By Laurence W. Holmes-
HALAS HALL (CBS) Time offers the opportunity for perspective, so I thought it would be a good idea to wait each week to give my thoughts on the Bears game. The idea being that 24 hours allows for me to watch the game over and talk to a few more people. Hence, “The 24 Blog”.
What I Saw:
– A dominant performance from the Bears defensive line. The Rams were held to 6 points, 160 total yards and were sacked six times. Of those six sacks, five of them came from the defensive line. Israel Idonije led the group with two and a half sacks and got four quarterback hits. The defensive ends did well, but what I thought was most impressive was the play of the interior. Amobi Okoye was very solid. Stephen Paea was downright special. He collapsed the pocket a ton. The Bears say that when pressure comes from up the middle, the quarterback can’t see and is “throwing from a well”. Sam Bradford’s two interceptions and 39.2 passer rating speaks to that.
– Tim Jennings continues to shine. He made his fourth pick of the season. That’s a career high for him. If you go back to last year, Jennings has had interceptions in four straight games. The Bears haven’t had a player to do that since 1986. Jennings also broke up a pass that turned into a Major Wright interception for a touchdown. It’s fair to start thinking that Jennings could end up in the Pro Bowl.
– The offense is still a work in progress. The Bears used more max-protection stuff after J’Marcus Webb got beat by Robert Quinn for a sack. If the Bears have to keep an extra guy in, it limits what they can do. Michael Bush was a microcosm for the entire day offensively. He did enough to win, but wasn’t spectacular.
– Brian Urlacher is starting to look more fluid. With the pressure of the front-four, it makes everyone look good, but Urlacher was rallying to the ball and making plays. He had a “run stuff” and broke up a pass. The first two games he looked mechanical, he didn’t on Sunday. He’s gotten through the doubt of whether his knee was going to hold up. The conditioning seems to be back as well. It’s still a situation that will be monitored and the Bears will likely continue to give him some practices off.
Urlacher was very solid, but it should be mentioned, Lance Briggs was the best linebacker on the field yesterday. He had a monster game. He had seven tackles, broke up two passes, had a tackle for loss and blew up a screen play.
What I Heard:
“I was like…(BLEEP)!!!” -Henry Melton
Melton thought the defensive line played great. He thought he was close to sacks a couple times and just couldn’t get there. This exclamation came in the tunnel after the game because he wanted to get in on the sack party.
“Tim made a commitment to improve his game.” – Lovie Smith
The Bears wanted more turnovers from Jennings. They wanted him to be a difference maker when the ball was in the air and Smith challenged Jennings to get better in the offseason. Some players would’ve left the organization looking for greener pastures. Jennings took the criticism and turned it into a positive. He spent extra time working on technique and taking passes from the JUGS machine. To say Smith is proud of what Jennings is doing would be an understatement.
“…now I kinda like it.” – Tim Jennings on his new nickname “The Hawk”
Jennings laughed when Zach Zaidman asked about Brian Urlacher dubbing Jennings “The Hawk”. He said it started back in training camp, when he was out on the Bourbonnais practice fields catching over a 100 balls a day. It’s stuck and will continue to stick as long as he continues to make plays. So does that mean on the 10th anniversary of Kerry Wood appreciation day, they’ll find Jennings in the Wrigley ivy???
“Hit & miss” – Jay Cutler describing his game
Cutler wasn’t sharp. He was 17-for-31 on the day with an interception. He ended up with a 58.9 passer rating. There were some open throws that he missed high with. The protection wasn’t perfect, but it was better. He also made a gorgeous throw to Brandon Marshall down the sideline over the head of Cortland Finnegan. Yes it was a back-foot throw, but the pocket was messy and Cutler gave Marshall an opportunity to make a play. He did for 34 yards. Blame for the goal-line miss to Hester should be broken up into three: 1) Cutler had time and still put the ball a little high, 2) Hester needs to make that play (he jumped a too early), 3) Tice calling a fade route to his smallest receiver… questionable.
“Saint Louie” – Referee Jerry Hughes
That’s how Hughes referred to the Rams on most of the four penalties called on them. It’s been bizarre watching the replacement refs. What’s troubling is that I thought they did fine in Week 1. It’s gotten much worse since. They seem nervous, unsure when cracking the mic to explain things and don’t have great control of the games.
What I Was Told:
“That’s my style of play. Just play pissed off.” -Chilo Rachal
Rachal was inserted into the starting lineup and other than a couple of false starts, he played very well. When I asked Jay Cutler about Rachal’s game he said that Rachal plays with “an edge”. In games where things aren’t pretty, you need a couple of tough guys to hold the line. The team seems to like his toughness and quietly, I think they’re hoping some of that “edge” wears off on J’Marcus Webb.
“We start with ‘get-off’ & pad level.” – Stephen Paea
At its core, defensive line play is about leverage. Usually, the lowest man wins. Paea did a great job of that on Sunday. Before the linemen work on their hand-fighting technique, they have to impress Rod Marinelli with pad level. In the first three games of the season, the young pass-rushers (Paea, Corey Wootoon and Shea McClellin) have begun to develop. Lovie Smith gave me this explanation on why:
“We are going to dress seven defensive linemen normally and we base it a lot on how they practice each week. They realize that, so you have to have your ‘A’ game every day to get in position to play these games and maybe it’s just as simple as that,” Smith said.
The ability to rotate players in and out of that line has kept the competition going and has generated the best results thus far.
“He beat me in H-O-R-S-E!” – Brandon Marshall
During the summer, Cutler and Marshall got together and played hoops. Apparently, Cutler won their H-O-R-S-E match by dunking. So Marshall wasn’t surprised by Cutler’s athleticism on his 21-yard fourth quarter scramble.
For more Bears information, follow Laurence on Twitter @LaurenceWHolmes.