Bears-Packers: Five things we learned

December, 26, 2011
12/26/11
9:30
AM ET
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Here are five things we learned following the Chicago Bears' 35-21 loss to the Green Bay Packers on Sunday at Lambeau Field:

1. McCown deserves to start at Minnesota: We spent all week bracing ourselves for the worst, but veteran Josh McCown turned in a very respectable performance at quarterback, even though the Bears lost the game by 14 points. With McCown at the helm, the Bears had 441 total yards of offense, won the time of possession battle 35:48 to 24:12 and converted 50 percent of their third-down conversions (6 of 12). Not bad for a quarterback who last started an NFL game in 2007. McCown needs to be commended for injecting some life in an offense that had gone stale for a variety of reasons since Jay Cutler fractured his thumb on Nov. 20. Let him start the regular-season finale versus the Vikings, then make a final determination whether or not McCown belongs on the Bears quarterback depth chart in 2012. Right now, I'd say the odds look pretty good McCown sticks on the roster, but we should hold off until we see a larger body of work. Players who rise to the occasion need to be rewarded, which is why McCown needs to play next Sunday instead of rookie Nathan Enderle. If Enderle had shown anything of substance, he would have been active for the Packers game. I want to see more McCown. When is the last time you heard that phrase muttered?

[+] EnlargeKahlill Bell
AP Photo/Mike RoemerBears running back Kahlil Bell made the most of his opportunity on Sunday.
2. Bell needs a larger role in 2012: The Bears need to hedge their bets in the backfield because of Matt Forte's contract situation, but there is absolutely no question Kahlil Bell should enter training camp as the No. 2 tailback if Forte remains in the roster. Give me Bell any day of the week over injury-prone and football-challenged Marion Barber, who surprise, surprise, missed the Packers game because of a bad calf. Bell ran with a purpose Sunday night, going over the 100-yard mark on 23 carries, while also catching four passes for 38 yards. I even liked what Armando Allen did in a backup role with 11 rushing attempts, and hope to see more of Allen on New Year’s Day in Minnesota. Bell, scheduled to be a restricted free agent following the season, might generate some interest in free agency, so I'll be curious to see what type of tender the Bears place on him in the offseason.

3. The organization needs to think long and hard about safety: You can't tell me the safety combination of the future is Chris Conte and Major Wright. Conte, maybe, although he missed his share of tackles before going on injured reserve with a foot injury. But how can you continue to sell me on Wright? His overall play on the Packers’ first drive of the second half is about as bad as it gets. First, he gives a half-hearted effort and whiffs while trying to tackle Ryan Grant on a 24-yard gain. Two plays later, he gets all turned around and allows Jordy Nelson to beat him deep for a 55-yard touchdown. This is not an isolated incident with Wright. It's happened numerous times in less than two years. Plus, he's always hurt. Put it this way; if Wright wasn't a former third-round pick, would he receive all these chances? No way. Bears need to re-sign Craig Steltz to be the strong and go look for a home-run hitter at free safety, either in the first or second round or in free agency.

4. Bears should have held out Hester: I realize we give players grief for missing time (Barber), but Devin Hester wasn't able to give you anything in the return game because of a bad ankle. It got to the point where he was almost a liability on punt and kickoff returns. If he's that gimpy next week, let Earl Bennett and perhaps Allen handle return duties to close out the season. Hester really hasn't been able to play through these nagging injuries, so sit him down and allow him to heal up for the offseason. Hester said last week that a return man playing with a sprained ankle is the equivalent of a quarterback throwing with broken rings. He was spot on.

5. Jones would be the Bears’ No. 1 receiver: James Jones is basically the fifth option in Green Bay, but they would build him a statue in Chicago. It's a joke. The philosophy about paying wide receivers in free agency needs to change next offseason. Bennett is a good player, but he needs to be paired with a legitimate threat at the position. The quarterback does not make the receiver. A receiver makes himself. Spend the money and get a good one in free agency. That's my unsolicitated -- and probably unwanted -- advice to the Bears.

Jeff Dickerson | email

Chicago Bears beat reporter
Dickerson has been the Bears beat reporter for ESPN Chicago since 2004. He also hosts weeknight radio shows on ESPN 1000.

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