Third and one: Bears

Posted by ESPN.com’s Kevin Seifert

After Chicago’s 30-6 victory over Cleveland, here are three (mostly) indisputable facts I feel relatively sure about:

  1. Tailback Matt Forte needed 26 carries to churn out 90 yards. He didn’t have a run of more than 12 yards, but I had no problem with his performance Sunday. Why? Forte rushed for two touchdowns, both in the red zone. Scoring is the great equalizer in measuring performance, and for weeks the Bears have been struggling in the red zone. Forte might never be the type of back who consistently averages 4-plus yards per carry. But if he can be a consistent weapon in the red zone, closing out drives with touchdowns if quarterback Jay Cutler falters or falls under heavy pressure, then he’ll close a huge gap in the Bears offense.

  2. I think we now know why the Bears were so eager to replace left guard Josh Beekman during the offseason. Free agent Frank Omiyale hasn’t been the answer thus far, but Beekman didn’t perform much better Sunday against the Browns. Granted, he was matched up often against one of the NFL’s best defensive tackles in Shaun Rogers. But the physical manhandling he absorbed at times illustrates the size and strength deficiencies the Bears identified in the offseason.

  3. It looks like the Bears have settled on Hunter Hillenmeyer as their middle linebacker with Nick Roach on the strong side. I’m all for that decision. All things equal, I’d rather have a veteran getting everyone lined up with the younger and faster player outside. That’s the way it sets up with Hillenmeyer and Roach. Lance Briggs, of course, remains on the weak side. Coach Lovie Smith said Monday he is “pleased” with the arrangement and added: “That’s the way we wanted to go before Hunter went down” earlier this season with a rib injury. More than anything, I think the inconsistency the Bears have had at middle linebacker is a reflection of how we all took Brian Urlacher’s leadership and organizational skills for granted in recent years.

And here’s one question I’m still asking:

When will Devin Hester return another punt for a touchdown? They once seemed to come every week, but it’s now been 23 weeks of NFL games since he last scored on a punt return; a 64-yarder against New Orleans on Dec. 30, 2007. Hester got close a couple of times Sunday, getting tackled by punter Dave Zastudil after a 32-yarder and then having a 69-yard touchdown called back because of a holding penalty on Rashied Davis. Soon enough.