Bears endure quite a licking with the kicking
By MARK POTASH and SEAN JENSEN firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com August 23, 2011 12:26AM
Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte (22) runs away from New York Giants defensive tackle Linval Joseph during the first quarter of an NFL preseason football game Monday, Aug. 22, 2011, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Updated: November 3, 2011 5:12PM
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Whether the Bears did or didn’t receive permission from the NFL to kick from the 30-yard line instead of from the 35 in their preseason opener against the Buffalo Bills, they were right about one thing: They need the work.
The Bears kicked off from the 35, per the new NFL rules Monday, but they took a beating on special teams no matter where they kicked from during a 41-13 loss to the New York Giants at New Meadowlands Stadium.
Robbie Gould’s first two kickoffs went five and four yards into the end zone, but Devin Thomas returned the first one 33 yards to the Giants’ 28 and the second one 73 yards to the Bears’ 31. Gould’s third kickoff of the first half went to the goal line, from where Thomas returned it 32 yards to the Giants’ 32.
‘‘Special teams is a big part of what we do here, and we didn’t get the job done today,’’ safety Craig Steltz said. ‘‘As complex as the schemes are on special teams, a lot of it’s very simple: We have to get off blocks and make tackles. We have to go back to see what happened and make corrections for next week.’’
The Bears were at a significant field-position disadvantage throughout the first half. They started their first four drives at their 17, 13, 14 and 19. Even after Johnny Knox returned a kickoff 45 yards to the Bears’ 40, the misery continued when Spencer Lanning had a punt blocked by Greg Jones with 48 seconds left in the first half.
‘‘Whenever you give up a punt block like that and a couple of big returns, you’re going to have trouble,’’ coach Lovie Smith said.
Better than it looks
Bears receiver Roy Williams had two drops, including one on what would have been a 16-yard gain. But Smith said the veteran receiver is progressing, even though he has yet to catch a preseason pass.
‘‘Roy is getting better,’’ Smith said. ‘‘He hasn’t been in the system long — I’m talking about here with the Chicago Bears — and we’ve seen progress. Tonight, we didn’t see a lot. But we see it behind the scenes, and eventually it’ll show up on the field.’’
Quarterback Jay Cutler noted that Williams missed the first six days of camp because of a stipulation of the new collective-bargaining agreement reached last month.
‘‘We’re trying to catch him up to speed and get him in shape and get him where he needs to be,’’ Cutler said. ‘‘But the desire is there, the want-to is there. He just needs a little more time with us, working him in there and trying to get him involved early. But overall, I think that whole group is coming along well.’’
Second-year safety Major Wright was one of the bright spots of the preseason opener. On Monday, he was one of the players who struggled.
He was credited with three tackles on defense, but he missed at least two more, including one on Brandon Jacobs’ 18-yard touchdown run at the start of the second quarter.
‘‘Hopefully, we’re not going to have to live with the inconsistency,’’ Smith said. ‘‘He didn’t tackle well tonight, but he’s been a pretty good tackler throughout [training camp]. From time to time, you’re going to have a bad night at the office. We had that tonight. Hopefully, we won’t see many more.’’