By Jeff Joniak-
December football is just one more reason why the NFL has the market cornered on drama. The final month is typically hair-raising, and halfway through the 2013 season isn’t disappointing. Most of the top dogs were bitten in Week 15, including Denver, New England, New Orleans, Detroit, and Philadelphia.
It pumped new life into several teams including the Bears, setting up important games in the final two weeks of the regular season. In the NFC North, the season turned on the Packers comeback win over Dallas, and the Lions mistake filled loss to Baltimore. If the Bears truly are the hot team after back-to-back wins for the first time since September, they will be division champs sometime in the next two weeks. It begins with a tall order, but not an impossible one in Philadelphia Sunday night. We’re going to learn a lot more about, who the Bears are, and how ready they are to handle success, now that they lead the division.
Marc Trestman will talk to you all day about quarterbacks. He’s studied them to exhaustion. It’s been that way since he was a kid, always a fascination of his. Monday night on the Bears Coaches Show on WBBM, he mentioned that mechanically Jay Cutler was high on a few throws because he was on his back foot, and didn’t get “over on his left side” to complete the throw properly.
“His left foot has got to be open to the target, usually six inches in front of the target,” said Trestman. “When your left foot opens up your knee opens up, and your hips open up, so you don’t lock up. If your left foot is pointed inward and not directly at the target, you’re going to be throwing across your body. When you do that, you lock up, you can’t finish, and you wind up throwing it and pulling back before you finish. When you pull back before that arm comes through, any golfer will tell you, if you don’t finish your golf swing you’re going to slice the ball and that’s basically what happens.”
There’s awkward throws and elite quarterbacks have got to make them, and Cutler made more than not in the win in Cleveland. Trestman does a fantastic job of simplifying the complexities of the detail of the game in his explanations of mechanics and fundamentals.
In a league desperate to find 32 starting caliber quarterbacks, Sunday’s game features at least statistically three of the top 12. Philadelphia’s Nick Foles is the top rated triggerman, and Jay Cutler is 12th. Josh McCown is third. All three quarterbacks are in the top four in fourth-quarter rating and Cutler is the NFL’s second ranked third down passer.
Three of the top nine ranked receivers in yardage are DeSean Jackson, Alshon Jeffrey and Brandon Marshall. Two of the top three running backs in terms of rushing yards and yards from scrimmage are LeSean McCoy and Matt Forte. The tight ends on both teams have combined for 117 catches and 13 touchdowns. There is going to be a lot of offense on the field and who stops who, when, and how could determine the outcome.
4th and Short
If Lance Briggs makes it through the three practices this week, he is expected to return to his weak-side linebacker spot. Even if he’s not in optimum condition, or feeling 100-percent, his mere presence on the field should give everyone on the unit a lift, a feeling of confidence they will be lined up right to stop whatever it is
Chip Kelly plans on throwing at the Bears. Given the fast break style of tempo Kelly wants his attack to play with, Briggs and the rest of the defense have to be prepared to line up and get to it quickly. The Eagles score faster than any team in the league with an average scoring drive of 2:24. They don’t waste time. They also strike from outside the red zone better than any team leading the league with 152 points. As a matter of fact, the Eagles red zone touchdown efficiency percentage is 31st in the NFL.