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Bears focusing on next game; not 3-0 start

Posted by Larry Mayer on September 26, 2013 – 5:15 pm

The Bears are 3-0 for just the third time in the last 22 seasons. But as they prepare for Sunday’s NFC North showdown in Detroit, they’re not wasting any time admiring themselves in a mirror.

“It’s just three wins,” said linebacker Lance Briggs. “Three wins isn’t going to get you into the playoffs, so for us we need to keep etching away. This is a divisional opponent and when you play somebody in your division, you can continue to separate yourself from everybody else.”

Coach Marc Trestman certainly won’t let anyone at Halas Hall rest on their laurels. Asked what he tells his players to ensure that they don’t get too satisfied with their quick start, he said: “We’re not 3-0; we’re 0-0 and this is Game 1 of 13. That’s really the reality of it all.

“We’ve got to focus on getting better each day, and on Sunday we play Game 1 of the season. That’s how it is. There’s no light at the end of the tunnel here. There are no guarantees at the end of the tunnel, that 3-0 is getting us anywhere.

“It’s giving us a chance. That’s what it’s doing. Just like hard work each week doesn’t guarantee us we’re going to win, but it gives us a chance, and that’s all we’re trying to do on Sunday. That’s really the reality of it. That’s how we’re approaching it.”

The message has clearly been received by Bears players.

“We’re not even thinking about being 3-0,” said center Roberto Garza. “We’re thinking about trying to win this football game. Coach Trestman talked about it—what happens in the past is in the past. We’ve got to worry about this week.”

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Tillman sits out second straight practice

Posted by Larry Mayer on September 26, 2013 – 4:54 pm

Bears cornerback Charles Tillman sat out practice Thursday for the second straight day with knee and groin injuries. More will be known Friday about his status for Sunday’s game in Detroit.

“He’s day-to-day,” said coach Marc Trestman. “We’re hopeful and I’ll tell you exactly where he is tomorrow. We’re just not sure. We’ll see where he is in the morning. He worked off the field all day. We’re optimistic, but we’ll know more in the morning.”

If Tillman is unable to play against the Lions, he would be replaced by Zack Bowman, who practiced without restrictions Thursday after being limited by a knee injury Wednesday. Bowman has appeared in 60 games with 16 starts in six seasons with the Bears, recording 104 tackles, seven interceptions, 13 pass breakups, two forced fumbles and five fumble recoveries.

“We’re not going to put Tillman out there if the doctors don’t feel he’s ready to play,” Trestman said. “That being the case, Zack worked [Thursday] and he worked all practice and he’ll be in there to play [if needed] and then we’ll play defense.”

Tillman has started 51 straight games for the Bears dating back to the 2010 season opener. He has been extremely durable since arriving in 2003 as a second-round pick from Louisiana-Lafayette, missing just six games over the last eight-plus seasons.

In other injury news, cornerback Sherrick McManis (quad) missed practice for the second straight day. Tillman and McManis were the only two Bears who did not work out on Thursday.

For the Lions, running back Reggie Bush (knee) practiced without limitations for the second day in a row, while eight Detroit starters were limited: defensive end Ezekiel Ansah (abdomen), safety Louis Delmas (knee), tackle Jason Fox (groin), cornerback Chris Houston (hand), receiver Calvin Johnson (knee), linebackers DeAndre Levy (abdomen) and Ashlee Palmer (ankle), and defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh (knee).

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Bears gear up to face Ndamukong Suh

Posted by Larry Mayer on September 26, 2013 – 3:52 pm

Leave it to colorful Bears tight end Martellus Bennett to provide his own unique perspective on whether Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh occasionally bends the rules.

Asked Thursday if he thinks Suh is a dirty player, Bennett said: “No, hopefully he takes baths.”

The Bears may have a chance to check whether Suh washes behind his ears during Sunday’s NFC North showdown in Detroit. But while the 6-4, 307-pounder is known mostly for his questionable hits on opponents, the Bears are more concerned about Suh’s ability to disrupt their offense.

“He’s explosive,” Bennett said. “I think he’s one of the best defensive tackles in the NFL. He’s just somebody you have to deal with the whole game. He plays hard and you have to respect a player that plays like he does every single play.”

In a Sporting News poll of NFL players in 2011, Suh was voted the dirtiest player in the league. He has been suspended two games for stomping on Packers lineman Evan Dietrich-Smith, fined $30,000 for kicking Texans quarterback Matt Schaub in the groin and fined $100,000 for diving at the knee of Vikings center John Sullivan during an interception return in this year’s season opener.

Suh is also a dominant player who has been voted to two Pro Bowls in three NFL seasons and teams with third-year pro Nick Fairly to give the Lions one of the league’s top tackle tandems.

“They’re strong explosive guys,” said center Roberto Garza. “They’re big guys who get up the field. We have our work cut out for us. We have to get ready for a tough challenge.”

Suh figures to be blocked at times by Garza as well as guards Kyle Long and Matt Slauson.

“It’s not easy for one man to block him,” said coach Marc Trestman. “Sometimes we can slide the line that way. Sometimes we can do it with the back. Sometimes the guards are going to have to handle him by themselves. It’s just a combination of things.

“When you go into a game, you say to yourself: ‘Where’s No. 90, and are we stopping him on this play? Do we have a chance to stop him?’ And when you can neutralize difference makers—and he’s one of them on their team—you’re going to put yourself in a better position to have success.”

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First road game provides litmus test

Posted by Larry Mayer on September 19, 2013 – 5:16 pm

Playing on the road for the first time Sunday night in Pittsburgh will provide a litmus test for a Bears offense that has allowed only one sack and not committed a pre-snap penalty in two home games.

“We’ll find out more about ourselves,” said coach Marc Trestman. “We’ve got to play in the noise. We’ve got to play in an environment that there’s going to be a great sense of urgency on both teams. It’ll be exciting. I think it will help measure us a little bit more.”

The Bears pumped noise into the Walter Payton Center during practice Wednesday and Thursday.

“We’ve done a good job at home with pre-snap penalties and now we’ve got to carry it out onto the road,” said offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer. “We’re practicing a lot with noise and trying to get used to that atmosphere, and we’ve been pretty good this week.

“The silent snap count has been worked on as well since Day 1 in the offseason and throughout training camp. It is a get-off factor and part of football is we know the snap count and they don’t, so the offense you hope can get off faster than the defense. You have to do a good job of understanding the mechanics and understanding the timing with your center, and that’s what we’ve been working on.”

It won’t be easy, but quarterback Jay Cutler is confident with how the Bears will respond to the exotic blitzes they’re expected to see from coordinator Dick LeBeau’s Steelers defense.

“They show a lot of different fronts, they show a lot of different blitzes and dogs,” Cutler said Thursday at Halas Hall. “We’ve got to be prepared for that, and ‘Krom’ and ‘Trest’ and those guys have done a great job of getting us ready for the different looks we’re going to see.

“We won’t be perfect out there. We’re going to see some stuff that maybe we mess up, but we just have to work through it, work through the crowd noise, and get to the second half in a good place for us to win the game.”

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Tucker helps offense prep to face 3-4

Posted by Larry Mayer on September 19, 2013 – 4:14 pm

With the Bears preparing to face the Steelers’ 3-4 defense Sunday night in Pittsburgh, offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer picked the brain of defensive counterpart Mel Tucker.

Tucker operated a 3-4 scheme as a defensive assistant with the Cleveland Browns.

“Definitely to use a resource like Mel is a smart thing to do and anytime I get a chance to do that I do,” Kromer said. “[I asked him], ‘What gives you headaches in a 3-4? What’s tough on you? What do you want to see in a 3-4?’ That conversation has happened, yes.”

One of the most difficult aspects of playing against a 3-4 defense is diagnosing where the pass rush is coming from. On some plays, the Steelers line up with only one player in a three-point stance. Others blitz from a variety of different spots.

“They play very stout two-gap defense on first and second down with a combination of some pressures,” Kromer said. “But then on third down [defensive coordinator] Dick LeBeau has been known for years to have a lot of tough nickel blitzes; show you one way, blitz the other way, roll a guy from the line of scrimmage down to a deep half to cover. So that’s what makes it difficult. It’s just hard to see where they’re coming from.”

With the Bears as well as their first two opponents this season employing 4-3 defenses, the Chicago offense hasn’t practiced a whole lot against a 3-4 scheme until this week.

“We just don’t see it often,” said quarterback Jay Cutler. “If you don’t see something, if you’re unfamiliar with it, it’s going to take an extra second, an extra click to really get it. But we’ve had a good week so far trying to duplicate it as best we can.”

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Tillman works on sideline during practice

Posted by Larry Mayer on September 19, 2013 – 2:40 pm

Cornerback Charles Tillman (knee) sat out individual and team drills Thursday for the second straight day, but the Bears are hopeful that he will be able to play Sunday night in Pittsburgh.

“Charles worked on the sideline with the trainers, worked actively on the sideline with trainers,” said coach Marc Trestman. “He was limited and did all the walkthroughs throughout practice.”

If Tillman is unable to play against the Steelers, Zack Bowman would likely start in his place.

“He got a lot of practice time throughout the OTAs and has always done a good job for us in that regard in backing up the corners,” Trestman said of Bowman, a sixth-year pro from Nebraska. “We’re encouraged that Charles will be ready, but Zack has had a good week of practice as well.”

Receiver Brandon Marshall missed the final portion of practice as a precaution after experiencing back tightness.

“Brandon had a very good practice and then about the middle to the late practice tightened up a little in his back,” Trestman said. “So just to be cautious we pulled him out of practice. He walked around and moved around. We’ll just be cautious and we’ll have him limited [Friday] just coming out and we’ll see where he’s at.”

Tight end Martellus Bennett (shoulder) and right guard Kyle Long (back) practiced without restrictions Thursday after being limited Wednesday.

For the Steelers, cornerback Cortez Allen (ankle) did not practice and linebacker Jarvis Jones (heel) was limited.

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Bears confident pass rush will improve

Posted by Larry Mayer on September 11, 2013 – 5:16 pm

The Bears defense will focus on containing Vikings star running back Adrian Peterson Sunday at Soldier Field, but that won’t be the unit’s only objective.

“The running game is going to be huge, but we also have to get pressure on the quarterback, and we know that,” said defensive coordinator Mel Tucker. “That’s been a big point of emphasis already this week. We’ve got to generate the pass rush with the front four. It’s going to be something we’re really going to work on this week.”

The Bears defensive line produced little if any pressure last Sunday on Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton, who completed 26 of 33 passes for 282 yards while being sacked only once.

“The biggest thing is it starts with getting off the ball,” said defensive end Corey Wootton. “I didn’t think we did that as a whole and we have to continue to strive to do that. We’re a talented bunch, but we didn’t really show the way that we had been doing all through preseason and camp.”

Tucker is confident that the defense will play better in all areas Sunday, beginning with a formidable pass rush against Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder.

“I feel like you’re going to make your most improvement from the first game to the second game,” Tucker said. “That’s what we’re looking to do. Whether it’s in the pass rush, eliminating big plays or tackling, getting off the field on third downs, we’re looking for huge amounts of improvement. It starts in practice and it starts in the meetings.

“I was pleased with what happened [Wednesday]. Guys came out to work. I have a lot of confidence in these guys, I really do, that they can execute at a high level and we’ll get them to do that.”

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Trestman believes fully in Mel Tucker

Posted by Larry Mayer on September 11, 2013 – 4:21 pm

The qualities that led Marc Trestman to hire Mel Tucker as Bears defensive coordinator in January have been evident to the first-year head coach early in the regular season.

“He’s got great people skills,” Trestman said. “He’s got great communication skills. I know he knows football. I spent a lot of time when I was interviewing talking football with him and knowing his complete understanding of the game in all three levels. He has the football acumen and has the technique and fundamentals. He has the whole package and he’s an outstanding leader.”

Tucker spent the last five seasons as an NFL defensive coordinator with the Browns (2008) and Jaguars (2009-12). He served as Jacksonville’s interim head coach for the final five games of the 2011 season and returned as defensive coordinator on Mike Mularkey’s staff in 2012 while adding the title of assistant head coach.

Trestman is ultimately responsible for how the defense performs and chats regularly with Tucker, but he has the utmost confidence in his coordinator.

“I hold myself accountable for [the defense], in this position,” Trestman said. “I speak with Mel every day on things that are going on, on things that I see, and I’ll spend a lot of time with him. I don’t think I have to; I think him and I can talk in sound bites and get done and move onto the next job that we have. But I’m aware of what’s going on.

“He’s the expert on defense. I don’t claim to be an expert on defense. I know where and how, but I don’t know all the details, certainly. I don’t know that there’s anybody that knows everything. I feel like I know enough to be a sounding board for him and give him some feedback from an offensive standpoint as well.”

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Tillman limited, but expected to play

Posted by Larry Mayer on September 11, 2013 – 2:43 pm

Bears cornerback Charles Tillman was limited in practice Wednesday due to a sore knee, but the two-time Pro Bowler likely will start Sunday’s home game against the Minnesota Vikings.

“I do expect him to play,” coach Marc Trestman said after the Bears worked out inside the Walter Payton Center. “He was limited today. He did do some work, not just in individual but during team. It’s just precautionary not to give him all the reps, but he was out there working.”

The only Bears player listed on the injury report Wednesday, Tillman had two interceptions in last Sunday’s 24-21 season-opening win over the Cincinnati Bengals. The 11-year veteran ranks third on the franchise’s all-time list with 35 interceptions and his 39 forced fumbles are the most by any player since Tillman entered the NFL in 2003.

Trestman called Tillman’s penchant to generate takeaways “just remarkable,” saying: “It is something we saw all through training camp and the OTAs. It didn’t change in the game.”

The Bears are going to need Tillman to make plays Sunday against the Vikings, especially in run support versus star running back Adrian Peterson, the reigning NFL MVP.

“It’s going to be huge,” said defensive coordinator Mel Tucker. “We all have to do a better job of tackling. That’s one of the things we’ve talked about already this week, it’s the tackling. Peanut is a guy who is an all-around player. He’s going to do what he needs to do in the run game.

“He’s going to support the run, he’s going to tackle, he’s going to force fumbles, and he’s going to compete in the passing game too. But tackling is going to be huge for our whole defense. That’s one of the things we’ve been talking about. We have to become stronger tacklers.”

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Defense making a smooth transition

Posted by Larry Mayer on September 4, 2013 – 6:15 pm

Brian Urlacher and the previous coaching regime are gone. But the Bears are confident that their defense will pick up this season under new coordinator Mel Tucker where it left off last year.

“You’ve seen in preseason it’s been a success for us,” said cornerback Tim Jennings. “We didn’t really change a whole lot. Coach Tucker came in and decided he just wanted to play his role and know that what we were doing in the past worked.

“He just implemented his style of defense; kind of mixed it up a little bit but kept the same terminology. We kept the same core of guys. We’re missing Brian and a few defensive pieces, but we added a whole lot of depth and the guys have fit well into what we’re trying to do.”

Keeping the same system and terminology in place has resulted in a very smooth transition.

“It helps a lot,” said defensive end Julius Peppers. “We’re all familiar with it. There wasn’t a learning curve. We all knew what we had to do, and now it’s about going out and doing it.”

It appears that little has changed with the defense, at least in one key aspect of the game. After leading the NFL with 44 takeaways last year, the Bears produced a league-high 14 in the preseason.

“We definitely pride ourselves on takeaways,” said safety Major Wright. “Coach [Jon] Hoke definitely emphasized that when Lovie had left. He put it back in, and coach Tucker, he’s a guy who went with it. It’s going great. Every practice we definitely focus on takeaways. If we don’t get a takeaway, we feel like our day didn’t go right.”

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