Free Head Exam: Chicago Bears
October, 24, 2011
By Kevin Seifert | ESPNChicago.com
After the Chicago Bears' 24-18 victory against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, here are three issues that merit further examination:
- Yes, I know. It's not who starts fast. In the NFL, oftentimes slow and steady wins the race. So it's worth noting that the Bears were three games behind the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions after Week 5. Two weeks later, they're within a game of the Lions (5-2) and are putting themselves into the conversation for postseason discussion. As of Monday afternoon, there are five teams with a better record than the Bears. They are one of three teams that are 4-3, which is the same mark the Bears had last season on the way to an 11-5 finish and the NFC North title. The Packers might not give up the top spot in this division, but the Bears are puttering along at a time when the Lions haven't yet answered questions about their 16-game endurance.
- You'll hear plenty this week about tailback Matt Forte's 145-yard performance. It'll also be noted that Forte already has 672 rushing yards this season (second in the league behind the Minnesota Vikings' Adrian Peterson), and that he has already surpassed 1,000 all-purpose yards for the season. But we also should take a moment to recognize that he has gotten some nice blocking this season. Take another look at his 32-yard touchdown run Sunday. You'll see textbook blocking, relative to their positions, from offensive lineman Chris Spencer, tight end Matt Spaeth, receiver Roy Williams (yes) and fullback Tyler Clutts. You don't average 96 yards per game on your own. For as much criticism as the Bears' offense has taken this season, it's worth nothing that it's doing some things really well.
- You wonder if the Bears' safety carousel will continue to turn after their bye week. Major Wright was deactivated for the game, presumably because of a hip injury, even though he had been listed as probable on the injury report. Veteran Chris Harris returned to the starting lineup as a result, but he appeared to get beat for a touchdown by Buccaneers receiver Dezmon Briscoe. Rookie Chris Conte had an interception and two passes defensed Sunday and will probably keep his starting job despite giving up a touchdown to tight end Kellen Winslow. Whether Harris or Wright starts alongside him Nov. 7 against the Philadelphia Eagles is anyone's guess.
Kevin SeifertThe Chicago Bears take their turn in the examination room after beating Tampa Bay.
Was Sunday about the law of averages for Williams, or is he growing more comfortable with his situation and gearing up to be a consistent contributor for a team that hopes to be in contention over the final two months of the season? I'm not sure yet. Williams caught his first touchdown of the season among his four catches and totaled a season-high 59 yards. A cynic would say that defenses are so unconcerned about him that they aren't paying much attention and will give him plenty of opportunities to make plays. Time will tell.