What we learned yesterday about the Chicago Bears:
- Through the first ten games of the season, the Bears showed they could beat the teams they’re supposed to beat, and unfortunately that they cannot beat contending teams. (Note that I didn’t say will not, I hope they will, but so far they have not.) Yesterday they showed that they can beat the in-between teams, those that are potentially good enough to squeak in to the playoffs. So that’s good, but the Bears’ season will be ending if they can’t beat the good teams.
- Untimely injuries have arrived. Each year that the Bears have contended (other than 2006 when two enormous injuries on defense probably killed their shot at winning the Super Bowl), the Bears have been remarkably lucky regarding injuries. That luck went out the window when they lost a starting receiver (Devin Hester), both starting guards (Chris Spencer and Lance Louis), their starting running back (Matt Forte) and their All Pro cornerback (Charles Tillman). When Louis-who the Bears have called their most consistent lineman-went down, I immediately wondered who would fill in there. The answer was benched tackle Gabe Carimi, who played well enough to get through one game. The good news is with 2012 signings like Michael Bush and Kelvin Hayden, I feel much better about the Bears depth than I did a year ago. But the extent of the injuries, as well as the impact to the already-shaky offensive line, remains to be seen.
- When the Bears traded for Brandon Marshall, honestly I still thought that something would keep him from becoming the first Bear to catch passes for over 1,000 yards in a season since Marty Booker last did it in 2002. Seriously, I still didn’t think it would happen. So I was wrong when yesterday Marshall eclipsed the mark after just 11 games. He now has 1,017 yards…and did I see that right, 81 receptions already? I’d say Marshall is a lock to smash all of the Bears’ single-season records in 2012.
- Jay Cutler has gotten me wondering several times this season whether he ever will be what we thought he would when he was acquired in 2009. But granted, it’s a shame we can’t currently watch him play behind a real NFL offensive line, hopefully someday we will. Anyone can say what they want about Cutler, but yesterday despite one interception, he was on fire. The way he perfectly placed a few balls for Marshall and tight end Matt Spaeth was amazing. If Cutler continues to show accuracy as he did yesterday, this could be a great final five weeks of the regular season.
- The Packers can be beaten after all. Or can they only be beaten consistently by the Giants? Regardless, the CAN be beaten. In 2012′s first meeting, the Bears may have done so themselves if not for Green Bay’s fake field goal and a woeful performance by Chicago’s offense. Lovie Smith needs to live by the words he used when he was hired in Chicago and remember that any hopes for the postseason hinge on beating his team’s top rivals.
- Finally, that was an amazing blessing that the Giants gave Chicago by beating the Packers. On a Sunday when the Bears faced dropping to third place (had they lost and Green Bay won), instead they are again leading the NFC North. With tough games on the road at Minnesota and Detroit as well as a home challenge against the solid Seahawks, it’s unrealistic to think the Bears will win out. But they damn well better focus their entire season, hell their entire decade, on finally beating the Packers on December 16th.