Wondering about a player, a past game or another issue involving the Bears? Senior writer Larry Mayer answers a variety of questions from fans on ChicagoBears.com.
How have the Bears fared in Thursday games the past few years?
The Bears have won their last four Thursday games, two in prime time and two on Thanksgiving. They defeated the Lions 24-20 on Thanksgiving 2019 in Detroit, the Cowboys 31-24 on Thursday Night Football Dec. 5, 2019, at Soldier Field, the Buccaneers 20-19 on Thursday Night Football at Soldier Field and the Lions 16-14 on Thanksgiving 2021. Overall, the Bears are 6-8 on Thursday Night Football, 3-2 at home and 3-6 on the road.
With such a short turnaround between games this week, what are the Bears doing differently to prepare to play Washington Thursday night?
Coach Matt Eberflus constructed this week's schedule based on what he learned during the previous 13 seasons as an NFL assistant, saying: "I've been around quite some time and I would say that the best way to do it is to make sure the players are fresh. It's a lot of walkthroughs and mental work." Players arrived at Halas Hall at 1 p.m. (CT) Monday, made corrections off the tape from Sunday's game and moved quickly onto the Commanders. They conducted a walkthrough Monday and another one Tuesday. The plan is to hold a quick unpadded red-zone practice Wednesday, followed by another walkthrough at the team hotel Thursday. This is the first time I recall the Bears practicing the day before a game, but apparently it's not that unusual; linebacker Nicholas Morrow told reporters Monday that he practiced the day before a game when he played for the Raiders.
I felt like Velus Jones Jr. could have taken a few of the kickoffs he let go for touchbacks against the Vikings out of the end zone. Is there a certain depth where he's instructed not to bring the ball out?
Lake Villa, Illinois
It is more than just how deep the ball is kicked into the end zone; the hangtime of the kickoff is also a factor. Special teams coordinator Richard Hightower did an excellent job of explaining the decision-making process during his weekly press conference Tuesday. He discussed a hangtime/distance ratio, saying: "It's something that we factor out; it's calculated. I'm not going to give the numbers away, but a certain ball that's really, really high, your chances of returning it aren't as favorable as a lower hang time. It's just a feel too, like if the guys are down there already covering or guys aren't engaged and guys aren't down there as fast. He has some discretion on that. It's not an iron fist or anything like that. We want him to play fast and free. I thought he made great decisions last week. And the ball he caught, the short one, he came up and got to the 33-yard line or something like that. That was really good starting field position right there."