Chicago Sun-Times

Quick takes on the Bears' 17-14 victory over Pittsburgh

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Ten reactions and tidbits from the game:

1. The question all week was how would the Bears defense respond without middle linebacker Brian Urlacher, lost for the season with a dislocated right wrist. It didn't look good from the start as the Steelers rolled up 144 yards offense on their first two possessions. Pittsburgh led just 7-0 because Ben Roethlisberger and rookie wide receiver Mike Wallace clearly were crossed up on an easy interception for Charles Tillman.

From there, the Bears' defense responded. Down two linebackers--Pisa Tinoisamoa missed with a sprained right knee--the Bears used three to fill the void. Hunter Hillenmeyer played middle linebacker and Nick Roach and Jamar Williams shared time on the strong side. On Pittsburgh's next seven possessions, it totaled just 164 yards offense. The difference was with the front seven. The Bears applied pressure and while defensive end Alex Brown got the only two sacks for the unit, Roethlisberger was forced to do two things. First, he had to get rid of the ball quickly. Second, he had to throw short. With the defensive backs doing a good job of tackling, it worked.

There is no question Urlacher was missed, but the defense is accustomed to playing without stars. At some point each of the previous five seasons, the Bears had to deal with the loss of safety Mike Brown. They also were forced to play without tackle Tommie Harris in their march to Super Bowl XLI.

2. In a perfect world, the Bears figured they might get some use out of Johnny Knox, the fifth-round pick from Abilene Christian, as a slot receiver. The club took the smart approach with him and kept it simple in training camp, asking him to just learn one position. The hope was he wouldn't be overloaded like Earl Bennett was last season when he was asked to learn all three positions at one time. Bennett wound up barely seeing the field because the coaches couldn't trust him. That's clearly not the case with Knox, who had a team-high six receptions for 70 yards and a touchdown. After two games, he leads the team with 152 receiving yards. To put that in perspective, last season's starting wide receivers Devin Hester and Rashied Davis each needed five games to amass that many yards.

The Bears had strong feelings for Knox. The area scout Chris Ballard knows Abilene Christian, the Division II program that also produced free safety Danieal Manning, well. Ballard coached in the Lone Star Conference previously at Texas A&M-Kingsville. He knows the coaches in the league and he sees the players frequently. When Knox went from an unknown to running a sub-4.3 40-yard dash at the combine, it only strengthened the Bears' belief in him. Some clubs viewed him as a project because he had spent two years at Tyler Junior College, but the Bears believed with his speed he could contribute quickly.

3. Knox's development looks like it might keep Devin Aromashodu on the bench for a while. Aromashodu won the No. 3 receiving job in preseason and became a favorite target of Jay Cutler quickly. But a pulled quad muscle sidelined him for the opener. Knox had a 68-yard reception at Green Bay, and the coaching staff wasn't about to send him to the sideline. Now, Aromashodu might have to bide his time because the offense hasn't shown much in the way of four-receiver sets, and Rashied Davis' special teams ability will keep him active on game days. When position coach Darryl Drake joked about Wally Pipp and Lou Gehrig, well, he wasn't really joking. Of course, Aromashodu can't exactly play the role of Pipp seeing as his next regular-season game in a Bears' uniform will be his first.

4. There's no doubt that questions about the running game will pop up this week. Matt Forte has 84 yards on 38 rushes giving him a paltry yards per carry average of 2.2. It's about the same usage he had to begin his rookie season last year, but after two games in 2008 Forte had 215 yards on 46 rushes. There is not a good explanation for the struggles running the ball at Green Bay, but the Steelers annually have one of the best run defenses in the league. The Bears are still working to gel on the offensive line with new starters in three of the five spots. The line looked better with left tackle Orlando Pace playing better, and left guard Frank Omiyale getting downfield on some bubble screens. If the Bears are in search of a cure, it may come in the form of the Seahawks. San Francisco's Frank Gore, running behind a suspect line, motored for 207 yards and two touchdowns against Seattle. The Niners rushed for 256 yards on just 29 carries in their victory, and the Bears head to Seattle Sunday.

5. Defensive end Mark Anderson already figures he'll be $5,000 lighter in the wallet. Anderson was called for a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty when he shoved tight end Heath Miller after a third-quarter run was well over. Miller had been pushing Anderson, but it's the last one who usually gets caught, especially considering Anderson's shove sent Miller into umpire Butch Hannah.

"That was retaliation,'' Anderson said. "He was pushing on me late and I retaliated. It was a bonehead mistake. Now, I have a $5,000 fine.''

6. Don't forget the fumble recovery by tight end Greg Olsen in the fourth quarter. Matt Forte gained 12 yards on a swing pass on the first play of the game-winning drive before Steelers linebacker James Harrison stripped the ball loose. It squirted forward and Olsen wisely fell on it around a posse of defenders. It wound up being a 22-yard gain.

7. Defensive tackle Matt Toeaina, who was inactive in Week 1, got a little bit of work in the second half and provided some energy off the bench.

8. If you were waiting to see defensive tackle Tommie Harris, how about when he burst through the line to drop Mewelde Moore for a two-yard loss in the fourth quarter? That was his only tackle according to press box statistics, but it came on a first down with the Steelers closing in on field-goal range.

9. I wrote it here last week after a terrific game by punter Brad Maynard, and I will write it again. He might finally earn some Pro Bowl recognition this season. Maynard had another strong game with six kicks averaging 45.8 yards. More importantly, his net was 39.8. If shifty Steelers return man Stefan Logan had not had a 19-yard return, it would have looked even better.

10. Not to look too far ahead, but after the trip to Seattle next week, the Bears host the Detroit Lions. Line coach Rod Marinelli was fired by Detroit after last season and the Lions could bring a 20-game losing streak into the meeting. Currently at 19 games, the Lions (who play Washington Sunday) are tied with the Chicago Cardinals (1942-43, 1945) and the Oakland Raiders (1961-62) for the second-longest losing streak in NFL history. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers lost their first 26 games starting in 1976. If you're really looking ahead, the Bears close the season with the Lions, by which time they'll most certainly have a victory, right? It is the NFL. Parity rules.

We will check in Monday morning with a look at some key plays in the game.

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The Tillman interception wasn't a miscommunication with the receiver - it happened because Roethlisberger was getting hit as he threw the ball, by Alex Brown.

Your grammar in this article is appalling. Please get some sleep before writing the next one!

The OL is a joke.. We cant run at all. Frank O'by-the-way got tossed around again. Even on plays where we ran with double lead blocking backs we got stuffed. Forte deserves a better OL. We also need to find a better backup RB with some size. It would be nice to throw in a big back late in games to wear the D down. Also, I dont see much of a differnce with Lovie calling the D. He blitzed as much or more then Babich did. The difference is the D Line. They are penetrating better... Unless they fix this OL problem, we are doomed. Come playoff time, if you cant run you are done!!!!!

Looks like the Bears running game woes points directly at the O-line. Pass protection is weak and run blocking is even worse. If things don't improve soon, perhaps letting Josh Beekman get some reps and letting Omyale sit for a bit might help. Also ,I wouldn't mind seeing Schaffer spell Wiliams. He looks uninterested out there.

Not one personed mentioned that, well, that no one even mentioned Zack Bowman... why? because the steelers only looked his once that I saw. What a difference, Nate I hope you loke the bench because you ain't getting on the field unless Bowman is cartede off.

I'll give you two problems with the running game.
1. The scheme/plays are horrible, open your splits up guys so there can be a hole in the middle.
2. Forte has yet to hit a hole hard once, he is tap-dancing around, granted the holes are slim to none but he still has to hit it hard.


Am I the only one who thinks the play calling for these two games,to say they lest where really poor.The lack of even try to get a running game going is confusing to me when you have one of the beat backs in the NFL ,What's UP MR.Turner The words are MIX IT UP !!!

In the first place I, for one, am willing to sacrifice grammatical splendor for the "quick" in "quick takes". Why don't you work on a missive describing this game using perfect prose? Publish it especially for this dude about two weeks from now.

Anyway about the game!!

1. That defense is starting to resemble the one we expect to see from Lovie Smith. There are a few big plays, but mainly they just did the job. I don't know the stats, but it seems like they are doing better getting off the field on third down. I'm really hoping to see the take-aways ramp up if the secondary ever can settle in.

2. Knox is a blast. I was hoping we would have fun watching players emerge from this young receiver corps. We are. One thing that may get lost in the excitement though is Devin Hester's play. Hester is not generating a lot of numerical production, but he is making tough catches in critical situations. You know, kind of like a #1 receiver? They are not just "go" patterns either.

3. This is a great point. One criticism that could be made of the Bears staff is tunnel vision on player development. They get a player they like and ride him almost exclusively(can you say Forte?). Obviously you play the best players, but having Earl Bennett and Kellen Davis go into their second season having not caught a single pass is a bit silly.

4. Even though the running game is not producing great numbers they are using it, probably enough to matter. I thought the O-line played a little better yesterday. It looked like both the Steelers and the Pack game planned to stop the Bears running game first. If Cutler continues to make teams pay through the air.........?

8. Harris did play a little better. Is he maybe continuing to get healthier? Hard to do that during an NFL season, but maybe he finishes strong. That would be better than being lights-out in the first half of the season but then going on IR. Given his history it's hard to count on him continuing to improve, but maybe it will happen.

9. Good point. The kicking game was the difference yesterday, pure and simple.

10. The stars are not really aligning for the Seattle game. They are coming off an embarrasing loss and the Bears a tough emotional win. I look for Marinelli's boys to have his back against the Lions. The 'Skins better pick it up or the Lion's streak will be over anyway.

Clutch kick by Gould!!!! Now that was a tuff kick, wet field, end of game, distance....He NAILED it!!
Yeah, the Oline needs revamped already, Beekman would not hurt. and Yes our DB really played a good game as did Brown!!

all in all a great game, the Oline needs alot of work though.

Haha, good call on #4 - that is all I'm wondering about now...the running game. Forte looked pretty bad, but he has no holes to run through. The only hole I remember seeing is the one AP ran through while he was spelling Forte. Bring on Seattle!

The Bears didn't trap at all during the first two weeks. Off-tackle traps on both sides were open all game, and are generally the weakest spot of a 3-4 defense. Could it be that the Bear guards are too slow to run this play? If so, the Bears need two new guards, because the 3-4 is the defense of the future and they're going to have to play more teams that use it. (Actually, it's been the defense of the future for a long time, but stubborn coaches took forever to implement it.)

Wow only 11 posts. Last week 60 posts this week 11 posts. Well lets see, where to begin. First let me address the Packers. I told you they are not that good and boy did they show it. But here is the problem. Everyone thinks the Bears have this great defensive line, they don't, they have played better, but they have played against two of the worst O-Lines in football. So they should look good.

Where are the Cutler bashers?

Where is Packerbacker? You know Denver beat the Bungles, hahahahahaha. Oh are the Bears going to throw your team a beating when we play them at home. Your O-Line is a joke, you gotta away with one, but your team is done.

The Vikings are as good as Peterson.

The Bears D-Line will only be a good line when it can get it done against a good O-Line. The Vikings, Atlanta, SF, and Arizona will test the Bears D-line.

The Bears O-Line is bad, it can't run block and Cutler is using his feet to stay alive, guys are flying around our tackles. Turner is using a quick 3 step drop to counter this and Cutler is using his feet and smarts to beat it.

Forte is not as good as people thought, now that the Bears QB is not checking down to him on every snap.

One thing that stands out is that when Cutler can communicate with his line and recievers the offense is decent. However this offense has not been together long enough to play together on instinct. Quest Fields 12th man is going to test the Bears offense.

By the way now Dungy is saying Cutler has grown and is showing leadership. Funny I believe I said Dungy would be saying that this week.

I'm not so sure that the 3-4 is the wave of the future Wrigley, most teams use it now to get more blitzing options than the 4-3 allows. They are teams who usually had difficultly in finding 4 down lineman that could play both the run and rush the passer. You usually do better running against a 3-4 going straight ahead and then having a runner with good cutback vision. One of the things with Forte is he hits the hole fast and does not wait to get to the line of scrimmage. It just did not look like the Bears spent much time on the run game in the Steelers agem because they know the interior of the line has not meshed well enough to get push off the ball. I hope to see improvement in this area as the season progresses. The other reason we are having problems running the ball is the lack of respect for our receivers around the league teams are running 8 man fronts and singling up on the wideouts, and pressuring Cutler because they feel they can get to him before a receiver gets open, that's why Knox's speed has made him a valuable player for the team to date. As the passing game improves we should see more room for Forte to run and get a more balanced attack on offense.

I still think that off-tackle traps, like the power O that the Bears used to run with Reuben Brown, are the way to go against a 3-4. I was talking to a former NFL player after the game and we agreed that those traps were open all game. But whatever the reason, the Bears will be seeing a lot more 3-4, including two games every year v. Green Bay. They'd better learn to block it if they want to have any offensive success.

"By the way now Dungy is saying Cutler has grown and is showing leadership. Funny I believe I said Dungy would be saying that this week."

Are you kidding, the over the hill, senior citizen, nasty, ex-coach said something nice about Jay...the old fart is a total dou##e bag. Please print the web site so I can read it, because I just don't believe he has it in him to say anything nice about Jay.

Hey Creighton, good to hear from you again, although I think you said you had officially become a Steelers fan before the game.

So what's your take on how the Bears beat the defending SB champions?

No comments about Manning at Free Safety? No comments about linebacker play with Hillenmeyer, Briggs, Roach and Williams.

The D played pretty well, there was push and coverage by the secondary was for the most part good. You cannot fault the defense for this effort.

The field played up to its expectation of being the worst in the league, maybe that is why the Steelers missed two field goals when they counted?

Play calling was unusual, very very conservative, lots of poorly designed screens, some screens were ok but geez the play calling was not too exciting or imaginative.

Tommie Harris seemed to show up once big time but not much before the tackle in the fourth quarter.

A win is a win and over the Steelers it is great.

Go Bears

Maybe the running game could improve if we had a starting-calibur backup on the roster capable of breaking off 140+ yards against the same Packers defense that held Forte to 2.2 ypc...

Benson sucks though, and the Great Matt Forte needs a stronger line, right? If only explosive athletes like John Tait, Rueben Brown and Fred Miller could get in there and drive defenses off of the line like they did for the sucky Benson in '07. That line was dominant! A savvy QB like Rex Grossman who can regular beat the blitz would be helpful in preventing defenses from stacking the box, too.

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This page contains a single entry by Brad Biggs published on September 20, 2009 11:53 PM.

Starting lineup changes official for Bears was the previous entry in this blog.

Film work: Examining four plays from Sunday's game is the next entry in this blog.

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