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SUNDAY PLAYBOOK: Bears linemen Mills, Bushrod aren’t bothered by low grades

The Rams’ Chris Long (right) beats Bears tackle Jordan Mills bottom-dweller Pro Football Focus’ grading.  | Nam Y. Huh/AP

The Rams’ Chris Long (right) beats Bears tackle Jordan Mills, a bottom-dweller in Pro Football Focus’ grading.  | Nam Y. Huh/AP

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Updated: January 2, 2014 6:25AM



Jordan Mills says he doesn’t pay attention to websites that grade him, especially one, Pro Football Focus, which has called him the NFL’s worst tackle this season.

The rookie tried to ignore Monday’s evaluation from PFF, which gave Bears left tackle Jermon Bushrod the lowest score for any tackle on any team all season. Mills, the right tackle, was barely better against the St.  Louis Rams, finishing with the third-worst grade of the week.

Still, Mills sat at his locker, citing specifics of the PFF evaluation.

‘‘Me and Bushrod don’t pay attention to that,’’ he said.

‘‘I know it word-for-word.’’

Maybe it’s human nature to absorb and deflect criticism at the same time. Or maybe Mills was particularly annoyed because a friend sent him the PFF report while he prepared to face the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday.

‘‘I saw they said we got beat off the ball consistently,’’ Mills said. “If you watch the game and you saw the film, you did not say that. [The site said] that we gave up tremendous pressure — which we didn’t . . . . And some people that write that stuff sometimes don’t have a clue what they’re talking about or know nothing about football.

‘‘But you can’t pay attention to that. I’m focused on the Vikings this weekend, and so is Bushrod.’’

Bushrod allowed a sack and seven hurries in St. Louis, according to PFF. Three times he was beaten by the pass rusher in two seconds or less.

Robert Quinn, who rushed against Bushrod, received the third-highest grade PFF has ever given a 4-3 defensive end.

The Vikings’ Jared Allen — who has six sacks and 26 hurries — has to be salivating over Sunday.

‘‘People who aren’t in this organization, who don’t sit through these meetings … yeah, there are some things in that game I wish I could get back,’’ Bushrod said. ‘‘But half the time, those people [grading from the outside] don’t even know the plays. They don’t know the structure of the plays. I don’t care about it.’’

It was surprising, if not shocking, to hear Bears coach Marc Trestman this week say his line played ‘‘an outstanding football game, no doubt about it,’’ in a 42-21 loss.

‘‘Bushrod and Mills on the edges did an excellent job of running these guys by,’’ he said. ‘‘[Quarterback] Josh [McCown] did a very good job of climbing the pocket.’’

McCown was pressured on 40 percent of his dropbacks but only sacked 5 percent of the time, according to PFF.

The Bears’ internal grades don’t use the same formulas as PFF, though they are similar in many instances. So was Trestman defending his tackles publicly, or did the Bears grade them out much better? I’m guessing somewhere in between.

Regardless, they allowed the Rams to disrupt the offense.

‘‘There was one point in my life when I was worried about outside things,’’ Bushrod said. ‘‘When you’re younger. But at the end of the day, you don’t really get anywhere by worrying about what people think about.’’

Even, apparently, when they’re grading.

COACHES’ CORNER

Looking at the Vikings’ Cordarrelle Patterson with Bears special-teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis:

The last time the Bears saw Cordarrelle Patterson, the Vikings rookie returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown on Sept. 15.

And then, last month against the Green Bay Packers, he returned another opening kickoff for a 109-yard touchdown, setting the NFL record for the longest kick return in history and the second-longest play ever.

So, yeah, the Bears are concerned about him.

‘‘I don’t know that you’re going to be able to knock every ball out of [the end zone] for him,’’ special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis said this week. ‘‘We just have to make sure that if we don’t, we cover him. We gotta cover him up. And we saw how explosive he was in our first game. But he’s continued it, no question.’’

Patterson is the only player with two kickoff-return touchdowns and leads the NFL with 1,088 kickoff-return yards and a 34-yard average.

The Bears have been stout covering the kick, though; only 10 teams in the league allow fewer yards per return than their 22.4 yards per return.

‘‘He had the touchdown against Green Bay,’’ DeCamillis said. ‘‘He had a 64-yarder against Green Bay last week. This guy has had a great year, and it’s a real challenge for us.’’

UNSUNG SPOTLIGHT

Punter Adam Podlesh | No. 8

Two months and one day ago, Adam Podlesh was so bad in Detroit that the Bears spent the next week trying out punters.

He has rebounded ‘‘from a rough start’’ since, special teams coach Joe DeCamillis said.

Podlesh blamed his bad game, in which he netted 28.8 yards per punt, on timing. He compared it to a wonky golf swing.

‘‘I had a little bit of problem with my drop and a timing problem with my rhythm and my tempo,’’ he said. ‘‘If you get that out of rhythm a little bit, you can snowball some problems.’’

Podlesh is 24th in the league with a net average of 39.3, but that doesn’t tell the whole story in the Bears’ directional punting game.

With the special teams unit filling up with new faces while veterans fill the injury void on defense, Podlesh said each member much be sharp.

‘‘The guys that are established on that punt team need to step up and make sure you not only help them out,’’ he said, ‘‘but make sure you do your job.’’

HOT READS

Jay Cutler or Josh McCown? Or maybe Jordan Lynch?

Bears general manager Phil Emery saw the Northern Illinois quarterback in person Tuesday, when Lynch put on maybe the most memorable showing of his career.

From the press box, Emery saw Lynch run for 321 rushing yards against Western Michigan, breaking his own Division I-A record for a quarterback.

Lynch would be an interesting project, to be sure, especially if the Bears decide they are in no rush to find Cutler’s heir apparent.

◆◆◆

Human sacrifice! Dogs and cats living together! Bears fans became — egad! — Green Bay Packers supporters Thursday when the Packers played the Detroit Lions, with whom the Bears are tied for first place in the NFC North.

Safety Craig Steltz caught a bit of the Thanksgiving game. Was he allowed to be a Packers fan for a moment?

‘‘Yeah, I guess so,’’ he said. ‘‘But we have to go out there and win.’’

Coach Marc Trestman said the Lions’ win shouldn’t have any effect on the Bears, who don’t own the season-ending tiebreaker.

‘‘All these games are certainly important games, no doubt about it,’’ Trestman said. ‘‘We can say what we want, but we have to try to be at our best every week.’’

Email: pfinley@suntimes.com

Twitter: @patrickfinley



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