LAKE FOREST, Ill. — Here are this week’s 10 Bears Things, with a focus on the Pro Bowl, a notable gesture by Mitchell Trubisky and the possible attendance at Soldier Field on Christmas Eve:
1. Akiem Hicks was severely snubbed in Pro Bowl voting. It’s one thing for him not to be on the initial Pro Bowl rosters, but he’s not even a first or second alternate. He’s a fourth alternate.
“Man, it’s like telling a kid he ain’t getting no presents for Christmas,” Hicks said.
One thing that hurt Hicks is that he’s technically a defensive end, even though he primarily plays as an interior defender whose job is to stop the run first. Hicks should really be classified as an interior lineman and he made his own case with three strong points:
- “All eight of my sacks came from a three-technique (outside shoulder of the offensive guard) or one-technique (over either shoulder of the center).”
- “As far as defensive run stops, (Giants defensive tackle) Damon Harrison is the leading run stopper. I’m matched with him there with 36 run stops, well, 38 now.”
- “As far as sacks, guys that play interior usually have five or six. I’ve got eight. So statistically when it comes to interior defensive linemen, I outperform.”
These are all outstanding points and prove why Hicks should be in the Pro Bowl, but here’s the problem: Fans can’t really be expected to know all this or watch the tape. Players who don’t play offensive or defensive line aren’t going to know it. And I find it hard to believe coaches spend enough time on Pro Bowl voting when they have games to prepare for. Fans, players and coaches each consist of a third of the vote.
The process is flawed.
Does it matter? Yes, it does. Players set goals for themselves and making the Pro Bowl was one of Hicks’ goals this season. He delivered with an outstanding season, but was robbed by a flawed voting system. Yes, it hurts that he is playing on a 4-10 football team, but that doesn’t change the fact that he was one of the best defensive linemen in football this season.
“It doesn’t really work out when you don’t have a record to match the performance, right? I go out there and lay it out there every Sunday, last week on Saturday,” Hicks said. “The respect of your peers is something you always want. My little high-fives after the game with other guys that play my position and stuff like that it gives me enough respect to carry me over this offseason.”
2. Here’s an example of the type of impact Hicks has that doesn’t even get measured in statistics. This particular play on Saturday went down as a run stop for safety Deon Bush, but watch closely:
Keep an eye on Hicks. He blew up his block and pushed Lions tight end Michael Roberts backwards into Tion Green, tripping the running back. The All-22 angle shows the trip better.
On top of the statistics Hicks detailed himself on Wednesday, he has made plays like this all season — eating up blockers and setting up sacks and tackles for his teammates — that don’t even get recorded in the books.
3. The Bears might not get shutout in this year’s Pro Bowl though. Jordan Howard is the first alternate behind Todd Gurley, Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram. If either the Rams or Saints make the Super Bowl, Howard will get the call.
Tarik Cohen is the second alternate as a return specialist. The Rams’ Pharoh Cooper is currently in as the NFC representative.
Finally, Kyle Long was surprisingly named a second alternate, but his neck surgery will obviously keep him from playing in the game.
4. Offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains only put two of Mitchell Trubisky’s three interceptions against the Lions on the quarterback. Here is how Loggains broke down the turnovers:
Interception No. 1: “The second play in the second half, made a poor throw, had Kendall (Wright) breaking out, just sailed the ball a little bit, a throw that he makes 9 out of 10 times.”
Interception No. 2: “We had the one red area pick, where he just made a poor decision. That’s the one that really kills you as a quarterback when you’re down there [with] a chance to score and you don’t finish the drive.”
Interception No. 3: “The last pick of the game was not Mitchell’s fault. It was a breakdown in protection. The right tackle (Bobby Massie) thought that No. 94 had jumped offsides and given up on the play a little bit and we expect the tight end (Daniel Brown) to break out on that. When he made the decision to throw the football, the tight end didn’t make the decision that Mitchell was anticipating, that he should have made and it ended in a pick.”
5. This is something that probably means more to the media than the fans, but Trubisky still deserves credit for it. Starting quarterbacks are only required by the NFL to speak to reporters twice a week and that usually consists of one press conference in the middle of the week and another after the game on Sundays. But teams are also required to make one or two players available on Mondays and the Bears had a problem on Monday. Because they played on Saturday, the schedule was different than usual on Monday and most of the players — including the two who were slated to talk to reporters — had already left for the day. Trubisky, who usually stays late, took one for the team and gave the media “an early Christmas present,” as he joked when he entered the media room.
I’ll admit that I was a little skeptical that the Bears were trying to sneak in his media availability for the week on a Monday, given that he is facing his hometown Browns this weekend. But a spokesperson said Trubisky would still hold his usual press conference on Wednesday and, sure enough, he was there Wednesday afternoon to talk for a second time this week.
Trubisky has already embraced being the face of the franchise and part of that responsibility includes facing the media — especially when your teammates don’t want to. Jonathan Toews has mastered this for the Blackhawks, making himself available after every single game no matter the outcome or how well he plays. The fact that Trubisky threw three interceptions on Saturday, but was still willing to hold an extra press conference 48 hours later seems particularly notable.
Because Mike Glennon was the starting quarterback at the beginning of the season, he has maintained his role as a captain, but there’s no doubt Trubisky has established himself as a leader, much like Toews did as a rookie. Toews became the Blackhawks’ youngest captain ever by his second season and it’s pretty much a foregone conclusion that Trubisky will be one of the Bears’ captains next season.
6. Not surprisingly, outside linebacker Pernell McPhee was placed on injured reserve Tuesday. He aggravated a shoulder injury against the Lions and was shut down for the rest of the season.
It’s fair to wonder if McPhee has played his last game as a Bear. He still has two years and $15.575 million left on his contract, but none of it is guaranteed. He can be released with only $1 million counting against the salary cap in 2018. McPhee will be 30 next season and has played through multiple knee and shoulder injuries.
The Bears promoted linebacker Jonathan Anderson from the practice squad to fill McPhee’s roster spot.
7. Thursday is the deadline to activate safety Quintin Demps from injured reserve. He resumed practicing three weeks ago, starting a 21-day window to either activate him to the 53-man roster or keep him on IR for the rest of the season. At this point, there doesn’t seem to be much motivation to activate Demps. Adrian Amos fully participated in Wednesday’s practice and should return to the starting lineup Sunday.
8. Perhaps not being the first team to lose to the Browns this season is adequate motivation.
“We won’t be that team. It’s as simple as that. We won’t let that happen,” Hicks said.
That’s as close to a guarantee as you’re going to get between a 4-10 team and an 0-14 team.
9. The attendance Sunday will be interesting. Last year the Bears hosted Washington on Christmas Eve and there were 57,593 tickets distributed, well below the listed Soldier Field capacity of 61,500. Even worse, the actual attendance was 39,837, meaning there were 17,756 no-shows and a total of 21,663 empty seats. In other words, over a third of the stadium was empty.
Could it be even worse against the 0-14 Browns? The weather against Washington last year wasn’t horrible — it was 37 degrees with almost no wind. The forecast Sunday calls for a high of 29 degrees on the lakefront with winds from 10 to 20 miles per hour. And there could be some snow.
On the other hand, it is the last opportunity to see Mitchell Trubisky at home and tickets could be at a bargain on the secondary market, so it won’t be too surprising if the attendance is actually better than last year’s Christmas Eve matinee. We shall see.
10. Terry McAuley is the referee lucky enough to spend Christmas Eve with the Bears and Browns in snowy Chicago. Tom McCarthy, Steve Beuerlein, Steve Tasker have the call for CBS.