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Sunday, December 23, 2012
Five Things We Learned: Bears-Cardinals

By Jeff Dickerson



GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Here are five things we learned in the Chicago Bears' 28-13 victory over the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday:

1. The season lives on: Did the Bears dominate the Cardinals? Not really. Does it matter? Not really. It was a game the Bears had to win thanks to the Minnesota Vikings defeating the Houston Texans, and they did. The Bears remain a team with a highly suspect and flawed offense that inspires little confidence, but their defense can still inflict some damage, coming up with two defensive touchdowns, three takeaways and four sacks in the win. It was a forgettable afternoon for the special teams, with the exception of the Cardinals’ thwarted fake field goal, but generally speaking, that unit is going to perform at an acceptable level. To steal a phrase from the great Denny Green, “The Bears are who we thought they were.” A slightly above average team that can beat up on lesser opponents but really haven’t proven they can beat anybody good. But right now, that’s OK. All that matters for this team is they make the playoffs, which remains an attainable goal despite their second half of the season slide. A win is a win. It sure beats the alternative. Can you imagine what a miserable week it would have been at Halas Hall had the Bears lost on Sunday?

2. The offense continues to confuse: No rhyme, no reason. That continues to be the slogan for the Bears’ 2012 offense. Jay Cutler can’t complete a pass: let’s keep throwing. Matt Forte is ripping off big chunks of yards on the ground: let’s stop running. Cutler was at his best during the hurry-up offense on Sunday, where he presumably was calling his own plays. So take it for what it’s worth. But what is wrong with the check down? In the second half, the Bears did a somewhat better job hitting on a couple of underneath routes. But in the first half, it was all or nothing. Where is the rhythm? Where is the flow? The amazing thing is the Bears offensive line did a pretty good job against the Cardinals, and the offense still only managed two touchdowns. Even with this offense, the Bears can still go to Detroit and win. But if you think the Bears can score enough points in the postseason to hang with potential first round foes like Green Bay or San Francisco, all I can say is: Good luck.

Julius Peppers
The Bears' Julius Peppers sacks Cardinals quarterback Brian Hoyer on Sunday. He had three sacks in the game.
3. Julius Peppers dominated: Full disclosure: I couldn’t name a single member of Arizona’s offensive line before the game. And I still can’t now. That group is about as bad as it gets up front. That being said, it was important to see Peppers take control of the game to the tune of three sacks and four tackles for a loss. The Bears are going to need superhuman efforts from the their defensive starters if they even have a shot to advance in the playoffs, if they qualify. Peppers has been bothered all year by an ankle injury, but he moved like a younger player on Sunday with fresh legs. It was refreshing.

4. Where is Devin Hester going?: This is not meant to be a weekly rip job on Hester, because he is still the greatest return man in the history of the game, but he did not look sharp on punt return. The whole running backwards thing is probably not going to sit well with Lovie Smith and Dave Toub. And I’m not pointing fingers on the punt that hit D.J. Moore and Arizona recovered, but it sure looked as if Moore had no idea the ball was coming directly at him. The return man needs to give his blockers a heads up under those circumstances. Unfortunately for Hester, the Bears don’t seem intent on using him much at wide receiver moving forward, which makes him that much more important in the return game. We all know what Hester’s primary role is now in the wake of the Cutler interception versus Green Bay, which seemed to be more on the quarterback than the wideout: it’s returning kicks. With a suspect offense, the Bears need points any way they can get them. That means the Bears need Hester. Maybe now more than ever.

5. QB talent in the desert is drying up: Arizona head coach Ken Whisenhunt took the Cardinals to their first ever Super Bowl three years ago, but he is in dire straits because of the quarterback position. Ryan Lindley? Brian Hoyer? You got to be kidding me. Arizona might have the worst collection of quarterbacks this side of the 2004 Bears. Whisenhunt can’t win with these guys, and it could cost a good head coach his job. The fact Larry Fitzgerald can record a 100-yard receiving game with this group of quarterbacks only magnifies his brilliance. Bears fans have legitimate concerns about Cutler, but just remember it could always be worse. The Bears could be the Cardinals. All they want here for Christmas is a quarterback who can play. That might be a holiday miracle too difficult for even Santa Claus to deliver.