Print and Go Back ESPN.com: NFC North [Print without images]

Monday, December 6, 2010
Free Head Exam: Chicago Bears

By Kevin Seifert
ESPN.com

After the Chicago Bears' 24-20 victory against the Detroit Lions, here are three issues that merit further examination:
    Head Exam
    The Chicago Bears take their turn in the examination room after beating Detroit.
  1. It was interesting to hear linebacker Brian Urlacher's response Sunday when asked about the much-discussed personal foul call on Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. Urlacher wanted no part of the suggestion that it might have aided the Bears' winning drive. "Wouldn't have mattered," Urlacher said. "We probably would have scored, anyway." I didn't find a place for that quote in Sunday's post on quarterback Jay Cutler, but I found it a telling revelation of how much trust Cutler has engendered from this team. Whether or not referee Ed Hochuli had made the call against Suh, Urlacher was confident Cutler would get the Bears into the end zone. I don't know if you could have said that last year or even earlier this season.
  2. In his first four seasons, place-kicker Robbie Gould attempted only two field goals of 50 yards or more. He missed both. But Gould began extending his range in 2009 and is now at the point where coach Lovie Smith didn't hesitate about sending him onto the field Sunday for a 54-yard attempt. Gould drilled the kick, his longest ever, and has now converted five of seven kicks from 50 yards or longer in his career. I'm not sure if he gets a 54-yard attempt from the grass at Soldier Field, but establishing this type of range -- while maintaining his impeccable accuracy inside 40 yards -- gives the Bears an added weapon as the playoffs approach. Gould hasn't missed a kick inside 40 yards since 2007, and in his career he has converted 58 of 62 from that range.
  3. Urlacher was around the ball a lot Sunday, but I was surprised to see the unofficial press box stats listed him with 17 tackles -- nine solos with eight assists. The Bears will release their own tackle statistics later this week based on coaches' film review, but if the 17 stands up, it will be Urlacher's highest single-game total since his infamous 25-tackle game against the Arizona Cardinals in 2006. If nothing else, the total shows how active, healthy and relatively fresh he is this late in the season. Perhaps the most indicative play came with six minutes, 36 seconds remaining in the game. On a delayed blitz, Urlacher sprinted almost 15 yards, blew past running back Maurice Morris and got a share of a sack on Lions quarterback Drew Stanton.
And here is one issue I don't get:
Receiver Earl Bennett appeared to be an afterthought in Mike Martz's precision offense, but he is emerging as Cutler's most trusted target. In the past two games, Bennett has caught 11 passes for 160 yards and two touchdowns. When you watch him play, nothing in particular stands out. He's not a big guy and he's not a speedster. But he has a competitive edge that shouldn't be overlooked. About 25 of the 33 yards on his big second-quarter reception came after the catch, and he dragged Lions defensive backs Alphonso Smith and Amari Spievey the final 10 yards. I'm not sure how he is doing it, but it's clear that Bennett understands the game and now knows how to make this scheme work for him.