NFL Wire News

Porter finding a home with Bears


The Sports Xchange

LAKE FOREST, Ill. – Cornerback Tracy Porter embodies the Chicago Bears so far under coach John Fox and general manager Ryan Pace.

A player who bounced between three other clubs after four seasons in New Orleans, Porter signed as a free agent and suddenly is starting and playing a huge role in the Bears defense as a replacement for injured Alan Ball.

And he’s not alone. The Bears are missing two other defensive starters, and have been without four offensive starters while forging consecutive victories following a team record-tying losing streak of eight games. It’s the depth and ability of the coaching staff to bring players up to playing speed that have been huge factors in giving them a chance to reach .500 with a game Sunday in Detroit.

“I think it started in Seattle,” Porter said.

It seems a surprising place to pinpoint a turnaround since the Bears lost 26-0, but other defenders have said the same.

“Everything isn’t bad in a loss,” Porter said. “You have to pick out the good that’s in there.

What they found was a defensive ability to limit the run while pressuring the passer. Now, they’ve added better pass coverage despite a secondary which includes Porter, second-year cornerback Kyle Fuller and two rookie safeties.

“We were playing together, we were rallying behind each other,” Porter said. “We were rallying behind the offense, rallying behind the special teams. And when you have a team that plays together and wants to play for each other, that’s all you can ask for.”

The defense lost safety Antrel Rolle two games ago to an ankle injury and had to replace him with undrafted rookie Harold Jones-Quartey. He’s teamed with rookie safety Adrian Amos.

With 170-yard and 173-yard passing efforts defensively the last two games, the Bears have risen to third against the pass. They were 30th last year.

“My assessment is I’m the old guy on the field,” Porter said. “On the back end. I’m having to do a good job of keeping those (safeties) calm. I don’t have any doubt in either of those guys’ abilities.

“I mean the last couple of weeks, Kyle has been playing outstanding. The safeties speak for themselves. Those guys, Amos, they’ve been communicating well on the back end. And like I said, it’s my job to come out and tell those guys to constantly communicate with each other – communicate with me, communicate with Kyle, communicate amongst each other and let’s just continue to fly around to the ball.”

The Bears face more adversity with the loss of starting inside linebacker Shea McClellin to a knee injury against Kansas City. He was replaced by LaRoy Reynolds, a Jacksonville Jaguars castoff who started three games over three seasons. The injury also means Christian Jones is the signal caller on defense.

“I think he’ll get better as he gets to practice that more,” coach John Fox said. “We’ll get an opportunity to put him in that role probably some this week. We’ll have to see where Shea is come Wednesday.

“LaRoy Reynolds stepped in there and did some good things, obviously some things we’ll have to work on and get better at. This is early in the season, we’re one game into the second quarter. We’re a work in progress just like everyone else in the league.”

The work in progress continues on offense, as well.

Hroniss Grasu had his first NFL action at center against the Chiefs because of the season-ending injury to center Will Montgomery, and, after allowing a sack and lost fumble for a Chiefs touchdown, he performed adequately.

“I think he did such a great job leaning on Will Montgomery in the months that he’s been here because Monty has such a unique understanding of this offense having that he’s been there since the birth of it … and variations of the offense,” tackle Kyle Long said. “Hroniss did a great job using that resource, and obviously (guard) Matt Slauson. I can’t say enough about Matt Slauson and the job he does, being able to break it down to simpler terms and really show things to the guys, although Hroniss is really smart.

“We have a lot of complex things that go on within our offense, and he’s done a great job handling that.”

The line also had Charles Leno Jr. playing a second straight game for Jermon Bushrod due to a concussion.

“They’re not perfect,” Fox said about the line. “I don’t think we started as well as we finished. We have a lot of things still to work on. We’re still a work in progress and that group is no different than the rest of our football team.”

Quarterback Jay Cutler also had to rely on backup receivers Marquess Wilson and Marc Mariani in the passing game with Alshon Jeffery (hamstring) and Eddie Royal (ankle) out.

It could be until after the Oct. 25 bye before the Bears return to nearly complete health.

Against Detroit, a good number of the reserves will have to continue to perform at higher levels.

“They’re on the roster for a reason,” Fox said about his reserves. “We expect them to be able to play and play at a high level.”


PASSING OFFENSE: B-minus. Jay Cutler’s first half included numerous off-balance throws, or passes he short-armed – possibly due to his hamstring condition. He started stepping into throws more in the second half with 179 yards of his 252. He eventually adjusted to not having his top two targets in injured Eddie Royal and Alshon Jeffery and spread the ball around to six receivers. The comeback could have been easier to achieve if Martellus Bennett had been able to hang on to one 30-yard pass in the fourth quarter. Bennett was blanketed by safety Eric Berry much of the day. The pass blocking solidified in the second half, and Kyle Long and Charles Leno Jr. at tackle did a strong job of keeping outside rushers moving straight up the field rather than letting them get around the edge. Cutler helped them, too, by stepping up into the pocket.

RUSHING OFFENSE: B-minus. Matt Forte proved more a factor in the passing game overall than in the running game, but his early rushing yards kept Kansas City off balance. Guard Vladimir Ducasse enjoyed his best game as a Bear in avoiding penalties and blocking the interior. The running game worked so well early that it seemed at times they went away from it too much in the third quarter for a while, but then did return to it. Cutler provided key yardage on the ground with scrambles and even with a read-option play, despite his hamstring condition.

PASS DEFENSE: A. Possibly the only flaw in their coverage all day came when cornerback Tracy Porter came inside on a tackle attempt and left the sideline exposed for a touchdown. The pass rush rattled Alex Smith, who seemed to be looking for a place to fall after the poor job the Chiefs had done blocking for the pass coming into the game.

RUSH DEFENSE: B. Jamaal Charles hurt the Bears at times early between the tackles, as guards got to Bears linebackers with their blocks. However, after his injury in the third quarter the Chiefs had virtually no running game. Defensive end/nose tackle Jeremiah Ratliff saw his first action and seemed to have a hard time with his ankle injury at times, and Eddie Goldman left the game a few times with an injury, but the front seven overall held up against a team that could punish opponents on the ground.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B. The strongest effort yet by Bears special teams was nearly ruined by LaRoy Reynolds’ horse-collar tackle on Kansas City’s kickoff return with 18 seconds left. It took them out of a big hole and made it possible to get to the edge of field-goal range. Robbie Gould kicked off out of the end zone when the Bears needed it put there. Punter Pat O’Donnell recovered from a knee injury to average 47 yards an effort. A blocked field goal by Pernell McPhee seemed to turn around the game, which had the Bears down 11 in the fourth quarter.

COACHING: A. John Fox has won eight out of nine games he’s coached against Kansas City and seems to have that figured out. He and his assistants had the hardest job during the prior week getting numerous reserves ready. The injury list was filled with questionable players on Friday, and in many cases it meant inexperience players competing in a game in difficult road conditions. Adam Gase kept Jay Cutler out of harm’s way with his play calling most of the day, and helped out his offensive line. There may have been too much reliance on tight end Martellus Bennett after it became evident the Chiefs made him the focus of their coverage. Again, the Bears defensive approach created pass rush pressure without blitzing too much.

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