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Tuesday, October 11, 2011
Free Head Exam: Chicago Bears

By Kevin Seifert
ESPN.com

After the Chicago Bears' 24-13 loss to the Detroit Lions, here are three issues that merit further examination:
  1. Head Exam
    The Bears and their suddenly vulnerable defense head to the exam room following a loss to the Lions.
    Last week, I suggested holding off on a full-scale panic about the Bears' defense. I'm still not there yet. But a second look at Lions tailback Jahvid Best's 88-yard touchdown run revealed a Bears defense that hardly looked like a group that has seen it all. Of course, the Lions got two great blocks at the point of attack to create the hole. Guard Stephen Peterman and center Dominic Raiola double-teamed defensive tackle Matt Toeaina, while right tackle Gosder Cherilus turned out defensive end Israel Idonije. But linebacker Brian Urlacher and safety Chris Harris filled the same gap, between Peterman and Cherilus. Peterman got a piece of Urlacher and Best cut inside of Harris. Meanwhile, linebacker Lance Briggs fell for quarterback Matthew Stafford's play-fake and chased tight end Tony Scheffler away from the play for a few steps before realizing it was a run. The Lions deserve credit for their blocking and Best's speed, but the Bears played themselves out of position as well.
  2. By the end of the game, the Bears had moved right guard Lance Louis to right tackle and had inserted Edwin Williams at right guard. Right tackle Frank Omiyale was benched for a second consecutive week, and it's hard to imagine him starting Sunday night against the Minnesota Vikings. We'll get more clarity as the week progresses, but in many ways it feels like the Bears are back where they were midway through last season: Playing mix-and-match until they can find even a semi-permanent arrangement of offensive linemen.
  3. As we discussed earlier Tuesday in Stock Watch, quarterback Jay Cutler can't possibly feel great about the situation around him. Often Cutler makes it difficult on himself by making poor decisions, but on Monday night I saw a quarterback gamely trying to make the best of near-constant harassment and substantial limitations of his receiving corps. Even on a night when tailback Matt Forte rushed was rushing for 116 yards, Cutler was under duress more than any NFL quarterback in a game this season, according to ESPN Stats & Information. He took hits, dealt with an inexcusable nine false starts and kept looking for plays from a receiving group whose depth chart has been overturned by production. Dane Sanzenbacher and Sam Hurd were the Bears' leading receivers with six and four catches, respectively. When you see a player stand in as gamely as Cutler did Monday, you wonder what he might do with a better supporting cast.
And here is one issue I still don't get:
The Bears have been historically fluid at safety under coach Lovie Smith, and so I guess it shouldn't be surprising that we've reached Week 6 with little to no idea if the Bears have one credible safety on their roster, let alone two. Veteran Chris Harris returned to the lineup Monday night, but he got exposed while trying to cover Lions receiver Calvin Johnson downfield in the second quarter. Brandon Meriweather, signed just before the season, has yet to demonstrate he is an improvement over Major Wright, whom the Bears spent most of the offseason planning to use as a starter. You have to think it's a matter of time before we see rookie Chris Conte in the lineup.