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5 things we learned vs. Rams

11/24/2013

ST. LOUIS -- Here are five things we learned in the Chicago Bears’ 42-21 loss to the St. Louis Rams:

1. The run defense is disastrous: As defensive end Corey Wootton accurately stated in the postgame locker room, the Bears are not going to make the playoffs unless they show some improvement against the run. Even with three Kellen Clemens kneel-downs at the end of the game, the Rams still rushed for 258 yards and three touchdowns (8.9 yards per carry) on 29 attempts. The St. Louis running lanes were enormous. Rams’ rushers were routinely able to turn the corner and bust runs to the outside. St. Louis took everything it wanted, and more. This is the worst run defense I can ever remember seeing the Bears play. Injuries are partly to blame, but why are certain players chronically in the wrong gaps? Are the players just bad? Is it the coaches? The scheme? There are plenty of questions but, it seems, very few answers.

2. Bears come out flat, yet again: With St. Louis fresh off its bye, Bears coach Marc Trestman reduced practice time this week in an effort to boost the team’s stamina and endurance level. It didn’t work. For the second consecutive week the Bears fell behind early. But unlike the Ravens game, the team wasn’t going to be saved by a weather delay in the controlled climate of the Edward Jones Dome. The Bears were down 14-0 before the majority of the crowd had taken their seats. Why is this team not ready to play?

3. Defense needs to be gutted: On the conservative side; the Bears probably need a minimum of four new starters next year on defense, depending on who the club decides to re-sign in the offseason. Though the Bears' uneven play at safety has received plenty of attention, I still argue this organization is desperate for a bona fide pass-rushing defensive end since Julius Peppers is close to reaching the end of his playing career. In a perfect world, a team doesn’t spend a first-round pick on defensive end twice in a three-year span, but these are desperate times. Corey Wootton has played well enough to be a starter in 2014, preferably at his natural defensive end position. After that, good luck.

4. Josh McCown keeps rolling: I realize Jay Cutler is likely itching to return, but I cannot stress this enough: The Bears need to stick with McCown until Cutler is close to 100 percent. McCown has not played a poor game the entire season. Yes, he did turn the football over twice in the fourth quarter, but look at the numbers: 36-of-47 for 352 yards, two touchdowns, one interception and a 102.4 quarterback rating. For the season, McCown’s passer rating is 100.8. They should make a movie based on his season. I’m well-aware Cutler is tremendously talented and obviously the better overall player, but when a guy is on a hot streak leave him alone. McCown is more than capable of beating the Minnesota Vikings next week. Then maybe Cutler will be ready for the Dallas Cowboys on Dec. 9 or the Cleveland Browns on Dec. 15. Forcing Cutler back out there before he’s ready just doesn’t make any sense.

5. There is a hidden positive in the Kyle Long meltdown: The Bears have committed way too many penalties in the past two weeks (10 for 84 yards on Sunday) and, of course, nobody wants to see their team hit with a 15-yard personal foul (and Long is probably lucky he didn’t get ejected). But I take a small amount of satisfaction that Long went to the lengths he did to protect McCown. Offensive linemen -- at least the good ones -- are supposed to be nasty and physical on the field. I can live with Long occasionally losing his cool, because I lived through the J’Marcus Webb era. Webb has/had all the talent in the world, but he never showed anybody that he cared. Long cares. So do the rest of the starting five. They take it personally. And if that means Long starts a fight every so often, so be it. It’s better than the alternative.