The Bears were in meetings at Halas Hall on Monday afternoon when the news from Denver became official. Surefire Hall-of-Fame quarterback Peyton Manning is out and young and inexperienced Brock Osweiler is in for the Broncos this Sunday at Soldier Field.
How does the Bears defense feel about it?
“My mind doesn’t change,” linebacker Shea McClellin said at Halas Hall. “I don’t think anyone’s does. Nameless and faceless. That’s how we look at guys.”
Company lines aside, the Bears are running into a struggling Broncos team at the right time. Manning’s injury situation – he has a partially torn plantar fascia in his left foot – is the proverbial icing on the cake.
Many NFL analysts, including former players, have stated that the Broncos will be better off with Osweiler since Manning’s arm strength and skills are fading fast in his worst individual season ever.
But coach John Fox’s and offensive coordinator Adam Gase’s familiarity with Osweiler should assist their defense’s preparations. Fox was the Broncos’ coach and Gase their quarterbacks coach when Osweiler, who is 6-8, was selected out of Arizona State with the 57th overall selection in the 2012 draft.
“He’s smart,” Fox said. “He had the opportunity to learn under one of the best. For a big man, he’s got good quickness, good athleticism. I felt good about him. I didn’t get a chance to see a lot of him, but when I did see him, I liked what I saw.”
If Osweiler struggles, the Broncos could experience a fate similar to the Rams. Denver has the NFL’s top-rated defense full of Pro Bowl players. But unlike St. Louis, which has the sixth-best defense, the Broncos don’t have a strong running game to complement their defensive efforts. The Broncos average nearly 45 yards less on the ground than the Rams.
Once McClellin and the Bears shut down Rams star rookie Todd Gurley, they flustered and pummeled quarterback Nick Foles, who completed a pitiful 47.2 percent of his passes and was officially benched by Rams coach Jeff Fisher
“All in all, I thought we had a good plan and our guys executed it,” Fox said .
Similar to Foles, Osweiler, who will be making his first career start, will be facing a Bears’ defense that is on the upswing under coordinator Vic Fangio. They’ve impressively handled the NFL’s leading passer (Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers) and the league’s best young back (Gurley) in consecutive weeks. And the Bears could have outside linebacker Pernell McPhee, their defensive MVP, back from a knee injury, too.
Manning may not be Manning anymore, but Fox will tell you that the Broncos will be missing something special. In Fox’s three years with Manning, the Broncos went 38-10 and advanced to Super Bowl XLVIII, where they lost to the Seahawks.
“His leadership, [it’s] how he raises all boats,” Fox said. “He’s an outstanding teammate. He expects perfection. He has great expectations, great knowledge of the game. Especially on the preparation side, the guy might be the best time-management guy I’ve ever seen.”
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