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Monday, September 28, 2009
Third and one: Bears

By Kevin Seifert
ESPN.com


Posted by ESPN.com’s Kevin Seifert


After Chicago’s 25-19 victory at Seattle, here are three (mostly) indisputable facts I feel relatively sure about:
  1. If it were possible, the Bears are counting on linebacker Lance Briggs more than ever now. We already know Brian Urlacher is out for the season. Now we’re uncertain about Urlacher’s replacement, Hunter Hillenmeyer, who left Sunday’s game because of a rib injury. Briggs was all over Qwest Field on Sunday, responding with seven tackles, two tackles behind the line of scrimmage, a sack and a diving interception. As always, it’s up to elite players to make up the difference when injuries arise.
  2. I like receiver Johnny Knox’s mentality. When I first saw Sunday’s box score listing his seven-yard touchdown catch, I didn’t have high expectations. But after watching the play, I not only saw how determined he was to score. I also saw a pretty sophisticated approach to curling the ball around the pylon. That’s another skill you don’t see too often from rookie receivers. Toss in a 53-yard kickoff return, and Knox has now produced at least one big play in his first three NFL games.
  3. Cornerback Charles Tillman is one of the best ball-strippers in the NFL, but he needs to do a better job sometimes of weighing the risks and rewards of that approach. He was unable to pry the ball away from Seahawks running back Julius Jones in the first quarter and found himself in no position to make a tackle. So Jones scampered free for a 39-yard touchdown play. Forcing a fumble can be a game-changing play, but it shouldn’t take the place of a sure tackle when a player has broken into the open field.

And here’s one question I’m still asking:
Will Hillenmeyer’s injury force the Bears to turn to Derrick Brooks? The Bears passed on signing the veteran free agent when Urlacher was first injured, but their depth is thinner now. There is no clear consensus about whether Brooks has anything left, and it’s notable that no other team has attempted to sign him three weeks into the season. But Brooks is close with coach Lovie Smith, knows the defense and could give some the Bears some emergency/short-term help if they feel they need it.