InternetFM presents sports content from our partner site YourSportsFan.com including podcasts of “The Weekend Sports Report” with Les Grobstein, Steve Leventhal and Alison Moran, along with “Dorf on Sports” with Fred Wallin and Andy Dorf. YSF also features original sports articles.
The Dolphins might bring a losing record to Soldier Field, but have a defense and a running game that will require the Bears to stay sharp. Cameron Wake (DE) and Olivier Vernon (DE) anchor a defense that has given up the 6th fewest yards (331.6) per game while touting the 6th best rushing attack at 136.2 yards per game in the NFL. Knowshon Moreno was placed on IR due to a torn ACL, making Lamar Miller the feature back with his 5.2 yards per carry.
In his third year, QB Ryan Tannehill has posted an 81.5 rating, while complete just over 60% of his passes and thrown 8 touchdowns in five games this season. Tannehill has had a tendency to turn the ball over (23 in 2013) so the Bears defense will look to make the most out of their opportunities this Sunday.
Coming off the 2nd most passing yards of his career (381), Jay Cutler will be front and center as the Bears look to get their first home win this season. “We have to find out a way to start fast at home for these noon games,” Cutler said when asked about the lack of success at home. The Bears are 21 – 5 when Cutler does not throw an interception while 4 – 18 when he throws 2 or more INTs, which begs the question… Will good Jay or bad Jay show up this Sunday?
The offensive line will get a boost this week with the return of left tackle Jermon Bushrod. Bushrod injured his ankle/knee in practice and was replaced by Michael Ola. Thursday was the first time Bushrod, Slauson, Garza, Long and Mills lined up together since week one against Buffalo. If Mills continues to struggle at right tackle, look for Ola to replace him in the upcoming weeks.
The Bears need to turn things around at home and pick up the win, before heading out east to face the New England Patriots. The Pats have won 3 in-a-row and Tom Brady has found his mojo as the offense has put up 35.6 PPG during their winning streak.
Marc Trestman talking about the Miami Dolphins vs Chicago Bears Preview
Key Matchup: Jordan Mills (RT) vs. Cameron Wake (DE) – A three-time Pro Bowler against a shaky right tackle
Key Injuries: LB Lance Briggs (Out), S Chris Conte (Out) and LB Jon Bostic (Questionable)
Fact: Jared Allen has NEVER won a game at Soldier Field.
Prediction: Dolphin 24, Bears 27
The rhetoric from all fourteen coaches appeared scripted and predictable as they spoke about the upcoming Big Ten basketball season. Rainbows and lollypops are in the minds of all the coaches, from the reigning Big Ten champ, John Beilein of Michigan, to the lowly Purdue Boilermakers and coach Matt Painter. Every team expects to take “the next step” and are smitten with their new recruits that have signed in the offseason. If it was only that simple, the bottom 5 of the 2013-14 season (ILL, IND, PSU, NW and PUR) are predicted to finish in the bottom half of the league again this year, with Maryland and Rutgers also in the mix to bring up the rear.
The overlying theme of today’s press conferences was the expansion of the Big Ten and how it affects the conference schedule. “If you don’t play everybody and you get one of those breaks with the top four teams you play once and the bottom four teams you play twice, there’s going to be a big difference in your win-loss record probably, especially in basketball where home and away seems to have such an impact,” Michigan State Coach Tom Izzo stated during his time with the media. Coach Izzo was one of the first coaches to indirectly voice his displeasure with the scheduling. Wisconsin coach, Bo Ryan, agreed with Izzo in a roundabout way, asserting his wishes for more conference games during the regular season. Coach Miles from Nebraska wanted another crack at Iowa after losing to them in the first game of conference play, 67 – 57 last year. “I wish we’d play our border schools more. Last year we played Iowa the first game of the year, and then I honestly don’t know that I watched them again. And if I recall right, I think they were on the other side of the bracket in the Big Ten Tournament, so I don’t even think I watched much there, either. I didn’t even see Franny’s team play very much after they beat us. We don’t like that, but I believe that that’s not going to change.”
In previous seasons, the Big Ten schedule had 7 double plays and only 4 single plays that were rotated every 2 years. The new league schedule will have only 5 double plays and 8 single plays each season.
Does this mean the Big Ten schedule has been dilute or devalued?
“I don’t know if it’s being devalued because there’s still 18 games and 18 tough ones,” Maryland coach Mark Turgeon noted. “Obviously everybody plays a different schedule. It’s almost impossible with so many teams to put the schedule together. I think the Big Ten did a nice job with the three-year cycle that they’re going to have. It is what it is.”
In layman’s terms, if you draw Wisconsin, Michigan State, Ohio State or Michigan as a double play team… Make sure you beat the bottom of the barrel teams when you get the opportunity, because you will only get one game against each of them.
2014-15 Big Ten Media Day: Coaches talk about the upcoming season (Collins, Ryan, Izzo, Matta, Groce, Beilein and Jordan)
Dark Horse: IOWA
Six Big Ten teams made the Top 25 Coaches Poll:
#4 – Wisconsin
#18 – Michigan State
#20 – Ohio State
#21 – Nebraska
#23 – Michigan
#25 – Iowa
As Sunday nears, the Bears will have to deal with recently departed Devin Hester (WR/KR), Gabe Carimi (OL) and Mike Tice (OL Coach) on the other side of the field, who are also looking for their revenge. “I’m just gonna say it, man. I wasn’t happy the last 3 or 4 years in Chicago,” Hester said on NFL Network’s Total Access. Hester is the MOST dangerous return man in the history of the NFL and do not be surprised if there is an extra bounce in his step this game, as he looks to make the Bears pay for not offering him a contract in the offseason. I doubt Mike Tice will tell his team to carry him off the field on their shoulders if they win like Jim Schwartz but Tice would still be immensely satisfied if the Falcons took home a victory this week.
The Falcons are 2 – 3, with both wins this year coming at home where Matt Ryan has not turned the ball over. Posting a quarterback rating of 137.35 while scoring 46.5 points per game, the Falcons are use to high scoring affairs in their own building. Julio Jones is tied for the league lead for reception with 40, while he has played one fewer game than the Colts T.Y. Hilton. Opposite Jones is Roddy White, historically one of Ryan’s favorite targets, who looks to get back on track against the Bears porous defense. Steven Jackson is nowhere close to the running back he used to be in St. Louis but chugs along with his 3.8 yards/carry.
The Bears are 0 – 2 in Atlanta since Matt Ryan took over the starting QB duties in 2008 and look to break that losing streak this Sunday. Matt Forte put it simply on Thursday, “We definitely need to score more points.” Ain’t that the truth? Jay Cutler and the offense have only scored 3 points in the last two, 2nd half’s combined. The Bears shot themselves in the foot three times in the 4th quarter alone last week, turning the ball over on their last three possessions. If the Bears do not score 30+ points this week, they will have no chance at getting their record back to .500.
Jay Cutler, Marc Trestman and Matt Forte talk about the upcoming Chicago Bears vs Atlanta Falcons game
Prediction: Falcons win at home in a shootout, aided by a couple of turnovers by Jay Cutler. 37 – 31.
Key Matchup: Pat O’Donnell vs. Devin Hester – Rookie punter will try to keep the ball out of an all-time greats’ hands
Injury Updates: Lance Briggs (Out), Jermon Bushrod (Out), Roberto Garza (Out), Shea McClellin (Out), Jon Bostic (Questionable), Chris Conte (Probable), Jeremiah Ratliff (Probable)
This Sunday at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, there will be two 2-2 teams taking the field that have much to prove to themselves and their respective fan bases. The Bears and Panthers both surrendered a season high in points, 38, last week in their losses. Both teams lost by 21 or more points and they scored a combined 3 points in the second half. Going into week 5 last year, the Bears at 3-1 had their eye on the playoffs but limped into the offseason by losing 7 of their last 12 games and missing the playoffs. The Panthers at 1-2, rattled off 11 wins and clinched the NFC South title under ex-Bear Ron Rivera but lost to the 49ers at home in the divisional round of the playoffs.
If coming off a tough loss was not bad enough, head coach Marc Trestman informed the media on Thursday at his weekly press conference that Jermon Bushrod suffered a knee injury, “accidentally at practice” on Wednesday. Bushrod now joins center Matt Garza and left guard Matt Slauson (both limited in practice) on the injury report which means that Michael Ola would have to slide over to left tackle and Eben Britton would be in at left guard if Bushrod and Slauson are unable to play. In other Bears injury news, Shea McClellin (hand) is out Sunday and Jeremiah Ratliff did not participate in practice as he has not passed his concussion tests.
Marc Trestman talks the Bushrod injury, Garza and Slauson statuses and the Carolina Panthers
Quarterback Jay Cutler knows all too well what it feels like to not have a legitimate left tackle blocking for him but is pleased with the offensive line depth GM Phil Emery brought in during the offseason. The Bears catch a break with the Panthers Pro Bowl defensive end Greg Hardy out because of his domestic violence case and his replacement Frank Alexander suspended 10 games for violating the substance abuse policy.
The Bears will look to stay perfect on the road this season as they are 2-0 and averaging 27.5 PPG compared to 18.5 PPG at home. The defense is also playing better on the road only giving up 19.5 PPG and forcing 7 turnovers, while at home allowing 31.5 PPG and only 1 turnover. When asked about why the Bears are better on the road then at home, Cutler playfully responded, “I guess we don’t like you guys (Chicago media) that much… I don’t know.” Even with the nice start for the Bears defensive on the road, Cam Newton has been one of the best in the league protecting the ball and not turning it over. Newton still is not 100% after his ankle surgery over the summer and has only rushed 8 times for 33 yards. Either way, the Bears will need to contain Newton since Carolinas running back situation is in shambles as DeAngelo Williams, Jonathon Stewart and Mike Tolbert are likely out leaving Darrin Reaves to carrier the load.
Jay Cutler talks about offensive inconsistencies and Carolina Panthers defense
With 10 of the 16 teams in the NFC at 2-2 or worse going into Sunday, week 5 will determine what half of the conference the Bears will be in starting the 2nd quarter of the season.
Kelvin Benjamin vs. Kyle Fuller- Look for Cam Newton to air it out this Sunday as it will be the battle of the offensive and defensive rookies of the month for September
Here’s how I spent my day today at the Bears Packers game at Chicago’s Soldier Field.
Just like in “24,” all these events occurred in real time.
9:15 AM- Left the house for Soldier Field – the over/under for trip downtown is 1:30
10:25- Arrive at Stadium campus, having encountered only a slight amount of traffic downtown. It could have been much worse had I left another fifteen minutes later.
10:40- Make my way to the press box after brief stroll through South Lot, observing the tailgaters, and getting hungry from the wonderful smells of burgers, and other tasty items being grilled to perfection.
11:00 – Grab some breakfast at media dining. They served ham and egg casserole. Definitely not on my menu. Fortunately, there were breakfast potatoes and danish available as well. Not good for counting carbs, though. That’s another reason I cut back on my sports coverage schedule, too much food to eat, and way too much sitting around. Next was a quick visit to fellow reporter Les Grobstein, who in turn asked for some help with his website. If you are a Chicago Sports Fan, check him out at Grobber.com Although you probably already know him if you are a true Chicago sports fan.
12:00 noon - Time flies. Les kept me so busy that I almost missed the kickoff. The stadium is all orange and blue, with sprinkled with a light dusting of yellow clad Packer fans.
12:15 PM - Chicago wastes no time, scoring on it’s first drive.
12:24- It takes Green Bay less than ten minutes to respond with a touchdown of their own.
12:35- the first quarter ends as the Bears near another score. There has been no defense in this game. It has the look and feel of an SEC or Pac-12 shootout. Or perhaps a vintage Raiders-Chiefs games from 40 years ago. Two hundred and thirty years of combined total offense in the quarter.
12:42- Chicago settles for a field goal after failing to score from inside the five yard line. That’s the first bit of defense so far.
12:52- The Packers have no such problems in the Bears red zone, scoring on their next possession and talking the lead 14-10.
12:55- My colleague David Schuster of WSCR 670 grimaces at one of the many f-bomb laced disparaging remarks that Grobstein continues to make about the Bear’s defense. He can’t help it, Les is everyman’s fan in the pressbox. His biggest kvetch – the Bears using the shotgun formation on third and goal. Lucky for me, Jordan Bernfield of WGN sits between yours truly and the Grobber.
1:04- No punts yet, as Chicago drives 80 yards for another score. Chicago tries an unsuccessful onside kick on the ensuing kickoff. Grobstein actually applauds the attempt, noting that two Bear players had an opportunity to recover the ball. The bigger enemy for the Bears is the game clock which has just over three minutes until halftime. Chicago grabs the lead 17-14, the last time they would lead in this game.
1:16- The offensive deluge continues as Green Bay marches down unimpeded again for another score with 1:03 left in the first half. At this rate, the Bears woes will be compounded by the fact that Green Bay receives the 3rd quarter kickoff. If they continue to hold serve, I’m not sure how the Bears can catch up. Packers 21, Bears 17.
1:25- The half appears to end as Chicago TE Martellus Bennett is stopped short of the end zone, and the Bears out of timeouts. Replays are inconclusive and the ruling on the field stands. No punts and 508 yards of combined total offense.
1:30- Lunch is served in the media dining room, and the reporters queue up. Grilled chicken sandwiches and salad are being served. Alas, something worth devouring. The NFL is one of the last pro leagues to still offer free food in the press box. That comes in handy when you are spending all day at the stadium.
1:50- Green Bay continues to march down the field like Sherman through Atlanta. Only self-inflicted penalties seem to impede their progress, as they settle for a 53-yard Crosby field goal. The way the Bears area playing defense, the Packers could line up Crosby, Stills, and Nash in the backfield and still score. 24-17 Packers.
2:00-The first turnover of the game occurs, when Green Bay intercepts a deflected pass. It takes only for minutes for Aaron Rogers to connect with Jordy Nelson for an 11-yard TD pass. The Packers have scored on all five of their possessions so far. The lead is now 31-17.
2:10- The Bears avert disaster when an Alshon Jeffery fumble lands safely out of bounds. A few plays later, Jay Culter throws his second interception of the day, which is returned 52 yards to the Chicago 11.
2:17- The third quarter ends as the Bears hold back the Packers on third down. They will change sides and attempt a FG on the south end of Soldier Field. The teams are five yardsticks shy of 700 total yards.
2:20- Miscues continue as Chicago gets a holding penalty, and the Packer field goal attempt turns into a first down, They score on a three-yard touchdown grab by Randall Cobb on the ensuing play. Green Bay 38 – Chicago 17.
2:35- Cutler throws another apparent interception, but Chicago challenges the play, not realizing any change of possession is reviewed automatically. The play is overruled, and the Bears are penalized a timeout. Later in the same drive, Chicago is forced to go for it on 4th and 5. The incompletion results in a change of possession. Remarkably, there still have been no punts in the game, as GB takes over on their own 41.
2:42- Aaron Rogers eludes would be tacklers on third and long for a 1st and goal completion to Cobb. However, two holding penalties are more effective at slowing the Packers down than the Bear defense. A blocked field goal attempt is the lone defensive highlight so far. It remains 38-17, as Bear fans scurry to find the nearest exit.
2:50- The Bears wave the white flag. It appears the the second stringers are in for Chicago.
3:00- The final score is unchanged as I head for the Packer locker room first, to get some post game sound bytes.
3:10- Julius Peppers commands the media attention as he talks about beating his former team, and a division foe. (see below)
3:20- A quick jaunt over to the Bears side, where there isn’t much the players can say.
3:25- A member of the Bears media department announces that Jay Cutler is headed to the podium, so I scurry over the Bears’ interview room just in time to catch the end of coach Marc Trestman’s comments. Culter follows immediately.
3:40- I decide to return to the pressbox to work some more on this story and let more traffic clear out of the parking lots.
3:50- Grobstein asks for my Peppers audio, so I’ve got more time to kill while transferring the file to his computer. If you just looked at the offensive stats, you’d think this was a close game. The Bears outgained their foes from the near north 496 yards to 358, and out rushed them 235 to 56. But the number that really mattered was the two key interceptions, both in Green Bay territory, allowing the Packers to shut out Chicago in the second half, despite not having to force a single punt all game. Rogers finished with four touchdown passes.
4:00- time to leave. Let’s see how long it takes to return home.
5:40- arrived one hour and twenty-five minutes after motoring out of the parking lot, which still had a surprisingly number of cars continuing to tailgate in the lot. Traffic is still slow getting onto Lake Shore Drive, but speeds up soon enough. There were the usual taffic jam spots leaving downtown and the Edens Expressway. But if there were no traffic, I can make that trip in forty-five minutes. Chicago? No traffic? Almost never, although the freeway jams here are nothing compared to Los Angeles.
5:50- Sit down at the keyboard proofread and wrap up this story.
6:50 PM- Finished upload of pictures audio from post game interviews. Hit save and publish.
My stats: 71 mile round trip, two meals, one snack, one game story (with audio and pictures) over nine hours and forty minutes.
Post game audio from Green Bay’s Julius Peppers and Chicago QB Jay Culter
“We want to be physical in all aspects of the game, but being strong mentally would help us out a lot more.”
Pokey Chatman, Chicago Sky head coach and general manager, on managing in the WNBA Finals
The ‘School of Hard Knocks’ opened at the WNBA Finals between first-time contenders Chicago Sky and 2007 and 2009 WNBA Champion Phoenix Mercury.
In a bruising game Game 2 in Phoenix Tuesday night, 6’6 Sky center Sylvia Fowles cut (accidentally or no?) 6’8 center’ Brittney Griner’s eye, for which Griner sat out four minutes. Reportedly, Phoenix point guard Diana Taurasi asked her…”Don’t you have TWO eyes?” And she was back in the game. Later, the Sky’s Sasha Goodlett caused further damage when she elbowed Griner hard in the mouth, knocking out a tooth. Griner spit the tooth onto the US Airways Center court and kept playing.
But damage was done. On Thursday, Griner underwent a procedure for a ‘retinal issue’ in Phoenix and is listed as a game-time decision if she will play Friday night in Game 3 at the UIC Pavilion. If ophthalmologist Dr. Jay Schwartz clears Griner to play, she’ll hop a plane from Phoenix and join the team in Chicago.
Griner’s possible absence gives some hope to the Sky, who are first-time contenders for the WNBA crown. Down 0-2 after two humiliating games in Phoenix, the Sky could force a Game 4 on Sunday.
But it’s going to be tough, Griner or not. All five Mercury starters, including Griner, scored in double-digits in a 97-68 slaughter, a Finals record. Diana Taurasi, with 18 points, moved into second place on the Finals all-time scoring list, passing Katie Smith. She trails only Deanna Nolan, who has 256 career points in the Finals.Despite what had to be excruciating pain, Griner finished the game with 19 points and four blocks.
But the scrappy Sky, who’ve endured lengthy absences this season from superstar Elena Delle Donne, All-Star Sylvia Fowles, Ephiphanny Prince, and Courtney Vandersloot, and came together relatively healthy in the postseason, have surpassed all expectations. Vandersloot explained:
“We’ve faced elimination in Round 1 and Round 2, and somehow we find a way to win it. We’ve been through a lot this season. We fight, we’ve got fighters on this team, we’re not happy with just being in the Finals, and I think if anything these first two games have been a huge wake up call for us. Obviously, we need to be better and we’re going to find a way to be better.”
Other encouraging signs from Tuesday night included Delle Donne, clearly suffering from a back strain, bouncing back from a dismal, painful Game 1 by delivering a game-high 22 points in 28 minutes. How about Epiphanny Prince turning in her best performance of the playoffs, scoring 15 points on 6-of-11 shooting? She also had 3 steals.
An extra day of rest also benefits the hurting Sky. Delle Donne said her back felt better. Sylvia Fowles is eager to get back home and onto the court that launched her career at the UIC Pavilion. And they know their competition pretty well. Delle Donne analyzed the keys to the Mercury’s success after Tuesday night’s loss:
“They have several superstars on their team and they’re all very unselfish as well. You know if you pay extra attention to D [Diana Taurasi], she will have 11 assists. So they really know how to spread the floor, read the floor and get each other open.”
The key to extending the season will be Delle Donne’s health and her ability to play.
Other keys include:
- Limiting turnovers
- Scoring points in the paint
- Outside shooting
- Avoiding blocks from Griner
- Successfully guarding Dupree and Taurasi
And for those who think ‘no one’s watching…the WNBA reports the Finals are averaging 688,000 viewers per game across all networks, up +92% versus last season’s Finals (between the Minnesota Lynx and Atlanta Dream) to-date (358,000 viewers) through two games.
Game 1, where the Mercury beat the Sky 83-62, was the most viewed WNBA Finals Game 1 since 2000.
The Northwestern Wildcats may have the title of “Chicago’s Big Ten Team”, however, it is the Northern Illinois Huskies who are the -winningest- team in the state, as well as the Mid American Conference over the last decade.
On Saturday, the two schools located roughly 70 miles from one another, met for the first time since the 2005 season. The Wildcats entered Saturday’s matchup unbeaten against the Huskies with six victories and one tie in 1987. Northwestern was also carrying a 10-game win streak against MAC opponents, however some things change.
Drew Hare threw two touchdowns and ran another to lead NIU past the Wildcats 23-15 at Ryan Field on Saturday, much to the delight of the in state fans who made the trip to cheer on the 2013 MAC champions.
The Huskies (2-0) used all three of their quarterbacks Saturday, but managed to save the best for last. Hare entered the game in the second half and immediately made an impact. He would connect on six of 10 passes for 109 yards, including two touchdown passes to wide reciever Da’Ron Brown, ( six receptions for 128 yards). Hare would also rush for 31 yards and a touchdown.
NU (0-2) struggled offensively throughout the game. Trevor Siemian finished 27 of 41 for 268 yards, a touchdown, and an interception, despite having little pass protection all day. Siemian would leave with an injury late in the fourth quarter.
One bright spot for NU was Kyle Prater who caught his first collegiate touchdown. Prater spoke after the game about what this football team means to him.
“We overcame a lot in the offseason,” Prater said. “We are a family and we still feel that way. We still have that bond, and were just going to keep moving on. We are just getting hit with some adversity right now, and its nothing we can’t overcome”
Whether the Wildcats will be able to overcome this awful start is yet to be seen, one thing is we know for sure is that the Northern Illinois Huskies are “Illinois’ football team”.
Click Below for head coach Pat Fitzgerald’s post game audio
The biggest headline surrounding the Bears this week has been the signing of ninth year veteran wide receiver Santonio Holmes. Holmes spent four seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers; catching the game winning pass and earning MVP honors in Super Bowl XLIII. Holmes was later traded to the Jets in 2010 and spent four somewhat less exciting seasons in New York. He has caught only two touchdown passes in 15 starts the previous two seasons. After suffering a lisfranc injury in 2012, Holmes has struggled to return to form.
Quarterback Jay Cutler has already expressed some optimism about Holmes. “It’s just a matter of getting him caught up with our verbiage, and just getting a rapport. It takes time though.” He commented. “He looks really good, he’s explosive. To be honest, he looks a little bit rusty, he’s been out of football, but he’s getting in and out of cuts, he catches the ball well, extremely explosive, fast, he’s exciting, we just gotta get him caught up with everything right now. We might have to help him along in the huddle and just make sure he knows what he’s doing, but we got enough veteran guys so we can get him where he needs to be.” Offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer said that almost an hour after he signed his contract, Holmes was voluntarily out on the field running routes for Cutler.
Jay Cutler talks about Seahawks challenges, wide receivers, upcoming week
Although Holmes did practice, no decision has been made as to whether he will play Friday in Seattle. “I can’t say that right now.” Trestman responded as to whether Santonio would play. “I think we’re trying to get him to that place. I think I’ll know a little bit more after practice tomorrow. We’ll see where he’s at, we’ll talk to him, and we’ll see whether or not he’s ready to go and get some playing time.” Trestman went on to add, “He did good work today. And he worked with different groups, so he got some reps, and I thought he worked positively today. I thought there were some good things out there.”
Although mostly backups will play midway through the game against Seattle, it provides a good learning experience for playing against the reigning world champions. “They’re the defending champs.” Offensive tackle Jermon Bushrod commented. “It’s gonna be a test for our offense, it’s gonna be a test for each one of us individually up front, and we’ll just have to make sure that we’re ready to go.”
Running back Matt Forte as evidently gone through a few struggles this preseason. In two games, he’s rushed a total of seven times for minus seven yards. Yes, as in 7 carries for -7 yards. Despite this, Forte had expressed optimism on the future. “I’m not worried about the previous games like everybody is. I’ve had seven carries for negative seven yards and all this crap. It’s preseason, so I’m ready for the regular season. If you get four carries in a game, you’re not gonna do much so it’s hard to do a lot. The running game will come along. We’ve been working on it in practice so we’ll be good.”
Offensive tackle Jermon Bushrod discusses Seahawks, Bears offense
CenturyLink Field has always provided the Seahawks with a particular edge; disrupting the visiting team’s play calls with arguably the loudest fans in the NFL. It’s no secret that Seattle has used this technique for years, often causing confusion and miscommunication between players. “It’s probably the loudest stadium or at least one of them.” Matt Forte admitted. “I’ve played there twice I believe, and I can’t hear Jay. So we’ve been practicing in the noise with the crowd machine, so that’s what we’ve been practicing for.” During training camp last week, the Bears could be seen and heard practicing with a noise machine that emitted the sound of a large, packed stadium in preparation for the game in Seattle.
Some good news for the Bears defense, Lance Briggs returned to practice on Tuesday after missing Monday’s practice with a knee bruise. However, Jared Allen sat out of practice after suffering a shoulder contusion. Trestman commented, “It’s just a bruise.” He went on the add that Allen sitting out was “Just a precaution.”
Marc Trestman discusses Santonio Holmes, upcoming Bears vs Seahawks game
Two down, two to go.
That’s what the Chicago Bears have to be telling themselves after Thursday night’s 20-19 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars. The team looked flat and (excluding the rookies and guys trying to earn a place on the roster) at times, disinterested.
For the second straight week the Bears (2-0), could not establish the run early in the game. Matt Forte carried the ball four times, but once again could not find any daylight. He has now carried seven times for negative 7 yards total this preseason, Head coach Marc Trestman acknowledged the early struggles.
“We have not been productive running the ball,” Trestman admitted “We have had more productive runs with the second teamer’s and thirds than we did with the first. We are working hard on it everyday.”
One reason Forte may be struggling to find holes, could be because the offensive line has not been intact since training camp began. Kyle Long battled a viral infection, Martellus Bennet made his return this past week after a short suspension, and Jordan Mills sat out for the second straight game with a foot injury. Mills had surgery on the metatarsal in his left foot in January.
Jay Cutler got things going after a shaky start for the offense, completing 7-9 passes for 75 yards including a four yard touchdown strike to Brandon Marshall in the second quarter before exiting the game in the second quarter.
“It was different, we had a three-and-out and then got back on the field with only thirty seconds,” Cutler said (when asked about only running five total offensive plays in the first quarter.) “We overcame a couple third downs there in the second quarter and got a little bit of a rhythm going so that was good.”
Defensively, the Bears looked sluggish at times, allowing Chad Henne and (No. 3 overall selection in the 2014 NFL Draft) Blake Bortles to pick apart their zone defense. Second year linebacker Jon Bostic was one bright spot, he rocked Jacksonville running back Toby Gerhart for a 4-yard loss on a third-and-1 play in the first quarter. Cornerback Sherrick McManis also continued to be around the ball, and make plays again, after his strong showing week 1 of the preseason against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Preseason Game Two notes
– Every team’s main goal in the preseason is usually to begin week one of the regular season healthy. The Bears are hoping that will be the case for them this season. Rookie cornerback Kyle Fuller left the game in the first quarter with a ankle injury, while last weeks star, tight end Zach Miller also left the game early with a foot injury. Head coach Marc Trestman told the media after the game that ” both guys were being evaluated tonight, and he will know more tomorrow”
– Devin Hester will be like an old girlfriend who you didn’t appreciate, until she was gone for the Bears this season. Hester may not have been the explosive player he was in his first few seasons in Chicago, and he sure struggled to learn a playbook, but at least he would give you decent field position and scare teams to kick away from him. The Bears struggled to establish who will be returning kicks/punts for them this season again against Jacksonville. Eric Weems fumbled on a kickoff return, while Chris Williams continues to miss time with a hamstring injury. the Bears better find someone quick, as good as they are, and as many weapons as they have on offense its hard to put points on the board when you are starting on your own 18 yard line every possession.
– Jimmy Clausen looks like the clear-cut favorite to win the backup job. Jimmy wasn’t nearly as impressive as he was last week, completing 11-15 passes for 94 yards and an interception, but bad communication could have been reasoning behind the mistakes.
“We had miscommunication with the headsets” Clausen admitted.” They were cutting in and out. We got that fixed”
Don’t count Jordan Palmer out of the race yet however. Palmer completed 6-9 attempts for 73 yards and more importantly led the game winning drive in the fourth quarter. With the third preseason game usually serving as a dress rehearsal for week 1, expect Jay Cutler to play the whole first half in Seattle next Friday, therefore no decision will most likely be made until after the final preseason game when Palmer and Clausen will play the majority of the game.
Click below to hear comments from Jay Cutler and Marc Trestman after Thursdays game.
Two of the worst possible nightmares to occur for the Northwestern offense happened on the same day. A week after announcing he was going to be suspended for the first two games of the 2014 season, Northwestern running back Venric Mark announced he intends to transfer schools. And wide receiver Christian Jones is lost for the season after suffering a knee injury in practice.
Shocking to say the least. Mark’s decision came the day after saying in an interview, “I’m going to embrace this. My teammates have given me great support. I’m just doing what I can to make sure the other guys are ready.” He also commented on the upcoming season, “I fully expect us to be 2-0 before I get back.” Unfortunately for his teammates, he’s not coming back.
Venric Mark discusses suspension, role in upcoming season.
Mark was granted a fifth year of football eligibility by the NCAA after missing most of the 2013 season with an ankle injury. Although no definite decision has been made, Mark has stated that he intends to transfer to a school closer to his hometown of Houston.
Northwestern’s running corps has not been a major concern. Freshmen Justin Jackson and Solomon Vault have impressed during training camp and captured the attention of their coaches. “I’ve been extremely pleased with the way they’ve picked up this offense.” Said running back coach Matt MacPherson. “I like them. I like them a lot.” added Pat Fitzgerald. Last year, Treyvon Green led the team with 736 rushing yards, and was expected to be the starter during Mark’s absence. It’s possible he’ll remain the starter for the whole year.
No specific details were given on the exact condition of Christian Jones, all that is known is that he suffered a knee injury during practice. The bright side is that as a senior, he is eligible to redshirt and play for the Wildcats in 2015. Last year, Jones led Northwestern with 668 yards receiving.
A lot of questions are surrounding the Northwestern Wildcats this season. Will they rebound from a 5-7 record? How will their running game do without Venric Mark the first two games? Will that suspension affect the rest of his season? How will they adjust from a two quarterback system to just one leader? During Northwestern training camp on Tuesday, it was 58 degrees, it was windy, and it was raining. But that didn’t stop the Wildcats from putting on a show.
Venric Mark’s Suspension
Northwestern’s running game took a big hit when starter Venric Mark was suspended for the first two games of the 2014 season for violation of team policy.
“It’s shocking, but I just wanna say that I’m really disappointed.” Mark said. I was sitting out for a year and I was looking forward to coming back, but I’m gonna embrace this. My teammates have given me great support. I’m just doing what I can to make sure the other guys are ready.” Mark was granted a fifth year of eligibility playing football at Northwestern after a leg injury cut his season short last year. “We’re gonna take a hit in September, but I fully expect us to be 2-0 before I get back.” He added.
Mark is still allowed to attend training camp and practice with his teammates. He didn’t miss a step as he continued to impress during reps.
Every college player has to face the music eventually then they do something wrong. When asked if the suspension was something he could’ve avoided, Mark responded, “All mistakes can be avoided if you look at them. But right now, it wasn’t avoided. So like I said, I’m going to embrace it. Right now, there’s no point in me pouting. Does it hurt? Yeah it hurts really bad. But at the end of the day it is what it is.”
“Actions have consequences.” Said running backs coach Matt MacPherson. “No matter whether you’re the first player on the roster or the third, or fiftieth, or hundredth, actions have consequences.”
Venric Mark discusses suspension, running back corps, and role as a mentor
Stephen Buckley’s Road to Recovery
It’s never easy to see a player’s career threatened because of injury, especially when he’s only a redshirt freshman. For Running back Stephen Buckley, who injured his knee last year against Nebraska, it’s just a matter of taking it one day at a time. He did not practice again today, and when he returns is still questionable. He has not seen the field since his injury. “Initially when I got hit, I thought this could be the end.” Buckley recalled. “As soon as I got hit, my body went into shock. I reacted very frantically. I was on the field crying like a baby. Immediately after that, I knew it was something seriously wrong. But by the grace of god, he’s given me another chance to play the game again.”
Buckley was the second Northwestern running back to be taken out because of injury last year; The other being starting running back Venric Mark. With Mark suspended the first two games of the 2014 season, Buckley could see extended playing time should his knee heal up by opening day on August 30th.
“Right now I’m just rehabbing it. I’m just taking it day by day getting ready for the season.” He added. When asked if he would be ready for the opener against California, Buckley responded, “Like I said, I’m just taking it day by day. Right now, I’m just trying to take these things as they come. I’m just working on strengthening my knee right now, so I can be ready come the time I take a big hit like in Nebraska.”
“He’s had a great attitude.” Said running backs coach Matt MacPherson. “He’s been in it mentally, and he’s done a great job there.”
Stephen Buckley discusses injury, talks healing process
Pat Fitzgerald discusses position battles, expectations
Head Coach Pat Fitzgerald discusses upcoming challenges, position battles, and expectations
The Running Corps
National signing day always puts a lot of attention and pressure on high school athletes. This year, the Wildcats have two freshmen with a lot of hype surrounding them; running backs Justin Jackson and Solomon Vault. Both of them have received praise from their coaches and teammates. During camp, Jackson put on a nice performance with nice speed and quick footwork.
Venric Mark explained his role as a teacher during his suspension. “Right now Justin Jackson and Solomon Vault are actually having a really great camp. I’ve just been trying to be their mentor, talking to them, making sure they’re in the film room, making sure they’re soaking up everything from coaching, basically just telling them to play their game, and they’ve embraced that.”
Matt MacPherson had his own take on Jackson and Vault. “I’ve been extremely pleased with the way they’ve picked up this offense. We’ve asked them to do a lot of stuff in the run game, the pass game, and protection. It hasn’t always been perfect, but they have a pretty good command of what we’re trying to do.”
Pat Fitzgerald had his own short, simple view of the rookies. “I like them. I like them a lot.”
However, a majority of the carries during Venric Mark’s suspension are expected to be made by returning senior Treyvon Green. After Mark was absent most of last season, Green stepped in and lead the team with 736 rushing yards. “He’s been steady. Steady as she goes.” Matt MacPherson said. “He played some of his best football early last year when he was healthy. He had maybe the best season in Spring that he’s had since he’s been here.”
During his interview, Pat Fitzgerald said, “I don’t know if we’ll split carries, I think it’ll be more situational. But like I said, I like their depth and where they’re at so far.”
Martellus Bennett and Kyle Fuller
The headline for the Chicago Bears this past week was the conflict between tight end Martellus Bennett and rookie cornerback Kyle Fuller. Recently, a scuffle between the two during a routine practice resulted in Bennett slamming Fuller into the turf. Fights between teammates are usually common in almost every team’s training camp. But this time, Bennett was fined and suspended by the Bears as a result. He was reinstated this week, although one interesting thing did occur; Bennett and Fuller rarely appeared on the field and the same time. Normally, this would make sense, seeing as Bennett is the starting tight end, and Fuller is the second string cornerback. But throughout the entire practice, Bennett did not make contact with or near Fuller. While it can’t be certain whether this was part of the game plan or just a precaution in case of another incident, it does raise a few eyebrows as to what goes on with the chemistry between the two.
The Other Tight End
One Bears tight end that has gotten the public eye, other than Martellus Bennett, has been the backup veteran Zach Miller. (No, not the former Raider and Current Seahawk.) Miller was signed near the end of last season to a reserve/future contract, and he’s gained attention from Bears fans after scoring two touchdowns in the preseason opener against the Eagles. Miller spent three seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars before injuries finally caught up with him, and didn’t make the Buccaneers final roster the following year. After finally getting picked up by the Bears, Miller has shown promise on the field, and continues to impress during training camp. He caught almost everything in sight before going off to the races.
Martellus Bennett also put on a show; catching his share of the passes and making plays of his own. Both continued to impress and receive applause from the stands. While it’s unclear as to if Miller will see an expanded role this season, Chicago is safe at the tight end position.
What can we expect from this offense?
Imagine if you’re Jay Cutler. You have Bennett and Miller as your tight ends, and they’re safe, reliable targets for short passes. Then you have Brandon Marshall, an experienced and dangerous receiver teamed up with Alshon Jeffery who had a breakout season last year. Then you have the league’s second leading rusher in the backfield. That is a scary amount of talent around you, and it showed during camp. Marshall and Jeffery were everywhere and caught almost everything in their area. While Cutler did make a few mental mistakes at times, the offensive passing game was explosive and exciting to watch.
One major need that the Bears have wanted for a long time has been a stronger offensive line. While there is still room for improvement, they are still much better off than they were in previous years. They did allow pressure on the quarterback a few times, but always made the right holes for the running game to get through. Matt Forte appeared as though he was already in mid season form, and rookie Ka’Deem Carey already seems like a reliable backup.
The backup quarterback battle has been pretty one-sided. Jordan Palmer threw an interception right into defensive end Willie Young’s arms, who returned it for a touchdown. Veteran Jimmy Clausen has continued to outperform him, and will likely be named the second string quarterback.
Last March, the Bears made two huge upgrades in free agency. After losing Julius Peppers to the Packers, Chicago agreed they needed to revamp their defensive line; and signed defensive ends Lamarr Houston and Jared Allen. Allen was particularly important. A defensive star on the Vikings, he had terrorized the Bears twice a year since 2008. Now, he’s on their side.
“I’m not a big believer in self imposed limitations.” Defensive coordinator Mel Tucker said. “We don’t know what these guys can become, or how good we can be. The main thing is to reach our full potential, as individual players and as a whole. We’ll see where it goes and we’ll continue to work with these guys at every position.”
Tucker has also commented on the pairing of safeties between Ryan Mundy and Danny McCray. “What we’ve done with the safeties is we worked up combinations, we moved guys around, we’ll continue to do that and at the end of the day we’ll have a starting group.”
Chris Conte has had seven months to get over the embarrassing mistake he made last year when he gave up the touchdown against the Packers. “He’s been eager to get back out there and we’re gonna get him back out there.” Tucker said. “Right now it’s a matter of day to day work with what he puts on the field and in the classroom. And he’s already done that in the classroom. And now’s he’s stepped on the field. We’re gonna take it one rep at a time, I think that’s the best approach.”
Defensive coordinator Mel Tucker comments on Kyle Fuller, Chris Conte, Jeremiah Ratliff, and Mundy-McCray
Mark is known for being one of Northwestern’s most versatile players. As a junior in 2012, he had 2,166 all-purpose yards, including 1,366 rushing yards. He was granted a fifth year of eligibility in 2014 after sitting out most of the 2013 season with an ankle injury.
Northwestern released a statement from Mark regarding his suspension:
“I made a mistake and am prepared to deal with the consequences of that. There is no one that holds me to a higher standard than the one I hold myself to, so nobody is more disappointed than I am. First and foremost, I feel like I let my teammates down, and that feels the worst.”
The Wildcats primary running back in 2013 was Treyvon Green, who will most likely be the starter during Mark’s absence. Although not a returner, Green rushed for 736 yards on the ground with a 5.4 yards per carry average, as well as scoring eight touchdowns.
Martellus who? That is what fans were asking on Friday night when the Bears kicked off their 2014 preseason schedule at Soldier Field against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Tight End Zach Miller made his debut in a Chicago Bears jersey in spectacular fashion, catching a 10-yard touchdown pass from Jay Cutler with 3:18 to play in the first quarter. Miller, who was filling in for the suspended Bennet, would make the most of his opportunity as he split time at the tight end position with Dante Rosario throughout the first half. The five year pro wasnt finished after his first touchdown grab either. Miller would also catch a 12-yard touchdown pass from backup quarterback Jordan Palmer in the second quarter before finishing his night with six grabs for 68 yards and two touchdowns.
“It felt good to go out there and make some plays,” Miller said after the game. “I am just trying to take it one play at a time and improve.”
After sitting out the last two seasons, Miller looked hungry for a chance to be back in the league. He signed with the Bears this offseason, after spending all of 2012 on the injured reserve, and sitting out the 2013 season after being waived by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He has 45 career receptions and four touchdowns all while playing in Jacksonville from 2009-2012. He also knows it was only one preseason game and he will have to improve his blocking to make the team.
“That is something I have to improve on,” Miller added. “We will cut up the tape and see what I can do to improve.”
It was not only Miller who impressed the home crowd Friday night, Jay Cutler looked solid as well, completing 9 of 13 passes for 85 yards and a touchdown. Brandon Marshall had five receptions on six targets for 31 yards, and Alshon Jeffery made a tough catch for 16 yards that received an ovation from the crowd before the starters would exit for the remainder of the game. Cutler spoke after the game about the Bears’ performance in the first audition before the season opener against the Buffalo Bills.
“There were some mistakes out there,” Cutler said, “some things to clean up, but the guys were really efficent getting in and out of the huddle, getting to our checks. The guys did well.”
While the passing game was on point for the Bears, the rushing attack struggled to get anything going against the Eagles. Matt Forte would carry the ball three times for negative five yards. Rookie KaDeem Carey finally got a chance to show what he could do after spending most of training camp on the sideline or the ground. He would carry the ball 10 times for only 23 yards, in a disappointing debut for the former Arizona Wildcat. Carey will have to improve as he is currently No.3 on the depth chart behind Forte and Shaun Draughn.
In the battle to backup Jay Cutler, quarterbacks Jordan Palmer and Jimmy Clausen played the 2nd and 3rd quarters respectively, with Clausen displaying the early advantage once again much like in training camp. Palmer would connect with Miller on a 12-yard touchdown, but he also threw a ugly interception to Eagles safety Nate Allen, and was nearly picked on another attempt. Clausen on the other hand dazzled in his chance at redemption. After the disaster that was his stay in Carolina, the Bears gave Clausen a chance to win the backup job this summer with Palmer being unproven. Clausen completed 7-13 passes for 150 yards and two touchdowns, one on a 73-yard toss to speedy-wide-receiver Chris Williams.
“I just tried to look the safety off and give him a chance to score on that,” Clausen said. “He ran underneath it and made a great play.”
Receiver, Michael Spurlock, would catch the other touchdown from Clausen on a 22-yard touchdown before giving up the offense to rookie David Fales. Head coach Marc Trestman had nothing but encouraging words for all of his quarterbacks after the game.
“I thought all the quarterbacks at some point had some adversity along the way,” Trestman said. “They were all able to come back and make it a positive note in some fashion.”
The Bears will return to training camp in Bourbonnais with practice on Sunday at 3:00 pm. No word yet if Martellus Bennet will be back with the team by then. If not, at least they have “Miller Time”, (joking of course, or am I?).
While Jordan Palmer may have seen second team reps on Friday night, and KaDeem Carey saw most of the carries. Expect everyone to get chances to impress in the preseason. Click below to hear offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer explain how the preseason depth chart can change.
The Northwestern Wildcats football team addressed members of the media on Thursday to discuss the upcoming 2014 season. The main topic of discussion was concerning the potential obstacles up ahead and overcoming a forgettable 2013 season. After starting last year with a 4-0 record and securing the 16th rank in the nation, the Wildcats lost seven of their last eight games and failed to secure a spot in a bowl game.
The Running Back battle
One of the biggest questions facing the Wildcats’ offense this year is the running back position. Last year, starting running back Venric Mark was sidelined due to a number of nagging leg and ankle injuries. He was held to just 31 carries in three games. Mark made a statement about the healing process in the off-season
“It was tough, but I have a good support system here at Northwestern to get through it.” He added, “I’ve never been hurt like that. It sidelined me for a whole season. In high school I managed to stay healthy all four years. It took a toll on me, both mentally as well as physically, but with the help of everyone around me, I felt like I had a good support system, I was able to come back in a good fashion, I feel healthy right now and I think I’m ready to go.”
In Mark’s absence, the Wildcats running game turned to Treyvon Green, a studious running back returning for his senior year in 2014. Mark and Green are also joined by a number newly recruited Freshmen. When asked how he felt about the running back core as a whole, Mark responded, “We’ll have to piggy back off of each other this year.”
The Quarterback situation
While it’s not uncommon to use two running backs depending on the scenario, a rare instance took place in 2013 in which the Wildcats used a two quarterback system. Northwestern rotated passers with Kain Colter and Trevor Siemian, which they didn’t seem to mind. But now that Colter was signed by the Minnesota Vikings, Siemian has inherited the full time job.
“I got snaps my redshirt freshman year when Dan (Persa) was banged up a little bit.” Siemian said. “So you know my role has sort of transformed over the years. And right now I’m at kind of being the guy and embracing the role, and taking it and running with it, do the best that I can, and I’m excited. Like I said, we got too much talent around me, so I’m excited to get the ball to these guys and get out of the way.”
When asked when he would make an immediate impact, Siemian said, “Hopefully right away. I’ve been around a lot, I feel like the old guy. I’ve been doing it four and a half years. Hopefully, right away I feel comfortable, hopefully, we get it done this year, we’ve got a lot of talent, probably the most talented team I’ve been around.”
Maintaining the Lead
A major problem surrounding the Wildcats during the 2013 season was keeping a lead through the whole game. The Wildcats held a 4th quarter lead or tie in four of their seven losses. Their worst loss probably came on November 2nd. Holding a three-point lead with 1:20 to go, the Nebraska Cornhuskers started on their own 17 yard line. As time expired, Nebraska completed a 49 yard Hail Mary pass in the end zone for the game winning score. That loss extended the Wildcats losing streak to five, and left a bitter memory the players won’t forget.
“There were some close losses and a lot of people wanted to point towards the end of the game.” Trevor Siemian said. “But in the span of those games, there were a handful of critical plays, and two years ago we made those plays. Last year we didn’t. We’re really working hard to focus on that and win those critical plays that determine the outcome of the game.”
When asked how good they thought they were, Siemian responded, “I think one thing that we’ve been good at over the years is controlling the line of scrimmage and being physical in the trenches running the ball, and making it tough for defenses. That’s what we’re trying to do, and we’re trying to get back to being able to finish.”
“Like Trevor said, it’s about getting back to what we do,” co-captain and offensive lineman Brandon Vitabile said. “We gotta do a good job at the point of attack getting vertical push, controlling the line of scrimmage, and just being dominant. Some of that we’ve worked on, coach Fitz always talks about the fundamentals.”
Listen to Press conference audio from QB Trevor Siemian, RB Venrick Mark, Offensive Coordinator Mick McCall, and Head Coach Pat Fitzgerald