Here are 10 “Bears Things” to get you through a rare Wednesday off-day during the NFL season:
1. If you’ve followed Jay Cutler’s career in Chicago, then you know no athlete in this town is more polarizing than the Bears starting quarterback. It seems each play is the equivalent of an X-ray with vague shadows of doubt creeping in on Cutler’s every move. If he throws an interception, well now we’re talking about needing multiple MRIs and CT-scans with second and third opinions. And God forbid Cutler shows any emotion after an interception, well it’s nothing short of a colonoscopy. It’s not pretty.
Which brings us back to Sunday’s game in Houston, where some apparently had a problem with Cutler’s reaction to his only interception. And for what it’s worth, I have absolutely no problem with the way he motioned his arm outward to show that Kevin White was supposed to run his route to the sideline. With the blame Cutler receives around here — he’s the reason for Illinois’ budget crisis, right? — he has every right to point out that his receiver stopped his route short.
And, for the record, he still showed leadership with his public comments after the game.
“It left my hand. It’s my responsibility,” he said.
Which brings me to another point: Part of that interception absolutely was Cutler’s responsibility.
White’s route was an option route that was dictated by the defensive coverage. Initially he sits on the route in the middle of the field, as Texans safety Andre Hal bit on the play-action. Had White initially continued his route to the sideline, he likely would have been wide open. But he didn’t, and there was enough time for Cutler to realize this. If you watch the coaches’ film, you’ll notice that Hal was able to retreat back towards White and turn back to the quarterback. At this point, White isn’t open and even if he decides to run towards the sideline, he’s going to be covered, as Hal is now reading Cutler’s eyes, not White.
The best hope in this scenario if White continues his route correctly is that the receiver uses his size to break up the interception. Cutler also threw the ball off his back foot and across his body, with his front shoulder pointed to the other half of the field, so it wasn’t great technique either.
Of course, pinning some blame on Cutler as the interception happened immediately riled up the other side of the Cutler spectrum.
The bottom line: Stop complaining about Cutler’s emotion and just try to evaluate his play on the field like any other player. Not everything is his fault, but some of it is. And, like many interceptions, there were multiple people to blame on this one.
2. It was good to hear John Fox take responsibility for failing to challenge the spot on a crucial 3rd & 1, but that’s where a head coach needs help from his assistants upstairs. If you watch the television broadcast closely, you can see Fox listening closely on the headset and growing increasing frustrated with the information (or lack thereof) he was hearing.
“It wasn’t one of those bang-bang plays where all of the sudden the other team’s in hurry-up,” Fox said. “(We had) time to look at it, have people see it upstairs and all that. We had all day. They measured it.”
Obviously there was some kind of breakdown in the Bears’ replay process that led to a missed challenge. Fox took the blame (and the public criticism) but it’s not all on him there.
“I think at the time, if I had the ability to see what people get to see at home, with yellow lines and blue lines and all the things … I think we might have won it,” Fox said. “Hindsight I wish I would have challenged it.”
Granted, Bears employees in the coaches’ booth get paid to see what people get to see at home, but the point remains that Fox wasn’t able to get a good look at the spot himself to override whatever he was being told in his headset. And it’s worth noting that the play happened at the 22-yard-line, which is past the team’s sideline area (between the 30s), so it’s not like Fox could have stood at the line of scrimmage to get an accurate, live look.
Hey, the coaching staff needs practice too.
3. Fox admitted they played Leonard Floyd too much.
“I think hindsight we probably would have spelled him a few plays,” the head coach admitted.
I didn’t have an issue with Floyd playing a good amount — he needs the reps to get better — but it seemed odd to have the rookie play 12 more snaps than Willie Young and 33 more snaps than Lamarr Houston, especially since defensive coordinator Vic Fangio admitted last week that Floyd’s conditioning wasn’t where it needed to be.
Fox correctly pointed out that the defense was on the field too much (75 defensive snaps, compared to 56 offensive snaps) but that’s even more reason to have Houston play more.
4. Apparently the Bears’ coaches review led to Freeman losing seven tackles. According to press box statistics, Freeman was credited with 17 tackles in the game (nine solo, eight assisted), but according to the team’s press notes — which includes adjusted statistics after coaches review the tape — Freeman was only credited with 10 tackles (three solo, seven assisted).
It’s not uncommon to see a small discrepancy between the two numbers, particularly when the Bears are on the road, but it is very odd to see a discrepancy that large (especially a difference of six solo tackles).
I checked with a Bears official, who confirmed 10 tackles was the correct number credited by the coaches, and that number seems more accurate based on what we watched live on Sunday. Still, Freeman seemed to object to that number.
“I don’t know, that’s not what it had on my grade sheet. I don’t know,” he said.
5. After reviewing Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz’s debut against the Browns, it was hard to not be impressed. The rookie showed the composure and throwing ability I loved about him before the NFL Draft, and did so despite taking a huge jump up from the FCS level of college football. While many believed Jared Goff was more pro-ready, I always thought Wentz had a better chance to start early because he ran a pro-style offense at North Dakota State and was familiar with commanding a huddle. Goff needs more development, although I still think he has a slightly higher upside down the road.
Wentz’s debut wasn’t perfect, however. There were a few times when his offensive linemen seemed to be on a different snap count or have a blown assignment in protection. Those may or may not be Wentz’s fault, but they’re not uncommon with a rookie quarterback in a new offense.
6. Fox said the Bears will review their third preseason game against the Kansas City Chiefs in preparation for the Eagles. That’s because Philadelphia head coach Doug Pederson was previously the Chiefs’ offensive coordinator and Kansas City hasn’t changed drastically. The Bears defense’s recent familiarity with that offense is something that could be an advantage Monday night.
7. It’s hard to believe, but Fox will be going for just his second win at home Monday night. Despite going 5-3 on the road last year, the Bears were just 1-7 at home, in part because they played a pretty tough home slate. Still, 1-7 is never acceptable in your own stadium.
“I think they’re all important, but especially being at home, our first test at home, you want to protect your home field and come out and play well,” wide receiver Eddie Royal said. “You don’t want to start losing games in a row. You want to win all of them. Especially, you don’t want to drop two in a row.”
8. I’m a little surprised the Bears didn’t end up with an orange “Color Rush” jersey for their Thursday night game this season. Instead, the Bears will go with a navy top with navy pants on the road against the Packers (who will wear white on white) Oct. 20.
The Bears used to wear orange jerseys once a season, but switched to the 1940s throwback jersey in 2012 and haven’t changed their alternate jersey since. NFL rules state that each team can only have one alternate jersey per season.
Still, the league’s own Thursday night “Color Rush” promotion is a new exception to this rule and it seemed like bright orange jerseys would have made sense here (whether you like the bright colored jerseys or not).
Personally, I never had a problem with the orange jerseys, but I don’t mind the navy-on-navy look either.
And a random “uni” sidenote: Assuming the Cowboys wear their white jerseys at home in Week 3 like they typically do, this could mean that the Bears only wear their white road unis five times this season. They wore their home blues in Houston Sunday after the Texans opted to wear white at home.
9. Referee Jeff Triplette has been assigned to Monday night’s game against the Eagles at Soldier Field. No comment.
10. You’ll notice a new play-by-play voice on the Monday Night Football broadcast team as ESPN tabbed Sean McDonough to replace Mike Tirico after Tirico left for NBC. Longtime college football observers will recognize McDonough from years of doing high profile games, typically in the afternoons on ABC. Jon Gruen, of course, is still the MNF analyst.
As for the radio team on Westwood One, you’ll hear Kevin Harlan, who had the greatest radio call of all time just a few days ago: