The Bear Facts: Week 13

November, 25, 2014
Nov 25
6:38
PM ET


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Jeff Dickerson, Michael C. Wright and Tom Waddle break down why protecting Jay Cutler will be the key for the Bears to beat the Lions on the road.
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Jeff Dickerson discusses the potential issues that the Bears will have lining up against the Lions' defense, such as protecting quarterback Jay Cutler and creating opportunities for running back Matt Forte.
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Playing four years (2010-13) in Detroit, Chicago Bears defensive end Willie Young witnessed firsthand how aggressive Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh can be on game day, even after the whistle.

Teams must always account for Suh (four sacks) in the trenches, but a certain personality is required to match Suh’s special brand of intensity.

Enter Bears second-year Pro Bowl right guard Kyle Long.

Young smiled when asked if Long had a high enough motor to go toe-to-toe with Suh.

“Have you seen this guy [Long] after touchdowns?” Young asked. “This is a 300-pound man and he’s in the back of the end zone; that’s like a 60-yard sprint. Wow. It’s never ending. He’s probably somewhere jumping on top of the building with his helmet on, with no shirt on, in the snow. That’s the kind of guy Kyle Long is.

"So it’s going to be a very exciting matchup, man. It’s going to be that kind of game. I’ll be standing up a lot to watch that one.”

Drafted the same year as Suh (seventh round), Young had only six regular-season sacks in 48 career games (15 starts) in Detroit before jumping to the Bears in free agency.

Through 11 games, Young is arguably the Bears’ best offseason investment, leading the defense with eight sacks.
The fifth-year veteran is eager to boost his sack total at the expense of another former teammate: Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford (sacked 33 times in 415 pass attempts).

“You practice against this guy all week, day after day when I was in Detroit,” Young said. “Obviously the quarterbacks are untouchable. They tell you not to touch the quarterback. You can’t touch the quarterback. That’s too close. Get away from him. Well, fortunately I don’t have to worry about that stuff Thursday. They’ll be a lot of flying around, teeing off on guys and guys taking shots. This is a big game for both of us.”
Jay Cutler recognizes he can’t stand in the pocket too long Thursday at Detroit against a pass rush Chicago Bears coach Marc Trestman described as “relentless.”

Cutler
 So expect the Bears to rely on the quick passing game against the Lions with some screens sprinkled into the mix and very few deep shots downfield.

“Can’t hold onto anything,” Cutler explained. “One, two, and you’ve got to get to number three pretty quickly. They do a great job of collapsing the pocket. They’re coming off the edge, and they’ve got the big guys in the middle that are forcing the guards and everybody right into your lap. They make it really difficult.”

The Lions enter Thursday’s contest with the NFL's third-ranked defense, which allows 17.3 points per game. Detroit is No. 10 against the pass and tops in the league against the run (3.2 yards per attempt allowed).

So the hope is the Bears can utilize strategies similar to what New England did in its 34-9 victory over the Lions. Detroit plays a 4-3 scheme, similar to what the Bears faced the past two games against Minnesota and Tampa Bay, which should help them to prepare in this short week.

What sets apart the Lions though, according to Trestman, is their defensive line.

“Their speed [represents a major challenge],” Trestman said. “They’re physical. They’re penetrators. They’re relentless to the football. That’s where it all starts for them -- up front -- not just the way they play the pass, but they play the run extremely well as we all know.”

Led by defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, Detroit’s defensive line allowed two rushing touchdowns in the loss to the Patriots. But prior to that, the group surrendered just two touchdowns on the ground in the previous eight games combined.

Offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer believes optimal hand placement along the offensive line will be key in opening holes for the rushing attack, as well as in protection.

“We have to do a great job of using our hands against these guys. They’re very violent with their hands and they’ve prescribed to the thought process of ‘Man, we’re going to go to the quarterback first and then we’re going to play the run,’” Kromer said. “Well, what that does for them is it gives them a lot of penetration. So if one guy allows penetration in the run game, then it’s hard to cut back or cut forward, whatever you’re trying to do. So you’re really trying to keep them on their side of the line of scrimmage as best you can in the running game and in pass protection. You’ve got to get on them fast. They are relentless. They don’t stop. We’ve seen them over and over, hitting quarterbacks. So we just want to make sure we’re aggressive with their D-line; we’re matching their aggressiveness.”

Because of the way Detroit’s front four plays, it gives the secondary confidence knowing quarterbacks have to get rid of the ball quickly.

“They know the quarterback can only look one way or maybe two ways and the ball is coming out,” Cutler said. “They know they’re not going to get pump-faked or looked off a long time because the D-line gets there. So they do a good job of anticipating when the ball is going to come out.”

The Patriots achieved success against the Lions by spreading them out, moving the ball and utilizing quick throws with just enough runs “to keep them honest,” Trestman explained.

Cutler called the prospect of throwing the ball downfield against the Lions “difficult.”

“You watch them on film and a lot of teams are doing different things,” Cutler said. “Not a lot of people are taking shots, because there’s just not a lot of time. We’re going to have to invent some ways to get creative and find ways to push the ball down[field] a little bit because it’s going to be really hard to dink and dunk these guys 5-[yards] at a time all the way down the field.”

QB snapshot: Jay Cutler

November, 25, 2014
Nov 25
1:00
PM ET
A quick observation of quarterback Jay Cutler and how he played in the Chicago Bears' 21-13 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 12:

Cutler
It’s not all Cutler’s fault considering the protection issues the Bears struggled through early on, but he has to stop turning over the ball. The Bears are 8-0 over the past two years when they finish with a positive turnover margin. So Cutler needs to do his part to keep the Bears on the winning side of the turnover battle, especially on Thanksgiving against a Detroit Lions squad that ranks 10th in turnover differential (plus-3).

Cutler extended his NFL lead in turnovers (18) by fumbling on a strip-sack by Gerald McCoy in the first quarter. Tampa Bay converted the turnover into a touchdown to take an early lead.

On the positive side, Cutler didn’t commit multiple turnovers or throw an interception for the first time since Oct. 12, and it’s no coincidence that in all but one of the club’s losses this season the quarterback turned over the ball multiple times. Aside from the turnover, Cutler didn’t put up stellar numbers (season-low 130 yards passing with a passer rating of 87.0), but he played well enough to lead the team to victory.

Inside Slant: NFL Week 12 QB Report

November, 25, 2014
Nov 25
10:15
AM ET
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Let's take our weekly deep dive into the Sunday performance of five NFL quarterbacks, using data supplied by analyst Jacob Nitzberg of ESPN Stats & Information. After all, the numbers don't always speak for themselves. (For all Inside Slant posts, including the weekly QB Report, follow this link. For a full statistical breakdown of all NFL quarterbacks, see ESPN.com's QBR page.)

Matthew Stafford
Detroit Lions
WEEK 12 vs. NE: L, 34-9
NEXT: 11/27 vs. CHI
WEEK 12
CMP: 18
ATT: 46
YDS: 264
PCT: 39.1
TD: 0
INT: 1
WHAT YOU MISSED

Stafford completed just 18 of his 46 passes, giving him the lowest single-game completion percentage (39.1) in his career. How much of it was his fault? And how much of the blame falls on his receivers or pass protection? Here's what we found out: Of the 28 incompletions, 10 were judged to be over- or under-thrown in ESPN video review, tied for Stafford's second most in a game this season. Four of the incompletions were judged to be dropped and nine more were defended -- broken up, batted or intercepted -- by the Patriots. Both of those last two figures were season highs for Stafford. Seven of those defended passes were intended for receiver Calvin Johnson or Golden Tate. (Stafford targeted each of them with 10 passes and completed four apiece.) That provides a reliable explanation for most of the misses. Meanwhile, Stafford found himself under duress or hit on 10 of his dropbacks, third most for a quarterback in a game during Week 12.

FINAL ANALYSIS

When you throw 46 passes and complete only 18, there is plenty of blame to go around. Stafford's inconsistent accuracy was the biggest culprit, but the Patriots also played excellent defense. The drops, on the other hand, are best seen in context. Their total of 18 for the season is the sixth most in the NFL, but part of that is the result of 417 overall attempts, which ranks eighth in the NFL. The drop percentage, a more reliable measure, is 4.3 -- slightly higher than the NFL average of 4.0. Receiver drops shouldn't be disproportionately blamed.

Tom Brady
New England Patriots
WEEK 12 vs. DET: W, 34-9
NEXT: 11/30 at GB
WEEK 12
CMP: 38
ATT: 53
YDS: 349
PCT: 71.7
TD: 2
INT: 1
WHAT YOU MISSED

The Patriots used a pass-first approach against the Lions, but see if you can pick up on its true intent. Brady threw 11 screen passes and completed all of them, his highest total of both completions and attempts in at least five seasons. Of his 53 attempts, 29 traveled 5 yards or fewer past the line of scrimmage. Brady completed 25 of them, including 12 that were caught at or behind the line. Brady threw 21 passes on first down, tied for his most in a game this season, and converted eight first downs on those throws. He also completed 5 of 6 play-action throws on first down and 8 of 9 overall. The Lions backed off their blitz against him, sending an extra rusher on 15 percent of his dropbacks, and overall they pressured him on only 9.4 percent of his dropbacks, a season low for the Lions and for Brady. He was put under duress on five attempts, completing all five.

FINAL ANALYSIS

A week earlier, the Patriots defeated the Colts behind 201 rushing yards from power back Jonas Gray. They pivoted noticeably against the top rushing defense in the NFL, but they used their passing game often to simulate the run. The end result: The Patriots lit up the Lions for 34 points, more than twice their defensive scoring average entering the game.

Jay Cutler
Chicago Bears
WEEK 12 vs. TB: W, 21-13
NEXT: 11/27 at DET
WEEK 12
CMP: 17
ATT: 27
YDS: 130
PCT: 63.0
TD: 1
INT: 0
WHAT YOU MISSED

Cutler posted season lows in dropbacks, attempts, completions and passing yards for a game -- and it appeared by design. Playing against a defense that discourages downfield throws, Cutler attempted only three passes that traveled more than 10 yards past the line of scrimmage. His longest pass traveled 17 yards in the air past the line of scrimmage. The three attempts were Cutler's fewest in a game that he has finished since joining the Bears in 2009. His average air yards per throw was 3.85, by far his shortest this season and his second shortest in his Bears career. He attempted only five outside passes (passes thrown beyond the numbers). Entering the game, he had completed at least seven of those passes each week this season. He threw five play-action passes and three screens, completing all eight such throws. In eight red zone plays, the Bears threw only once -- the second time in as many weeks when they have run more often than passed in the red zone. The reverse had been the case the previous 10 weeks.

FINAL ANALYSIS

For at least one week, the Bears dialed it way back for a quarterback who entered the game with 17 turnovers. In the past two weeks, tailback Matt Forte has carried or caught a pass 60 times for a total of 287 yards. That makes sense, given Cutler's struggles and the arrival of December weather.

Brian Hoyer
Cleveland Browns
WEEK 12 vs. ATL: W, 26-24
NEXT: 11/30 at BUF
WEEK 12
CMP: 23
ATT: 40
YDS: 322
PCT: 57.5
TD: 0
INT: 3
WHAT YOU MISSED

Hoyer's worst game of the season coincided with the return of downfield threat Josh Gordon from suspension. Hoyer targeted Gordon 17 times against the Falcons, completing eight but also throwing two of his interceptions on those throws. He threw downfield to Gordon -- at least 15 air yards -- eight times and completed two of them. Those 17 targets were tied for the most passes thrown to one player in an NFL game this season. Eight of his 17 incompletions were judged to be overthrows by ESPN video analysis, including two of his interceptions. In the red zone, Hoyer missed all six of his attempts, including one interception. His 0.0007 QBR in the red zone was the worst of his career. All three of his interceptions came against the Falcons' standard pressure, the same as his previous five this season. Hoyer had not previously thrown an interception against the blitz in 2014.

FINAL ANALYSIS

Did the Browns' eagerness to unleash Gordon knock Hoyer off his previously efficient game? It's difficult to dismiss that possibility as at least a partial explanation for his performance. Hoyer regained his composure to lead another game-winning drive in the fourth quarter, his fifth in 10 victories as a starter during his career, giving him a successful outcome with which to evaluate his approach.

Russell Wilson
Seattle Seahawks
WEEK 12 vs. ARI: W, 19-3
NEXT: 11/27 at SF
WEEK 12
CMP: 17
ATT: 22
YDS: 211
PCT: 77.3
TD: 1
INT: 0
WHAT YOU MISSED

Wilson took seven sacks, tying his career high, and they came in a variety of ways. He spent an average of 2.56 seconds in the pocket per throw, his longest in a game this season, but three of the seven sacks came outside the pocket. The Cardinals blitzed him on 50 percent of his dropbacks, a season high for Wilson. They sacked him on three of those plays, but he also completed 11 of the 13 passes he got off against the blitz for 153 yards. When under duress, Wilson completed 5 of 6 passes for 70 yards and a touchdown. Wilson kept most of his passes short, attempting only three that traveled at least 15 yards downfield. Of his 211 passing yards, 138 came after the catch. He attempted a season-low seven passes to receivers and kept the ball on five of the Seahawks' 14 zone-read plays, accounting for 46 yards.

FINAL ANALYSIS

It's probably best to view the seven sacks as a byproduct of Wilson's ability to make plays against the blitz. When an opponent blitzes on half of your passing plays, you find any way you can to make it work. The Seahawks are more than happy to take the end result.

By now, you’re probably starting preparation for your Thanksgiving feast. But before you do that, chew on a few links in our spin around the Chicago Bears beat:

-- ESPNChicago.com’s Jeff Dickerson delivers his weekly stock report, and he’s high on defensive tackle Stephen Paea.

-- CSNChicago.com’s John Mullin takes a look at the impact plays made by linebacker Christian Jones and Al Louis-Jean.

-- Here are Brad Biggs’ grades of the Bears after reviewing film of the win over the Buccaneers.

-- Marc Potash of the Chicago Sun-Times gives you his 10 observations and finds a glimmer of hope for the Bears, who on Thanksgiving face a Lions team reeling from a two-game losing streak.

Potash writes:
After back-to-back victories over the Vikings and Buccaneers, the 5-6 Bears’ biggest obstacle to an improbable seven-game run-of-the-table that just might put them in the playoffs arguably is up next -- a road game on a short week against the Lions on Thanksgiving Day.

The eye test says there’s no way. The Bears’ victories over the last-place Vikings and Buccaneers were as unimpressive as they come -- the Bears had to overcome 10-0 deficits at home to win both games. And the Lions will be primed to reassert their playoff status after back-to-back losses to the first-place Cardinals and Patriots. They won’t be traveling on a short week. And they have Ndamukong Suh and the No. 3-ranked defense in the NFL against a Bears offense that needed a helping hand in gaining all of 204 yards Sunday against the 27th-ranked defense in the league.

Then again, they’re still the Lions. They’re the Bears of Detroit, with a history of disappointment and second-half failures that will hang over them like an ominous dark cloud until they clinch a playoff berth. The Lions have made the playoffs once in the last 14 seasons. They haven’t won a playoff game since 1991. They haven’t won an NFL championship since the Eisenhower administration.

Stock Watch: Take Paea to the bank

November, 25, 2014
Nov 25
9:00
AM ET
PaeaBrian Kersey/Getty ImagesWith two sacks Sunday, Stephen Paea now has six on the season, second on the Bears' defense.

RISING

Paea
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1. Stephen Paea: The defensive tackle wrecked the interior of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' offensive line to record two sacks in the Chicago Bears' 21-13 victory Sunday. The stout fourth-year player is now second on the defense with six sacks. It’s a contract year for Paea, who’s started all 11 games. Paea is a powerful player -- his accomplishments in the weight room are legendary. But he's had problems staying healthy, missing nine games over his first three years due to a variety of ailments. Now the Bears are finally seeing Paea begin to reach his full potential. From my vantage point, Paea seems like a safe investment -- for the proper price. He works extremely hard in the offseason and is viewed as one of the good guys in the Bears' locker room. Paea is a remarkable story. The 26-year-old didn't even know how to speak English when he moved to the United States from Tonga at age 16. Paea successfully overcame the language barrier and is currently one of the most accessible and thoughtful players inside the building. Think about that nugget the next time a player slides out the side door following a tough loss, or cuts short a news conference after two minutes.

Forte
Forte
2. Matt Forte: Forte reached several milestones in Week 12. His two rushing touchdowns versus the Bucs gave Forte 40 for his career, moving him past Hall of Famer Gayle Sayers (39) for fourth place in franchise history. Forte also joined Curtis Martin and LaDainian Tomlinson as the only players in NFL history to reach 1,400 yards from scrimmage in each of his first seven NFL seasons. With five games left, Forte sits at 1,420 all-purpose yards through 12 games (822 rushing and 598 receiving). The tailback is on the verge of breaking his single-season team record for receptions by a running back (74) -- he currently leads the Bears with 72 catches. Without question, Forte is the best player on Chicago's offense.

3. Entire defense: The Bears have held consecutive opponents to 13 points. Atlanta scored only 13 points versus the Bears in the Georgia Dome. The Bears kept Buffalo, San Francisco and the New York Jets to 23 points or fewer. The defense battered and pestered Bucs quarterback Josh McCown the entire afternoon, forcing four turnovers and recording five sacks. Only one phase of the team can say it has shown up for work almost every week (with New England and Green Bay notable exceptions). Can you name the phase? Here’s a hint: It's not the offense or special teams.

4. Marc Mariani: Mariani needs to return kicks until further notice. The five-year veteran made good decisions Sunday. Mariani is a professional with a proven track record of success at the NFL level (2010 Pro Bowl selection with Tennessee). The Bears need more guys with experience on special teams.

FALLING

Down arrow
  
1. Entire offense (minus Forte): Burn the tapes. All of them. Film study can't help the Bears. There is no logical way to explain Chicago's woes on offense. Jay Cutler -- paid. Brandon Marshall -- paid. Martellus Bennett -- paid. Forte -- paid. Jermon Bushrod -- paid. Alshon Jeffery -- looking to get paid. What is the problem? Coach Marc Trestman's background is offense. Aaron Kromer is a top-flight offensive assistant. Same with Matt Cavanaugh. Wide receivers coach Mike Groh sure looks to be a riser in the business. What is going on here? The franchise will not move forward until the powers that be figure out why the offense has sputtered in 2014. Too much money has been spent to get these kinds of results. It's downright embarrassing.

2. Brandon Marshall: Three penalties in the first half (one declined) is unacceptable. Marshall owned up to his mistakes in the postgame locker room. It can't happen again. Penalties are a major issue for the Bears, who lack focus and discipline in crucial moments. Marshall is far from the lone culprit, but his miscues were particularly glaring against Tampa.
Happy early Thanksgiving!

Join us today at 1 p.m. ET, 10 a.m. PT for ESPN NFL Nation TV's Spreecast as episode No. 33 gives a Turkey Day preview, revisits Odell Beckham Jr.'s insane three-fingered catch, and discusses several teams' futures given the varying quarterback situations they have inherited this season.

Host Coley Harvey (Cincinnati Bengals reporter) and co-host Mike Wells (Indianapolis Colts reporter) will be joined by Michael C. Wright (Chicago Bears reporter), John Keim (Washington Redskins reporter) and Phil Sheridan (Philadelphia Eagles reporter).

Plus, Rob Demovsky (Green Bay Packers reporter) and Mike Reiss (New England Patriots reporter) will debate in this week's "Main Event" about Sunday's big game at Lambeau Field that will feature MVP candidates Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady.

Viewers are encouraged to log in and ask the panelists questions as well as contribute in the chat feature.

Jay Cutler acknowledged the struggles the offense experienced in the Chicago Bears' 21-13 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday, but he pointed out the team can’t dwell on them with a Thursday afternoon matchup on deck against the Detroit Lions.

On six first-half drives against the Buccaneers, Chicago’s offense generated 68 yards and three first downs, with one of those coming by way of a roughing-the-kicker call on the team’s second possession.

Cutler
“We made some mistakes,” Cutler said Monday during the “Jay Cutler Show” on ESPN 1000. “We came in at halftime, made some adjustments, talked about what we liked moving forward. Defense got some turnovers, and we put some points on the board. Win or loss, we’re always trying to improve on offense. We’re always looking at what we did wrong. This week’s a little bit different because we’ve got to move on. We can’t really dwell on much that happened yesterday. We’ll make some corrections to some major things, then after that we’ve got to go.”

Bears coach Marc Trestman called the offense’s performance in the first half “very poor because of the mistakes that we made.”

Of the club’s six first-half possessions, three went three-and-out and one ended in a Cutler fumble the Buccaneers converted into a touchdown. Receiver Brandon Marshall was flagged for illegal-block penalties on two of those drives (one was declined), and he was flagged for false start on the team’s second play from scrimmage.

Cutler finished the game with one touchdown pass and a passer rating of 87.0 after absorbing three sacks in the first half and producing a passer rating of 65.0.

“What was a positive was the way we came out in the second half and took advantage of the turnovers,” Trestman said. “We got the ball in the end zone. I think that was the positive part of the day for Jay and our entire offense, that we were able to push it in. Everybody was taking turns. It wasn’t what we wanted it to be. We got out of sync. But we hung in there. Again, defensively getting the turnovers and being able to push the ball into the end zone was the most favorable part of the day offensively for Jay and for all of us. The penalties, the things that we can control, are the things that we’ve got to continue to work on. We will in various ways. Those are the things that take away from your opportunity to move the football, stay in sequence, do the things you want to do with your entire offense. When you’re in sequence and you’re not hurting yourself, certainly you have opportunities to do more things.”

Now the Bears plan to use the next day and a half to absorb a stripped-down game plan headed into Thursday’s contest at Detroit with just a four-day turnaround. Several of the team’s coaches returned to Halas Hall Sunday night to jump start the game plan installation process.

Trestman called the short turnaround “a challenge” but pointed to the staff’s “experience in putting game plans together and knowing how much information guys can handle going into a game without practice time.”

The Bears plan to put in the game plan on Tuesday, hold several meetings and walk-through sessions the same day and board a plane Wednesday for Detroit.

When the NFL first introduced Thursday games, Cutler said he “liked them because you got the weekend off,” which was “kind of like a mini-bye.”

Now, Cutler said the turnaround for a Thursday game is more difficult.

“As you get older, it gets harder,” Cutler said. “I think the older you get, the harder it gets game planning-wise, physically, just getting your body back to where it needs to be for game time.”
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Jeff Dickerson delivers the key storylines as the Bears prepare to face the Lions on Thanksgiving Day.
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears head coach Marc Trestman explained on Monday why he declined a personal foul penalty with no time left on the clock at the end of the first half in the Bears’ eventual 21-13 win against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Following Patrick Murray’s 32-yard field goal, which extended Tampa Bay’s lead to 10-0 with nine seconds remaining in the opening half, Bucs receiver Russell Sheppard drew a flag for a low block on a Bears return that ended up on the 11 yard line after Dante Rosario lateraled the ball to Marc Mariani.

"Overall I just thought it was just in the best interests of our team at that point and time to not [run] one play, I think it was from the 26 yard line," Trestman said. "I thought it was in the best interest of our team to get off the field, get in the locker room, and move forward with the day."

Trestman stressed that forcing the Bucs to re-kick was not an option laid out by the officials. Up to that point on Sunday, the Bears' offense had gained only 68 total yards and three first downs in 13:31 of possession.

"The only option was for the penalty, and it would have been a first down with a 15-yard penalty, so I elected not to do that," Trestman said.
Chicago Bears linebacker Lance Briggs left Sunday’s win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with a groin injury and rookie cornerback Kyle Fuller suffered a knee injury that forced him out of action, but Bears coach Marc Trestman declined to provide a real update on either of the injured starters.

Fuller
Briggs
Trestman said both will be evaluated more Tuesday, calling their injuries “ongoing situations.”

Briggs suffered his injury in the second quarter, and athletic trainers escorted the veteran to the locker room just before intermission. The club later announced he wouldn’t return when the Bears hit the field to start the second half.

Just minutes later, the Bears announced Fuller was out for the game.

A seven-time Pro Bowler with a contract set to expire at the end of the season, Briggs, 34, has already missed three games due to a rib injury.

Briggs currently earns $4.75 million in base salary from a three-year extension signed back in 2012, and there’s a chance the linebacker won’t be back after this season, a situation the veteran expects. Briggs has missed a total of 10 games over the past two seasons. He missed seven outings last year due to a fractured shoulder.

Fuller came into Sunday’s game tied for eighth in the NFL with three interceptions, which is first among rookies. Fuller has contributed 46 tackles and six pass breakups through 11 games and was credited with six tackles against the Buccaneers.

Despite breaking his right hand and suffering a hip pointer during the team’s Oct. 19 loss to the Miami Dolphins, Fuller hasn’t missed any games.
The spin around the Chicago Bears beat always seems a much more pleasant ride when the team is coming off a victory.

Here’s today’s installment:

-- Jon Greenberg of ESPNChicago.com runs down Chicago’s win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Bears are almost back to .500, making Thursday night’s Thanksgiving showdown against the Detroit Lions a compelling matchup.
Greenberg writes: In any event, while the Bears continue to fail the eye test -- as in you go blind if you watch a first half of any game -- they did improve to 5-6 after taking two straight from last-place teams.

A win on Thanksgiving in Detroit, and this team is not only officially mediocre, but also on the outer edge of the playoff hunt.

A blowout loss and it's "Fire Trestman! Fire Emery! Bench Cutler!" all over again. But the Bears bought everyone another few days of peace.

One thing about the Bears: They're good enough to beat the bad teams. The good teams, well, that's the problem.

The Bears had only 204 yards, and they won. That's not going to happen against quality teams, as we saw in brutal losses to the New England Patriots and Green Bay Packers.

The next four games, including two against the Lions, are against playoff contenders, with the Dallas Cowboys and New Orleans Saints coming to Soldier Field for prime-time games. (The finale will be in late December outdoors in Minneapolis. Consult your doctor before watching that one.)

-- ESPNChicago.com’s Jeff Dickerson gives you his grades from Sunday’s game.

-- Dickerson explains five things we learned from Sunday’s win. No. 1 is a doozy, and while you may not want to believe it, Dickerson is on the money with this one.
Dickerson writes: Defense is the backbone of the team: Sounds crazy, right? We’re talking about the same defense responsible for surrendering 50-plus points consecutive weeks to New England and Green Bay. Certain people even accused the defense of giving up three weeks ago at Lambeau Field. Guess what? The defense is the team’s strength. Look it up. Week 12’s four-takeaway, five-sack effort versus the Bucs is another example of the defense willing the Bears to a win. With the exception of Green Bay (both games) and New England, the Bears defense has shown up every week. The victory over Minnesota -- that’s on the defense. The road win at New York -- the work of the defense. The Bears haven’t scored more than 28 points in 11 games. Yet, the team still finds itself 5-6. That’s actually a remarkable accomplishment, given the putrid offensive output. Here’s a question you never imagined asking yourself: Where would the Bears be without the defense? Scary stuff.

-- The Bears remain in the playoff hunt, writes Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune.

-- The Chicago Sun-Times' Rick Telander says it’s difficult to get excited about Sunday’s win over the 2-9 Buccaneers.
He writes: The Bears are 5-6 after beating the 2-9 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and isn’t that the way it should have been from square one?

Bucs coach Lovie Smith now can leave town with his former Bears backup quarterback, and we all can forget about the humiliation that would have resulted from a Bears loss. Had that happened, we would be hollering that the Bears were wrong to fire Smith and replace him with Marc Trestman after the 2012 season, should have paid Josh McCown after last season and should have let Jay Cutler float off to wherever somebody wanted him.

But Trestman and Cutler won, so all that other stuff is nonsense.

Yet, it feels so . . . blah.

-- Defensive coordinator Mel Tucker gets some love for getting his group going against its former coach, writes Adam L. Jahns of the Chicago Sun-Times.
CHICAGO -- David Bass' biography blurb in the Chicago Bears' press packet leading into Sunday's 22-13 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is an unremarkable read, to say the least.

- Inactive Weeks 1-2.
- Did not play Weeks 3 and 5.
- Waived 10/7
- Signed to the Bears practice squad 10/8.
- Signed to the active roster 11/3.

Yet Bass, a second-year veteran, made arguably the most significant play of Chicago's victory over the Buccaneers with his third-quarter strip-sack of Josh McCown, which led to the first of Matt Forte's two touchdown runs. With the Bears down 10-7 with 5:09 left in the third quarter, Bass dropped McCown for a 12-yard loss with Christian Jones recovering at the Tampa Bay 13.

Forte busted a 13-yard run on the next play to give Chicago the lead for the first time all afternoon.

"Josh does a great job of escaping the pocket," Bass said. "He's a fast and mobile quarterback, and we saw that last year. We studied the offensive line that we were going against and tried to find their weaknesses to maximize every opportunity we got."

Bass certainly did that against the Buccaneers, but it's clear he's capitalizing on his latest break. Lamarr Houston suffered a season-ending knee injury on Oct. 26 at New England, and veteran Trevor Scott has been inactive the last two weeks due to a knee injury. That opened the door to more playing time for Bass, who kicked it down Sunday with a strong showing.

"You know me, I'm just trying to maximize every opportunity I get," Bass said. "It's a blessing just to be here. Anytime I get a chance to go out onto the field, I just want to go out there and have fun."

Bass admitted to being disappointed with the team cutting him and later placing him on the practice squad.

"I like to control what I can control. Unfortunately, I didn't like the way that played out, but that's part of the game," Bass said. "I just kept telling myself God's got a plan and whatever's meant to be is going to happen. I just stayed patient."

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