“I haven’t thought about a goal in mind,” he replied. “I just have to keep getting better and we’ll see what happens.”
That’s probably a wise answer. There is no reason to place a ceiling on his goals. A great number to aim for would be 12 – the club’s rookie record set by Mark Anderson in 2006.
Gabe Carimi take full ownership for an ill-advised personal foul. He got into a bit of a tussle with Packers linebacker A.J. Hawk on a running play in which Michael Bush was stuffed. Carimi got the last shove in, sending Hawk into the pile, and predictably that was the move that drew a flag.
It backed the Bears into a second-and-26 from their own 47-yard line after they had reached the Green Bay 37-yard line. The drive quickly ended with a punt with the Packers leading only 3-0 at the time.
“The one drive we did get going I had a bad penalty,” Carimi said. “We needed to come out there and get something going right away. We can’t have anything that kills us. That hurt the team a lot, and that is all on me. It was a stupid penalty and I need to learn from my mistakes and not do that again.”
The guess here is Carimi learns his lesson.
8. Cedric Benson ran the ball hard for the Packers and while he didn’t have a career day like he enjoyed in his first meeting with the Bears after leaving the team in 2009, he was effective. Benson carried 20 times for 81 yards and was consistent hitting plays between the tackles. He also caught four passes for 35 yards, including a 17-yard gain. He’s still learning the scheme a little particularly some of the runs out of the shotgun formation.
“I thought Cedric is starting to look a lot more comfortable in our offense,” Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy said. “I thought it was important to get him back with his toes at seven (yards) and play where he’s played his whole life. Cedric Benson is one of those men that was put on this earth to run the football. We’ve been doing some things with him out of shotgun that he doesn’t have a ton of experience with. We’ll continue to get better. I definitely felt we made a step forward tonight against a very active, disciplined defensive front that presents a lot of challenges with their line movements. They definitely can be hard to run against because when you have a defensive line that is active and disciplined as they are, especially with the linebackers, the experience of their linebackers. That was a big challenge for us.”
Benson maintains respect for the Bears defense that still has some core parts he knows well.
“I think they’re great contenders,” he said. “When they want to stop the run, they stop it. When they want to defend the pass, they’re good at that. They’re great. They were playing from behind and it’s tough to play from behind in the NFL.”
9. Behind the scenes and during the week the Bears are working to groom Matt Blanchard, the practice squad quarterback from Wisconsin-Whitewater. It’s a challenging task for Blanchard to improve and for the Bears to get him better when he doesn’t get a lot of action on the field. There are not a lot of reps to go around for the backup Jason Campbell, so Blanchard gets even less work.
I asked quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates about the process of teaching a quarterback in an environment where physically his opportunities for maturation are limited.
“The biggest thing is the classroom,” Bates said. “He is studying. The challenge a lot of guys have as young quarterbacks is that each week is a brand new week. And what I mean by that is one week it’s 3-4 and the next week it’s 4-3 or a crazy Rex Ryan defense. I think the biggest challenge as a young quarterback is seeing how the game changes week in and week out and being able to sit in the classroom and absorb that. Protections are different, routes are different, run game is different. It’s still your foundation you’re using but it’s how it changes so much week in and week out. It’s a mental grind … it gets on you.
“Young quarterbacks have to be a professional. They have to take notes, they have to study and it shows up in next year’s OTA. If they just blew off the year, that is not a very professional move on their part. They have to study on their own a little bit and go home and act like they are the starter. The more knowledge you gain, it’s going to show up in OTA’s, you start playing, you start clicking and the faster the game slows down. It’s a little bit on their own but that is what we are looking for, professional players.”
Blanchard can get some practice squad reps in practice on occasion when Campbell doesn’t take them all. It all depends on how many snaps Campbell receives with the starters.
“Right now for me, coach Bates and the coaching staff, are giving me projects to do to get better,” Blanchard said. “For me to identify coverages, fronts quicker and faster so when I do get the opportunities I start recognizing things quicker. For a lot of rookie quarterbacks, NFL coverages are a lot more advanced and fronts are a lot more advanced than in college. Being able to do that, on the field, the scout teams I will get, I will be able to work on my craft as far as footwork and seeing actual coverages live instead of on film but there is going to be a lot of stuff I am going to be able to do. It’s going to be a lot of mental reps. That is going to be good for me because the higher I get my football IQ, the better so when I step I am picking stuff up.”
10. It’s too early to tell what kind of situation the Bears face with running back Matt Forte, who exited in the third quarter with a right ankle injury. He appeared to be injured when he was tackled by Packers safety Charles Woodson along the Bears sideline following a 14-yard reception. Trainers re-taped Forte’s ankle but he was then taken to the locker room. The bad news, as Lovie Smith would put it, is Forte did not return to the game. The upside is the Bears have extra time to prepare for their next game Sept. 23 vs. the Rams at Soldier Field.
10a. Charles Tillman was at it again in the third quarter when Packers tight end Jermichael Finley caught a pass and turned to head upfield. Tillman, who was closing in to make the tackle, punched the ball out with his right fist and recovered the fumble. It was the 29th forced fumble on his career.
10b. Matt Toeaina was listed as inactive for the game, not a good sign for the veteran. The Bears have five defensive tackles on the roster and are unlikely to ever dress more than three. The problem is defensive tackles seldom hold roles on special teams.
10c. Hope you caught the tackle by Sherrick McManis of Packers kickoff returner Randall Cobb to open the game. McManis made a terrific move to slice Cobb down at the 17-yard line. Looks like the Bears might have helped themselves in the Tyler Clutts trade.
10d. Expansion in the South end zone is moving along briskly at Lambeau Field. They are enclosing the stadium at that end and have upgraded video boards. It’s going to look nice when it’s done and it will be huge. Attendance was 70,543 for the game and with additional seating the Packers could approach 80,000 and make it one of the largest buildings in the NFL.
10e. It is only Week 2 and Tim Jennings already has established a new career-high for interceptions in a season with three. He made a nice break on an Aaron Rodgers’ pass in the fourth quarter to set up the Bears’ only touchdown.
10f. That lone score came on fourth down as Jay Cutler hit Kellen Davis for a 21-yard touchdown. Davis faked Packers inside linebacker D.J. Smith that he was running inside and instead went up the seam for an easy catch. He now has 10 career touchdowns in 29 career receptions. That puts him in company near former Bears legend Red Grange who had 10 receiving touchdowns out of just 16 receptions.
10g. The Packers are 16-3 in NFC North games at Lambeau Field under Mike McCarthy. That is protecting home turf.
10h. Press box statistics credited Bears middle linebacker Brian Urlacher with eight tackles. Still didn’t look like the player everyone is accustomed to seeing, but it was an improvement over his work against the Colts.