Free Head Exam: Chicago Bears
September, 24, 2012
By Kevin Seifert | ESPNChicago.com
After the Chicago Bears' 23-6 victory over the St. Louis Rams, here are three issues that merit further examination:
- To this point, the Bears' 41-point explosion in Week 1 against the Indianapolis Colts is looking like the exception rather than the rule. The Bears obviously have a talented group of skill players, and Michael Bush is the best No. 2 running back in the Matt Forte era. But there is clearly a level of cohesion missing through three weeks. The Rams have made good defensive showings now against the Bears and Detroit Lions, and they are no pushovers. But quarterback Jay Cutler connected on fewer than half of his first 12 throws, a turn of events that made clear the Bears would have to grind this game out.ESPN.com
- For as much scrutiny as the Bears' offense has faced in the past few weeks, their defense is continuing to play classic Rod Marinelli football. Sunday, the Bears sent four or fewer pass-rushers on 86 percent of quarterback Sam Bradford's drop backs. Still, they sacked him five times and intercepted him twice in those situations. In their two victories this season, the Bears have held opposing quarterbacks to 50 percent completions, no touchdowns and four interceptions via their standard pass rush. We've discussed many times how valuable an effective four-man rush is. The Bears can devote maximum personnel to coverage, among many other advantages. Overall, the Bears lead the NFL at the moment with 14 sacks.
- Cornerback Tim Jennings continues to be the Bears' best defensive player through three games. A seeming afterthought in the offseason, Jennings already has hit his career high of four interceptions and has broken up a total of nine passes. According to Pro Football Focus, opposing quarterbacks have a 19.7 passer rating on throws he is responsible for. That's tied for fourth best in the NFL behind Darrelle Revis, Antonio Cromartie and Kareem Jackson. That's how spot on Jennings has been in coverage this season.
Brian Urlacher broke up a couple of passes Sunday but they have been among a relatively small group of "flash plays." In three games, he has been credited with 14 tackles and has neither a sack, a forced fumble nor a fumble recovery. The Bears' defense has played at an elite level all season and Urlacher is its leader. So does that mean Urlacher has answered all questions about his status after a summer full of drama? Here's what Urlacher said to the Fox postgame show in Chicago: "I think I'll get better and better every week. My legs will get underneath me and I'll get in better shape. [The knee] is good. If it wasn't good, I wouldn't be playing. So I feel good about it." It's fair to say that Urlacher hasn't been the player he was in his prime, but to this point the Bears haven't needed him to be.