Five Things We Learned: Bears-Rams
September, 23, 2012
By Jeff Dickerson | ESPNChicago.com
AP Photo/Nam Y. HuhMichael Bush has done more than an adequate job of filling in for the injured Matt Forte.CHICAGO -- Here are five things we learned following the Bears' 23-6 victory over the St. Louis Rams:
1. The demise of the Bears defense has been greatly exaggerated: I was wrong when I said after Week 1 that perhaps the Bears offense would be the strongest unit on the team, bucking the trend of the defense carrying the team since Lovie Smith took over in 2004. The defense won the game versus the Rams, especially the defensive line which sacked St. Louis quarterback Sam Bradford, 6.0 times, 2.5 of those courtesy of veteran defensive end Israel Idonije. But it wasn't just Idonije in the Rams' backfield, Julius Peppers, Stephen Paea, Amobi Okoye and rookie Shea McClellin were all disruptive on Sunday, and in the previous two weeks we also saw positive things from Henry Melton and Corey Wootton. It's truly been a collective effort and if the rotation continues to be strong behind the starters, that should help out veterans like Peppers and Idonije as the season wears on.
2. Maybe re-signing Tim Jennings was the best move of the offseason: Not to take anything away from Brandon Marshall, Michael Bush or Alshon Jeffery, but bringing back Jennings on a two-year deal in free agency seems like an absolute steal. There is nobody playing better football than Jennings, who recorded his fourth interception of the year, plus had several key pass breaks up: one on a critical fourth-and-1 and the other deflection wound up in the hands of Bears safety Major Wright who returned it for a touchdown. Bears nickel back D.J. Moore said after the game he might buy a ticket to Hawaii and go watch Jennings in the Pro Bowl this year if he makes it. After watching Jennings perform in the first three games, it might be a wise idea for Moore to start pricing out airline fares.
3. The offense is still searching for an identity: What are the Bears on offense? Are they a grind it out running team? Are they a team that is going to beat you through the air? Are they a combination of both? I'm still searching for the answer after three weeks, because if the Bears had played a good team on Sunday, they probably lose and we'd be stuck ripping the offense until the Dallas game next Monday night. On occasion, the Bears, Jay Cutler and offensive coordinator Mike Tice get themselves in a nice flow and we see isolated moments of brilliance. However, those moments can be fleeting because there never seems to be any prolonged consistency. You can get away with that when the opponent is a rebuilding Rams squad with a injury riddled offensive line. But what happens when the Bears face another legit club such as the Green Packers that will be able to put points of the board regardless of how the Bears defense is playing?
4. Jeffery is the best No. 2 option in the passing game: Smart move to put Jeffery back in the starting line up and showcase him versus the Rams to the tune of seven targets after he disappeared in Week 2 at Green Bay. Next to Marshall, he needs to be Cutler's second option when the Bears throw the football. Earl Bennett does an excellent job in the slot, but the 6-foot-3 Jeffery has proven to be a difficult assignment for defenders on the outside, even though the rookie had a bad drop early against St. Louis. Jeffery does need to get stronger, but he knows how to play the position after he dominated his second year at South Carolina in the SEC. If Cutler fires that fourth quarter high pass in the end zone to Jeffery, instead of Devin Hester, the Bears score a touchdown rather than settle for a field goal. Believe me, it wasn't a good throw by Cutler, but the beauty of having big receivers like Marshall and Jeffery is they clean up the quarterback's mistakes. I have a feeling that as time wears on Cutler will start to appreciate Jeffery more and more.
5. Bush is an adequate replacement for Matt Forte: The hope is Forte returns from his ankle sprain soon, but in the event he misses more than just one game, the Bears are in pretty good hands with Bush and Kahlil Bell. Granted, Bush isn't Forte, but he runs hard throughout the entire game. Frankly, I like that Bush has a chip on his shoulder and is desperate to prove to fans he's more than simply a short-yardage back. Motivated players tend to be the most productive. There is no doubt that Bush played better than his final numbers of 55 rushing yards and 18 receiving yards might indicate, plus he's a proven threat on the goal line when he carries the ball. Although I disagreed with Bell's decision to refuse a pay cut in the preseason, he's a good player who the Bears are lucky to have on their roster. Besides his ball security issues and somewhat inflated sense of self worth, Bell is the kind of guy you want because he goes hard every single time he touches the football. Can't say that about everybody in this league.