Bears Blowout Titans 51-20 in Music City

There’s is nothing like a Chicago Bears romping in Nashville to start your week off right. I swear when the Bears play well I begin the week in a better mood. Plain and simple, the Titans got their “asks” kicked (please watch this adorable youtube video to understand the reference). The Bears have now won six consecutive games in a row; this hasn’t happened since 2006, and may actually be considered a contender heading into the difficult part of their schedule (Texans and 49ers woowee).  If you missed the Bears Titan mauling, below you will find a quick recap.

Who Needs an offense when you have the Bears defense?

Cornerback Charles Tillman’s ball-punching hands forced a career-high four fumbles. Peanut has been a recognized player in the league for many years, but this year something set the man on fire. He’s absolutely in the running for Defensive Player of the Year. The infamous linebacker Brian Urlacher trotted (it wasn’t as speedy as Tillman or Jennings sprinting down the field, but hey he still got there) his way into the end zone after the team’s seventh interception return touchdown of the season. 7 defensive touchdowns is more than most teams score all season, let alone in 8 games – animals I tell you. If all the critical pieces to the Bears defensive puzzle can stay healthy, this may be the year Bears fans have been waiting for.

Special teams got down and dirty:

They couldn’t let the defense have all the fun! It all started when Sherrick McManis blocked a punt (I mean when does that even happen?!) that Corey Wootton returned for a 5 yard touchdown. THEN Devin Hester got in on the action with a  44-yard punt return that set up a one-play scoring drive. Yup – love it.

The offensive spark was delayed, but things heated up in the end:

Counting on your defense to score first isn’t going to cut it further down the road for the Bears, but Jay Cutler and his boys woke up in the second half. Cutty eventually threw three touchdown passes to Brandon Marshall. Matt Forte deserves some recognition as well, his rugby style rushing touchdown was the first positive offensive play the Bears had during the game. Forte was also effective in the passing game, his 47 yard reception off of a screen pass was something to be reckoned with.

Bears fans are the BEST fans:

I don’t know what you heard, but LP Field sure sounded like a Bears home game with all that hootin-n-hollerin going on. I can’t imagine it hurts a team’s morale to know their fans are willing to pack their bags and head anywhere to cheer on their monsters of the midway.

#Beardown

FINALLY: Matt Forte and Bears agree to 4-year deal

HALLELUJAH! After some seriously prolonged contract negotiations, the Chicago Bears and their Pro Bowl running back Matt Forte have finally agreed to terms on a 4-year deal worth approximately $32 million reported ESPN Chicago. Of course the Bears cut things close with Forte as they had a 3 PM deadline on Monday to avoid any franchise tag nastiness.

Back in March the Bears slapped Forte with their franchise tag and secured the young star would be in a Chicago uniform for the 2012 season – it didn’t really go over too well as Forte was looking for the lucrative deal former GM Jerry Angelo had promised. The one-year agreement would have paid Forte $7.7 million for this season — a $7.1 million raise from his 2011 salary. In the end, the franchise tag ended up being a handy negotiating tool for the running back as he secured about $8 million a year.

Forte signing his contract at Halas Hall

Forte finished his fourth season with 1,487 yards from scrimmage and 997 rushing – he would have had even higher numbers had he not sprained his MCL in December of 2011. Forte is now healthy and making the big bucks, it’s time for him to produce his best numbers yet.

The NFC is one of the most competitive conferences in the entire NFL and Chicago needed to make some serious offensive adjustments to compete with the rivaled Green Bay Packera and Detroit Lions.

In the off season, the Bears picked up some more offensive weapons and a team who souly relied on their defense finally has some key players to produce points offensively. Now, if we can just tighten up that offensive line, we may really have something here.

Here are the keys to this season’s offense:

  • Quarterback – Jay Cutler
  • Running Back – Matt Forte with Michael Bush as backup.
  • Wide Receiver –  Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, Earl Bennett, Devin Hester
  • Tight End – Kellen Davis (Mike Tice, the new offensive coordinator has a tendency to utilize his tight ends – which Mike Martz didn’t ever do).
The ongoing “Pay Forte” drama has been put to rest and now it’s time to focus on the resurgence of “Da Bears” and making things rain in the Central division. Let’s go!

Forte Feelin’ Disrespected?

Chicago Bears have made yet another move to improve their roster by signing running back Michael Bush to a four year deal this morning. Who knew things at Halas Hall would be so lively? Chicagoans aren’t used to such activity!

The Bears snatched Bush from the Oakland Raiders, now securing a more than able back-up if anything serious ever happened to Pro Bowler Matt Forte. Earlier this winter, the Bears slapped Fore with a franchise tag (strike one), and this move most likely prolongs negotiations with Matt Forte on a long-term deal, some analysts stating this situation causes major flux on his total value to the franchise (strike two).

Bush’s deal is worth 14 million over the four years, with $7 of that guaranteed money. The pickup of Bush almost assures the departure of Marion Barber before or during training camp (I’m not sure the two fumbles in Denver last season were ever forgiven, falling into the trap of Tebowmania), but Chicago’s star running back is the player who has been most vocal about this deal.

A perfect example of the beauty of twitter, tell us how you really feel Forte:

Ouch. I think he means – nice guys finish last – but it’s okay buddy, we get your point. To be fair, Forte doesn’t call out the Bears or the franchise, but he did happen to retweet Greg Olsen’s “If u have a studd 3 down guy like @MattForte22 why keep paying backups big $ every yr? Crazy!! Matt deserves better” comment and then tweet this gem an hour later. Is Forte seeing a lack of respect from the Bears organization?

Matt Forte Slapped with Bears Franchise Tag

The Bears will have their Pro Bowl running back Matt Forte in a Chicago uniform for the 2012 season, but he’s doing it Phil Emery’s way. Last Friday, the Bears placed their franchise tag on Forte, he now joins Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson and Saints quarterback Drew Brees in the “Franchise tag club”. This one-year agreement will pay Forte $7.7 million for this season — a $7.1 million raise from his 2011 salary.

Forte was reportedly offered a deal that guaranteed roughly $14 million, but as the first Bears running back to go to the Pro Bowl since Neal Anderson (if you don’t remember it’s because it was in 1991) most would assume he was looking for something closer to the five-year, $43 million contract with $21 million guaranteed that Carolina gave DeAngelo Williams.

“Matt is an important part of our football team and we chose to utilize the franchise tag to ensure he remains a Bear,” Bears general manager Emery said. “We believe in Matt as a player and a person. Our intention is to continue to work to find common ground and keep Matt as a member of the Chicago Bears in 2012 and beyond.”

So this move locks down Forte for a year, but does this make the Bears seem cheap? Will this decision be perceived as the organization not wanting to pay their star what he deserves? Will this prevent high profile free-agents from wanting to sign with the Bears? Chicago really needs a wide receiver. They have roughly $17.3 million in salary-cap room remaining if Forte signs the offer. The question is, how are the Bears going to use it?

Side Note — For those of you like me, you understand the majority of football, but when things like “franchise tags” get thrown around you immediately think of something like a luggage tag – here’s a little “Franchise Tag 101”.

Definition: The option given to each NFL team to lock up an important player for one year, whose contract is set to expire, without signing him to a long-term contract. Each team gets the option of one franchise tag, and the deadline to use it this season is Monday, March 5 (today).

The Bottom Line: it has everything to do with the NFL’s salary cap. Teams ultimately want to squeeze as many good players under the salary cap as possible. There are two ways to do this: sign a player to a long-term deal spreading his salary out over many years OR assign the franchise tag. Rarely do teams have enough room under the salary cap to offer every one of their good players a nice extended contract, so assigning the franchise tag guarantees the team a crucial player without having to take a long-term hit against the budget. The free-agent signing season then essentially begins at the franchise tag deadline. After franchise tags are assigned, other teams know which players are available or unavailable. This tag allows the players the opportunity to prove themselves for a longer-term deal. Common examples are players who are valuable, but might be risky to sign for the long haul– because of age, injury issues, or off-field problems. Players can sign franchise tenders from March 13 through the 10th week of the regular season and can sign multi-year extensions at any point through July 16.

The franchise tag used to be reserved for players that teams really wanted to commit to, said ESPN business analyst Andrew Brandt on ESPN Radio Friday. “It used to be for true franchise players. Now it’s every team looking at who’s their best free agent that year, and that’s why we’re going to see so many tags. It’s a huge management weapon.”

Changes:  This year because of the new CBA, you saw many more franchise tags placed around the league. “Under the previous collective bargaining agreement, the franchise tender was equal to the average salaries of the five highest paid players at the franchise player’s position. Under the new CBA, it’s a more complex formula that consists of dividing the old franchise tender figures from 2006-10 by the sum of the salary cap from 2007-11, and then multiplying the resulting percentage by the 2012 salary cap,” states chicagobears.com.

Feel free to chat up “franchise tags” with the men in your life ladies 🙂

Mike Martz: Will He Stay or Will He Go?

The rumor mill is starting to churn regarding the status of Chicago Bears Offensive Coordinator Mike Martz. With his contract expiring at the end of this season and quite a bit of offensive inconsistencies, many fans are wondering will Mr. Martz bite Bears dust?

During a press conference Wednesday afternoon, Lovie Smith snapped when asked if he planned on bringing Martz back. “What kind of question is that anyway?” Smith said, angrily. “At this time, what kind of question is that? Why would you ask a question like that anyway?” reports Comcast SportsNet.

Yes, the question was a bit out of line, considering coaching evaluations are not done until after the season is complete, but his reaction doesn’t bode much confidence on the return of Martz next year. Normally, we would expect a traditional “Mike Martz is our Offensive Coordinator,” from the smooth sailing Smith.

 I think this story might have a different tune if the Bears could have avoided so many crucial injuries. If you take a look back on the season, here is a breakdown:

  1. We looked impressive in our season opener against Atlanta – offense, defense, and special teams all successful.
  2. The next 6 games were a bit rough, not looking dominate in much of anything offensively. We skated by ending up 4-3 going into our bye week. Much of the criticism was pointed at Martz, looking like a stubborn old man who wouldn’t run plays that were working throughout first halves and not playing to his players strengths.
  3. After the bye week, the Bears came back and won 5 straight games, we had fewer interceptions, more QB protection AND increased TDs. The only team, who scored more averaged points per game during that stretch were our rival Green Bay Packers. We all had hopes of another NFC championship throwndown with Aaron Rodgers and crew.
  4. And then Jay Cutler’s thumb was ruined by San Diego, and we were forced to endure the Kansas City loss (who took out Matt Forte), the Tim Tebow and Denver comeback, the Seattle loss (which nearly paralyzed Johnny Knox) as well as our Christmas day demise by Green Bay.
  5. And here we are, our final game against Minnesota starting Josh McCown and with a laundry list of players on injured reserve.

So what exactly would be best for the Bears offense and their overall success? Do we fire Martz and put Cutler on the coordinator merry-go-round just when he was looking confident executing Martz’s offense? Martz is Cutler’s third offensive coordinator since being drafted to the Bears. If you look at quarterbacks like Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady they have a few things in common: consistency, routine, confidence in the execution of their offense, and Superbowl rings. They have been able to perfect the original offenses they were given. I believe Cutler has the potential to be great, but would it be fair to throw another coordinator at him yet again? And if Martz stays, is his offense outdated and too predictable? Is Cutler better off with a new offense – actually having control and being able to call an audible?

I have to admit, I am happy this decision doesn’t lie in my hands. YIKES.

Probowlin Bears

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Despite the disappointing outcome this season, five Chicago Bears will be making their way to the Pro Bowl in Honolulu. I guess it wasn’t all bad; we’ll go with “bittersweet.”

After many impressive seasons with the Bears, veteran cornerback Charles “Peanut” Tillman has been voted to his first Pro Bowl. Middle linebacker Brain Urlacher, outside linebacker Lance Briggs, running back Matt Forte, and special teams rock-star Corey Graham will also represent the Bears this year. This is the largest group of players the Bears have sent to a Pro Bowl since 2006 (when they made their run to the Superbowl).

This will be Urlacher’s eighth visit to the Pro Bowl, tying Dick Butkus, Doug Atkins and Bill George for the third most visits in franchise history behind only Mike Singletary and Walter Payton (all of which are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame). Soon enough we may see a bronze bust of Urlacher (and that large thick neck of his) forever enshrined in Canton. Briggs will be attending his seventh consecutive Pro Bowl, leading the team with 140 tackles. Along with Tillman, Forte and Graham are Pro Bowl newbies. Defensive end Julius Peppers and return specialist Devin Hester were selected as first alternates.

I’d like to state the obvious now. There’s a whole lot of defense listed above, some talented special teams, and although Matt Forte (pre-knee injury) was killing it racking up the rushing yards, it would be nice to see some more offensive players selected. Hey Mr. Angelo take a hint…Let’s get us a real wide receiver huh?!

Enough ranting. Congrats to all of the Pro Bowlers from the Bears. I would have rather seen another playoff run, a Packer defeat in the NFC Championship and a Super Bowl win. Wishful thinking – beggars can’t be choosers.

I want to send a shout-out to Vince Wilfork, one of the eight Patriots going to the Pro Bowl and my favorite teddy bear in the AFC. Hopefully we’ll get to see another interception like this 🙂

 

We Miss the Way #CuttyDoesIt

This video says it best – Cutty come back. Jay Cutler’s thumb injury in the win against San Diego has proven more painful for the Bears and Chicago fans than expected. After watching Caleb Hanie struggle for two weeks and scoring a measly three points against the Cheifs, we just can’t take the humiliation anymore.

Last week against Kansas City another one bit the dust, when Matt Forte took a helmet to his right knee and injured his MCL. Such an injury usually sidelines a player anywhere from two to six weeks. The 7-5 Bears can’t afford anymore losses, so Marion Barber better put on his running game party pants because we’re expecting him to put up some numbers for us (I’m crossing my fingers).

With our star players both questionable for the remainder of the season, many fans have given up hope for a playoff spot this year. I may hold my breathe through this week’s Tim Tebow adventure. At least we can make fun videos about it while we wallow in our sorrows. Unfortunately, Forte doesn’t have a sweet song written for him yet, but I found this gem on youtube, do enjoy.

“Cutty Come back we’re working with a useless QB.” Thank you “Magic 1” for writing these hilarious lyrics.

Also, if you missed this earlier in the Bears season, “Teach Me How to Cutty” is another great listen.