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SportsMonday: Welcome Back, Bears

Welcome back football! We missed you, especially us Cubs fans.

What's that you say? Football started the weekend before last? Well I can't remember anything before Thursday. Heck, I barely recall Friday.

But Saturday, that was memorable. Bears fans won't soon forget that evening's delightful come-from-ahead and then behind, and then ahead by the margin of the foot or two by which Robbie Gould's (welcome back especially to you Robbie!) 57-yard, last minute field goal cleared the crossbar. Actually they almost certainly won't remember the 33-31 victory at all after the regular season opener in a few weeks but work with me here.

I always wonder about those analysts who breathlessly do their thing in the aftermath of exhibition games: They have to know that 90-something percent of what they are talking about is meaningless, don't they?

I've gone into detail about this before but there is always one quick way to put things into perspective - remember the '85 Bears! Before they won everything but that stupid Monday nighter in Miami, they went 1-3 in the preseason.

There is only one thing to say about exhibition games (and I admit, I have written this before as well but it is just too good a memory from too good a movie). Sing it with me now: "It just doesn't matter. It just doesn't matter. It just doesn't matter!"

Nonetheless, you wonder if Gould felt any pressure as he trotted onto the field with 30-something seconds remaining late Saturday and the Bears trailing 31-30. I mean, heck, no one wants to go 0-4 and the Bears would have been halfway there had Gould missed. So we'll take it and move on. Well, we can't quite move on completely can we? There are a few specifics to discuss.

1. Lorenzo Booker opened the second half with a 105-yard return that made the NFL's Can't Miss Plays.

2. Analyst Jim Miller performed well until the fourth quarter, when he went a little goofy gushing over his buddy Kirk Cousins, a fellow Michigan State grad on whom he has long had a mancrush. All Cousins did was go off against the Bears' third-string defense, which would have difficulty my cousins.

Even more goofy is that the Redskins drafted Cousins in the fourth-round last April having already traded three huge draft picks (two firsts and a second) to move up all of four slots in first round to take starting rookie signal-caller Robert Griffin III.

Surely the Redskins, who will need every warm body they can round up to form a halfway decent defense and, I don't know, an offensive line, a receiving corps, you know, everything but a quarterback in the next few seasons, will come to regret wasting a fourth-round pick on a sure to be backup quarterback (no matter how well he plays against opposing scrubs in the preseason).

You can't be drafting luxury backups when you won't have top picks for years to come.
After Cousins led the Redskins to three fourth-quarter touchdowns and a one-point lead, Miller suggested that Washington had a quarterback controversy on its hands. That is not the case in any way, shape or form no matter how much Cousins' fellow former Spartan - and others with airtime to fill - wants it to be. After paying a king's ransom for him the Redskins will give Griffin every chance as the starting quarterback this season and next, and maybe the next.

3. Word came through on Sunday that rookie safety Brandon Hardin, who was drafted by the Bears in the third round out of Oregon State, was released from the hospital after spending the previous night. He was carted off the field strapped to a backboard after he hurt his neck attempting to tackle a Redskin tight end.

Early indications are that Hardin will be fine but he will be out for a while. In the meantime, he will need to review tackling fundamentals. Hardin didn't play in his final year at college due to an injury so it is at least a little understandable that he wasn't as sharp as he should be (and in an effort to limit injuries, NFL players barely practice tackling these days) on Saturday.

But the tackle attempt that resulted in his injury should be a video shown to all players titled "how not to tackle (if you want to avoid neck injuries)." The key part of the play was that Hardin lowered his head before impact and made initial contact with the crown of his helmet. It is apparent that plenty of players, especially cornerbacks and safeties, are taught at some point to lower their heads and make themselves into missiles in certain situations where they must make a tackle against a speedy player out in space and the best way to do it is thought to be diving at the player's legs.

That should stop at all levels of football. Tacklers actually always have a better chance of getting foes on the ground if they keep their face up. That enables them to wrap their arms around ball-carriers and finish the play more efficiently. Learn it, live it, love it! Your neck will thank you!

4. Bears tell Alshon Jeffery to play smarter.

5. Phil Emery defends J'Marcus Webb.

6. Next game that doesn't matter: Against the Giants on Friday night.

7. And finally, game highlights, because we still like to watch them:


Jim "Coach" Coffman is our man on Mondays. He welcomes your comments.


1. From Steve Rhodes:

A week later, the Tribune's Dan Pompei echoes the Beachwood's Jim Coffman.

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