Bears-Seahawks: Five things we learned
CHICAGO -- Here are five things we learned following the Seahawks 38-14 win over the Bears at Soldier Field:
1. Everything that can go wrong, has gone wrong: The Bears' impressive victory over San Diego feels like it happened years ago. Since the Bears improved to 7-3 in Week 11, they've lost multiple star players to injuries (Jay Cutler, Matt Forte, Johnny Knox), been the victim of a freak Hail Mary pass, had veterans make game-changing rookie mistakes, got Tebowed in Denver, saw Sam Hurd get arrested for allegedly trying to start up a sizable Midwestern drug operation, and now the latest, the Bears surrendered 31 answered points in the second half to Seattle. Are you kidding me? For all the good fortune showered on the Bears in 2010, they're receiving the exact opposite football karma down the stretch in 2011. That doesn't excuse the Bears from poor play, poor coaching and unwise front-office moves, but the amount of bad luck heaped on them following Cutler's thumb fracture is staggering. The Bears might officially remain in the NFC wild-card chase, but is sure doesn't feel like it.
2. The quarterback spot remains in flux: Based on the other options on the roster, I give Lovie Smith credit for sticking with Caleb Hanie the last four weeks, even if the quarterback rewarded the head coach's faith by throwing nine interceptions to three touchdowns, but it's probably time to let Josh McCown give it a shot on Christmas Day if Cutler can't return. Once you make that change, which Smith did near the end of the fourth quarter, it's difficult to go back. I don't anticipate the results being any better. In fact, it could get worse, but every player needs to be held accountable for this performance. Hanie's two interceptions that were returned for touchdowns were killers in the home loss to Seattle. It won't make for a very Merry Christmas in Green Bay with McCown at quarterback, or a Happy New Year in Minneapolis if rookie Nate Enderle gets the nod, but it's a results-based industry. The quarterback play simply hasn't been up to the par since Cutler got hurt, and now it's time to at the very least give the other guys a chance to improve the situation.
3. Kahlil Bell deserves more touches: I realize it's difficult to find positives in such a crushing defeat, but I thought Bell ran with a sense of purpose and toughness on Sunday. I'd much rather see Bell get the majority of the workload in Green Bay over Marion Barber, who did little with his 11 carries on Sunday. If Bell finishes the season strong, the Bears need to sign him to a new deal and let the aggressive rusher enter camp next summer as Matt Forte's backup come July. Of course, if Forte plans an extended holdout because of his contract situation, the Bears need to bring in another starting-caliber tailback. But Bell has proven he deserves a spot somewhere in the club's backfield moving forward, and he certainly deserves to touch the ball 20 or more times in each of the final two weeks of the regular season.
4. Cornerback is a serious area of need: For being undersized, Tim Jennings has been a serviceable cornerback for the Bears the past two years, but both he and Zack Bowman are free agents at the end of 2011. So is special teams ace Corey Graham. At times this year Charles Tillman resembled a Pro Bowler, other times not so much. With Tillman about to turn 31 in February, plus the expiring contract status of Jennings, Bowman and Graham, the Bears must be prepared to find at least one, preferably two new cornerbacks in the offseason. I respect the way Jennings handles himself on the field, but he had a bad game Sunday and got benched. Let Bowman start against Green Bay and Minnesota to see if he flashes some of the skills he had in 2009 when the defensive back intercepted a team-high six passes. If Bowman performs at a high-level, perhaps the Bears consider offering him a new deal to stay in town for a couple of more seasons. The Bears know what they have in Jennings. Do they really know for certain what they have in Bowman? Seems like the perfect time to find out, doesn't it?
5. The offensive line is far from set: Mike Tice held his group together for much of the year, but the offensive line has seen its share of breakdowns the past month. We know Lance Louis is a better guard than tackle, so I assume that will work itself out next summer when the Bears report to Bourbonnais. But we really don't know if Gabe Carimi is the answer at right tackle, and on the left side, J'Marcus Webb appeared to get beat repeatedly by the Seahawks' defense. Webb remains an enigma. Some games he looks really good, other games he resembles a seventh-round pick. Which is it? I assume Chris Spencer stays at guard next year, but how many more seasons does Roberto Garza have at center? Is Chris Williams a lock to be back with the first team? Based on Sunday's game, I need to see consistent play from my left tackle the next two weeks. If Webb ends the year on a high note, I feel better about the line in general heading into the offseason. If he struggles, that will be another major problem the Bears need to address via the draft and free agency.