Chicago Bears Archive: November 2011

Forte trying to keep his balance

November, 30, 2011
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Matt Forte needs to keep his eye on the ball.

Not literally, of course.

He only has two fumbles this season and since joining the league in 2008, is second among all NFL running backs in receiving yards (1,985).

No, Forte, who has been justifiably put out this season that he and the Bears failed to come to an agreement on a new contract, has been out of his normal rhythm on the field the last three weeks (gaining 64, 57 and 59 yards, respectively) and needs to guard against losing his equilibrium off the field as well.

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Martz won't discuss job rumors

November, 30, 2011

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz declined to discuss rumors linking him to college and NFL head coaching vacancies.

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Cutler, Cavalarri engagement back on

November, 30, 2011
Jay CutlerFrederick M. Brown/Getty ImagesJay Cutler and Kristin Cavalarri are engaged again, but there's no date for the wedding.
Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler confirmed Wednesday that he is engaged again to reality star Kristin Cavalarri, who broke the news via Twitter.

"All systems go," Cutler said on "The Waddle & Silvy Show" on ESPN 1000. "Let's rock this party."

But Cutler will only be rocking the party to a certain extent, and that means he won't be dictating when, where or how the wedding will take place.

"You guys probably know as well as I do, I don't really make a lot of those decisions," Cutler said. "So I'm just kind of along for the ride. I hear about them, in passing.

"Or if I have to write a check, but other than that, whatever she wants to do, I'm on board."

Martz's play-calling surprised Cutler a bit

November, 30, 2011
Caleb HanieEzra Shaw/Getty ImagesCaleb Hanie saw some baptism by fire in his first NFL start Sunday in Oakland.
Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler admitted Wednesday that he was a little surprised by how much of the offense Mike Martz threw at Caleb Hanie in his first NFL start Sunday.

Hanie, who threw three interceptions and two touchdowns in a 25-20 loss to the Oakland Raiders, was starting in place of the injured Cutler and attempted 36 passes, compared to 27 rushing attempts.

"A little (surprised)," Cutler said on "The Waddle & Silvy Show" on ESPN 1000. "But looking back at it now, that's how Mike operates. He felt probably deep in his heart that Caleb could handle it, that he's been in this system long enough (four years).

"But it's one of those things that until you really go out and experience a play, it's totally different than the classroom. You can sit in the classroom all day and there's a bunch of quarterbacks who can tell you the reads, ‘I'll go 1, 2, 3 here. Here's different coverages, here's what I do.' Until you're out there on the field and mess up and see it on film, and repeat the process, and get that ingrained into your brain, it's a totally different ballgame out there when bullets are flying."

Cutler, who directed an obscene remark toward Martz during a recent nationally televised game, was asked if he felt like grabbing a headset Sunday and telling the offensive coordinator to scale back.

"You guys have seen me say some things to Mike," Cutler said. "Mike's going to do what Mike does. He gets in a zone up there and he's going to call the plays he wants to call.

"We'll see how it goes this week. We'll get Matt (Forte) involved and Caleb will be better. He'll get more confident. Things are going to start to slow down for him."

Not surprisingly, Hanie said he had no issues with the play-calling.

"I feel confident with whatever Mike brings in," Hanie said. "He's been around here a long time. He's got great respect around the league as a play-caller, and he knows better than I what we should run.

"I just trust what he calls and roll with it. If the game is calling for more passing, then we'll see more passing. If the game is calling to get Matt and Marion (Barber) the rock and let them work, then let's do that. So, whatever he calls, I feel good with."

Hanie said he feels more confident heading into his second start on Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs, and Martz also is encouraged.

[+] EnlargeCaleb Hanie, Mike Martz
AP Photo/Nam Y. HuhMike Martz said he was actually more conservative than he needed to be with Caleb Hanie.

"The good news is he got better as the game went on," Martz said. "He had some miscues there early. Smart guy. Those things he's gonna have as he plays. But he has to memory bank that stuff and fix it. He'll do that. I was really pleased with him in the second half. He did a much better job."

Interestingly, Martz said Hanie was better with the more complicated calls.

"We were probably a little more conservative with him than we probably needed to be," Martz said. "We gave him some complicated stuff there and he just did marvelous with it. That touchdown he threw that first one was a sight adjustment involving multiple receivers. He saw it beautifully and just hit (Johnny Knox) in rhythm, and that was a full blitz. Everybody was coming.

"Right before that on third down we ran everybody out of there. It was only a five-man protection. He got to his third receiver on third down and made a big throw. So he sees things well. He gets through everything. He can do what we do. He just needs to play. I would expect him to start off where he left off [against Kansas City] in that game. I feel confident that he will."

Peppers is NFC Defensive Player of Month

November, 30, 2011
Chicago Bears defensive end Julius Peppers was named NFC Defensive Player of the Month for November.

Peppers had six tackles, four sacks, one tackle for loss, 10 quarterback pressures and three pass break ups in November. The four sacks were tied for the most in the NFC during the month.

Peppers has won the award twice with the Bears and four times in his career. Peppers has eight sacks this season and 91 in his 10-year career.

Graham's play could pay off in 2012

November, 30, 2011
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Corey Graham's sole focus is helping the Chicago Bears make the playoffs, either through his work on special teams, defense, or both. But to the casual observer, Graham could be in store for bigger and better things once the Bears' season wraps up.

[+] EnlargeCorey Graham
AP Photo/Nam Y. HuhThe Bears' Corey Graham has interceptions in each of the past three games.
Graham, a free agent last summer, explored his options on the open market before agreeing to a one-year deal to remain with the Bears in 2011. A potential Pro Bowler for his work on special teams, Graham has clearly stated the desire to one day expand his horizons and be a regular starter on defense somewhere in the NFL.

But since starting nine games at cornerback in 2008, Graham's opportunities on defense have been limited. It was that small body of work in the secondary which ultimately paved the way for Graham to return to Chicago a week into training camp. If teams weren't will to pay him starter money, he decided to come back to the Bears where he already had a carved out niche on special teams.

Graham continued his excellence on special teams -- he's second on the team with 13 tackles -- but received an unexpected shot to jump back into the defense when nickel back D.J. Moore missed the last two weeks with an ankle injury. Graham has thrived in the role and recorded three interceptions in the last three games.

According to Bears coach Lovie Smith, the defense "hasn't missed a beat" with Moore on the sidelines and Graham in the slot. With that kind of endorsement on file, not to mention the consistent flow of takeaways, it's quite possible teams will view Graham in a new light once free agency begins on March 13.

"I hope it helps," Graham said Wednesday. "That was the big thing when I talked to my agent and talked to a few teams [in free agency], they needed to see more recent film. I haven't had real defensive film since 2008. So I assume it's going to help, but I just have to go out there and make the best of the situation. Hope that I get another opportunity to go out there and play, and hope another team sees it, or even here. Maybe they like it and they give me an opportunity to play more on defense [moving forward].

"It can't hurt. Anyway you look at it, it can't hurt. When you get an opportunity, you got to make the most of it, and that's what I'm trying to do."

Moore (ankle) limited in practice

November, 30, 2011
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The Chicago Bears officially listed nickel back D.J. Moore as having limited participation in practice on Wednesday, as the defensive back attempts to work his way back from an ankle injury.

Moore missed the last two games after he hurt the ankle on the practice field prior to the Bears home game versus San Diego on Nov. 20.

Fellow cornerback Zack Bowman was also limited with a sore groin, while a minor knee injury kept veteran Charles Tillman on the sidelines.

"[Tillman] should be good to go from [Thursday]," Bears coach Lovie Smith said.

Although Moore is able to walk normally, the defensive back has yet to run full speed or attempt to cut on the ankle since the injury occurred. He was seen playing catch in Oakland a few hours prior to kickoff, but was mainly stationary and moving at half-speed.

With Moore unavailable the past two games, the Bears have turned to Corey Graham to be the fifth defensive back in passing situations. It's proven to be a wise decision since Graham has recorded an interception in each of the past three games. Graham also filled in at nickel in the fourth quarter of the win over Detroit, after Moore was ejected for his involvement in a scuffle with Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford.

Only two players appeared on the Kansas City Chiefs injury report: guard Ryan Lilja (head) and linebacker Demorrio Williams (groin) were limited.

Cutler: Surgery could end 2011 season

November, 30, 2011

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler said on Wednesday he'd "want to play next week if they let me," but he also expressed uncertainty about the time frame for his recovery from the broken thumb on his throwing hand, adding that "it could be [that] I'm done for the season."

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Four Downs: Nowhere but up for Hanie?

November, 30, 2011
HanieKirby Lee/US PresswireAfter a rough first half against the Raiders, Caleb Hanie passed for 175 yards in the fourth quarter.
Caleb Hanie's performance against the Raiders on Sunday was what you would expect from a quarterback making his first NFL start: There was plenty of bad (three interceptions) but some good, too (two touchdown passes).

So what can Bears fans expect out of Hanie in starth No. 2? Our Four Downs panel weighs in on that and more:

First Down

Fact or Fiction: We've seen the worst of Caleb Hanie already.

Jeff Dickerson: Fact. There is no excuse for turning the ball over three times in a half of football, but it's important to remember Hanie was making his first career NFL start in a very difficult road venue. He'll learn from the experience and be a much better quarterback when the Bears face Kansas City Sunday at Soldier field. He can play. Now it's a matter of being a better decision maker, which generally comes with increased playing time. We've seen the worst of Hanie, hopefully we can see the best of Hanie before Jay Cutler returns from thumb surgery.

[+] EnlargeCaleb Hanie
Mark J. Rebilas/US PresswireBears quarterback Caleb Hanie figures to be much better against the Chiefs at Soldier Field on Sunday.

Michael C. Wright: Fact. For the team’s sake, that better had been the worst. I think it’s fair to cut Hanie a little slack for his shaky debut as a starter. When Jay Cutler first suffered his injury and it was announced he’d miss time, everyone started looking at the next several games on the schedule to see how Hanie would fare. I think everyone considered Sunday’s outing at Oakland to be potentially the most dangerous for Hanie, and despite the rocky start, he played fairly well once he settled in. For me, there are positives to draw from that loss for Hanie. Let’s not forget that the Raiders are a 7-4 team with a young, attacking defense and stout front that is playing good football, and Hanie took their best shot on the road in a hostile environment. If anything, Hanie’s ability to bounce back from early adversity in that game should give him confidence over the long haul. Hanie will be fine, and Cutler will play an integral role in making sure he is by relaying his experiences to the new signal caller.

Melissa Isaacson Fact. It’s pretty likely Hanie will throw another interception before his shot as the Bears starting quarterback is over. But all you have to do is look at the fourth quarter of Hanie’s regular season debut as starter last Sunday in Oakland to see the potential for improvement. After throwing all three of his picks in the first half -- two that were awful and one that should at least in part be attributed to the heady play of two Raiders linebackers -- Hanie did not throw another in the second half and completed 10 of 18 passes for 175 yards in the final quarter alone for a 107.4 quarterback rating as the Bears scored 13 points to keep them in the game. Granted, the Raiders were trying to protect their lead and playing a softer zone defense in the fourth quarter, but Hanie settled down and there is every reason to believe he will reduce mistakes with more experience and practice with the first team.

Jon Greenberg: Fact. Hanie’s first half was abysmal. He improved in the second half, but still didn’t look sharp. Yes, he hit on a home run pass to Johnny Knox, but the deep ball is down my list of quarterback qualities. Hanie showed promise in other areas, too. He just needs to put it all together. I still have faith he’ll get better, but more game tape might equal more struggles.

Second Down

Fact or Fiction: Mike Martz has to alter his game plan to suit Hanie.

Jeff Dickerson: Fiction. Martz called a decent game in Oakland. There wasn't a play he called that Hanie is incapable of executing. The problem with Martz is every week, without fail, he loses his mind at some point and calls a terrible play given the situation. A tight end screen on second-and-1 from the Raiders' 7-yard line with :35 seconds left in the first half? Come on, just run the football and settle for a field goal if necessary. Don't get me wrong, Hanie needed to put more zip on the pass that was deflected by Aaron Curry and intercepted by Kamerion Wimbley, but the call was silly. Martz doesn't need to alter the game plan to suit Hanie. He needs to stop trying to be so cute in these key moments.

[+] EnlargeMike Martz
Robin Alam/Icon SMIMike Martz's goal line call just before halftime against the Raiders was questionable.

Michael C. Wright: Fiction. Actually, this is partly fact and partly fiction. See, Hanie is capable of doing everything Martz’s offense calls for. But the offensive coordinator should be mindful of not putting Hanie into bad situations, such as calling a throwback screen -- which the team has shown a tendency on film to run near the goal line before halftime, according to Oakland linebacker Aaron Curry -- on second and 1 from the 7. I think it’s important for Martz to gradually ramp up Hanie’s game by calling for shorter passes early on that would allow the quarterback to get into a rhythm, before rattling off all the big-boy plays. At the same time, you can’t deny that Hanie’s mobility should make it enticing for Martz to cater the game plan to take advantage by utilizing the quarterback more on bootlegs to give him somewhat of a run-pass option.

Melissa Isaacson: Fact. This isn’t really about the run vs. pass debate that feels age-old when it comes to Martz. It’s more about common sense when dealing with a quarterback making his first NFL regular season start. Did Martz really need to call pass plays on 20 of 33 plays in the first half? Did he need to call a pass play on a second-and-1 from the Oakland 7 with 35 seconds left in the second half? Hanie showed his run ability Sunday with 50 yards on five attempts and though not every one demonstrated the best judgment, you’d like to see Martz utilize his live legs and cut down the odds for key interceptions.

Jon Greenberg: Fact. Martz now has a better idea of how Hanie fares against NFL talent. I think he knows what plays to throw away now, and what plays suit Hanie’s strengths. The problem is that Martz is dedicated to his system and that familiarity often takes precedence over reality.

Third Down

Fact or Fiction: Johnny Knox can be a No. 1 receiver for the Bears.

Jeff Dickerson: Fiction. From a talent standpoint, Knox can absolutely be a top wide receiver. But a No. 1? I'm not so sure. When I think of smaller No. 1 wideouts, the first guy who comes to mind is Steve Smith. But he's crazy and tough as nails. Knox isn't that sort of player. He relies on speed and quickness. The good news is Knox possesses a ton of talent. He simply needs to become more consistent. When/if that happens, we can discuss whether or not Knox can be the Bears best receiver. Right now, it's too premature.

[+] EnlargeKnox
Jim O'Connor/US PresswireJohnny Knox has all the tools to be an elite receiver but has been too inconsistent.

Michael C. Wright: Fact. But that can’t and won’t be accomplished during Hanie’s stint as the man under center. Knox flashes those elite-receiver skills, but I don’t see it consistently enough to put him in that No. 1 category just yet. And I don’t see him all of a sudden turning it on over the next five weeks of the season. Knox has shown the desire to improve his game, based on the way he bulked up his upper body last offseason to improve his ability to beat the jam at the line (he also needed to improve lower-body strength, but didn’t). Knox would definitely benefit from spending an offseason working out with someone like Cris Carter to take his game to the next level, and I could see the receiver doing that. I just don’t see it happening this season.

Melissa Isaacson: Fact. Knox still needs to cut down on drops -- he missed three he should have caught on Sunday -- but ironically, he may have a better chance of shining with Hanie than he did with Cutler. While Cutler’s preferred target was Earl Bennett, Hanie favors Knox, with whom he worked a lot in training camp while both were on the second team, and with whom he showed some nice chemistry against the Raiders.

Jon Greenberg: Fiction. There isn’t a No. 1 receiver on this roster, so let’s not force the issue. Knox has gained 242 yards and two touchdowns -- his only ones of the season amazingly -- in the last two games, but he could just as easily disappear next week. Bennett had 251 yards in his previous three games and then caught one ball for 5 yards last week. Now that Devin Hester is seemingly being phased out of the passing game, Knox should see more looks, but he’s still not a No. 1 type.

Fourth Down

Fact or Fiction: Marion Barber deserves to cut into Matt Forte's carries.

Jeff Dickerson: Fiction. Keep Barber at 10-12 carrier per game. That's the perfect workload for a veteran who's dealt with a variety of injuries the past few years. Forte, on the other hand, needs 20-25 rushing attempts every week. He's still the same guy who carried the offense for the first eight games of the season. Why cut into his carries? I want more Forte, not less, regardless of how Barber is running the football.

[+] EnlargeMarion Barber
AP Photo/Julio CortezMarion Barber rushed for a season-high 63 yards against the Raiders on Sunday.

Michael C. Wright: Fact. Not only does he deserve to, but the current situation demands that Barber shoulder some of the burden. Forte has already racked up tons of touches, and the Bears run the risk of wearing the guy out by the end of the regular season if they continue to dish out the current workload. It’s commendable that Forte has played at such a high level for so long, and still appears to have fresh legs so late in the season. But why waste away another fresh-legged running back on the bench that adds a different style that might make it difficult for defenses to adjust to? As Bears coach Lovie Smith admitted on Monday, Barber was “feeling it” against the Raiders and is “a weapon that we need to use.” So when the head coach says something like that, I expect the words to be put into action.

Melissa Isaacson: Fiction. While it does not have to be a knock on Forte to give more opportunities in the right situations to Barber, who runs hard and provides the always appreciated change-of-pace that can keep a defense off-balance, it should be just that -- situational. Against Oakland, the duo teamed for 122 yards on 22 carries, an average of better than 5 yards per carry, but the Raiders were a good matchup for Forte, who got only 12 carries (along with six catches for 25 yards) and wasn’t thrilled about it. Forte also doesn’t appreciate when he is taken out on the goal line, but that’s why Barber was brought in and has five touchdowns from 3, 3, 12, 2 and 1 yard to show for it. Sunday’s game against the Chiefs appears to be the perfect opportunity for Forte to have a breakout game. Here’s hoping he gets the chance.

Jon Greenberg: Fact. Forte should be getting 15-20 chances a game, be they runs or receptions, but it’s obvious that Barber can still truck down the field. Let’s be real, the Bears aren’t going to run 35 times a game under Martz, even with Hanie under center, so Forte’s going to get a few less carries. As a competitor he must hate this, but it’s probably a good thing to take fewer hits, especially when he’s still getting paid like a rookie.

ESPNChicago's Jeff Dickerson recaps the Bears' loss to the Raiders and previews the Chiefs game with quarterback Caleb Hanie.

Streaking/Slumping: Week 12

November, 29, 2011
Julius Pepper, Mike MartzUS PresswireJulius Peppers has been unstoppable lately while Mike Martz played a role in Caleb Hanie's struggles.


1. Johnny Knox, WR: Knox put together his first 100-yard outing of the season, hauling in four passes for 145 yards and a touchdown against the Raiders. Interestingly, Knox has averaged 20 yards per catch or more in six of the Bears' team’s 11 games. The outing against the Raiders certainly qualifies as a breakout performance, but even Knox would admit that he needs to be more consistent with catching the ball and route running.

Henry Melton
2. Henry Melton, DT: Melton has responded positively after sitting down with Bears coach Lovie Smith to discuss his dwindling production. Against the Raiders, Melton was a disruptive force, and finished with a sack. Melton now has five sacks on the season. But that number could rise given the production the team is getting from defensive end Julius Peppers, who is often double teamed.

Julius Peppers
3. Julius Peppers, DE: Since suffering a knee injury against the Detroit Lions on Oct. 10, Peppers has been on fire. Prior to that game, he had posted two sacks over the first five contests. Since then, he’s notched six, including two multiple-sack outings. Peppers sacked Raiders quarterback Carson Palmer twice on Sunday, and finished with three tackles for lost yardage. Peppers has also been one of the team’s major forces against the run.


Anthony Adams
1. Anthony Adams, NT: Adams has now been inactive for two games this season, and has posted just one tackle over his last three outings. One reason the team made Adams inactive against the Raiders was the return of Matt Toeaina, who had missed four of the past six games with a sprained knee. The consummate professional, Adams won’t complain about his role changing. If anything, expect him to respond with better play.

Caleb Hanie
2. Caleb Hanie, QB: Let’s preface this by saying one game doesn’t constitute a slump, but given the situation with the team in the mix for a playoff berth, one bad game can be damaging. Hanie threw three interceptions in the first half, and eventually settled in and performed like the team expected. Hanie won’t be in this section long, and the team is confident he’ll bounce back with strong performances. We’re inclined to believe that, too.

Mike Martz
3. Mike Martz, offensive coordinator: Now you know we can’t place Hanie in the slumping category, and not add Martz, too. Martz played a role in one of the three first-half turnovers by calling the throwback screen. Interestingly, Raiders linebacker Aaron Curry said he saw the Bears run that play out of the same formation in London just before halftime. When he saw it Sunday, Curry said all he had to do was wait for the Bears to throw it to him.

Bears waive special teams standout Iwuh

November, 29, 2011
The Chicago Bears waived linebacker Brian Iwuh, the team leader in special teams tackles.

The team elevated linebacker Patrick Trahan from the practice squad to take his place on Tuesday

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Lions' Suh suspended two games

November, 29, 2011
NEW YORK -- The NFL suspended Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh for two games without pay for stomping an opponent in a Thanksgiving Day game.

The NFL said this was Suh's fifth violation of on-field rules in the last two seasons. He will not be permitted to practice with the Lions or take part in team activities during the suspension.

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Video: Lovie talks playoffs

November, 28, 2011

Bears coach Lovie Smith talks about the upcoming schedule and their chances of making the playoffs.

Hanie's response in Game 2 is the key

November, 28, 2011

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- According to Mark Twain, "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics."

For our purposes, that quote should be amended to "lies, damned lies and Brian Urlacher's reactions to bad quarterbacking."

After Caleb Hanie's three-interception performance in Sunday's 25-20 loss, Urlacher said Hanie "did a good job."

"He kept us in the game," Urlacher told reporters. "If we play better defense we win the game. We were in the game late, but just did not make enough plays on defense."

No one will ever accuse Urlacher of being a bad teammate. Of all the quarterbacks Urlacher has had to cover for, Hanie certainly isn't the worst. After one start, he's definitely worthy of 54's Cover-You defense.

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