Q: The last time the Bears played the Patriots was in 2006. At that time, the Bears were a confident group on defense, excelled on special teams and had a serviceable offense. Did anyone predict the Bears would beat the Patriots? Do you believe the team has a better chance of beating the Patriots this time around because of Julius Peppers and Jay Cutler? -- Alex Navarro
A: The last time the Bears played the Patriots they lost 17-13 in a hard-fought, turnover-marred game. At the time, I didn’t think it was a bad loss. If you’ll remember, the Bears were on the tail end of a brutal three-game stretch where they played the Giants, Jets and Patriots on the road. They won the first two of those games. To answer your question, the Bears have a better chance this time around because they are at home and the Patriots are on coming off an emotional win against a divisional opponent and have a short week. Having Peppers doesn’t hurt, either.
Q: What is up with the Bears wasting at least one timeout a half just because, apparently, they can’t get the play relayed in in time? Is this an equipment thing? If so, why can’t the Bears get better equipment? Are these times when Jay Cutler doesn’t like the play -- from what I understand there are no audibles in Mike Martz’s offense, right? Do the coaches fall behind sometimes so they just end up burning a timeout? Fortunately, it hasn’t really come back to haunt them since they’ve been the team running time off the clock at the end of the games, but it’s still baffling and I haven’t seen it addressed anywhere. What’s going on here? -- Marcusm
A: There have been several times this season where there have been technical equipment malfunctions. Every team uses the same equipment and has to deal with problems when they occur. It happens. On other occasions, it’s confusion over a play call. Just as likely, it’s a problem related to the wrong personnel group being on the field for that particular play. While there are no audibles in Martz’s system, flexibility is built-in so that shouldn’t be an issue. The more time Cutler and other players have in Martz’s offense, the less such situations should be tolerated. That said, things happen. On plenty of occasions Tom Brady and Peyton Manning have had similar problems, believe it or not.
Q: Seems like the Bears used Matt Forte and Chester Taylor in the backfield together a lot more against the Lions. Will this continue moving forward? -- Nick
A: It all depends on the game plan for that given week. It’s really a week-to-week league. If Martz thinks he can exploit the Patriots by using Forte and Taylor in the backfield, he’ll do it. If not, he won’t. It’s all about matchups.
Q: What is your assessment of Cutler as a leader of this team? A lot is made of the faces he makes, but he seems to have grown into the leader of the offense since last year. -- Mr. Cox
A: There’s no question Cutler is the leader of the offense. His body language is deplorable, and I’m not going to pretend like I know him as a person. He basically treats us in the media like insects. But I’ve talked to several people who have been around him and they have told me his body language doesn’t always reflect the kind of person he is. He is an intense competitor, they say.
Q: If you were to choose a present-day Bear to make it into the Hall of Fame who would you choose and why? -- Jocko
A: Richard Dent. He was easily one of the most dominant pass rushers of his era.
Q: TV viewers rarely get much of a look at how players are lining up before a snap. Unless the announcers decide to fill us in, we have no idea what personnel changes are occurring on the field. So, who has been playing defensive end when Peppers or Idonije need a breather?
A: Henry Melton has been playing both inside at tackle and outside at end to give Idonije and Peppers a blow, although those two aren’t spending much time on the sideline. They are both having great seasons and are every-down performers.
Q: In your opinion, over the last 15 seasons, who has been the league’s best quarterback, Tom Brady or Peyton Manning? --- Kevin Armstead
A: That’s like asking which super model you’d rather take to the prom. Both are great, obviously. If I had to chose I’d probably take Brady because he hasn’t had as much consistency with surrounding personnel or with coordinators and he has won three Super Bowls to Manning’s one.
Q: I asked last time about the status of Melton and Devin Aromashodu. How is Melton performing? In your opinion, what is going on with Aromashodu?
A: With at least half a sack in each of his past three games, Melton is establishing himself as not only a reliable presence at both tackle and end but a playmaker, as well. The guy has a great motor and his quickness makes him especially effective on stunts. As for Aromashodu, nothing has changed. The coaching staff doesn’t believe he’s physical enough. I also wonder whether he has struggled to pick up Martz’s offense. Cutler tried to throw to him last week and the pass hit him in the back. Obviously, he had no idea it was coming.
Q: A multi-faceted question here. Who has the authority over Lovie’s job? Is it still general manager Jerry Angelo or since his job is on the line, has the responsibility gone above him? And are Lovie and Angelo still bound at the hip? With the Bears having all of their draft choices this next year, does Ted Phillips and the McCaskeys trust Angelo enough to have him run the show? -- Gearheadboy
A: Great questions. I don’t know if the answers are fully available yet because how this team finishes will be part of the evaluation process. As of right now, Angelo is head of the football operation, which means he has authority over Lovie, although their relationship is more of a partnership. As I reported earlier this week, barring a four-game meltdown, expect Lovie back next season. The same goes for Jerry. His spotty draft record is looking better with players such as Melton and D.J. Moore performing at a high level. His free-agent signings have exceeded the wildest expectations. He rearranged the front office and made Tim Ruskell his right-hand man. Given all that, I would be shocked if he wasn’t calling the shots again on draft day.
Q: Do you believe Lovie dropped any f-bombs during his half-time tirade during the Lions game? -- Seedy Backslash
A: No f-bombs. The man’s vocabulary is G rated. When he’s extremely upset, you might hear a “Jiminy Christmas.”
Q: Despite a recently revitalized offense, the o-line is an obvious weakness and will surely be addressed either through the draft or free agency. The question is which of the five players is targeted for replacement? We know that Angelo loves his draft picks so Chris Williams and J’Marcus Webb could be safe. We know that Lovie loves his veterans so Olin Kreutz and Roberto Garza could be safe. And we know the Bears love their money so Frank Omiyale could be safe because they won’t want to pay him a starters’ salary to ride the pine. So who do you think will be replaced and who do you think should be? -- Big Bear
A: I don’t think of it as who gets replaced. They need to continue to collect offensive line talent and let performance dictate who plays. That said, the careers of Kreutz and Garza are winding down. They need to start developing their eventual replacements. With Garza also serving as the backup center, that’s a position that absolutely must be addressed. Omiyale has done a decent job at left tackle, especially since he spent all of the preseason on the right side, but they shouldn’t pass up a tackle prospect, either. Left tackle is a critical position in every offense but especially so in Martz’s scheme.