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Five Things We Learned: Bears-Packers

1/2/2011

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Here are five things we learned following the Chicago Bears' 10-3 loss to the Green Bay Packers to close out the regular season.

1. Cutler is the ultimate wildcard: There is not a more polarizing figure in Chicago sports than the Bears quarterback. If Jay Cutler is on target, the Bears could easily beat anybody in the NFC playoff field. But if the quarterback plays in two weeks like he played against Green Bay -- 168 passing yards, two interceptions, no touchdowns and a 43.5 quarterback rating -- the Bears probably will be one and done. Cutler is the perfect symbol for the 2010 NFL: You never know what you're going to get on any given week. At times, he looks brilliant. At other times, you wonder how he can be so reckless to throw into double coverage. At least Cutler played better in Week 17 than he did in Week 1 of 2009 at Lambeau Field (when he threw four interceptions), but that's not saying much. Hopefully, Cutler gets in a good rhythm in two weeks at Soldier Field, because if he does, the Bears will have a great shot to advance. If he doesn't, it will be time to start making offseason vacation plans.

2. The offensive line will never be completely fixed: It's impossible for that to happen this year. We all knew it. But that group should get credit for picking up their play since the bye week, and they even put forth their best performance of the season last week against the New York Jets. But Sunday reminded everybody that pass protection remains a core issue -- Cutler was sacked six times. To be fair, you can argue Cutler held on to the football way too long on a few of those sacks, but each tackle was cleanly beaten at one point. The Bears continued to run the ball effectively, but when the offensive coordinator calls for 18 runs versus 39 pass attempts, it's much more difficult for the line keep the heat off Cutler.

3. The defense was able to bounce back: The Jets found a variety of holes in the Bears' defense last Sunday, but the Packers didn't have much success on offense. With the exception of Greg Jennings' 46-yard catch, the Bears kept Aaron Rodgers and company pretty much in check. Plus, the unit forced a pair of turnovers, which included perhaps the most impressive interception of Charles Tillman's NFL career. Nick Roach, Major Wright and Chris Harris all got slightly banged up, but the core members of the defense got through the game in good shape, which bodes very well for the Bears in the postseason. Despite the outcome, Bears fans should feel better about the defense heading into the postseason. The offense, well, that may be another story.

4. Tinoisamoa benefitted from the playtime time: The early injury to Nick Roach forced Pisa Tinoisamoa, ready or not, to play the entire game at strong-side linebacker. Although the veteran didn't have his best game, the right knee held up well, and Tinoisamoa is convinced he's ready for the playoffs. That's good news for the Bears, because Tinoisamoa, like Roach, has been one of the most underrated defenders this season. It's too early to tell how the reps at strong-side linebacker will be split in the playoffs -- if at all -- but having Tinoisamoa back at relatively full strength is an added bonus heading into the bye week.

5. Nobody can figure out this NFL: Weren't the Packers supposed to be the new hot team in the NFC? Green Bay didn't exactly look like that team fighting for a playoff berth. In fact, they look scared and timid most of the game. Are you really scared to face the Packers at Soldier Field for the NFC Championship game if that situation presents itself? Come on. This league is totally unpredictable, and unless you follow the Patriots, there is no guarantee your team will either play well or poorly on any given week. Honestly, the Bears are much happier the New York Giants were knocked out of the playoffs, because Lovie Smith's team matches up OK with Green Bay. That's not to say the Packers aren't capable of coming to Chicago and winning later this month. They are, but world beaters they are not. Just like the Bears.