Five Things We Learned: Bears-Chiefs
December, 5, 2011
By Jeff Dickerson | ESPNChicago.com
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesLovie Smith's Bears will be put to the test with the loss of another star offensive player.CHICAGO -- Here are Five Things We Learned following the Chicago Bears 10-3 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday:
1. The whole offense bombed: Caleb Hanie made a bunch of poor throws and missed a wide open Earl Bennett for a touchdown in the second quarter. You're not going to win many games when the starting quarterback has a passer rating of 23.8. But it went far beyond simply Hanie on Sunday. The offense was a comedy of errors from start to finish. Bad penalties (Marion Barber), poor pass protection (Lance Louis), crucial drops (Roy Williams), lousy and predictable play calling on first and second down (Mike Martz), you name it, it was on full display against Kansas City. In my opinion, a quarterback change is the easy way out. How are Josh McCown, Nathan Enderle or veteran-quarterback-to-be-named-later going to fare if the overall execution around them plays so poorly against a talented Broncos defense in Denver? Probably worse than Hanie fared versus the Chiefs, and that's saying something.
2. Bears can't lose any more star players: Losing just Matt Forte is a crushing blow to the Bears. But Forte in addition to Cutler -- that's near catastrophic. Which is why I'm sure every Bears fans out there cringed with terror when Julius Peppers was taken back to the locker room in the first half, or when Brian Urlacher was being checked out by the doctors late in the game. Luckily, both were able to return and finish up strong on defense, but the mere thought of losing either of the defensive captains is sickening. The Bears were fortunate last year to avoid suffering many key injuries, but with Cutler and Forte out for the next few weeks, plus Chris Williams and Gabe Carimi on injured reserve, this group is one more big injury away from falling apart. That became painfully obvious watching the depleted Bears offense fail to score a touchdown against the mediocre Chiefs.
AP Photo/Nam Y. HuhBears trainers tend to running back Matt Forte after he was injured in the first half against the Chiefs.
3. Earl Bennett needs to be featured: Nothing against Johnny Knox or Devin Hester, but Bennett needs to lead the Bears in targets every single week. He is by far the most polished and dependable wide receiver on the roster, who by the way just signed a four-year, $18 million extension, so why did Bennett only catch one ball for five yards on four targets? Bennett's disappearing act the last two weeks can't simply be attributed to Cutler being hurt. Just look at the NFC Championship Game from last year; Hanie and Bennett have on-field chemistry. As for Hester, I really don't understand his playing time Sunday given his lack of practice time during the week and overall absence from the offense since the Philadelphia game on Nov. 7. Shouldn't Bennett be in the game instead of Hester? You don't have to be a keen football observer to realize the club's top two wideouts are Bennett and Knox. Now it's time for the Bears act like it.
4. Hail Mary was a fluke: Urlacher and Chris Conte are taught to bat the ball down on a Hail Mary, which they did, but in the process gift wrapped a touchdown to Dexter McClutser. Football is a funny game. Give Tyler Palko 50 more chances to make that exact play and I bet he couldn't do it. It was like for one fleeting moment the moon and the stars aligned perfectly for Kansas City. Don't forget, McCluster is a running back, not a receiver, which makes him easier to lose when he fans out down the field. Plus, he's 5-foot-8, making him harder to box out because he runs so low to the ground. Sometimes bad things happen to people or teams despite the best of intentions. Pile on the Bears for bad penalties, too many sacks surrendered, dropped touchdown passes and overthrown wide-open receivers, but I simply can't go crazy about the Hail Mary because it was such a once in a season play for the Chiefs. Too bad it had to come at the Bears expense.
5. Major Wright can't shed injury label: We're not even two years into the Major Wright era and I've already lost track of all the injuries he's suffered in the NFL. He broke his finger in the 2010 preseason (the worst of his training camp bumps and bruises), badly pulled a hamstring in the 2010 regular season and so far in 2011 has suffered head and shoulder injuries. At least Craig Steltz came off the bench to record a game-high 10 tackles so the Bears didn't miss a beat at the safety position. But once again, safety is expected to be an area of need in the offseason. Steltz and Brandon Meriweather will be free agents, Chris Harris already got released and Wright is injury prone. Conte makes his share of mistakes, but he seems like a decent player who should get better with experience. But isn't it time the Bears try and land a home run hitter at safety? Enough of these mid-round picks (although I feel Steltz is vastly underrated and Conte has potential), safety is not a revolving door position. You just can't stick a bunch of new guys in there every year and expect it to work. While fans will no doubt be clamoring for the Bears to draft or sign a receiver or top flight offensive lineman, I want a stud safety. Is that too much to ask? After all, the Bears use a draft pick on the position every April.