Super Bowl Ex-Bears Factor, Copying Falcons Blueprint, and Other Bullets

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Super Bowl Ex-Bears Factor, Copying Falcons Blueprint, and Other Bullets

Chicago Bears

Shea McClellin and Martellus Bennett are Super Bowl-bound, just as Phil Emery envisioned it in 2012.

Well, maybe not quite as Emery envisioned it when he was the Chicago Bears general manager. But it’s happening. McClellin, Emery’s first draft pick (19th overall) in 2012, signed a three-year free agent contract with the New England Patriots in March 2016 and was productive in his first year being coached by Bill Belichick and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia. He made this stellar field goal block on Monday Night Football and nifty 69-yard fumble recovery – the longest return in Patriots history.

Then there is Bennett, who, much like his former Bears teammate, has made the most of the opportunity provided to him by New England. Bennett caught 55 passes for 701 yards and hauled in a career-best seven touchdowns. The outspoken Bennett made waves early in the season when he slammed Jay Cutler and his former Bears teammates, but has embraced his role in what has been the best team he has played for in his career. Bennett, 29, was traded with a sixth-round pick for a fourth-round pick in 2016 and will be a free agent after the Super Bowl.

The third ex-Bear who get some Super Bowl playing time is Atlanta Falcons wide receiver/return specialist Eric Weems, who played for the team in 2012 and 2013. Those two seasons were the worst of Weems’ career as he averaged 16 yards per kick return, a significant decrease in production who averaged 25.6 yards per return before joining the Bears and 24.4 yards after leaving.

On to Houston after the bye week.

  • The NFL is a copycat league, so it’s likely that the Bears’ braintrust was taking notes while taking in conference championship weekend, wondering how they can lead the Bears back to greatness. Over at FiveThirtyEight, Ty Schalter writes about how the Falcons offense went from good to great. If there is any offense worth trying to replicate, it’s one that led the NFL in points per game and yards per play. The Falcons displayed a balanced attack that featured aggressive coaching, a commitment to the running game, outstanding quarterback play, and spectacular production from wide receivers. Hey, no one said it would be easy.
  • The Bears don’t have a Matt Ryan or a Julio Jones in tow, but three strong interior linemen leading the way for Jordan Howard give the Bears one building block on offense. The Falcons ran the ball 42.3% of the time in 2016 compared to the Bears’ 39.2%. That means 60.8% of the Bears’ offensive plays were pass attempts from a group that posted a woeful 81.8 passer rating in 2016.
  • As for finding the kind of quarterback who can lead the Bears to the promised land, it is without a doubt the biggest challenge GM Ryan Pace has ahead of him. It’s not just a difficult task, it’s also unpredictable. First, Atlanta had to win a coin flip with Oakland to pick third. Then, both the Dolphins and Rams had to pass on Ryan. And finally, the Falcons had to draft (and develop) Ryan. Ryan was the first quarterback taken in the 2008 draft, but it’s not as if he was a slam dunk choice. Over at The Falcoholic, this post from 2008 outlined why the Falcons shouldn’t take Ryan – and the logic isn’t completely terrible. Ryan didn’t have great completion percentage numbers (his senior year (59.3 percent) was lowest of his years as a starter), the 6.89 yards per completion were described as “pedestrian”, and the 31 touchdowns didn’t outweigh the 19 interceptions in that particular author’s opinion.
  • The Bears having the third pick in this draft and needing a quarterback are fun twists, given the Ryan story. Just let this serve as a reminder of how inexact the science of finding a franchise quarterback truly is. And just for fun, check out Ryan’s draft profile from 2008.
  • Sure, the Packers were walloped in the NFC championship game, but Chicago Sun-Times columnist Rick Morrissey notes Green Bay still has bragging rights – and ultimately, the last laugh. Morrissey sees a Packers team that had injuries throughout the roster led by an elite quarterback play in the conference championship game and wondered how far the Bears were from getting to that point.
  • Bragging rights and getting the last laugh is one thing, then there is this where we can all laugh together:



Author: Luis Medina

Luis Medina is a Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at@lcm1986.