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Bears-Packers: Five Things We Learned

CHICAGO -- Here are five things we learned following the Chicago Bears' 27-17 loss to the Green Bay Packers on Sunday at Soldier Field.

1. We have much to learn about the offense: What is this offense exactly? Are the Bears a running team? A passing team? Can they score on a consistent basis? The trends we witnessed in Week 3 were alarming to say the least. The Bears were unable to run the ball at a historic rate, the quarterback was all over the place, the receivers either dropped balls or failed to make plays on the football and the offensive line committed penalties and failed to open up many holes. Not good. There were a few individual bright spots from Johnny Knox, Devin Hester and Kellen Davis, but the Bears can't depend all year on the occasional big play. The Bears held the ball for only 22:31. How are you supposed to knock off the defending Super Bowl champions when that happens? Forget about trying to shift the blame -- which is exactly what the Bears did after the Saints game -- this entire unit needs to come together and correct the problems. If they don't, key members of the defense will break down, and the season will spiral out of control. If you think it's too early in the year for that to happen, think again.

2. Earl Bennett's injury hurts the offense: Bennett is one guy Jay Cutler truly trusts on the field. Rookie Dane Sanzenbacher is another. After that … I don't know. Knox and Hester both have their moments, but Knox simply can't drop that long pass in the third quarter. That was a killer. I'd love to see the Bears feature Hester one of these days, however, it just never seems to happen. You could see Hester's frustrations boil over late in the game when he got a personal foul for engaging in some Hurricane-on-Hurricane crime with Miami product and Green Bay cornerback Sam Shields. But at least once in a while Cutler gets something going with Hester and Knox. To put it nicely, the Roy Williams experiment isn't going well. Granted, Williams is still bothered by a groin injury, but he and Cutler appeared to be in different area codes. Either Williams fooled the quarterback or the quarterback fooled himself, but something is not right between those two. If teams go into a game with the intent of taking away Matt Forte (which Green Bay obviously did), who can the Bears turn to on offense? Now that's a scary question.

3. Green Bay out-schemed the Bears on offense: Of course, weapons like Aaron Rodgers, Greg Jennings, Jermichael Finley, etc. make it easier to call a game on offense, but the Packers exploited the Bears defense in several impressive ways on Sunday. First of all, Finley is a mismatch like no other in this league at the tight end position. Coming to the line of scrimmage, then shifting to flex him out wide to face off in single coverage with safety Craig Steltz is criminal. How can the Bears possibly expect Steltz to win that battle? Predictably, Finley moved the chains on a 24-yard completion, then caught one of his three touchdown passes a few plays later. The Packers also hurt the Bears in the running game by using such wide splits on their offensive line. Those splits made it nearly impossible for Bears defenders to fulfill their two-gap responsibilities, which allowed Ryan Grant to pick and choose his spots on the cutback. It's a genius design by the Packers, but one they use every week. It's not like the Bears didn't know it was coming. Despite all of this, the defense still hung in there and forced a few turnovers in the second half to keep the Bears in the game, which is a testament to players like Brian Urlacher (interception) and Lance Briggs (forced fumble).

4. Jay Cutler isn't Aaron Rodgers: At least, not on this team. However, it's interesting to imagine what Cutler would be like with Finley, Jennings, Jordy Nelson and Donald Driver. Maybe, with all his natural talent, Cutler would be at the same or even a higher level than Rodgers. Cutler can make throws other quarterbacks can only dream of making. But right now, the quarterback looks uncomfortable, unsure and downright annoyed by the circumstances. In a way, I don't blame him; the pieces around him are flawed. But let's cut to the chase: Cutler got paid when he signed the extension. The Bears gave him a $7 million signing bonus. His base salary was $14.944 million in 2009 and $7 million in 2010 and Cutler is set to make $7.6 million in 2011, $7.7 million in 2012 and $8.470 million in 2013. To put it nicely, he needs to try and make it work.

5. Carolina is a pivotal game: Every game is critical in the NFL, but the Bears absolutely cannot afford to drop next week's home date against the Carolina Panthers. With a Monday Night game looming the following week in Detroit against the upstart Lions, the Bears must take care of business when they square off against their former defensive coordinator and current Panthers head coach Ron Rivera. As we all know, it did not end well for Rivera here in Chicago, and I'm sure he would love nothing else than to beat the man responsible for his departure: Lovie Smith. From a talent standpoint, the Bears are a better team. From an emotional standpoint, they better be ready. I'll be amazed if the Panthers aren't sky high at kickoff next Sunday.