NFC North: Chicago Bears

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When: 1 p.m. ET, Sunday Where: Soldier Field, Chicago TV: Fox

The Chicago Bears' brass spewed plenty of tough talk after Lovie Smith’s firing about plans to close the gap on the Green Bay Packers in the NFC North.

But while Chicago was talking grand plans, the rest of the division was actually executing them, which is how we’ve come into Sunday’s matchup at Soldier Field with the last-place Bears hosting the NFC North-leading Detroit Lions.

ESPN Bears reporter Michael C. Wright and Lions reporter Michael Rothstein break down the matchup:

Wright: Looking at all the playoff scenarios, it’s clear all the Lions need to worry about is winning Sunday against the Bears. That has to be a refreshing feeling considering all this franchise has been through. What is the mood in the locker room, how confident is this team headed into such a crucial stretch, and do you feel the Lions are catching fire at just the right time?

Rothstein: That's all the Lions have been talking about, Michael. You ask a playoff question, you’re pretty much getting an answer about focusing on Chicago or beating Chicago. Personally, I was hoping there would be a Lions player this week who would answer every question with just the word "Chicago." That could have been entertaining. It all starts with coach Jim Caldwell, though. He won’t talk about the playoffs with anybody, not even his family. Considering how much the Lions have really bought into all of his motivational messages this season, it isn’t surprising they have continued doing that. As far as catching fire, Detroit’s defense has been consistent all season. The offense seems to vary depending on the opponent. Facing the Bears could be a good thing for the Lions since Chicago’s defense is one of the worst in the league.

The last time Detroit faced Chicago, the Bears seemed to be in a bit of a downward spiral. How has it gotten worse over the past four weeks?

Wright: Oh, Mike, let me count the ways. Instead of this being a "downward spiral," it’s now just a cliff with essentially everyone -- from team president Ted Phillips to the equipment staff -- trying desperately to prevent the inevitable tumble off the edge. Two nationally televised embarrassments in a row at Soldier Field in losses to Dallas and New Orleans. Do you realize nearly 11,000 fans didn’t show up for the club’s dismal showing against the Saints? Mike, you know it’s bad when you have a nationally televised game on tap, yet all the coverage throughout the week focuses on offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer’s tearful admission that he was the anonymous source for a report by the NFL Network, and the ensuing fallout from that. Right now, do you think the media in Chicago is talking about Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson or Ndamukong Suh? Nope. All the questions and speculation going into this game concern the futures of general manager Phil Emery, the coaching staff and whether ownership can stomach enough of this futility to resist cleaning house before the conclusion of the regular season. Mike, it’s bad. Very bad. It’s worse than anything I’ve ever covered, and the feeling I get is this team has thrown in the towel and is simply anticipating what appears to be the inevitable. I don't think news this week of the team naming quarterback Jimmy Clausen the starter over Jay Cutler eases the drama.

When the Lions first hired Caldwell, there was skepticism about his abilities as a head coach. There is no doubting Caldwell now, in my opinion. How different is the players' belief in Caldwell as this team’s leader compared to how they felt with Jim Schwartz?

Rothstein: I will readily admit I was one of Caldwell's biggest doubters, even at his opening news conference when I asked him about having a losing record in college and being out in Indy after three seasons. But he has really been the perfect coach for this team. His calmness has been the biggest factor in why Detroit has been able to continually come from behind this season and why Detroit is 10-4 with two games to go. The players, as mentioned, really buy into everything he’s saying and also appreciate his coaching style and that of his defensive coordinator, Teryl Austin. Austin often implements in-game adjustments from his players based on what they are seeing on the field, and it’s worked. Last week is a good example, as Minnesota scored 14 points early and didn’t score again the rest of the game. That has been huge for the Lions.

The Bears essentially abandoned the run against Detroit on Thanksgiving, and there are other games this season where they have done that, too. Does Chicago try to run on Detroit a second time, or do you expect more of the same Sunday?

Wright: The last time these teams met, Chicago knew running the ball against the Lions would prove to be an exercise in futility. So the Bears tried to attack Detroit the same way the Patriots did with the short passing attack. They figured short passes to Matt Forte would be an extension of the rushing attack. The game plan seemed to work at first, before Detroit turned a 14-3 deficit into a 24-14 lead at intermission on the strength of a trio of touchdowns on three consecutive possessions. Forte finished with five attempts -- which tied a career low -- for 6 yards. If the Bears attack similarly in this contest, you can count on the Detroit Lions engineering a blowout. As good as Detroit’s run defense is, the Bears would render play-action totally ineffective if they abandon the run. So Chicago likely will start off the game trying to run the ball. But as you predicted, the Bears will abandon the rushing attack at some point. It’s just a matter of time in this game.

Mike, you cover a team with so many interesting storylines. What is the latest with the right tackle situation? Can you give me the lowdown on undrafted rookie Cornelius Lucas, since he might be the next man up at that position with LaAdrian Waddle suffering a knee injury against Minnesota?

Rothstein: I don’t quite have the storylines you have, Michael. Caldwell essentially ruled Waddle out of Sunday’s game against Chicago, and Lucas is going to be the guy. He has had some struggles this season, but Lucas considers his best game of the season the only other one he started -- against the Bears on Thanksgiving. He was responsible for no quarterback sacks and no quarterback hurries in that game. Lucas might have been an undrafted free agent, but his size and foot speed make him a player with a lot of potential in the future. There is a reason Detroit coveted him in the UDFA market. It will be interesting to see him go up against Willie Young on Sunday, because Young is having his own breakout season and could really take advantage of Lucas if he isn’t careful. It could be one of the most hidden matchups to watch if Chicago has a chance at an upset.

Typically, it’s been the Lions in the role of spoiler throughout the recent history of this rivalry. Yet that is what the Bears are playing for this week. Is that a big motivation for them, or are the other issues taking over?

Wright: Self-preservation takes precedence over playing the spoiler role in this outing, my man. By and large, a good portion of the coaching staff believes it is on the way out. In fact, multiple coaches on that staff have told me as much. But they have also said it’s important for them to go out and conduct themselves as professionals, because when it’s all said and done, most if not all will be seeking employment elsewhere once ownership finally makes the decision to clean house. The Bears started the season losing three in a row at Soldier Field, and it appears this team is destined to end the season the same way. So I’m sure the Bears want to finish out with a victory in their last game of the season at Soldier Field. But honestly, I think spoiling Detroit’s season is the furthest thing from this team’s thinking at this point.
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LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- One major component swaying the Chicago Bears' decision to hire Marc Trestman was his ability to coax the best from quarterbacks, but the coach admitted Wednesday he hasn’t been able to accomplish that endeavor with Jay Cutler.

“I think that’s evident I haven’t up to this point,” Trestman said. “Am I working at it? Yes. We’ve seen moments, but we haven’t done it on a consistent basis. I can’t hide from that.”

Cutler won’t let him.

[+] EnlargeMarc Trestman
AP Photo/David Goldman"I haven't been able [to coax the best from Jay Cutler] and we haven't been able to do the things that we want to get done," Marc Trestman said.
During a nationally televised loss Monday night to the New Orleans Saints, Cutler tossed three interceptions and produced a season-low passer rating of 55.8. Cutler also generated a total QBR of 6.8 against the Saints, which registered as his second-worst performance of the season in that category (6.0 QBR in Week 10).

The highest-paid offensive player in the NFL this season, Cutler currently leads the league in turnovers (24). On a per-play basis, Cutler has averaged a turnover every 33.3 snaps this season, which ranks as third-worst among all qualified players in the NFL, according to ESPN Stats & Information. What’s more is Cutler’s turnover rate is nearly twice as high as the average qualified NFL quarterback this season (the average is a turnover every 65.3 snaps).

“I haven’t been able [to coax the best from Cutler] and we haven’t been able to do the things that we want to get done,” Trestman said. “We’re working towards that. But the answer to that is obvious. I’m trying to give you the most truthful answer and that is, we’ve seen moments of it, but it’s not where we need to go. It’s not where we need to be. But it’s not all about Jay. It’s about our entire offense, working together to get it done.”

ESPN’s Jon Gruden hired Trestman back in 2001 to serve as a senior assistant with the Oakland Raiders, and during the broadcast said the Bears coach should consider benching Cutler and taking a look at backup Jimmy Clausen. Trestman indicated Wednesday he’s not quite ready to sit Cutler.

“Jon certainly has a right to his opinion, and each and every week we go through our evaluations all the way around,” Trestman said. “As I said, Jon’s got a right to his opinion.”

For the better part of the season, Trestman has talked extensively about the team’s great weeks of preparation, and admitted after a Nov. 10 blowout loss at Green Bay, to being “confounded” by the team’s inability to transfer the groundwork laid in practice to the games.

Against the Saints, the Bears converted just 2 of 12 third downs, which led to the club’s defense being on the field for 33 minutes and 31 seconds as Drew Brees ripped Chicago for 375 yards passing and three touchdowns.

Asked whether he was still confounded by Chicago’s preparation not transferring to games, Trestman acknowledged the club still hasn’t found answers, which for the organization, should be troubling considering just two outings remain in the 2014 season. At this point, it’s unclear whether a thorough offseason examination would adequately reveal all that ails Chicago’s offense.

“We haven’t been able to answer that question. We have to be honest with that,” Trestman said. “I’m being honest with you, we haven’t seen that. We haven’t been able to unlock that, and that’s the reason we’re 5-9.”
Every now and then, rivals back one another, and that’s precisely what took place Tuesday when Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers ripped Chicago Bears offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer for criticizing Jay Cutler as an anonymous source in an NFL Network report.

Rodgers told the NFL Network he was “baffled” by the situation, and criticized Kromer’s behavior while expressing empathy for what Cutler endured in the week leading up to Chicago’s loss to the New Orleans Saints on "Monday Night Football."

“I would have a major problem if somebody said something like that,” Rodgers said. “I think anybody that plays the position, you can’t help but empathize with Jay for that situation. You talk all the time about being connected, being a unit, believing in each other. But if you have unnamed sources, people out there cutting you down, and then you find out it’s the person calling the plays… that would be really hard to deal with, to look at him the same way.”

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Matt Marton/USA TODAY SportsBears quarterback Jay Cutler was sacked seven times against New Orleans and threw three interceptions.
Kromer admitted to the team during a meeting he’d been the anonymous source in an NFL Network report in which he criticized Cutler’s game-management skills, specifically his refusal to check out of bad run plays.

During that meeting, Kromer apologized to Cutler, who said he “wasn’t angry” with the offensive coordinator.

But the entire situation resonated profoundly throughout the organization, with Bears general manager Phil Emery chiming in Monday night during the WBBM pregame show to vent his feelings.

"I’ve had to step back this week and let the emotions of those events quell down a little bit so that I was in position to listen and work through the processes and the structure we have to arrive at a conclusion that was in the best interest of the team,” Emery said. “I was very angry, to be honest with you, with what happened. Disappointed, upset, like many of our fans and like many of our players, which was obvious because that’s how the information got out, in terms of Aaron’s apology to the team.”

Rodgers told the NFL Network he “felt for Jay that he was having to deal with that.” Cutler, meanwhile, told WBBM after Monday’s game the entire situation “didn’t affect me preparing for the game” in which he threw three interceptions, was sacked seven times and produced a season-low passer rating of 55.8.

“I was surprised that the coach came out and admitted that it was him. I think, in general, unnamed sources are pretty gutless,” Rodgers said. “But then he comes out and admits it was him. I don't think he deserves any credit for that, but it was interesting that he did."

Rodgers pointed out the differences in work environments in Green Bay and Chicago, and credited coach Mike McCarthy and general manager Ted Thompson for creating an atmosphere in which communication rules and minimizes the prospects for such situations as what took place with the Bears from occurring.

"I would have a major problem with that, if [Green Bay offensive coordinator] Tom Clements was saying stuff like that about me -- which he never would, because Tom and I are so close, and I think we have good communication," Rodgers said. "I think there's a way of doing things when you have issues, and it's keeping it in-house.”

Cutler felt the same way, saying he learned early on in his career that it was better to operate that way.

“When I first got in the NFL [with the Denver Broncos], Mike Shanahan made a huge emphasis that things get kept in house. Throughout my nine years I’ve tried to abide by that policy and keep things in-house,” Cutler said. “Some years I’m better than other years. When [Bears coach Marc Trestman] got here, he was of the same method: Let’s try to keep things in house. And I think we’ve done a heck of a job throughout almost two years, haven’t had a lot of leaks, haven’t had a lot of things happen inside the building that have gotten out. Obviously we had something this time get out. It’s not a bad thing. It’s going to happen, and we’re not the first team it’s going to happen to and we won’t be the last team.”
As Chicago stumbles toward its first sub-.500 season since 2009, second-guessing the franchise’s decision to part ways with Lovie Smith after a 10-6 campaign in 2012 has become common, with former NFL coach Tony Dungy saying the organization took Smith for granted.

Dungy was asked in an interview with The Sporting News whether the firing of his longtime friend and opponent in Super Bowl XLI was fair.

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“No, it wasn’t,” said Dungy, who now serves as an NFL analyst on NBC. “But it’s human nature. It’s not necessarily doing what’s best for the organization, it’s hearing a lot from the outside and hearing about disappointment and expectations not being met, and being convinced that a change has to be made.”

The Bears fired Smith on Dec. 31, 2012, a day after the club closed the season with a 26-24 triumph at Detroit to improve to 10-6. Chicago missed the playoffs for the fifth time in six seasons, and the organization believed it was time to head a different direction. So ownership brought aboard Marc Trestman.

Since making the change, the team -- which openly discussed the desire to close in on the Green Bay Packers -- has deteriorated under Trestman’s watch, finishing 8-8 in 2013, and well on the way now to a record worse than that in 2014.

Smith produced at least 10 victories in two of his final three seasons. Having worked for Indianapolis and Tampa Bay as a head coach, Dungy understood the win-now mindset that led to Smith’s ouster.

“Sometimes you can get spoiled by success,” Dungy said. “Nine-, 10-, 11-win seasons, but you didn’t get to the Super Bowl, so that’s unacceptable. You have to strive for more.”

Dungy declined to criticize Trestman, but mentioned Chicago’s front office hasn’t provided the coach enough talent to field a consistently competitive team.

"From the talent part, they’re really a ways away," Dungy said. "You take away some of the guys that Lovie had, [Charles] Tillman, [Julius] Peppers, Brian Urlacher, and you’re gonna be a ways away."
With Chicago free-falling into a three-game losing streak after Monday night's 31-15 loss to the New Orleans Saints, naturally, questions regarding the Bears' effort continue to surface as the search commences for answers to the club's futility continues.

Cutler
In the wake of the defeat Monday night, New Orleans Saints cornerback Keenan Lewis was asked whether he thought the Bears quit.

"I wouldn't say I had seen it," Lewis said. "I don't think some players out there looked excited to play. Some of them came to play, and some of them didn't."

That's pretty much what the eyeball test has revealed of the Bears over the past several weeks.

Having watched tape of Green Bay's wins over Chicago, Lewis gleaned a few tips for how to stop the Bears offense. The most important? Disguise coverages to confuse quarterback Jay Cutler, who posted a 6.8 total QBR in the loss.

"Don't tell them what [defense] you're in," Lewis said. "Make them figure it out at the last minute. There was a lot of success doing that. By film study, we watched that and saw a couple of teams do the same thing and have success."

Cutler tossed three interceptions Monday night to extend his NFL lead in turnovers (24). The highest paid offensive player in the NFL ($22.5 million in 2014), Cutler has progressively increased his turnover rate this season. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Cutler has averaged a turnover every 33.3 snaps, which ranks as the third-worst rate among all qualified players in the NFL. Cutler's turnover rate is nearly twice as bad as the average qualified NFL quarterback this season, who turns over the ball ever 65.3 snaps.

Cutler earns $1 million more than the next-highest-paid offensive player (Matt Ryan, $21.5 million), yet he's responsible for 10 more turnovers (24 to Ryan's 14). Joe Flacco will earn $21 million in 2014, and he's turned over the ball on just nine occasions.

Contrary to what Lewis said, Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro called his team's success against Cutler and Chicago's offense a simple matter of execution.

Asked what the Saints did to confuse Cutler, Vaccaro said, "not much."

"We were doing what we did all year," he added. "It really wasn't an X's and O's thing. We just executed better."

QB snapshot: Jay Cutler

December, 16, 2014
Dec 16
1:00
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A quick observation of quarterback Jay Cutler and how he played in the Chicago Bears' 31-15 loss to the New Orleans Saints in Week 15:

Cutler
It’s often uttered that Cutler isn’t responsible for all of Chicago’s problems, but he definitely deserves some blame for a putrid performance against the Saints.

In addition to throwing three interceptions, Cutler finished with a season-low passer rating of 55.8 and showcased the flippant demeanor and body language critics have lambasted him for over the years. Cutler downplayed the notion that offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer’s criticism of him last week impacted the quarterback’s performance.

But Cutler played a major role in Chicago getting off to a horrid start it could never recover from. Cutler sailed his first pass of the night right past Dante Rosario near the Chicago sideline. Patrick Robinson picked off Cutler’s second pass of the night.

By the end of the second quarter, Cutler had thrown two interceptions while generating a passer rating of 14.9 on 6-of-14 for 56 yards.

Cutler told WBBM radio after the game the 2014 season has been his most difficult as a professional. Against the Saints, the quarterback extended his NFL lead for turnovers to 24 (18 interceptions, six lost fumbles).

“With all the buildup coming into this year, the expectations, I don’t think we imagined it would be like that,” Cutler said. It’s frustrating. We’re trying to say the same thing different ways after games. You get to a point where you don’t have an answer. I think that’s where we’re at.”
Jay Cutler deservedly received harsh criticism for his three-interception outing in Monday night’s 31-15 loss to the New Orleans Saints, but in the wake of that debacle, the quarterback and Chicago’s public relations staff caught heat for the ensuing press conference.

Cutler
 Cutler answered just three questions during his press conference before leaving the interview area, and it was believed reporters in the locker room weren’t alerted to the start of the session in time to attend it. That’s true to a degree, but Monday night’s situation was more a product of circumstance than anything else.

What typically takes place after Bears home games is coach Marc Trestman conducts a radio interview with WBBM while Cutler showers. When Trestman finishes up with WBBM, he heads over to the interview room to conduct his press conference. While Trestman addresses the media in the press conference area, Cutler usually finishes up his shower, dresses and grabs a chair outside the interview room to sit in as he waits for the head coach to finish his presser.

This time, however, the interview order was thrown off for a couple reasons.

Instead of immediately taking care of his weekly postgame hit with WBBM, Trestman headed over to his office, where he stayed a few minutes, while Cutler showered. By the time Cutler finished up in the shower, Trestman was just heading over to conduct his WBBM interview, while the quarterback was ready to face the media in the press conference area.

So Cutler headed that direction.

At that time, the staff alerted reporters Cutler was walking to the podium, and several -- some even running -- headed that direction. It’s worth noting the walk is fairly long between the team’s locker room and press conference area. So by the time the reporters arrived, Cutler already had answered questions and left.

 
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CHICAGO -- A black Vanderbilt cap pulled low over his brow, Jay Cutler plopped down at the podium, took three questions and bailed before the entire media corps had even descended from the locker room to where the Chicago Bears hold press conferences.

Too bad Cutler wasn't as successful escaping the New Orleans Saints in Monday night's 31-15 shellacking in which he tossed three interceptions, suffered seven sacks and finished with a season-low passer rating of 55.8. For a man receiving $22.5 million in 2014 as part of a seven-year contract worth $126.7 million, the production isn't matching up to the salary.

"Just trying to get better for these next two games," Cutler said. "Just going out and trying to get a good performance offensively."

Cutler failed in that endeavor against New Orleans' 31st-ranked defense, a group that forced the quarterback to extend his NFL lead for turnovers (24) as he tossed two of his three interceptions during a first half in which he generated a passer rating of 14.9.

[+] EnlargeCutler
Matt Marton/USA TODAY SportsThe Saints sacked Bears quarterback Jay Cutler seven times on Monday night.
Both Cutler and Bears coach Marc Trestman downplayed the possibility that the quarterback's performance was negatively impacted by the drama permeating the team during the week of preparation. Offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer, during a team meeting last Monday, reportedly tearfully apologized to Cutler and the offense for criticizing the quarterback to an NFL Network reporter after a Dec. 4 loss to the Dallas Cowboys. Kromer revealed he was the anonymous source in the NFL Network report, which stated the organization was feeling buyer's remorse regarding its high-priced quarterback. While Kromer admitted to criticizing Cutler, he denied any other involvement in the report.

"No, I don't think so," Cutler said when asked if the distractions at Halas Hall during the week had a negative impact. "Just have to look at the film. I have to play better. We'll take a look tomorrow and see exactly what slowed us down."

Trestman said the activity at Halas Hall had no impact on the team during the week. "Excellent work during the week, energy, meetings were good," he said. "Absolutely none."

So what happened, then?

The Bears brought aboard Trestman in January 2013 because of his ability to coax the best from quarterbacks. He'd gained a reputation for helping signal-callers such as Steve Young and Rich Gannon improve. In nearly two complete seasons under Trestman, Cutler owns a 10-15 record.

What's worse is that the promise Cutler flashed during his first year working with Trestman sparked general manager Phil Emery to lock up the quarterback with a long-term deal that more and more is appearing to look like an albatross. On top of his NFL-high salary this year, Cutler is scheduled to receive $15.5 million fully guaranteed in 2015.

Such monstrous figures limit Chicago's ability to add more quality players, which wouldn't be as significant an issue if the quarterback were performing at the level of his salary.

As of Dec. 10, five teams around the NFL had at least 14 percent of their salary caps allocated to the quarterback position, with the Pittsburgh Steelers leading the way at 16 percent, followed by the New York Giants (15.9), St. Louis Rams (15.1), Chicago (14.4) and New Orleans (14.4). Obviously, three of those teams have quarterbacks with Super Bowl rings. Even Denver and Green Bay -- teams with Super Bowl-winning signal-callers -- have smaller percentages of their overall caps allocated to the quarterback position than Chicago.

Like Cutler and Trestman, players in the locker room Monday night downplayed the impact of Kromer's confession and apology -- for an act that constitutes a breach of trust -- on the offense's performance against the Saints. The Bears were just 2-of-12 on third-down attempts and lost the total yardage battle 443-278.

"Not at all," right tackle Jordan Mills said when asked about the Kromer situation impacting the offense. "People make mistakes. We're not perfect. That had nothing to do with our focus this week. [Kromer] apologized for it, and we moved on from it. He was sincere about it. But Coach Kromer cares about all of us and he knows we're not perfect, that he's not perfect. None of that affected us. We just need to be more consistent."

Tight end Martellus Bennett likened the offense's struggles to walking through a dark room, arms outstretched, fingers trailing the walls in search of a light switch.

"You can put anything on paper, but when you show up, the game is played on grass," Bennett said. "I think there are some positions on the team that need to step up the leadership and things like that. Overall, I just feel like we need passion to come from certain places, and I don't think the passion is always there. Overall, it just hasn't been there."

So, who's missing the passion?

"Several people," Bennett said. "But I don't really get into the name thing. They know who they are."
CHICAGO -- In the aftermath of a third consecutive humiliating defeat, Chicago Bears players faced a barrage of questions regarding the future of the coaching staff and front office, a murky subject after the team’s record slipped to 5-9.

Forte
Forte
“I don’t worry about that, no,” Bears running back Matt Forte said. “That’s not my job to be worried about that stuff. If changes happen, you roll with the punches and all that stuff. I’m here to play football and be coached and be coachable. Whatever happens... happens. I do my best to learn what I need to in the classroom and go out and display that on the field.”

Fans are clamoring for the organization to make wholesale changes, not limited to head coach Marc Trestman, general manager Phil Emery, and even team president Ted Phillips. Several, if not all, of the club’s coordinators appear to be in serious jeopardy of getting launched at season’s end, but ownership has given no indications on how it plans to deal with the mess.

Because of the front office’s silence on the topic of job security, veteran players such as offensive tackle Jermon Bushrod will be forced to answer difficult questions until the regular season wraps up on Dec. 28.

“I ain’t got anything to do with that,” Bushrod said. “The guys we got in here are great guys and we’re going to find ways to go back to work. We all have to individually find a way to do something better. We have to. Coming out here and being in these situations, especially the last three weeks, is tough.”

If the Bears lose their final two games to Detroit and Minnesota, the team would finish 5-11 for the first time since Lovie Smith’s maiden voyage as Bears head coach in 2004.
CHICAGO -- Observed and heard in the locker room after the Chicago Bears' 31-15 loss to the New Orleans Saints:

McCray
Slumped over in his locker, Danny McCray recalled counting up every player on the punt, and immediately knowing the Chicago Bears lined up a man short.

"We shouldn't have snapped it," he said. "We probably should've just taken the delay."

The failed play summed up the dysfunction plaguing the Bears on Monday during a 31-15 loss to the New Orleans Saints at Soldier Field.

The Bears attempted to execute a fake punt from their own 39 in the second quarter, but Erik Lorig quickly sniffed it out and stuffed McCray for just a 2-yard gain after he took the ball on the direct snap. So not only did McCray fall short of the required yardage to move the chains on fourth-and-3, officials flagged the Bears for illegal formation.

New Orleans declined the penalty.

"It was frustrating," McCray said.

Bears coach Marc Trestman took responsibility for the mishap.

"I'm not going to go through the litany of all that," Trestman said. You have a right to ask the question. But it's really simple. We should have had 11 players, but we had 10. I'm responsible for that."

Rapid Reaction: Chicago Bears

December, 15, 2014
Dec 15
11:33
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CHICAGO -- A few thoughts on the Chicago Bears' 31-15 loss to the New Orleans Saints at Soldier Field.

What it means: Nothing more than this nightmare is closer to a conclusion. Once mathematically eliminated from postseason contention on Dec. 7, the Bears talked plenty about finishing the season strong and competing hard for jobs in 2015. But from this vantage point, the Bears appear to have checked out. With the Detroit Lions coming to town next week, it's unlikely they'll win another game in front of the home crowd in 2014, and it's certainly worth pondering how much more ownership can stomach before making sweeping changes.

Stock Watch: Myriad issues plague the Bears, so it's not all Jay Cutler's fault. But at the same time, Cutler should bear the brunt of the responsibility for the way the offense performed. New Orleans shut out the Bears in the first half for the fourth time this season, as the Saints headed into the locker room at intermission ahead 14-0.

Chicago has now been outscored 251-124 in the first half this season. Cutler's first-half stat line looked like this: 6-of-14 for 56 yards and two interceptions to go with a passer rating of 14.9. Cutler also absorbed three sacks in the first half, with one coming on a screen pass he should've thrown at the feet of running back Matt Forte.

It's absolutely true that football is a team game, and the protection failed Cutler pretty routinely. But Cutler's $22.5 million salary for 2014 makes him a little more important than most players on the squad. And the truth is, he's got to perform much better. Cutler suffered a season-high seven sacks and extended his NFL lead for turnovers to 24 with three picks against the Saints, finishing with his worst passer rating (55.8) of the season. As receiver Brandon Marshall would say: Unacceptable.

Bears fooled themselves: The Bears called for a direct snap to personal protector Danny McCray on a fake punt in the second quarter from their own 39. Worse than the fact McCray failed to gain enough yardage to convert the fourth-and-3 was the club lining up with just 10 men on the field. Officials flagged the Bears for illegal formation on the play, but the Saints declined because McCray gained just two yards on the fake.

The whole sequence sort of summed up the dysfunction permeating Chicago in 2014.

No shows: The Bears announced 10,749 unused tickets for Monday's game. Given the direction this team seems headed in, that number could grow when the Bears host the Lions in the Soldier Field finale.

Game ball: With all due respect to special teams, it's a shame when a punter receives the game ball. But that's exactly what's happening after this one, as rookie Pat O'Donnell finished the night with a 46.3-yard net average on six punts.

What's next: The Bears plan to take off Tuesday and Wednesday before returning to the practice fields at Halas Hall to prepare to host the Lions on Sunday. The Bears hope to avoid a season sweep at the hands of Detroit for the second consecutive year.
CHICAGO -- The Chicago Bears and New Orleans Saints announced their respective lists of inactives for Monday’s contest at Soldier Field.

The Bears go into the matchup without kicker Robbie Gould (right quadriceps) and free safety Chris Conte (back), along with cornerback Terrance Mitchell, offensive lineman Michael Ola, defensive end Trevor Scott, defensive tackle Brandon Dunn and quarterback David Fales.

Saints outside linebacker Junior Galette and left tackle Terron Armstead are both active after being listed as questionable, and both are big assets for New Orleans. Galette, who suffered a knee injury last week, is the Saints’ best pass-rusher.

The biggest surprise among the Saints’ inactives is cornerback Corey White, who has been a starter for most of the season. The Saints are expected to shuffle up their secondary, with strong safety Kenny Vaccaro likely shifting back into the nickel role where he thrived last year. Cornerback Terrence Frederick and safety Jamarca Sanford could see elevated roles.

Chicago defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff returns to the starting lineup for the first time since the club’s Nov. 23 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He’s been active the last two games due to a knee injury.

Conte, meanwhile, will miss his first outing since Chicago’s loss on Oct. 19 to the Miami Dolphins.

Conte suffered his back injury during the third quarter Dec. 4 in a loss to the Dallas Cowboys. Prior to that, Conte left the club’s loss at Detroit on Thanksgiving because of an eye injury. Conte has been diagnosed with two concussions this season, in addition to missing time with sprains of both shoulders.

Rookie Brock Vereen will start at free safety in Conte’s place.

The Saints activated veteran Robert Meachem as their fourth receiver after releasing Joe Morgan earlier this week. Recently-promoted rookie receiver Seantavius Jones is inactive.

Also inactive for the Saints: cornerback Stanley Jean-Baptiste, linebackers Ronald Powell and Moise Fokou, defensive tackle Lawrence Virgil and offensive tackle Nick Becton.
CHICAGO -- Former NFL receiver Tim Brown said he was shocked back in January 2013 when the Chicago Bears first hired Marc Trestman.

So watching Trestman's struggles thus far through the 2014 season hasn't been a surprise for the nine-time Pro Bowl receiver, who once said, "I just never saw Trestman as being a head coach."

Forte
Trestman
"It's just another coordinator who failed at a head coaching job," Brown said Saturday during the "Jeff Dickerson and Ari Temkin Show" on ESPN radio. "It doesn't mean he won't be a great coordinator for years to come because I believe he will. But sometimes you have to stay in your lane and play the game the way it's supposed to be played. It's like me going into the league and deciding I want to be a running back. Yeah, I probably could have done it. But I don't know how long or how good I would've been at it."

Brown had posted nine consecutive 1,000-yard receiving seasons with the Oakland Raiders entering 2002, the year Trestman took over as the team's offensive coordinator. That season, Jerry Rice emerged as the team's leading receiver and Brown finished with 930 yards.

With the Bears mired in a 5-8 record set to host the New Orleans Saints in the rain at Soldier Field, Brown said the only surprising aspect of Chicago's 2014 campaign is the fact it has underachieved with so many talented players on offense.

"You look at the offensive guys here, the Marshalls, the Jefferys, and Forte and even Bennett has been a guy who has played great football for them, and Jay Cutler being a pretty good quarterback in his own right, I think from that standpoint it's surprising that they are where they are. Trestman was a great offensive coordinator. That doesn't necessarily mean you're going to be a great head coach. You look at what's happened with Dennis Allen with the Raiders. He's a great defensive coordinator. But all of the sudden, when you have to manage a whole team, it becomes a different thing, a tougher thing to have happen. So I'm not shocked from that standpoint, man."
CHICAGO -- Former NFL receiver Tim Brown said he was shocked back in January 2013 when the Chicago Bears first hired Marc Trestman.

So watching Trestman's struggles thus far through the 2014 season hasn't been a surprise for the nine-time Pro Bowl receiver, who once said, "I just never saw Trestman as being a head coach."

Forte
Trestman
"It's just another coordinator who failed at a head coaching job," Brown said Saturday during the "Jeff Dickerson and Ari Temkin Show" on ESPN radio. "It doesn't mean he won't be a great coordinator for years to come because I believe he will. But sometimes you have to stay in your lane and play the game the way it's supposed to be played. It's like me going into the league and deciding I want to be a running back. Yeah, I probably could have done it. But I don't know how long or how good I would've been at it."

Brown had posted nine consecutive 1,000-yard receiving seasons with the Oakland Raiders entering 2002, the year Trestman took over as the team's offensive coordinator. That season, Jerry Rice emerged as the team's leading receiver and Brown finished with 930 yards.

With the Bears mired in a 5-8 record set to host the New Orleans Saints in the rain at Soldier Field, Brown said the only surprising aspect of Chicago's 2014 campaign is the fact it has underachieved with so many talented players on offense.

"You look at the offensive guys here, the Marshalls, the Jefferys, and Forte and even Bennett has been a guy who has played great football for them, and Jay Cutler being a pretty good quarterback in his own right, I think from that standpoint it's surprising that they are where they are. Trestman was a great offensive coordinator. That doesn't necessarily mean you're going to be a great head coach. You look at what's happened with Dennis Allen with the Raiders. He's a great defensive coordinator. But all of the sudden, when you have to manage a whole team, it becomes a different thing, a tougher thing to have happen. So I'm not shocked from that standpoint, man."
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears safety Chris Conte (back), place kicker Robbie Gould (right quadriceps), and linebacker Daryl Sharpton sat out Friday’s practice held inside the Walter Payton Center.

Gould
Gould
Gould is attempting to battle back from a right quadriceps injury that kept the veteran kicker from playing last week in the Bears’ 41-28 loss to the Dallas Cowboys. Kicker Jay Feely remains on the 53-man roster and might handle place kicking duties again on Monday against the New Orleans Saints, but Gould is expected to return before the conclusion of the regular season.

Soon-to-be unrestricted free agent Conte has fought the injury bug the entire season, with his sore back being just the latest in a long string of ailments that have plagued the safety since he had shoulder surgery last spring.

Bears head coach Marc Trestman said Conte would play when "medically cleared by the doctors," but Conte’s status to face the Saints seems to be in doubt.

Meantime, defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff (knee) and offensive lineman Michael Ola (back) were limited on Friday.

Many in the building consider Ratliff the Bears’ best defensive player. The team’s defense has faltered the past two weeks against Detroit and Dallas (particularly versus the run) without Ratliff on the field. The 10-year veteran tried to warm up prior to the Cowboys’ game last Thursday, but wound up inactive.

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