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“When you have two 10-4 teams playing late in the season, playoff berths and different things like that on the line you expect a game like that. Great football game for the fans this week. Short week for our guys. Coming off a Monday night game you always wonder exactly what you’re going to get early on but I thought the guys were ready to play. We talk a lot about finishing and that’s definitely what we did. Special Teams – like they have just about every game we’ve had here – played a big part in the win, especially the second half when we needed to get momentum. I think three consecutive series they had a big play come. Offensively, we knew we were playing a team that would give us a lot of pressure and we knew that there would be a lot of one-on-one situations; match-ups outside to win. Our receivers did a great job of winning those battles. In order to do that you have to have protection. We’ve seen our offensive line get better and better each week. Running-game wise of course you have to run the ball this time of the year. Matt Forte was outstanding like he has been lately it seems. Defensively, they scored more points than we would like but turnovers were big throughout the game. Again, when you have two good teams it normally comes down to that. Big play by Chris Harris, of course, there late making that interception. For us, we look at it, this is playoff football and there’s not going to be any blowouts in playoff football. You have to finish the game and or guys did that. Injury wise, didn’t have a whole lot to talk about – came out of it in pretty-good shape.”
“We control whether we get the bye or not. So for us it’s about – we have a lot of reasons to be pumped up for this game: it’s our rival – Green Bay coming up – and of course we’re playing for that first-round bye. So for us, what happens with Philly doesn’t really matter a lot to us to get ready. We want to be in this position right here with an 11-4 record getting ready to play another NFC North opponent.”
On their outlook for the next week and the possibility of the game being
“You have a preference each week. Our preference is to play it at twelve o’clock and go, but it really doesn’t matter. I mean it’s Green Bay – it’s our rival – we’ll play them anytime. We look forward to it. I know they’re excited about playing us. We will get back to a regular game week routine which should help out guys. But they did a great job of preparing last week.”
On how the offense has improved over the season
“We getting more used to things. You can’t come out here week one and expect to be firing on all cylinders. We haven’t experienced some of the plays put in and installed. Until you really go out there and rep them and see looks and know how to react, it’s not going to come together. Now everything is starting to come together, the guys are really picking it up, the offensive line playing well, Matt Forte is running extremely hard. So, it’s fun out there.”
On the turnovers
“First one, they ran a reverse and we got it out, the fumble on the reverse. I was just running to the ball and Peanut didn’t quite get it, so I just wanted to make sure that it didn’t go out of bounds and I came up with it.”
On if the fake punt came as a surprise
“Can’t really be surprised by anything. They want to win just like we
want to win. They saw something that was an opportunity to continue that drive and they tried for it. Rashied [Davis] made a great play on that.”
On the turning point in today’s game
“I think there were a lot of turning points in this game. I think one turning point was when we forced them to kick that field goal. When you think of a game like this between the Jets and the Bears and then you look up and its 31-31, goodness.”
On capitalizing when given the chance on special teams
“It felt great. I wanted to get my hands on the ball again and we knew that it wouldn’t be a lot. So the opportunities that we did have, we wanted to make some plays.”
On getting the crowd into it and pumping himself up
“We were just having fun. If you can’t have fun, then you shouldn’t be playing football. I don’t get that many opportunities, so when I do I want to make them miss.”
Jets coach Rex Ryan:
“First off, you knew it was going to be a dog fight against the Bears in Chicago. Two good football teams going at it and it came down to the fact that they made more good plays than we did, obviously. That’s really what it came down to.”
On the fake punt
“We worked it all week. We felt good about it. Obviously we made that call. Quite honestly, the ball got in Hester’s hands and we knew where it was going to end up. It’s just one of those things where we thought that play was there, and we knew that play was there. Again, we have to execute that play”
On Devin Hester’s play in the second half and field position
“That was disappointing to say the least. I can understand you get a play or two, but we’re going in there trying to kick the ball away from that guy. We tried to do it all day and he got his hands on it. That’s when you see how important it is to kick the ball away from that kid. He’s the best returner in the game.”
On whether two of Hester’s returns were not supposed to be going to him
“That’s my understanding. That’s all I’m going to say.”
Chicago, IL (Sports Network) – Jay Cutler’s touchdown pass to Johnny Knox late in the third quarter was the go-ahead score, and a Chris Harris interception in the final minute provided the punctuation as Chicago outlasted the New York Jets, 38-34, at Soldier Field.
Cutler finished just 13-of-25, but passed for three TDs and 215 yards while also rushing for a score for the Bears (11-4), who reeled off their seventh win in eight games.
Mark Sanchez struck for 269 yards, one score and that costly late interception on 24-of-37 passing for the Jets (10-5), who despite the loss locked up a playoff berth. That’s because Jacksonville lost at home in overtime to Washington.
Chicago snapped the final tie of the game, taking a 38-31 lead with 6:06 to play in the third when Cutler hit Knox for a 26-yard score. On the ensuing New York series, Holmes narrowly missed a diving TD catch and the Jets had to settle for a 34-yard make from Nick Folk on the second play of the fourth for a 38-34 game.
Robbie Gould missed a 35-yard attempt with 11:26 remaining, then the Jets were forced to punt despite reaching Chicago’s side of the field on their next drive.
The Bears took over on their own 10 with 5:33 remaining but went three-and- out, and a booming punt left New York at its own 40 with 4:32 to go. The Jets also failed to move the ball and pinned Chicago at its own five with just over three minutes to play.
Forte picked up one first down but the Bears were again forced to punt, and the Jets had 63 seconds with no timeouts to move 72 yards. A defensive offside call made it 1st-and-5 but Harris stepped in front of the Sanchez pass at the Chicago 41.
Cutler took a knee twice to wrap up the game.
Gould’s wounded-duck 37-yard field goal capped the opening drive of the contest.
Holmes then fumbled on a 1st-and-10 from his own 38, and Chris Harris picked up the loose ball on the Jets’ 45. Four plays later Forte broke several tackles up the middle on a 22-yard TD scamper.
The Jets cut their deficit to 10-7 on the first play of the second as Greene scored from the three, then moved ahead 14-10 when Dwight Lowery picked off Cutler and raced 20 yards to the end zone.
New York took over at the Chicago 36 just before the midway point of the period, and Tomlinson finished off that brief drive with a three-yard score which gave the Jets an 11-point bulge.
However, Cutler rolled in from the two to complete the following series and the Bears were within 21-17 with 2:44 left before halftime.
Folk connected from 26 yards out with 12 seconds left and it was a seven-point game at the break.
After holding the Jets during a 4th-and-3 from their own 40 on their opening series of the second half, Cutler hit Knox on the next play for a 40-yard TD to tie the game 24-all.
Hester’s 38-yard punt return to the Jets’ 32 set up his own 25-yard touchdown reception, but the visitors responded immediately on a 23-yard Sanchez-to- Holmes strike for a 31-31 deadlock.
Chicago has won seven of the last nine meetings and has taken seven of 10 against the Jets since the first matchup in 1974…Tomlinson recorded a rushing score for the third consecutive game…The Jets rolled up 393 yards of total offense to 322 for the Bears…New York finished 7-of-14 on third downs while Chicago only converted on 3-of-9.
The Jets kickoff away from Devin Hester, Johnny Knox takes it to the 35, and the Bears get six yards on a pitch to Matt Forte. Forte cuts around the end and gets the first and the Bears are across midfield. A long ball to Hester goes incomplete and Forte runs past the blitzing Jets and goes all the way to the 16 yard line.
Chester Taylor gets a yard. Matt Forte is the first 100 yard rusher against Rex Ryan as a head coach. second down and Jay Cutler is tackled behind the line of scrimmage for a loss. There's an injured Jet on the field, so they're forced to take a timeout.
Third and 11, and a risky pass in the end zone goes incomplete.
Robbie Gould misses from 35, and the score remains 38-34.
If the Bears score again, it will be the first time they've scored 40+ points in consecutive games, since 1948.
Right now they need to stop a Jets offense that's made the Bears D look uncharacteristically mediocre.
from the 25, Lance Briggs and Brian Urlacher gets greene for a two yard loss. second down and Braylon Edwards gets close to the first. Third and one, and Tony Richardson again falls over the pile for the first. On first down Braylon Edwards can't haul in the Brad Smith pass. Sanchez comes back in, and gets nine on a pass to Greene. He tosses it for three to Dustin Keller.
First down from the 50 and they run for three. Israel Idonije chases down Sanchez who throws it away, just avoiding the sack. The Bears blits but sanchez gets it to Braylon Edwards for the first.
From the 39, Shonn Greene gets four yards up the gut. Nick roach and Brian Urlacher pressure Sanchez who has to throw it away. Third and six and Charles Tillman breaks up the pass.
The Jets show punt, and a 25 yard punt puts it inside the Bears 10.
With 5:33 to play, the Bears start from their ten, Matt Forte is stopped for no gain. Cutler in trouble gets the ball off, but it's incomplete and it's third and ten. He just avoids the safety, and they'll punt from the end zone.
Brad Maynard punts it over midfield, and Corey Graham wraps up Cotchery for no gain.
Sanchez dumps the pass to Keller for six yards. Second down and they push Tomlinson back for a one yard loss. Third and five, and D.J. Moore breaks up the pass to Jerricho Cotchery.
A beautiful punt pins the Bears at their own five yard line. utler gives to Forte who gets two tough yards. Second and eight, and Forte gets the first, even though the Jets keyed on him. The Jets use their second timeout, with 2:48 left. First down from the 15, and this time Forte can't break free. But it forces the Jets to use their last timeout. Second and ten, and they run the counter for a yard, so they can let the clock run down to the two minute warning.
Third and long from the 14 yard line, with two minutes on the clock, and four points ahead, the Bears give to Matt Forte for a yard. They'll punt it away to the Jets who have no timeouts left.
The Bears let the clock run down to 1:14 and call timeout. Maynard hits an ugly duckling that slips through the Jets returners to go 56 yards with no return.
It's first and ten from the 29, and Israel Idonije is caught offsides. First and five, and Chris Harris does it again!
Harris intercepts the pass, and the Bears take over and run the clock out.
The Chicago Bears win 38-34
The Jets start from their own 32, and Mark Sanchez gets a first down on a pass to Braylon Edwards. LaDanian Tomlinson gets two on a run, second down, and Tomlinson catches a screen for seven. Third and one and Rex Ryan elects to send Tony Richardson over the top for the first.
From the 32, Tomlinson looks like he’s going to lose yards, but turns upfield for eight. On second down Tomlinson bulls through for another Jets first down.
From the 20, Sanchez overthrows Santonio Holmes in the end zone. second down and Tomlinson pushes into the line for four, and that ends the third quarter.
The kickoff gets to Devin Hester, who returns 40 yards it to midfield before being pushed out of bounds by the kicker.
Cutler has time, but Johnny Knox can’t hang on, with a safety on his back. second and ten, and this time Knox is good for 11, and a fresh set of downs.
On the Knox pass, Cutler becomes the first Bears qb to pass for 3,000 yards.
He celebrates by finding Knox in the end zone.
The Jets open their third drive at their 34, and Mark sanchez hits Braylon Edwards for 18. Brad Smith keeps the snap and runs for six, and Shonn Greene breaks through and runs all the way to the Bears 23.
A play fake and Sanchez hits a wide open Santonio Holmes in the end zone.
The Bears defense is turning it up, and the Jets offense is foundering. They go three and out again, and will put from their 26. They kick to Devin Hester, who takes the 31 yard punt 38 yards back. The Bears will open the drive from the 31.
Mark Sanchez and the Jets have only musterd one play for positive yardage so far this half, in two possessions.
Robbie Gould kicks it into the wind, after a nice return, the jets will start at their own 33. A screen to LaDanian Tomlinson goes for seven, and he’s wrapped up at the line of scrimmage on second down. Third and three and Lance Briggs bats down the pass. The Jets rush a fourth down pass play, and it goes incomplete giving the ball to the Bears on downs in Jets territory.
The sun is out and the Jets receive and get one play off before the two minute warning. They have first down, at their own 45. Mark sanchez throws to Shonn Greene for five, and Greene gets eight on a run up the middle. They have a first in Bears territory, and take their first timeout.
Santonio Holmes gets eighteen in stride, and the Jets take another timeout. Neither team has displayed the punishing defense they’re both known for.
And Shonn greene hets another running first down. From the 14, Greene is stuffed on a first down run. After a quick strike near the eight, the Jets take their last timeout with 21 seconds left.
Dustin Keller can’t hold on in the end zone, and the Jets kick for three more.
Second and ten, and Cutler finds Matt Forte over the line of scrimmage, and he goes 24 yards. From the Jets 40, Forte can’t hang on in coverage. utler follows with an incomplete to Earl Bennett. Third down, and this time Bennet hauls it in for 12. Cutler lofts a Mike Martz special, that Matt Forte brings in at the two.
Jay Cutler scrambles, finding nobody open, scrambles outside for the touchdown.
The Jets are avoiding Devin Hester by kicking high and short. Rashie Davis bring it to the 40. greg Olsen can’t hang on to a Jay Culter pass, and on second down Matt Forte is wrapped up after two. An incomplete to Earl Bennett and the Bears go three and out.
The Jets take over at their own 29. On first down, Mark Sanchez hits Braylon Edwards for 18. A Shonn Greene run gets nothing, and on second down Keller is wrapped up over the middle for four yards. Third and six, and Tim Jennings bobbles and drops an interception.
the Jets will punt away from Devin Hester, and the ball skips out of bounds at the nine yard line.
Jay Cutler hands to Chester Taylor for four, and Cutler drops back. He finds nobody and eventually is sacked near the three yard line. They follow with a delay of game. Third down is a risky incomplete, and Brad Maynard will punt for his end zone.
The ball ends up at the Bears 36, and the Jets are already in scoring position.
Mark Sanchez gives to LaDanian Tomlinson, but there’s a flag. Bears decline and it’s second and nine. Tomlinson is wrapped up again, after two. Third down and seven, ans santonio Holmes gets a first. The Bears are not getting any pressure on Sanchez.
First down, and Tomlinson gets two and Brad Smith gets 12 on an option, followed immediately by a Tomlinson TD.
The Jets kickoff and it's a floater to Danieal Manning, a holding call negates an excellent return, and the Bears will start from their own 25. A false start takes them back to the 20, for first and 15. Jay Cutler hands off to Chester Taylor who loses another five. A dangerous pass is intercepted and run back for a touchdown for Dwight Lowery.
In 64 seconds the jets take over the lead, 14-10.
Robbie Gould kicks a touchback and the Jets will try again from their 20. The snow must be making the ball slick. Mark Sanchez gives it to Shonn Greene who runs for ten, and the Jets get 12 on a bootleg. Dustin Keller makes it three in a row, but the Jets lose a yard on a screen on the next play.
From the Bears 29, a handoff to Green goes nowhere, and it's third and ten. Sanchez gets it to Keller, this time for 18, and the Jets have put together a long drive, quickly.
A false start makes it first and goal from the 16, and Sanchez hits Braylon Edwards near the three yard line, on the las play of the quarter. At the start of the second quarter, the Jets are second and two from the three. sanchez has completed all seven of his attempts.
Shonn Greens gets the touchdown on the first play of the quarter.
Robbie gould kicks off, and the Jets runner is smotghered at the 26. Mark Sanchez and the Jets offense comes on the field.
A replay shows that Gould's field goal was deflected, but it had enough leg to go through.
From the 26, Sanchez hands off to LaDanian Tomlinson, whose dropped for a loss. The play is nullified by a holding call. First and 20, and a quick out to Santonio Holmes gets eleven. The next play Tomlinson gets one, and recovers. They get the first on the next play, with a short pass.
A reverse to Santonio Holmes gets around seven yards, before he's hit and fumbles.
The Bears Chris Harris recovers, and the Bears have first down wiyh great field position.
A run gets two, then a miracle occurs as Greg Olsen bobbles a pass into Johnny Knox's hands, for another first down. Matt Forte has no trouble holding the ball and gets eight, then from the 22, Forte breaks tackles all the way to the end zone.
The Chicago Bears and New York Jets are underway at Soldier Field. The sky is cloudy, but there's no snow. The Jets won the toss but deferred. A short kickoff, and the Bears start on their own 34.
Matt Forte runs for four yards on first down, he goes around the edge on second down, and it's third and inches. Chester Taylor hits the line and gets the first. The Bears are near their own 45, but a false start drops them back five yards. It's first and fifteen, and Jay Cutler's first pass goes fourteen yards to Devin Hester. Matt Forte can't get the last yard on second down, and Chicago sets up for third down, but calls timeout.
The Bears seem to need more than their share of early timeouts this season, as they still are getting into their comfort zone in Mike Martz's offense.
Third and one, in Jets territory and it's incomplete, but a flag is thrown for pass interference. First down, as the snow starts flying. From the 26, Cutler throws towards Johnny Knox in the end zone, incomplete. Second and ten, Forte gets three on the ground, and a screen to Forte is short of rthe first down.
Robbie Gould makes it 3-0 Bears.
With less than an hour until kickoff, there’s a severe weather alert for the Chicago area, with lake effect snow until noon CST. We’ll be here with game highlights all through the contest,plus a Sports Network post-game.
Keep looking here for all your Chicago Bears news
Sports Network | December 23, 2010
(Sports Network) – Welcome to Soldier Field, where the home team is guaranteed a playoff spot and looking to better its prospects, while this week’s visitor is trying to get its foot in the door of the postseason tournament.
The Chicago Bears and New York Jets will meet on what’s sure to be a chilly Northern Illinois Sunday afternoon, looking at least on the outside as mirror images of one another across dueling conferences.
Head coach Lovie Smith and his Bears cemented their spot in the upcoming NFC tournament with an impressive 40-14 Monday night beatdown of the Vikings in Minnesota, KO’ing Brett Favre’s chances at a storybook comeback and clinching the North Division for the first time since the team’s 2006 Super Bowl season.
“There’s no such thing as letup around here,” Smith said. "You have different steps that you take toward a goal and all we’ve done is taken one step, no more than that. We have a lot to play for. Yes, we want to be playing our best ball as much as anything at the end of the season.
“We are playing for the first-round bye. All of those things keep them motivated. Being able to match up against another 10-4 team thats playing good football too, that’s enough motivation.”
The Jets ended an ill-timed two-game losing skid with a road win at Pittsburgh last Sunday, reaching the 10-win plateau after 14 games and maintaining a two- game bulge on its nearest pursuers, San Diego and either Indianapolis or Jacksonville, for the last of the AFC’s two Wild Card spots.
New York clinches a berth with a victory over the Bears.
Still, injuries and other distractions have been the big stories surrounding the Jets this week, with quarterback Mark Sanchez undergoing an MRI on his throwing shoulder, wide receiver Santonio Holmes limited in workouts with turf toe and head coach Rex Ryan answering questions about his wife’s role in videos surfacing this week on the internet.
“We’re going to be ready to play Chicago,” Ryan said. “I am ready. This is my job and I’m focused on the job at hand.”
Bears quarterback Jay Cutler threw for a pedestrian 194 yards against the Vikings, but has eight touchdown passes in his last four games. Running back Matt Forte ran for 92 yards on 17 carries on Monday and wide receiver Devin Hester established an NFL record for kick and punt return touchdowns with the 14th of his career, breaking the combined mark previously held by Brian Mitchell.
Ryan said the Jets’ kicker and punter have already been instructed to steer clear of Hester.
“It’s hard to stop that type of team when everybody is scoring,” Hester said of the Bears.
The Bears lead the all-time series with the Jets, 6-3, including a wind-aided 10-0 win when the teams last met, in 2006 at the Meadowlands. Chicago also won the most recent meeting between the teams at Soldier Field, a 20-13 decision in 2002. The Jets last defeated the Bears in 2000, and last defeated them in the Windy City in 1997.
Smith is 1-0 in his career against the Jets, while Ryan will be meeting both Smith and Chicago for the first time as a head coach. Ryan’s father, Buddy, served as the defensive coordinator on the Bears’ 1985 Super Bowl Championship team.
WHEN THE JETS HAVE THE BALL
The Jets haven’t terrified anyone on offense, settling for the middle of the pack statistically in the categories of points per game (21.1, 18th in the league), total yardage per game (345.4, 13th) and passing yardage per game (204.4, 20th). They’ve made the most impact on the ground with a run game that’s accounted for 141 yards per contest, sixth-best in the league. Meanwhile, the Bears have maintained their signature stinginess, placing third in the league in scoring defense (17.3 ppg), eighth in total defense (310.9 ypg) and third in rush defense (89.8 ypg). Teams have had moderate success throwing the ball on Chicago, gaining an average of 221.1 yards per game, which makes the Bears the 14th-best defense against the pass.
The Jets are 12-2 when Sanchez posts a passer rating of 80.0 or better. He has three rushing touchdowns in 2010, including one against the Steelers last week, tying his career best. Running back LaDainian Tomlinson (17,685 yards) passed Marcus Allen (17,654) for the sixth-most yards from scrimmage in NFL history last Sunday. He aims for a third straight game with a rushing touchdown against the Bears. Wide receiver Holmes had five receptions for 83 yards in his only career game against the Bears, which came while with the Steelers in September of 2009. Fellow wideout Braylon Edwards posted his first 100-yard receiving game of the season last week and had a season-best eight catches. Four of his six touchdown receptions in 2010 have come on the road. Tight end Dustin Keller (48 receptions) needs one catch to surpass his career high from 2008. Lastly, return man Brad Smith posted his second kick runback for a touchdown this season and the third of his career last week. He is second in the NFL with a 29.1 kick return average in 2010, while the Jets have a league-best 14 scores on kick returns since 2001.
Bears defensive end Julius Peppers has six sacks in his past five games and added an interception last week. He has two sacks and two forced fumbles in two career games against the Jets, while linebacker Brian Urlacher had an interception and 11 tackles in his last meeting with New York. End Israel Idonije had a sack last week and has registered a career-high eight for the season. Cornerback Charles Tillman had a 56-yard interception return in Week 15.
WHEN THE BEARS HAVE THE BALL
Chicago’s best offense has been its great defense, largely because the actual offense hasn’t produced much. The Bears are 19th in the league in scoring (20.9 ppg) and no better than 25th in the league in any other category, where they account for 99 rushing yards per game. The total yardage clip of 291.6 per game is third from the bottom among 32 teams, while the passing average of 192.6 yards per week is just 26th. The Jets have managed top-10 proficiency in all ball-stopping categories, limiting foes to 18.5 points (fifth overall), 298.6 total yards (fifth), 205.9 passing yards (ninth) and 92.7 rushing yards (fourth) per game through 15 weeks.
Cutler passed for 357 yards and two touchdowns in his only game against the Jets, while with Denver in 2008. He threw for three scores last week and had a 106.6 passer rating. When Cutler has a 100-plus rating, his teams are 20-0. Running back Forte has 1,296 scrimmage yards this season, becoming one of two Bears with 1,000-plus in each of his first three seasons. Wideout Johnny Knox had a 67-yard touchdown grab against the Vikings and averages 18.5 yards per catch, third in the NFC with a minimum of 40 receptions. Tight end Greg Olsen needs 130 yards to reach 500 for the third consecutive season. He would be the first Chicago tight end since Mike Ditka with three 500-yard seasons in row. Lastly, wideout Earl Bennett needs a catch to reach 100 for his career.
In his last game against the Bears, which took place with Miami, New York end Jason Taylor had a sack, a forced fumble and an interception return for a touchdown. Cornerback Drew Coleman had a career-high two sacks last week.
The Jets have nothing but risky plays on offense against a stout Bears defense, so starting the New York defense might be the premier green-clad option. The same script holds true with Chicago against Ryan’s unit, so going with the Bears’ D might be the best play there as well.
Two stout defenses and two offensive units with brand-name weapons that haven’t always delivered brand-name performances. Given the similarities between the teams, the lean in this case goes toward the one with more momentum — which is conveniently also playing at home. Cutler hits a few more big plays and avoids a few more mistakes for Chicago.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Bears 20, Jets 14
T'was the night before kickoff, and throughout Halas Hall, not a creature was throwing or catching a ball.
Just a note to say thank you for reading here, and continued holiday wishes to you and yours. Nothing of overwhelming importance is happening here; The Jets Mark Sanchez will definitely start on Sunday, though my suspicion is that he’s not going to be 100%.
For the Bears, everyone practiced Friday, and Earl Bennett will play Sunday, as well. Brian Urlacher was caught up in the second weekly wave of fines handed down from the league. A hit on Vikings tight end Visanthe Shiancoe, that was deemed a head/neck hit on an unprotected receiver, cost him $10,000, it being his second offense. It annoys me that they actually do go through all the games a second time, to see if there's anything else they can conceivably punish defenders for.
The other day Jay Cutler visited a children’s hospital. He insisted that there was no media attention, and he declined interviews on it afterwards. Perhaps this proves that you can dislike reporters, and still be a good person.
Once again, I hope the day finds you well, and I cannot begin to express how lucky I feel to have the opportunity to discuss my opinions on the Bears and the NFL here, with you.
So thank you to SB Nation, and to my editor Al Yellon, and all the other contributors here, for making it possible.
And as a final note, I’d like to point out that the New York Jets uniforms are the same color as The Grinch. Here’s hoping they don’t steal the Bears Christmas.
The Bears returned to practice today, staying indoors at the Walter Payton Center in preparation for Sunday's game against the New York Jets. The big news coming out of Halas Hall today is that the Bears extended their contract with Olivet Nazarene University to hold training camp there. Olivet Nazerene, in Bourbonnais, Illinois, has been the site of the Bears camp for the last nine years. The new contract is for two more years, with an option for a third.
Injury Report: Wide Receiver Earl Bennett was was held out of practice for the second day with an ankle injury. While it's not believed to be serious, we'll see if he's kept out of tomorrow's outdoor practice. Linebackers Lance Briggs and Pisa Tinoisamoa, both returned to limited participation. Briggs is probable for Sunday, while Tinoisamoa is more of a question mark, having missed the last three games.
The news out of the Jets locker room is more intriguing. Mark Sanchez, is now a game time decision. Jets Head Coach Rex Ryan was less optimistic today than he was yesterday about Sanchez starting. Of course Sanchez says he expects to play and if he can, chances are they'll start him. The 10-4 Jets playoff hopes are on the line, so they have to proceed as if there's no tomorrow. Wide receiver Santonio Holmes returned to practice today, after missing yesterday with turf toe.
Insult Report: Plenty of insults around Bears camp today, depending on who you ask. The media was able to get Lance Briggs to talk foot fancying. Lance joked that nobody would want to be around his.
Major Wright got the first fine of his rookie year for a hit on Vikings quarterback Joe Webb. The amount is undisclosed, but a league source says it will likely be $10,000. He'll almost certainly appeal.
Antoine Winfield of the Vikings racked up $17,500 in fines for various sins Monday night. His helmet hit on Jay Cutler's chin will cost him $7,500, pending appeal. The other $10k is for a uniform infraction, specifically the height of his socks. So, three stitches in your QB's chin is worth $2,500 less than improper hosiery. Good call, NFL.
Of course the biggest insults to the Chicago Bears these days are mostly imagined slights. The insular nature of Lovie Smith's Bears isn't just about limiting what you say, it's also choosing what you hear. The Bears bandwagon is filling up late this season, as success is bringing around many of the team's early detractors. In fact, Devin Hester, Julius Peppers and Brian Urlacher have all come in first in fan voting for the Pro Bowl.
Keep in mind, Urlacher knows that winning the fan voting doesn't necessarily send you to Hawaii. He's led fan voting and still missed out. But none of that matters much, at least according to Brian Urlacher. When asked about the vote, Urlacher dismissed the question by saying, "It's great to win games, that's really important to me."
Urlacher has a chip on his shoulder, and he likes it better when he can believe that no one believes in him and his team. At the beginning of the year, he heard nearly everyone in the media say his team was destined for a third-place finish, at best. There were plenty of people who had written off Urlacher's career as well.
But Lovie Smith's players have always thrived in an 'us against the world' atmosphere. Even when the world comes around to their way of thinking, they always want to feel like the unloved, under appreciated, underdogs.
Tell Brian Urlacher his defense is strong enough to carry the team? He'll take offense.
And he'll take up FOR the offense.
Asked if he thinks the defense carries the Bears, Urlacher responded, "I disagree with that. I think we're a good team, all-around. They've been there for us the last eight or nine weeks. They've been playing better. Once they figured out the offense, and how to run stuff, they've been playing well.
"They carried us in the Philly game. Detroit; we didn't play well. They carried us. There have been a few games here lately where we needed them and they came through for us."
And sure, he's right. At least to a degree. The offense has really started to come around, and it did just roll up 40 points on the Vikings in an ice storm. But without the efforts of the defense earlier in the season, the offensive improvement would be too little, too late.
But here's the thing: I don't know that many people in the real world, that can be as thick-skinned as the media would like. Urlacher, Jay Cutler and Lovie Smith will always tell you they don't care what's being said, but that's easy to say, harder to do. And all three of them have been and continue to be, in some circles, unfairly criticized.
Often when reporters run out of things to say about your performance, they start attacking you as a person. Cutler and Smith have had reams of stories written about their 'poor interviewing' skills. Urlacher has had his share of stories written about his surly nature towards the media, as well.
It astounds me that the the members of the press can expect someone they ridiculed in the morning edition, to smile and answer their leading questions in the afternoon.
Sure people have come around to the Bears now, but one slip, and they'll go right back to derision and complaints. It's a facet of the whole NFL experience, that the Bears have made work in their favor.
No matter how many bouquets of roses the media throws at Urlacher and the Chicago Bears, all they see are the pricks.
The Bears did not have a normal practice today, they settled for a walk-through indoors. So, while they don’t have a normal injury report for the day, they did provide a list of what players status would have been, had it been a normal practice.
Injury Report: So, had this been a normal practice, Earl Bennett would have been designated as ‘did not participate’with an ankle injury. Furthermore,linebackers Lance Briggs(shoulder) and Pisa Tinoisamoa (knee) would have been limited, as would Charles Tillman (knee).
For the Jets, running back LaDanian Tomlinson and full back Tony Richardson both sat out for non-injury related reasons. Wide receiver Santonio Holmes (toe), tackle Damien Woody (knee) and safeties James Ihedigbo (knee/ankle) and Eric Smith (concussion) all did not participate.
Quarterback Mark Sanchez (shoulder), cornerback Darrelle Revis (hamstring) and defensive lineman Trevor Pryce (hip) were all listed as having ’limited participation. Jets coach Rex Ryan said he is “confident” Sanchez will be ready to go for Sunday.
Insult Report: Not much, so far. Both coaches seem to be taking great care not to provide the opposition with any bulletin-board material. While that’s par for the course for the tight-lipped Lovie Smith, Rex Ryan has been cautiously respectful of the Bears in general and return man Devin Hester. Even the combative Ryan has said in no uncertain terms, he has no intention of kicking to Hester.
Of course everyone says that, and means it, as well. All season long teams start out kicking away from him, even kicking out of bounds. But eventually every one of them gave him something to work with. It’s going to be interesting to see how Devin will do going forward, now that he’s broken the record.
My thinking is that he’s even more dangerous now, without the record hanging over his head. Now that he’s achieved that, he’ll have one less thing on his mind and can just go out and blaze.
Then of course, there’s this new video, perhaps of Ryan and his wife. We reported on it, as we are more or less obliged to, it’s sport news now whether we would have it be or not.
Like Brett Favre’s ‘candid photography’, I don’t really feel like it’s any of our business. We shouldn’t be in a position to judge. Unlike Brett Favre’s alleged actions, the video we’re shown is the act of two consenting adults, indulging in a mutually satisfying, basically innocent little game.
If their intentions were prurient, their production was PG-13, tops. They show more skin in commercials for microwave dinners. I actually found it sort of charming, a little game between two people who have a very genuine affection for one another.
I certainly hope the league has the good sense not to call out their morality watchdogs for this. Nobody should have to answer to the public, the media or their employer, about what they do with their spouse or lover. To me, there’s always a sort of leering voyeurism attached to interrogations of this sort, and they do little credit for any of the parties.
Earlier in the week, I wished you all happiness over the holidays, and I expressed the hope that you’ll use this time to spoil those around you. Today, I’d like to say I hope, that at least once in your lifetime, you will have done something adventurous enough to scandalize the general public, were they ever to catch wind of it.
And, I also hope they never do.
Teams say this all the time: “We’re not going to kick to Hester.” And then they do. Chicago Breaking Sports says that Jets coach Rex Ryan is determined to kick away from Hester:
“I think it’s pretty safe to say we’re planning on not kicking to him,” Ryan said Wednesday in a teleconference with Chicago media. "I think you can write that down as everybody else I’m sure doesn’t want to kick to him.
“I don’t think you can deal with him. As a returner, it’s ridiculous. He’s got to go down as the best punt returner in the history of the game.
Hester has fast feet — perhaps the fastest in NFL history, and Ryan doesn’t want those feet to hurt his team on Sunday afternoon.
Ryan has some other things to worry about regarding feet this morning. According to Deadspin, a YouTube user called “ihaveprettyfeet” posted a video of her sticking her feet outside a car window, while a man whose voice sounded very much like Rex Ryan’s egged her on in a vaguely erotic way. The Deadspin post goes on to “investigate” whether the woman is a “twin sister” of Michelle Ryan, Rex’s wife, and concludes that the woman is likely, in fact, Rex’s wife.
There’s nothing wrong with any of this, of course; it’s just something that spices up the week for Rex, whose comment, according to a Chicago Breaking Sports article on the subject, was:
“To be honest, and I get it, I know you need to ask and all that stuff,” Ryan said. “It’s a personal matter and I’m really not going to discuss it, OK?”
Here’s the video if you want to look for yourself (c’mon, you know you want to):
The Chicago Bears don't get a lot of time celebrate their NFC North championship. With a short week before the New York Jets come to town and the number two seed in the playoffs still on the line, it's back to business for the Bears. And the Jets are a hard team to read.
They say everything is bigger in Texas. I don't know if that's true, but one thing no one around the NFL will disagree with is this: everything's louder in New York. That's true of the city, it's true of their sports fans, and it's definitely true of the head coach of the New York Jets, Rex Ryan.
Rex Ryan has a boisterous personality, he's loud, brash, and full of swagger. His love of smash-mouth football was learned at the feet of his father, Buddy Ryan, the architect of the 85 Bears '46' defense and a tough guy in his own right. His strengths as a head coach may be inherited from his father, but so is his most glaring weakness.
Rex Ryan is going to go for it.
Ryan and his Jets don't believe in subtlety; they come at you with a street-fighter mentality. There's not a lot of subtlety in their playbook, and given the choice of going over you or around you, they'll always pick the former. It's a good attitude to bring to a football team, if you're really tough enough to back it up.
But are the Jets really that good?
Their record suggests that they are, as do their wins against the New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers. But in their last three games, they've only mustered a total of 31 points. And after losing to the Jets early in the season, the Pats destroyed them 45-3, in their last meeting.
The Jets are gliding into town on the momentum of their 22-17 victory over the Steelers, convinced they're back in the drivers seat. But it would be more accurate to say they survived the Steelers. They almost let that game slip away in the final seconds, giving Ben Roethlisberger a couple of chances to complete a pass in the end zone.
The Chicago Bears are similar to the Jets, at least on paper. The records are the same, the defensive philosophies both are predicated on daring you to beat them.
The main difference is that the Bears, like their head coach Lovie Smith, don't talk a lot about it. They just do it.
This should be a great game, a real down-and-dirty battle. Both of these teams have something to play for; the Bears want that first round bye, and the Jets need to keep winning just to get in the playoffs.
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