EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Here are five things we learned after watching the Bears' 17-3 loss to the Giants.
1. The offensive line will be an issue all year:Give the line credit for making adjustments against Green Bay and Dallas, but absolutely nothing worked in New York. Nothing. But we all knew this was going to be a problem spot for the Bears. Outside of Olin Kreutz, there isn't a superstar-caliber player in the bunch. Roberto Garza and Kevin Shaffer are proud veterans, but neither is a Pro Bowl-type performer. Frank Omiyale has limited experience, Lance Louis (left with a knee injury) and J'Marcus Webb are seventh-round picks, and Edwin Williams was just elevated from the practice squad. Without question, Kreutz and offensive line coach Mike Tice provide excellent leadership, but in the end you need talent to win in the NFL. The young players certainly could pan out, it just might not happen quickly enough.
2. Kreutz only talks to the media when it matters: The NFL needs more guys like Kreutz, a veteran who always steps up the plate in the Bears' darkest hours. "We just have to [expletive] block people, period," Kreutz said in the postgame locker room. "That's what we have to do. This is nothing on Martz's play-calling. No, we know what system we are in. It's buck up or get out, period." Amen. Although the coordinator and quarterback need to shoulder some of the blame for the disastrous results Sunday night, even if Kreutz refuses to say so publicly.
3. The run game is turning into a concern: It's easy to write off a subpar run game when the team is winning. But it's impossible when you lose, especially after the offensive line/tight ends were humiliated in their attempts to protect a trio of Bears quarterbacks. There are going to be times in the year when the Bears need to pick up yards on the ground, and Sunday night was one of those times. It didn't happen. Matt Forte only averaged 2.2 yards per carry on 12 attempts, while once again, this line proved incapable of converting in short-yardage situations. This has been a problem for years. When is it going to be fixed?
4. The defense needs help: If you follow Bears football, you've seen this story before. A great defensive effort is wasted because the offense can't stay on the field. The defense was the only reason the Bears were even in this game in the second half, but the unit eventually wore down and allowed New York to score a late touchdown, courtesy of great field position. Obviously, the Giants' combination of Ahmad Bradshaw (129 yards, 1 TD) and Brandon Jacobs (62 yards, 1 TD) had a big night on the ground, but the Bears forced three turnovers and held Eli Manning below 200 yards passing. This one is not on the defense. Not by a long shot.
5. The Bears next stretch is critical: Believe it or not, the Bears are still in really good shape at 3-1, because this entire conference is mediocre. Look at the teams the Bears have faced up to this point: Detroit, Dallas, Green Bay and New York -- none of them look very good. That's why it's so crucial the Bears bounce back from this loss. The next four games present the Bears with road matchups versus Carolina and Buffalo, and home dates against Seattle and Washington. Those teams are a combined 4-12. If the Bears, in a worst case scenario, can split the next four games, they would enter that November Minnesota home contest at 5-3. In this conference, any team at 5-3 would be sitting pretty.