We focused hard on third down today. We have to be great on third down. We continued to get better the last two weeks. It's no guarantee we will on Sunday night, but we're working hard at it to continue to ascend on both sides of the ball, get off the field defensively and stay on the field as long as we can on the offensive side of the ball. That was the focus of today's practice. Lance worked again today with the first group and looks to continue to progress. We'll see where he is tomorrow, we're excited about that. Brandon practiced a little bit today, but was limited. Just precautionary, I'm sure he'll get a little bit more tomorrow, he got a little bit more today than he did yesterday. Just trying to take care of him and his legs as we move into the weekend.
WAS LANCE LIMITED?
He was limited.
WILL HE BE CLEARED TO PLAY?
I can't answer that. I can tell you that he's going to practice tomorrow again and it looks like we're moving in the right direction. I stand by being optimistic. You've always got to be cautiously optimistic because you don't know what the next day is going to bring, but based on the first two days of practice, we're really hopeful that he'll be able to play on Sunday night.
LANCE FELT HELPLESS. HOW DO YOU KEEP AN INJURED PLAYER'S SPIRITS UP?
He may have had those feelings inside, but his demeanor was outstanding. He became a coach on the field, I think you saw some of that in our pre-practice work, you saw him out there. He was vocal in practice, encouraging to the young guys, did a great job communicating with them, and did the same in meetings. I would have to believe — I can't speak for Lance, though he may have had those feelings inside, during our conversations, periodically, certainly, I wouldn't say it was frustration, but disappointment. Those are all too strong a words, but indications that he wasn't happy about being out and he wanted to play, but I think he got the most out of it and allowed time go by a little bit quicker because of his involvement with the young guys, in the morning meetings, on the practice field to move things along for him while he was in rehab.
HOW DISRUPTIVE IS EAGLES' FRONT SEVEN?
They do, particularly on third down. They're pretty conventional on first down. They're a 30 team, but they're not really a true 30 where you say, I call it double-bubble teams where the guards are uncovered. They have reductions to either side, they cover up the guards and the center. Like most teams in the league, when you get to third down and third down and longer yardage particularly, they get more unconventional. They've got a system that enables them to move people around. We've got to do everything we can to basically unlock their blitzes and try to get comfortable with the protections because they look different on almost every third down situation.
Their secondary is really, a lot of zone coverage, they want to play man and they'll play some. They're all over the place. The thing that they try to do is confuse you with different looks back there, particularly on first and second down, and then on third down, it's a little more conventional on the back end and unconventional up front, and they try to force you to take the eyes off the ball. We know where they are statistically, but they ‘ve had moments where they've made the plays. They've got good ball skills and they can get to the ball and make some plays, but we all know where they are and just knowing their coordinator and watching how he works, he's a really smart guy, he's working to get them in the best position to have success and that's where they are.
CUTLER SAYS THIS WEEK IS EASIER THAN LAST WEEK. DID YOU NOTICE A DIFFERENCE?
Yeah he is (even keeled) his perception of it is probably the best explanation for how he's been. I didn't notice much. We all recognize - and we talked about it last week - there was a lot of noise round about the decision that was made and so forth but it wasn't reflected in his practice, it wasn't reflected in his demeanor of the meetings. So if there was differences they were subtle at best.
IS IT YOUR JOB TO ADDRESS THE "NOISE"?
Absolutely. I'm enough aware of what's going on around us to make sure that there's clear communication and at times when I have to address it, I do. I don't leave anything out there. If I feel the team needs to be addressed on any issue inside or outside the building, that's what our morning meeting are for - and when I meet when them after practice, I'll address it again if necessary but yes it goes far beyond X's and O's certainly.
CAN YOU CHARACTERIZE THE "NOISE"?
The noise last week - as clearly as I can make it - it was the question of who should be playing quarterback. That's what the noise was about last week and everybody has differences of opinion and as Ive said before football is about from a fans perspective from an outside the building perspective is everybody wants to be a decision maker and that's the fun of it there's time between each play and a week between each game and it gives everybody a chance to talk about the game and it's a big part of it. That was the noise last week - every week it's a little different. The first three weeks of the season, the noise was the bears are join got be undefeated - that was the noise. Whatever happens during the week, you know it's not the veterans you worry about it's the young guys who are new to the league and understanding that this is a long long road. A long journey and things come up during the course of the season that need to be addressed.
WHAT'S THE "NOISE" THIS WEEK?
There really isn't really noise this week. The noise is the more you win, the bigger the game. That's the noise. And the important thing is that the only way we can have success on Sunday night is to take care of the moment, take care of the day and be at our best today. That's part of procedure, the process of winning takes place long before the game starts. It doesn't guarantee you the win but it gives you a chance. So that's what we did today.
IS IT EASIER TO PLAY CALL IN YOUR OFFENSE AT THIS POINT OF THE SEASON?
I understand it. First of all I would say with all due respect, it's not my offense, it's the Chicago Bear offense and there's a lot of people involved in making it work. No. 2 is the more you get to know your players and the more the offensive line continues to develop, I don't know that it's easier but your direction is clear in terms of the concepts and the things you want to do with your offense, the things that they can do the best, what their skill sets are. So from that standpoint when we do put the call sheet together we've got some history behind it. We know what our top principles are, our highest completed percentage concepts are. So it does make it, the picture is clear what is best for our guys.
HAVE YOU TALKED TO PLAYERS ABOUT THE PAST AND WHERE TEAM HAS BEEN?
We haven't talked about playoffs. We haven't talked about what might happen. We haven't done any of that. We've talked about what it takes and we're trying this week to get to know the Philadelphia Eagles as well as we can and go out and win a game on Sunday. So I haven't addressed the team on any kind of implications at all going into Sunday night other than the most important thing we can do is prepare today to win a game on Sunday night.
HAVE YOU TOLD THEM THAT THE STRUGGLES YOU'VE BEEN THROUGH DON'T REALLY MATTER AT THIS POINT?
I think from that standpoint what I would say is this, is that what we've been through has enabled us to develop some toughness and some understanding of who we are up to this point and who we are up to this point is a team that's been able to overcome adversity, stay together and move forward. So from that standpoint the Vikings game is one of those moments where we were able to overcome the bitterness -- not the bitterness but the disappointment of losing that game on that day. That hopefully will help us and give us thicker skin and give us a stronger backbone, give us more of a sense of urgency to move forward. That's what the season is. It's just a week in and week out test. And a lot of that test, the backbone of that test comes from what you've been through. Now this week is we've had success the last two weeks. You've got to overcome that too. You've got to understand why you've had it. And there's certain things that go into why you've had it and you've got to remind the guys about that as well. That starts with what you did right after the game in the locker room to what you did right until game time on Sunday night and be mindful and remind ourselves about that because that's what enabled us to get to the point to play three hours and win a game.
ON BRIGGS' PRESENCE LIFTING THE TEAM
I think that if Lance has a chance to play, I think that lifts our football team. How much he'll play? I don't know. But the type of player he is, whatever that might be, I think that lifts our football team to some degree on Sunday night. That can only be a good thing for our football team if he is cleared to play and he has the opportunity to play whatever amount of snaps that he's able to play.
ON JAY'S PERFORMANCE CHANGING HIS PERSPECTIVE
I don't think it's changed my perception of him. I think it confirmed the type of person, but more importantly in this case because of the playing aspect and the type of player he's capable of being in terms of playing under the pressures, handling adversity and being able to move forward and turn something so negative into a positive. That's something that has been apparent as I've gotten to know him. I think that's what Sunday was all about; just a confirmation, not to know that better, but to confirm that that's the type of player that he is, that he can have bad things happen and turn it into something good.
ON WHETHER THE APPROACH CHANGES IF THE BEARS HAVE ALREADY CLINCHED
It's not a hypothetical to answer that we're 8-6 and we need to continue to progress and win. That's No. 1. No. 2 is winning does take us to a different place in terms of potential seed, which is critically important. So just leaving at that is enough to reason out how we would want to play the game. Now, could that change? Certainly. But right now, we're focused on a winning a game. And I don't think there's really nothing else to discuss at this time. And at 7 o'clock, Eastern time Sunday night if the situation needs to be reevaluated again, it's open for discussion. Right now, logically, logically, not a minute has gone by where we've thought about that. The only thing we're thinking about is finding one more way to beat the Eagles and put our team in the best position to have success on Sunday night.
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. He is in his third season covering the Chicago Bears full time. Follow Bear Report on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Bear Report Web site or magazine, click here.