We informed you about Bears running back Matt Forte (surprisingly) practicing on Wednesday after suffering an ankle injury against the Vikings. Forte reportedly looked "fine" in the practice, and on Thursday, the star running back said he'll indeed play on Sunday against the Seahawks at Soldier Field:

Very nice. Forte practiced again in limited fashion on Thursday, as did linebacker Lance Briggs (ankle), cornerback Charles Tillman (ankle), and Kellen Davis (ankle).

Missing practice were wide receiver Devin Hester (concussion), Chris Spencer (knee), Alshon Jeffery (knee), and Brian Urlacher (rest). Spencer and Jeffery were expected to miss this game, and Urlacher's just getting his usual day off to rest his bothersome knee.

As for Hester, it appears he still isn't very close to being medically cleared for the concussion he suffered against the Vikings :
UPDATE: As expected, Hester and Spencer will not play on Sunday:
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Given how bad Matt Forte's injury looked on Sunday against the Vikings, and with how gingerly he walked to the locker room (and stayed there for the remainder of the game), I immediately feared he would be out for awhile. And the announcement that the injury was on the same ankle he injured earlier in the season (and forced him to miss the Rams game) certainly made me assume that he would miss at least the Seahawks this week.

But, surprisingly, Forte was able to participate in practice on Wednesday, and apparently looked fine:


Excellent news. The Bears will certainly be careful with Forte, but right now you'd have to like his chances to be active on Sunday. Regardless, expect Michael Bush to still be a very big part of the gameplan.

The Bears are dealing with key injuries at the wide receiver position, as they're likely to be without Alshon Jeffery and Devin Hester on Sunday (unless Hester is able to pass the concussion tests over the next few days; he wasn't even at practice on Wednesday). And Seattle has a terrific secondary. So, it would be wise for Mike Tice to really try to get the run game going. Having each Forte and Bush able to play would certainly help the chances of the Bears having success with that offensive gameplan.

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Last week, 2011 Bears first round pick Gabe Carimi was benched at right tackle in favor of veteran Jonathan Scott. But on Sunday against the Vikings, injuries to guards Lance Louis and Chris Spencer forced the Bears to put Carimi in at right guard.

On Monday it was revealed that Lance Louis suffered at torn ACL on the cheap shot he took from Vikings defensive end Jared Allen, so his season is over (and he's looking at 8-10 months to recovery). And on Wednesday morning, ESPN Chicago's Michael Wright said he's hearing Spencer will likely be out 1-2 weeks.
So, with that knowledge, you'd immediately assume that Carimi would be back at right guard this week, at least while newly signed veteran Andre Gurode takes some time to learn the offense and get into game shape.  And Carimi indeed confirmed on Wednesday afternoon that (as of now) he will be starting at right guard on Sunday against the Seahawks:
It's to be assumed that Edwin Williams will be the starting left guard after he replaced Spencer at the position against the Vikings.

Carimi actually did a solid job in the game at right guard, and perhaps the position will end up being a better fit for him than right tackle was. He's a much better run blocker than pass blocker, and has the strength to handle the bigger bodies on the inside.

Jay Cutler was asked if he would have trouble seeing over Carimi, who's 6'7". Cutler responded with, "I don't care if he's (Carimi) 6'10". If he does his job, I'll find a way."

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I wasn't able to use a computer on Monday to write about Bears guard Lance Louis, but as I'm sure you've heard by now, Louis was diagnosed with a torn ACL and placed on injured reserve after taking a cheap shot from Vikings defensive end Jared Allen in the Bears' victory Sunday at Soldier Field. Louis was the Bears' starting right guard, and the Bears' most consistent offensive lineman. So, it's a huge loss for a struggling Bears offensive line.

And Louis was just one of many Bears suffer an injury on Sunday. Three stars in running back Matt Forte, cornerback Charles Tillman, and linebacker Lance Briggs suffered ankle injuries. Additionally, wide receiver Devin Hester suffered a concussion, and Chris Spencer suffered a knee injury.

Forte's ankle injury looked bad at the time, but is not believed to be a severe injury. Still, with a very capable backup in Michael Bush at running back, the Bears will surely play it safe with Forte and let his ankle fully heal.

Tillman reportedly has a chipped bone in his right foot, but may be able to play through it against the Seahawks.

Briggs' injury is not believed to be serious, and it sounds like he left in a boot on Sunday as just a precautionary measure.

Hester will of course have to pass the concussion tests this week to be medically cleared to play on Sunday, so he should be considered very "questionable" to play at this point.

Spencer's MRI revealed some torn cartilage in his knee, and it sounds like he could miss a game or two.

Still, with Louis out for the season, and Spencer's status in question, the Bears are very thin on the offensive line. Edwin Williams stepped in for Spencer at left guard against the Vikings, but he came into the season as the third-string left guard (although he played decently for the Bears in 2011). Recently benched right tackle Gabe Carimi played his first snaps ever (I'm talking before he was even in the NFL) at right guard in replacement of Louis.

So, the Bears hosted several free-offensive lineman for a tryout at Halas Hall, and apparently liked what they saw in 33-year-old guard/center Andre Gurode, as they signed him to a contract on Tuesday.

Gurode appeared in five Pro Bowls as a member of the Dallas Cowboys, and has made 133 career starts. Five of those starts came last season as a member of the Ravens. Now, with his age and given that he was on the street all season, he's surely far away from his "Pro Bowl" status, but he still adds depth which the Bears desperately need right now. If Spencer is out for Sunday and perhaps more games, the only other backup at guard on the current roster is James Brown, an undrafted rookie free agent. And I doubt the Bears feel very comfortable about throwing Brown into game action just yet.

The Bears also released defensive tackle Amobi Okoye. Okoye had one sack on the season and was solid for the Bears over the previous two seasons (although he spent camp with the Buccaneers), but the Bears could afford to let him go given their tremendous depth at defensive tackle (Henry Melton, Stephen Paea, Nate Collins, Matt Toeaina), and because they've been rotating defensive ends into the interior defensive line frequently on passing downs anyway. Additionally, Collins was more impressive than Okoye of late, and Toeaina is a run-stopping specialist that the Bears like to keep around for certain matchups. Okoye will be a fine addition to another team, and I wouldn't be surprised at all if the Bears were to show interest in him again in the future.

Now, you may notice that I didn't say the Bears released Okoye to "make room" for Gurode, and that's because the Bears' roster was at just 52 following the placement of Louis on injured reserve. And with that in mind... the Eagles made a headlining move today with the release of two-time Pro Bowl defensive end Jason Babin, who had a whopping 18 sacks in 2011. He's still played at a solid level in 2012, with 5.5 sacks in 11 games, but given his contract and the Eagles wanting to give young players some playing time during this embarrassing season of theirs, they chose to let the 32-year-old Babin go.

Naturally, many are wondering if the Bears will be interested in Babin (who would have to get by a lot of teams on waivers to even get to the Bears), but I personally doubt it given the fact they already have Julius Peppers, Corey Wootton, Israel Idonije, and Shea McClellin at defensive end. So, who would Babin take playing time from? Certainly not Peppers. Wootton is having a breakout season and was just promoted to starting opposite Peppers. Idonije is having a nice season and still getting a ton of snaps. McClellin is a first round pick and Phil Emery will want to give McClellin every chance to show the pick was a good one.

They always say you can never have enough quality depth on the defensive line, but in this situation, I just don't really see the Bears taking away playing time from their defensive ends to make room for Babin. But, who knows? It would give Rod Marinelli and Lovie Smith just more to do with this already highly-performing defense, so they certainly wouldn't complain. And again, the Bears have used their defensive ends at defensive tackle frequently on passing downs, so they may find a way to make this work without making anybody unhappy.

The Bears also made some moves with the practice squad on Tuesday, by signing guard Derek Dennis and wide receiver Dale Moss, while releasing guard Chris Riley and wide receiver Raymond Radway. Moss, an undrafted rookie, sounds like an intriguing, high-upside type, so he's a nice guy to stash on the practice squad. Here's some information on Moss from Pro Football Talk's Evan Silva in August when the Packers signed him:

Moss, the South Dakota State receiver, will be a player to follow in Packers camp. A four-year basketball player for the Jackrabbits, Moss used his extra year of eligibility to play football. He wound up leading South Dakota State in catches, yards, and touchdowns in 2011. 

Moss stands 6-foot-3, 213 and ran a 4.52 at the South Dakota Pro Day. More impressive were Moss’ explosive, 10-foot-10 broad jump, 41 1/2-inch vertical, and 4.13 short shuttle. He is an exceptional athlete.

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According to CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora and Chicago Sun-Times Bears beat writer Sean Jensen,  Jay Cutler (concussion) was cleared by an independent neurologist to play in the Bears' game Sunday against the Vikings at Soldier Field:


So, finally, some GREAT news for the Bears, in what's been a disastrous week. The Bears absolutely need Cutler to be playing if they want any hopes of making the playoffs.

As I wrote earlier in the week, "Right now, there's not a single game I'd pick the Bears to win the rest of the season with (Jason) Campbell as the starting quarterback behind this offensive line."

And as Rotoworld wrote about Cutler today, "he is one of the more undervalued players in the league. His return bodes well for the entire offense's outlook."

Cutler's had plenty of success against the Vikings in the past, putting together a 5-1 record with 15 touchdown passes, 6 interceptions, and a quarterback rating of 100.8. The 15 touchdown passes are the most he's thrown against any team (stats and information via @ZachZaidman).

Vikings WR Percy Harvin has officially been ruled out for the game

While Cutler has been cleared to play in Sunday's game, Vikings star wide receiver Percy Harvin has been ruled out for the game:
Harvin is far and away the Vikings' best receiver and kick returner, and arguably the most explosive player in the entire league. He lines up all over the offense (even in the backfield on occasion), and really opens up what they're able to do. Without him, the Vikings' offense is even more dependent on Adrian Peterson to carry the load. So, his absence is a big, big break for the Bears.

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Bears quarterback Jay Cutler (concussion) was limited in practice again on Friday, and will be evaluated by an independent neurologist on Saturday in hopes of getting clearance to play vs. the Vikings on Sunday at Soldier Field.

Officially, Cutler is listed as "questionable" for the game, and Lovie Smith sounds optimistic about Cutler's chances of getting medically cleared:


Devin Hester and Matt Forte were impressed by Cutler in practice and are optimistic about his chances of getting cleared as well (although, to my knowledge, nearly of these guys serve as neurologists in the offseason):


So, keep your fingers crossed for Cutler getting cleared tomorrow by the neurologist. We may not know until Sunday morning if he's been cleared, as the Bears don't have to announce whether or not he'll play until 90 minutes before kickoff (12:00 PM CT). And the Bears may indeed take all that time to wait for the announcement, to keep the Vikings guessing.

Like Cutler, Bears rookie defensive end Shea McClellin suffered a concussion in the Bears' week 10 loss vs. the Texans, and the Bears announced on Friday that he has been cleared to play vs. the Vikings. Good news for the Bears and their 2012 first round pick.

In other Bears injury news, tight end Kellen Davis is "questionable" with an ankle injury, and you won't hear any Bears fans voice displeasure on the possibility of him missing Sunday's game. Way too many drops, and overall, an extremely disappointing season from the Bears' tight end. Still, if he could get it together (or at least improve at all), that would be a major boost to the Bears' passing game, particularly in the red zone (and especially with Alshon Jeffery out two+ games).

For the Vikings, they're likely to be without one of their top three players, as wide receiver Percy Harvin is listed as "doubtful" with an ankle injury. Harvin is by far the Vikings' best receiver, and one of the best kick returners in the NFL, so the Bears catch a big break that he'll likely be inactive. Rookie Jairus Wright would replace Harvin as the slot receiver, with Michael Jenkins and Jerome Simpson lined up on the outside. Add in a conservative quarterback in Christian Ponder, and it's hard to see the Vikings' passing offense producing many big plays in this game. The focus of the Bears' defense will certainly be to slow down Adrian Peterson and the Vikings' running game, which is no easy task.

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The Bears continue to make changes to their offensive line that was an absolute disaster on Monday night in San Francisco, and has been one of the worst units in the NFL this season (and the previous few seasons, too).

On Wednesday, the Bears benched Chilo Rachal in favor of Chris Spencer at left guard (Read much more about the Rachal saga here.) And on Thursday, the Bears finally made an in-house move at offensive tackle, by demoting Gabe Carimi and making veteran Jonathan Scott the starter

Carimi, the Bears' first round pick in 2011, has been highly disappointing in what has essentially been his rookie year, as he suffered a season-ending knee injury in week two of 2011. To be fair, he's been very good as a run-blocker, but his pass-blocking? Yikes; just downright awful. And his pass-blocking struggles were on full display Monday night against the 49ers. 
Rotoworld adds, "A bottom-10 tackle in Pro Football Focus' rankings, Carimi got flat out embarrassed by 49ers DE Aldon Smith in Monday night's loss, getting tossed around like a rag doll. Carimi is less than two years removed from being the No. 29 overall pick, but unless he's playing injured, there's simply no excuse for the way he performed in Week 11."

While most of the criticism from Bears fans has been aimed at J'Marcus Webb when it comes to the Bears' offensive line, Carimi has been the worse player. And that's not at all an endorsement in Webb, it just speaks to how badly Carimi's played this year. It's possible that Carimi's knee (which forced him to undergo two surgeries in 2011) is a part of the problem, and maybe it will never be what it was before the injury. But, he's still just 24, and much of the problem is just technique and bad habits he gets into, so there's definitely a chance he can make big improvements.

Carimi told the Chicago Tribune, "It’s obviously upsetting. I have a positive attitude about it. I’ll come back from this. I know it.”

So, Scott will start at right tackle now for the Bears, but there's no guarantee he'll do much better than Carimi either. The 29-year-old Scott is a 6'6", 318-pound journeyman, and was on the street for a reason when the Bears scooped him up as a free agent on September 10th. He's made 29 career starts, so he certainly has experience, but Rotoworld had this to say about him in August: "Scott appeared in 12 games for the Steelers last season, starting five, but was overwhelmed in pass protection. He's likely nearing the end of the line."

Carimi's performance certainly warranted a benching, and the Bears need to find any way they can to improve the offensive line, so I definitely agree with giving Scott a shot. I'm just limiting my expectations on how well he'll play, and I'd suggest you do the same.

The good news is that it would be very difficult for any NFL-worthy offensive lineman to play worse than Carimi has, so perhaps Scott will be at least a slight improvement at right tackle.

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UPDATE: The Bears have placed Chilo Rachal on the reserve/non-football injury list, meaning he is done playing for the Bears this season. And the free agent to be is likely done playing for the Bears again at all.


On Wednesday, the Bears announced that left guard Chilo Rachal left the team for "personal reasons", and was placed on the reserve/left squad list. It was later reported that the reason Rachal left the team was because he was unhappy about being benched in favor of left guard Chris Spencer:
Um, yeah... that's not a good look, and it would be hard to imagine Rachal playing another game for the Bears after that. However, Rachal has been through a lot off the field in the last few years, so it's possible the Bears chalk this up to Rachal's emotions getting the best of him, and give him another chance. We'll know for sure within five days:
Well, on Thursday morning, Rachal apparently showed up at Halas Hall (likely realizing his mistake, and desperate for the Bears to give him another chance), and his emotional state is reportedly "very bad":
Here's what Lovie Smith had to say when asked about Rachal on Thursday:
The Bears promoted rookie offensive lineman James Brown from the practice squad to replace Rachal on the active roster, and signed guard Chris Riley to take Brown's spot on the practice squad. Riley is 6'5", 305 pounds, and is a local product that played college football at Illinois State.

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The Bears didn't practice on Wednesday, but if they had, quarterback Jay Cutler and rookie defensive end Shea McClellin would've each participated, as they were medically cleared to practice after suffering concussions in week 10 against the Texans. They will each practice tomorrow.

Neither are cleared to play yet for Sunday's game against the Vikings, but McClellin would've been a full participant on Wednesday, and is definitely "on track" to play. Cutler would've been "limited" in practice, but you'd still have to like his chances to play on Sunday with a few more days to get fully cleared for the game.

Here's more from the Bears and ESPN Chicago's Michael Wright about the situation:




After seeing Jason Campbell at quarterback behind the Bears' struggling offensive line over the last two games, we all may have underestimated just how good Cutler is, and how badly the Bears need him in order to make the playoffs (and ideally, win the division, of course).

Speaking of Campbell, he would've been limited in practice on Wednesday as well due to what the Bears are calling a "ribs" injury, which would certainly make sense after that shot he took against the 49ers. He was clearly in pain. 

Bears star wide receiver Brandon Marshall would've missed practice on Wednesday with a shoulder injury, but it's not believed to be serious enough to keep him out of Sunday's game. Tight end Kellen Davis would've also missed practice with an ankle injury, and rookie wide receiver Alshon Jeffery is of course out 2-4 weeks due to getting arthroscopic surgery on his knee (dammit). 

Other players listed with what are considered minor injuries on the Bears include defensive end Julius Peppers (thigh), defensive tackle Stephen Paea (shoulder), defensive tackle Matt Toeaina (calf, and he was inactive due to it on Monday night), and right guard Lance Louis.

For the Vikings, star wide receiver Percy Harvin (ankle) missed practice on Wednesday, and his status for Sunday is very much up in the air. Here's more from Rotoworld:

Harvin fought to take the field, but was overruled by the coaching staff. Considering Harvin said he didn't resume walking until Tuesday, it's hardly a surprise. Harvin is shaping up as very questionable for Week 12, and could be a game-time decision at best. That's not a terrible scenario with the Vikings playing at 1ET, but the tea leaves are beginning to suggest Harvin will miss another game. Rookie Jarius Wright will continue to fill-in if that's the case.

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I was finally starting to feel a little bit less angry about the Bears' embarrassing performance against the 49ers... and then this news broke about Bears rookie wide receiver Alshon Jeffery on Tuesday night:

Multiple sources tell the Tribune that Jeffery will undergo arthroscopic knee surgery Wednesday morning. Jeffery was injured in the 32-7 loss to the 49ers at Candlestick Park. 

Jeffery caught two passes for 15 yards in the game. He has 16 receptions for 199 yards and two touchdowns on the season. Jeffery, a second-round draft pick from South Carolina, said after the game he was fine but he was similarly upbeat and vague after the Jaguars game when his hand was broken on a touchdown reception as Jaguars cornerback Rashean Mathis twisted one of his fingers. 

It’s unknown at this point how long Jeffery will be sidelined. With six regular-season games remaining, it is possible he could return before the year is over. Jeffery has been valuable on third down and in the red zone.
Source: Chicago Tribune

And... my anger level is officially Hulk.

Devastating news for a struggling Bears offense. When Jeffery missed weeks 5-10, the hope was a receiver such as Earl Bennett or Devin Hester would step up, but neither did (although I don't think Bennett's seen enough snaps/targets as he should've), so I'm not going to expect that to happen this time around either. And opposing teams are only paying more attention to Brandon Marshall each week, so his receptions are going to be tougher to come by as well. What this all boils down to: the Bears really need to get the running game going.

We'll keep you posted as we learn more, especially about Jeffery's estimated return date. The way things are going right now, I'm not expecting that date to be anytime soon.

UPDATE: The Chicago Sun-Times' Sean Jensen tweets that the scope should sideline Jeffery 2-4 weeks:
And here's the Bears' remaining schedule:

Sunday, November 25- Vikings
Sunday, December 2- Seahawks
Sunday, December 9- at Vikings
Sunday, December 16- Packers
Sunday, December 23- at Cardinals
Sunday, December 30- at Lions

The good news is that of the next four weeks, the first two games are the most "winnable" on paper, so the Bears may be able to get by without him for those games. Playing at Minnesota is always tough, and it will of course look even more difficult if the Bears can't even beat them at Soldier Field first. But, obviously, the main game the Bears hope they can have Jeffery back for is the Packers one.

Please heal quickly, Alshon's knee.

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Awful, awful, awful. Just absofreakinglutely awful and embarrassing. Every single thing about that game from the Bears. Offense, defense, the entire coaching staff. Even on special teams, we saw Devin Hester running the wrong direction most of the time. Not a single damn positive across the board. Not one. The scoreboard said 32-7 at the end of the game, but it certainly felt like the score was about 32,000-0. I've never been so embarrassed by the overall effort of a Bears team than I was last night, and the fact it came from a veteran, highly prideful Bears team, was particularly astonishing.

On offense, the offensive line was a disaster, something we've become all too used to. Gabe Carimi and J'Marcus Webb continued their spot-on imitations of turnstiles. The result was 5.5 sacks for the 49ers' Aldon Smith, which 1.5 more sacks than a player has ever gotten against the Chicago Bears in a single game (Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila had four sacks for the Packers against the Bears in January 2005).

Brad Biggs shared his thoughts about the offensive line today on ChicagoTribune.Com:

It’s not a scheme issue. What the Bears have is a talent deficiency and this is a deep-rooted problem that goes back to the early years of Jerry Angelo’s administration. I’ve written time and time again how the Bears ignored the offensive line in the draft and therefore had no young players in the system. When Angelo made an effort to get one in 2008, he went bust with Chris Williams, now an ex-Bear. This isn’t a new problem and those who want to cast blame on offensive coordinator Mike Tice need to take a long look at the man who bears ultimate responsibility for the offense: Lovie Smith. But ultimately, what the Bears have here is a personnel issue on the offensive line, one that can be a surprise to positively no one, new general manager Phil Emery included. There is no quick solution and that is the answer no one wants to accept.

I'll admit that I was perhaps too optimistic, or even naive about the Bears' offensive line coming into the season, and maybe Phil Emery was as well.

Even so, there didn't appear to be any clear solutions out there on the free-agent market, and the same was the case in the draft. And everybody agreed that unless a premier tackle were available (and they're almost always not when you get out of the top 10 picks), a pass-rushing defensive end was the team's top need, and they indeed drafted one in Shea McClellin. Offensive tackle Riley Reiff was available, but there were question marks about his ability in pass protection, particularly due to short arms. In the second round, the team traded up to get Alshon Jeffery, and certainly nobody is complaining about that decision. And without Jeffery, the wide receiving corps overall doesn't look all that much better than the offensive line (especially once opposing defensive coordinators finally realized just how much the Bears rely on Brandon Marshall in the passing game).

Furthermore, a first round pick had just been used by Jerry Angelo in 2011 to select Gabe Carimi, and there were high hopes for Carimi as the starting right tackle this season, after his rookie campaign was cut short in week two due to a knee injury. I don't think anybody could've seen him being quite as terrible as he's been in pass protection this season.

Tthe biggest difference I thought would come from Mike Tice replacing Mike Martz as offensive coordinator. I thought the focus on pass protection and far less seven-step drops from the quarterback would make a world of difference. But you know what? The pass protection has been every bit as awful, and maybe even worse. So, clearly, it's not a scheme issue as Biggs said. It's a group of offensive linemen that is going to be crappy in pass protection no matter the scheme. In the upcoming offseason, Emery must address the offensive line. And do the same in the 2014 offseason. It's going to take multiple years to get the Bears' offensive line to even an average group in pass-protection. That's how far Angelo set them back.

And offensive line wasn't the only facepalm-inducing part of the offense on Monday. The quarterback position for the Bears wasn't much better. Yes, the offensive line didn't give Jason Campbell much help, but even when he did get enough time to throw the ball, he either held onto the ball too long, turned the ball over, etc. He finished with a quarterback rating of 52.7, and averaged 4.9 yards per completion. I expected a much better performance out of him, and while he's still significantly better than Caleb Hanie, it's clear the Bears are going to need Jay Cutler back as soon as possible if they want any hopes of making the playoffs. Right now, there's not a single game I'd pick the Bears to win the rest of the season with Campbell as the starting quarterback behind this offensive line.

The running game stunk. The receivers weren't able to get separation and make big plays. Just garbage every which way you looked on the offense.

And what's unbelievable is the defense was every bit as bad, and maybe even worse. Yes, the defense that leads the league in takeaways and was putting up once-in-a-decade (I'm talking the entire NFL) statistics in some categories, was nothing short of terrible on Monday night. Missed tackles everywhere, awful coverage in the secondary, little pass-rush up from the front four, looking confused and out of place all night, etc, etc. All of this against a quarterback making his first career start (and to be fair, Colin Kaepernick made some incredible throws). It was absolutely stunning. I would've never guessed the Bears would lose this game in large part due to their usually superb defense playing like the Tennessee Titans' unit.

Now, even with how pathetic the team looked on Monday night, and coming off two straight losses, should it be "THE SKY IS FALLING!", "SEASON'S OVER" mode already? Hell no. This team is still 7-3, and keep in mind their two losses came with Cutler absent for one and a half of those games (although even if he played on Monday night, they would've still gotten their asses kicked). They're tied for the NFC North lead with the Packers, and still get a chance to beat the Packers at Soldier Field, which would also wipe out the head-to-head tiebreaker scenario for deciding the division champion. They're also tied for the third-best record in the NFC.

And I don't expect the Bears' defense to play another game anywhere near as badly as they did against the 49ers. They've been good-to-spectacular in all of the previous nine games played, and it's a group with too much pride to let themselves have such a disappointing performance like that again.

Offensively, the talent is there, and even when the team was 7-1, it felt like they were nowhere close to peaking yet on offense. Jay Cutler, Matt Forte, Michael Bush, Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, Earl Bennett, Devin Hester (if only used as a deep threat and gimmicky wide receiver)... that sure sounds like an awesome group in 'Madden', and should be at least a decently-productive one in real life.

The problem is that the offense is only looking worse now, rather than making the improvements we expected to see. And when it comes to the offensive line, who knows if they're even capable of playing much better? If your offensive line can't block, it doesn't matter if you have Aaron Rodgers at quarterback, Calvin Johnson at wide receiver, Jimmy Graham at tight end, etc. Sorry to break the news, but J'Marcus Webb and Gabe Carimi aren't going to transform into above-average offensive tackles anytime soon.

It's going to be up to Tice to make the necessary adjustments on offense to at least somewhat mask the pass-protection issues. Bring an extra man in protection, get Cutler out of the pocket, more, etc. Most importantly, establish the running game, something he hasn't tried to do enough in my opinion.

It's all very possible, and again, the Bears are still in solid position to at least make the playoffs at 7-3, assuming Cutler is good to go for the remaining games. How the Bears play on Sunday against the Vikings in response to the Monday night embarrassment will tell us a lot about the team. But until then, this is going to be an infuriating feeling for Bears fans.

Let's just hope the feeling isn't even worse when Sunday evening comes along.

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It appeared all week that 49ers quarterback Alex Smith would be good to go on Monday night against the Bears, despite suffering a concussion in week 10 against the Rams. Smith practiced all week (albeit in limited fashion), and was expected to get medical clearance from a neurologist on Monday morning that would allow him to start in this primetime showdown featuring two of the NFC's top teams.

However, the neurologist did not clear Smith, and he'll be inactive for the game. So, both Smith and Bears quarterback Jay Cutler will be out for Monday night's game due to concussions, and it will be a battle of backup quarterbacks (heads slam into the wall repeatedly at ESPN headquarters).

Jason Campbell starts for the Bears, and Colin Kaepernick (a second-round pick in 2011) starts for the 49ers.

I've already written why Campbell starting instead of Cutler may even be a good thing for the Bears in this matchup, and that's even if Cutler were 100% healthy.

As for Kaepernick, this will be his first career start, although he got a lot of playing time in the 49ers' tie (yes, tie) against the Rams in week 10 after Smith left the game with a concussion. Kaepernick was 11 of 17 for 117 yards in the passing department, and ran for 66 yards and a touchdown on eight carries. On the season, he's 16 of 26 for 206 yards as a passer, and has 21 carries for 177 yards and three touchdowns. That's an average of 8.4 yards per carry, a tremendous average for a quarterback.

Kaepernick's exactly how you picture a "dual-threat" quarterback, and he runs the read option very well. The former Nevada Wolf Pack star can do plenty of damage with his legs, and he has a much better arm than most people realize. Rotoworld calls him "A mix between Randall Cunningham and Tim Tebow."

Here's more on Kaepernick, from former NFL scout Daniel Jeremiah:
The Bears under Lovie Smith have usually been outstanding against quarterbacks in their first or second year. This year, for example, they've defeated rookie quarterback Andrew Luck, and second-year quarterbacks Blaine Gabbert and Cam Newton.

Additionally, the Bears under Lovie Smith tend to play well against the dual-threat quarterbacks.

So, while Kaepernick is very talented, this is going to be a very difficult test for him. He tried to force some throws against the Rams, and if he does that against the Bears, they'll make him pay for it.

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While the Bears announced on Friday that quarterback Jay Cutler and rookie defensive end Shea McClellin will miss Monday night's game against the 49ers after suffering concussions in week 10, there is some good news in regards to the status of rookie wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, who has been out since fracturing his right hand in the Bears' 41-3 victory over the Jaguars on October 7th.

Jeffery was a full participant in Friday's practice, and appears to be good to go for Monday night:
Great news, as the Bears are desperate for improvement in the receiving game outside of Brandon Marshall.

Before going down with the injury, Jeffery had taken over the role of the Bears' No. 2 wide receiver, and was seeing increased snaps each week. In his five games, the talented rookie out of South Carolina had 14 receptions for 184 yards and two touchdowns. His 6'3", 216-pound frame and terrific hands make him an ideal red-zone target (heck, he broke his hand while catching a 10-yard touchdown pass), and red-zone offense is an area the Bears have greatly struggled of late. Look for Jeffery to get a red-zone target or two on Monday night (that's of course if the Bears can even get in the red zone against an outstanding 49ers defense) .

Evan Rodriguez to finally receive some pass targets?

Alshon Jeffery wasn't the only player general manager Phil Emery drafted in 2012 to try to improve the Bears' receiving game. In the fourth round, Emery nabbed Temple tight end Evan Rodriguez with the 111th overall pick. Rodriguez had 69 receptions for 871 yards and seven touchdowns over his 37 career college games. His size and skillset have drawn comparisons to the Patriots' extremely talented tight end Aaron Hernandez.

But, the Bears chose to put Rodriguez at fullback/h-back in his rookie season, and he's yet to catch a pass on the season (and I don't remember him even being targeted). Meanwhile, the Bears' tight end corps has been arguably the worst pass-catching group of tight ends in the NFL. Kellen Davis' struggles were showcased in front of all America on Sunday night against the Texans. So it begs the question: WHY THE HELL AREN'T THE BEARS SEEING WHAT EVAN RODRIGUEZ CAN DO AS A PASS-CATCHER?

I mean, really, what do the Bears have to lose? The tight ends they're currently throwing the ball to are dropping passes left and right. I don't see how Rodriguez could be any worse. And if somehow he is, at least you've found that out.

Well, it appears the Bears finally have that same thinking:



So keep an eye on if any of Jason Campbell's passes are targeted to #48 on Monday night.

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Yesterday, I wrote how it was sounding quite unlikely that Jay Cutler would suit up on Monday night for the Bears against the 49ers in San Francisco, after suffering a concussion in week 10 against the Texans.

And today, the Bears officially announced that Cutler will indeed be inactive for the game, and Jason Campbell will start at quarterback:
Smart call by the Bears, and really, I don't feel much worse about their chances in this game. Why's that? Here's what I had to say yesterday in regards to the situation:

Cutler of course has the propensity to turn the ball over on occasion, and remember he threw five interceptions (and no touchdowns) in the Bears' 10-6 primetime loss at San Francisco in 2009. 

Campbell, on the other hand, has only thrown over two interceptions in a game once in his NFL career, which includes 70 games started at quarterback. In 2008 with the Redskins, he led the NFL with the lowest 1.2 interception percentage. He is tied for fourth among active NFL quarterbacks in lowest career interception percentage at 2.3%, putting him only behind Aaron Rodgers (1.8), Tom Brady (2.1), and Matt Ryan (2.2). 

Does Campbell have the the big-play ability and overall physical tools Cutler does? Definitely not, but against the 49ers' defense, and with the defense the Bears are playing this season, this game may just come down to not making mistakes (hey, the Texans game did). And Campbell's shown a great track record in that department.

So, yeah, I think the Bears are very capable of winning this game with Jason Campbell at quarterback. Limit the mistakes on offense, make a big offensive play or two,  play defense like the team has all year, and there's no reason they can't win the football game. I'm not predicting a win, but just saying it can definitely happen.

Also, the team announced that rookie defensive end Shea McClellin will miss the game due to the concussion he suffered against the Texans. It's also not a surprise, given the fact that he's a rookie first-round pick that the Bears hope to have in good health for perhaps the next decade, and because he has a concussion history going back to his college days at Boise State. The Bears are wisely going to be extra cautious with him.

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Editor's Note: I've been without Internet at home for about a week, as I moved, and then had to wait a few days to get Internet installed in my new apartment. So apologies for the lack of Bears news and analysis around here lately, but don't worry, that's going to change- starting right now.

Reports from the national media all week have made it appear that Bears quarterback Jay Cutler is doubtful to play on Monday night against the 49ers in San Francisco after suffering a concussion in the first half of the Bears' game against the Texans. It's Cutler's fourth known concussion, so getting medical clearance for a game just eight days after he suffered the latest concussion is going to be very difficult.

And after Cutler missed practiced on Thursday, it's looking more and more likely that he'll indeed be out for the showdown featuring two of the NFC's top teams.

Lovie Smith, however, is still optimistic that Cutler will be able to play:

"(Cutler) is feeling better, and it normally goes like that," Bears coach Lovie Smith said. "You get better each day with an injury, with just how you're feeling. That's why you're optimistic, and you have to take it each day. We're hopeful (Friday) that he'll be better than he is today." 

Asked if Cutler can play Monday if he does not practice, Smith said: "As a general rule, we would like for guys to (practice) at least by Friday; get some type of practice work in. But for some of our guys that have been around a while, if we get to game day and they haven't practiced and they feel like they can go, they'll play."
Source: ESPN Chicago

This isn't a situation that will be messed around with, and even if Cutler is medically cleared to practice in the next day or two, the Bears may still play it safe with a quarterback they hope to have around for many more years. If he can't start, the Bears have a very capable backup quarterback in Jason Campbell that will start in his place.

And against a tremendous defense, on the road, in primetime, that may not be a bad thing. Cutler of course has the propensity to turn the ball over on occasion, and remember he threw five interceptions (and no touchdowns) in the Bears' 10-6 primetime loss at San Francisco in 2009.

Campbell, on the other hand, has only thrown over two interceptions in a game once in his NFL career, which includes 70 games started at quarterback. In 2008 with the Redskins, he led the NFL with the lowest 1.2 interception percentage. He is tied for fourth among active NFL quarterbacks in lowest career interception percentage at 2.3%, putting him only behind Aaron Rodgers (1.8), Tom Brady (2.1), and Matt Ryan (2.2).

Does Campbell have the the big-play ability and overall physical tools Cutler does? Definitely not, but against the 49ers' defense, and with the defense the Bears are playing this season, this game may just come down to not making mistakes (hey, the Texans game did). And Campbell's shown a great track record in that department.

Shea McClellin also misses practice Thursday due to concussion suffered on Sunday

Like Cutler, Bears rookie defensive end Shea McClellin is also waiting for medical clearance to return to the practice field. And like Cutler, he has a concussion history, as he suffered what was considered a 'serious' concussion in college at Boise State. So, there's no doubt the Bears are going to play it safe with their 2012 first-round pick, and make sure he is 100% okay before letting him play.

If McClellin can't go on Monday night, look for Cheta Ozoguwu (who impressed in preseason and recent practices according to reports) to be active.

Alshon Jeffery practices in limited fashion on Thursday

While the news isn't good for the prospects of Cutler and McClellin playing on Monday night, there is some good news on the Alshon Jeffery front. The rookie wide receiver practiced (albeit in limited fashion) on Thursday, and it appears he'll finally return to game action after suffering a broken hand against the Jaguars on October 7th.

Jeffery's presence in the passing game has been missed more than anybody could've anticipated, particularly in the red zone. Having a big, reliable target other than Brandon Marshall, could greatly help the passing game over the remainder of the season.

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When Bears wide receiver Alshon Jeffery went down with a fractured hand on October 7th against the Jaguars, it was expected he'd miss four-to-six weeks, and possibly be able to return for the week 10 game against the Texans. Well, it appears that the Bears are going to play it safe with their talented rookie, and hold him out for at least one more week.

From ESPN Chicago's Michael Wright:
The Chicago Bears are expected to hold out rookie receiver Alshon Jeffery from Sunday's game against the Houston Texans as a precautionary measure, according to multiple NFL sources.

Although there is a slight chance Jeffery could return this week, according to one source, the thought is the team will keep him out against the Texans to minimize the risk of re-injury to his broken right hand, before bringing the receiver back Nov. 19 against the San Francisco 49ers.
Despite sitting out the past four weeks (which includes the bye week), Jeffery still has played more snaps (225) than all but two receivers (Brandon Marshall and Devin Hester) on the roster and ranks fourth on the team in receiving with 14 catches for 184 yards and two touchdowns. Jeffery has caught nearly 61 percent of the passes thrown his direction with no drops, doing most of his damage down the middle of the field (five catches, 90 yards, two TDs).
The Bears have greatly missed the 6'3" Jeffery, especially in the red zone, where Brandon Marshall is the only reliable big, go-up-and-get-it guy for Jay Cutler to target. Against a great Texans team that has the league's No. 3 defense, it would be very nice to have Jeffery on the field. If he can't go, hopefully he'll at least be able to return next week against another great team with a top defense, the 49ers.

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So many great plays to choose from in the Bears' 51-20 shellacking of the Titans in Tennessee on Sunday, but easily my favorite play from the game was the pick-six from #54, Mr. Brian Urlacher.

The 34-year-old Urlacher isn't the same guy athletically of years past, after undergoing multiple knee surgeries in the offseason. And on the pick-six, he indeed looked much slower than the guy we're accustomed to seeing.

However, the play (and his game today overall) also showed how Urlacher's instincts are good as anybody's in the league, and he can still make impactful plays while playing at probably 75% of where he was at physically last year. He's still the "quarterback" of this Bears defense, and in this special season they're having, it was great to see the future Hall of Fame middle linebacker join in on the defensive touchdown fun.

Here's video of the play:



Oh, and he's rocking a Movember 'stache:




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Former Vanderbilt teammates Jay Cutler and Earl Bennett return to Nashville.

Bears-Titans Game Preview- Your Boy Roy previews the game, video style. (Chicago Football Talk)

Bears-Titans Game Preview- A very nice preview of the game from Adam Oestmann. (Chicago Bears Huddle)

Bears-Titans Game Preview- A great job as always from Jeff Hughes previewing the Bears game (Da Bears Blog)

What To Watch For: Bears-Titans- Michael Wright with a position by position breakdown of Bears-Titans, and a very low-scoring prediction for the game. (ESPN Chicago)

Nuts & Bolts: Bears-Titans- Plenty of factoids on the Bears-Titans matchup. (ESPN Chicago)

Sick Bay: Bears Head To Tennessee With Nearly-Clean Bill Of Health- Alshon Jeffery remains out as expected, but every other Bear appears to be good to go for the Bears today. The Titans, meanwhile, have some banged-up players, particularly on the offensive line. They've already ruled starting right guard Leroy Harris. (CSN Chicago)

Know Your Opponent: Tennessee Titans- Dan Durkin with an in-depth look at the Titans. (CBS Chicago)

Bowen's Breakdown: 8-Man Box Against Chris Johnson- Matt Bowen with a great video breakdown of defending Chris Johnson. (CSN Chicago)

Durkin's Playbook: Titans Running Game Taking Shape- Dan Durkin breaks down the Titans' running game using All-22 film. (CBS Chicago)

Bears Must Improve On First Down- The Daily Herald's Bears beat writer, Bob Legere: "The Bears average just 4.19 yards on first-down plays. No NFL team is worse. One word can describe their performance.

'Awful,' quarterback Jay Cutler said. 'We see more second-and-10s probably than anyone in the league, second-and-8-plus at least. It’s tough. We’ve talked about it, getting off to a better start on first down, whether it is run or pass because third-and-6, 7, 8 is hard; and second-and-10 is hard, too.'"

Here's an idea on how to improve on first down: RUN THE BALL. Matt Forte looked terrific early on against the Panthers for example, giving the Bears a 7-0 lead early on. Then Mike Tice got pass-happy with the play-calling, and the Bears didn't see another lead until late in the fourth quarter.

The Bears have arguably the best 1-2 running back punch in the league with Forte and Michael Bush, and while the offensive line gets much deserved criticism, it's actually a rock-solid run-blocking group. This offense is built to do much better on first down. (Daily Herald)

Why Earl Bennett Needs To Get More Involved In The Offense- Matt Eurich explains why the Bears need to get the ball to wide receiver Earl Bennett more, something I couldn't agree more with. (Bears Backer)

Jay Cutler Must Be Better In First Three Quarters- Darren Doxey writes how Jay Cutler has been outstanding in the fourth quarter of games, but has been quite terrible in the other three quarters of games, and that will need to change for the Bears to go far in the playoffs.

"He (Cutler) currently leads the NFL in fourth quarter passer rating (132.0), completing 34 of 46 passes (74%) for 517 yards (15.2 yards per completion), six touchdowns and two interceptions. The closest QBs are Peyton Manning (119.6 rating) and Aaron Rodgers (110.6 rating)."

"What if I told you that Jay Cutler’s passer rating in the first half of games this season is 56.6? That’s the worst among starting quarterbacks in the NFL by at least ten points."

"When the Bears play teams that can really score, no matter what defense they are playing, Jay will have to get things going from the start. Against teams like the Texans, Packers, Falcons, or any good team they might play in the playoffs or Super Bowl, Jay has to get off the bus scoring points."

Doxey makes plenty of terrific such points throughout the article, so make sure to check it out. (Chicago Bears Huddle)

A Great Day Coming For Bears' Offense- Former Bears quarterback Jim Miller expects big things out of the Bears' offense today:

"For example, plays like bubble screens to Devin Hester have gashed Tennessee for huge yardage because one-on-one defenders can't tackle in space. If running backs Matt Forte or Michael Bush can’t get 100 yards against this sorry group, I’ll shave my goatee for the next Bears Postgame Live.

It should be a good weekend for the Bears offensively as they move the football through the air and on ground, while also moving their record to 7-1." (CSN Chicago)

Four Downs- ESPN Chicago experts tackle four Bears-related topics with "Fact" or "Fiction" answers. The topics: Chris Johnson will be the first running back to rush for over 100 yards against the Bears this season; Matt Forte has to take on a bigger role in the Bears' offense; Tim Jennings'is the MVP of the defense through seven games; With the Texans looming, the Bears are in for a trap game against the Titans on Sunday.

My answers to those four topics:

1. Fiction. Chris Johnson could very well have a huge game, but I wouldn't predict it. He's looked much, much better over the last few weeks, but he still has a tendency to dance around in the backfield, and if you do that against the Bears, they'll usually make you pay for it.

2. Fact. Forte absolutely has to have a bigger role in the Bears' offense, especially on first down as I explained above. Feed him until a team shows they can stop him. And even if defenses do a good job containing him, running the ball a lot will open up more in the passing game. Additionally, I'd like to see more screen passes and other ways to get him involved in the passing game.

3. Fact. You could argue a bunch of players for MVP on the Bears' defense so far: Tim Jennings, Charles Tillman, Lance Briggs, Henry Melton, etc. But I'm going to give Jennings the nod at the moment. An NFL-leading six interceptions, and of course the pick-six to finally give the Bears the lead in the fourth quarter against the Panthers. If nothing else, he deserves this just for the incredible improvement he's made in his play  since last year.

4. Fiction. Could the Bears disappoint and lose this game against the Titans? Absolutely. But, this isn't even a bad Titans team, and winning on the road in the NFL is never easy, regardless of how good you are and bad they are. And one thing we know for sure is that the Bears aren't going to take the Titans lightly after a one-win Panthers team just went into Soldier Field and should've won the game.

So, if the Bears lose, I don't think it will be because this is a "trap" game or that they took the Titans lightly, it will just be because they didn't play well and/or the Titans did play well, etc. This won't be an easy game.

Behind The Numbers- Bears At Titans- 'Deez' at Bear Goggles On provides plenty of interesting numbers involving the Bears and Titans heading into Sunday's game. (Bear Goggles On)

Bears' Offense Can Be Good, But It Just Needs To Be Good Enough- Steven Schweickert explains that while it would be nice for the Bears to have the offense that everybody thought it could be coming into the season, the offense just needs to be "good enough" as long as the defense keeps playing at a high level.

He closes his article with these thoughts:

"The Bears' offense has plenty to fix. But if the defense keeps going, if the offense just keeps up with them, I don't think too many of us would complain. Pretty or not. Get what you need, get the win." (Windy City Gridiron)

J'Marcus Webb Vs. Kamerion Wimbley- Brett Solesky looks at the matchup between Bears left tackle J'Marcus Webb and and Titans defensive end Kamerion Wimbley, a player the Bears were reportedly after in the offseason. (Midway Illustrated)

Do The Bears Have The Best Cornerbacks In The Business?- Dave Gilbert looks at whether or not the Bears have the best group of cornerbacks in the NFL. Right now? I don't know how you can say no with the production they've had in 2012. (Windy City Gridiron)

Jay Cutler A Nashville 'Legend'- Melissa Isaacson writes about Jay Cutler's days at Vanderbilt. (ESPN Chicago)

Expert Picks- Every 670 The Score/CBS 2/WBBM 780/105.9 FM expert picks the Bears in this one... except for Hub Arkush, who's been known to be a bit pessimistic when it comes to the Bears. He has the Titans winning 24-20, and here's his explanation for the pick:

"The Bears have played two stinkers in a row and been gifted wins which rarely teaches a team a lesson. With Houston next week and the 49ers the week after, this is the classic trap. I hope I’m wrong but my gut is screaming at me this is where the Bears stumble." (CBS Chicago)

Expert Picks- Everybody from ESPN Chicago has the Bears winning, except for loud mouth Scoop Jackson. And does anybody value Scoop Jackson's opinion anyway? (ESPN Chicago)

Expert Picks- (Chicago Sun-Times)

Video Of The Day


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