Joniak’s Journal: New Bears Better Be Ready For Lakefront Freeze
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By Jeff Joniak
There are a bunch of new Bears on the roster, some who’ve never experienced the lakefront chill expected Monday night. Forecasts are calling for a “real feel” temperature below zero with the wind factored in. It’s going to be cold at the kick and colder yet if the Bears start slowly or fall behind by a big number. Same is true for the Cowboys. The scoreboard will dictate the ability for players to handle the conditions more than anything else. My broadcast partner and former Bears guard Tom Thayer tells me that all the time. I always remember that Atlanta game at Soldier Field in December 2005 when it was three below zero at kickoff. Rex Grossman got a standing ovation in relief of Kyle Orton in Grossman’s return from an injury, and the Bears whipped Vick 16-3. The Bears defense picked Vick twice, sacked him twice, and batted down his throws, and it didn’t look like he wanted to be there. Certainly Tony Romo has played in cold weather, but his December record is 11-15. He’s also struggled on Monday night throwing 17 interceptions in eight games, including five in Dallas in 2012 against the Bears.
Marquess Wilson is one Bears rookie who won’t be hitting any wall as week 14 arrives. The seventh round draft pick out of Washington State has played only 41 offensive snaps. The 21-year-old receiver from Tulare, Calif. has been essentially running routes — a few here, a few there, sometimes early, sometimes late. His only touch came on a three-yard completion at Washington in the seventh game. It’s the big tease. Wilson is fast and I can envision a fly pattern one of these days on an unsuspecting cornerback. There’s very little tape on Wilson, and with all the weapons he’s not expected to be the primary target. Somebody is going to fall asleep on Wilson and it’s going to lead to a big play at some point this season. Despite a low volume of snaps, Wilson said he’s improved. Receivers coach Mike Groh is getting Wilson to play more physical at the line of scrimmage, because there is no time to waste trying to beat a jam in the NFL.
The Bears are the only NFL team allowing more than 150 rushing yards per game and the only team giving up five yards per carry. They have given up the second most rushing touchdowns at 15. Yet coordinator Mel Tucker cites improvement defensively. “We’re to the point now we’re there to make the play, we just have to finish,” Tucker said. “We’re not talking about missed fits as much now as we were talking a couple of weeks ago.” Tucker said the defense must be more physical at the point of attack, get off blocks and make plays. The addition of Jeremiah Ratliff could pay immediate dividends starting Monday night. He’s not likely to be on a low snap count as he was in his debut last week at Minnesota. There is a presence about Ratliff and everyone in the room can feel it.
4th and Short
Interesting to hear the perspectives from former Cowboys-turned-Bears on the differences in the two organizations. Special team coordinator Joe DeCamillis made it clear that it’s been an honor to work for both franchises. “It’s a little bit more like Hollywood(in Dallas), and here it’s probably a little bit tamer,” he says. Defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff and tight end Martellus Bennett agree, suggesting more attention is focused on football with the Bears. There is and always will be a lot of outside drama in Dallas.