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Monday, October 4, 2010
Free Head Exam: Chicago Bears

By Kevin Seifert
ESPN.com

After the Chicago Bears' 17-3 loss Sunday at the New York Giants, here are three issues that merit further examination:
    Head Exam
    The Chicago Bears take their turn in the examination room after their loss to the Giants.
  1. Offensive coordinator Mike Martz doesn't speak to reporters after games, so we can't speak with certainty about his game-planning or play-calling. But from the outside, however, it was completely perplexing and ultimately inexcusable to allow quarterback Jay Cutler to continue dropping back as the first-half sack totals piled up. Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora told NBC after the game that he felt comfortable focusing on the passing game because the Bears appeared to have given up on the run. The Bears played the first half like they were trailing 30-0 rather than 3-0, passing on 20 of their 27 first-half plays. Either Martz stubbornly failed to make adjustments or Cutler stubbornly failed to execute them. Regardless, the Bears' 110 offensive yards was their lowest total in four years.
  2. On occasion, it's necessary to rotate offensive linemen during a game to determine the best candidate for a starting job. But it should never be a long-term answer. But even before they were beset with another round of injuries, the Bears were rotating Roberto Garza and Edwin Williams at left guard and Kevin Shaffer with J'Marcus Webb at right tackle. Ultimately, Williams had to replace injured right guard Lance Louis. It's awfully hard to judge offensive line play from the outside, but if you think the constant rotation wasn't involved in some Giants rushers coming free, you're fooling yourself.
  3. It's amazing to see the role defensive end Julius Peppers has had on helping the Bears defense regain its swagger. Sunday night, he caused one turnover by knocking the ball out of quarterback Eli Manning's hands and helped create a frenzy on the line of scrimmage for most of the game. No matter what combination they tried, the Giants couldn't block him. His aggressiveness has spread throughout the defense, most notably to cornerback Zack Bowman on Sunday night. Bowman returned from a Week 3 benching to post three tackles and force a stunning fumble on Ahmad Bradshaw's breakaway run in the fourth quarter. The defense wasn't perfect, but after four weeks it's clear that Peppers has the Bears defense playing at an ambitious level.
And here is one issue I still don't get:
Will this game prove an aberration, or will it fulfill a trend that some would suggest has been building all season? There are many ways to win in the NFL, and the Bears won once this season when an opposing player had a potential game-winning touchdown taken off the scoreboard with 25 seconds left to play. They won another game when their opponents lost a touchdown and two turnovers as part of an 18-penalty mess. There are no asterisks on NFL records, and the Bears are 3-1. But did you watch Sunday night's game and think it was just a bad matchup? Or were the Bears exposed?