Bears gave center Roberto Garza a 2 year extension. I'm guessing that there will be a new deal announced for Earl Bennett in the next couple of weeks.

Obviously, Matt Forte would be a nice extension, but he will be with the Bears as a franchised player if they need to do that. As I wrote earlier it is really more up to him than the Bears whether he signs or not.

A couple of other guys that are coming up for extension are starting corner Tim Jennings, special teams standout Corey Graham, Izzy Idonoje, and TE Kellen Davis. Of that group, I'd like to see all of them signed, but Jennings is probably the most critical.

The Bears have significant money under the cap this year to pay out signing bonuses. I fully expect them to use it on the right extensions. One thing most people don't understand is the Bears spend as much as everyone - they are not cheap - but they sign the right players at the right prices for the most part. They never have the big purges that many teams have to have because of cap problems.

3 in a Row!

The Bears won a huge game on the road in Philly last night. It was a game that went back and forth with some great plays and some miscues that could have derailed the Bears, but they overcame.

Just a couple of thoughts. First and foremost, the offensive line is really coming together. No sacks and huge holes for Forte and Barber to run through. People can say what they want, but the Bears line is a very good, young group of guys who are gelling just like I thought they would. The thing I like about them is that they are maulers who are all improving their footwork.

Defensively the Bears were terrific. Briggs and Urlacher looked 5 years younger the way they were flying around the field. The bye week really helped them. Peppers was a force, and I thought the defensive tackles were pretty good. The Bears played a lot more man than they usually do and beat up the Eagles receivers. The two young safeties played another solid game. There were a few missed tackles but that is going to happen against the Eagles - but overall a solid game.

Forte had a strong game although he had two rare fumbles. But he was productive. But credit goes to the coaches who called a very good game and Jay Cutler who executed well and improvised a couple of times when needed. It was great to see Earl Bennett back as he had some huge plays to keep drives alive.

The Bears get Detroit at home this weekend and if they win that they will almost certainly make it back to the playoffs. I like the way things are rolling - the Bears are exactly who I thought they were.

Friday, November 04, 2011

The Whole Forte "Pay da Man" Nonsense

I am so sick and tired of people saying, "Pay da Man" when talking about Matt Forte. The Bears offered him a very fair deal. Their initial contract offer was for 4-5 years at $6 million/year average and $13 million guaranteed. There are other reports that put the number as high as about $15 million guaranteed. The contract offers were better than Frank Gore's new deal and Jamaal Charles deal. He chose not to sign the extension offers.

What is complicating things is that AP, CJ, and DeAngelo Williams got better contracts. But clearly bad contracts given to CJ and DeAngelo, and in my opinion a bad contract to AP should not impact the Bears negotiating tactics. The Bears were very fair to a guy going into the last year of his rookie deal. They gave him fair market value - above market in fact.

Forte and his agent are making a huge mistake by not signing the deal or being reasonable in their request. Forte will be franchised for 2 years if he is productive. He will play out for about $8.5 million next year and then around $9 million the following year if he remains franchised. Then, he will be 28 years old and on the wrong side of his prime. Taking the Bears guarantee of $14 million to $16 million plus the non-guaranteed salary for the next two years would be great and is more than fair.

People who say the Bears are being cheap or don't know what they are doing are just plain ignorant. No objective person who actually knows about the situation can possibly think that the Bears are being cheap or short-sighted.

I listen to Chicago Sports Talk radio and virtually every radio host says the Bears are fair. These are the same hosts who regularly question the Bears.

There is a great discussion of the details by a Chicago blogger that has made it onto the ChicagoNow website that picks out informative blog postings.

Even frequent Trib Bear critic Steve Rosenbloom has written about the Bears being fair and smart in dealing with Forte. Rosenbloom criticizes the Bears when they lose AND when they win.

If Forte wants to risk his payday that is up to him, but to blame the Bears makes no sense whatsoever.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Playoff Predictions

Accuscore does a weekly update of playoff odds based on significant statistical analyses.

The Bears had really dropped off a couple of weeks ago, but now find their chances rising having won 2 in a row and 3 of the last 4.

Their chances are just below 30 percent with their 4-3 record. Last year they were also 4-3 and ended up making a great run. The big difference this year is that they have divisional losses to Green Bay and Detroit - last year they had wins against those teams with their 4-3 record.

I never expected the Bears to win the North. It is Green Bay's to lose, but I do expect the Bears to make it as a Wild Card team and to be better than the Lions.

On Monday night the Bears head to Philly and then they play Detroit in Chicago. Win those two games and the Bears would be 6-3 with all the major head-to-head tiebreakers. Should be fun.