1. Devin Hester, WR/PR/KR: One of the bright spots on an otherwise dark performance, Hester returned a second-half kickoff 61 yards to set up Chicago’s only touchdown in Sunday’s 36-7 beatdown by the Patriots. Hester remains one return touchdown shy of the NFL record, but his production as a receiver has dipped somewhat due to limited snaps. He’s registered just three receptions in the past two weeks, but his contributions on special teams make up for that.
2. Danieal Manning, S/KR: Perhaps it’s too early to start discussing now, but the Bears might need to consider rewarding Manning with a lucrative extension to prevent him from going into free agency. Playing on a one-year tender, Manning has finally come around as a safety, and provides added value as a return man. Against the Patriots, Manning finished second on the team in tackles (eight) and returned four kickoffs for 124 yards.
3. Brian Urlacher, LB: Chicago’s model of consistency on defense, Urlacher has reached double-digit tackle totals in seven games this season, including 40 stops over the past three weeks alone. Against the Patriots, Urlacher broke up three passes and registered his fourth sack of the season, which puts him at 41½ for his career. Urlacher needs a half sack to move into a tie with Adewale Ogunleye and Trace Armstrong for fifth in team history.
1. Charles Tillman, CB: Tillman wasn’t the only defender to experience an off game against the Patriots, but his struggles were more pronounced when Deion Branch caught a 59-yard touchdown at the end of the first half. The bottom line is that Branch and Wes Welker both finished with more than 100 yards receiving on 16 receptions. Tillman played a big part in that. Lauded earlier in the season for his ability to force turnovers, Tillman hasn’t registered one since Nov. 18.
2. Jay Cutler, QB: It’s clear that when the Bears rely on Cutler and the passing game for offensive production, the quarterback typically comes up short, reverting to the turnover-prone player we’ve seen since his arrival. Cutler hasn’t produced more than two consecutive games with passer ratings over 100 since September of last season (and he’s only done that once in his career). Until Cutler gains consistency, Chicago’s status as a contender will always be in question.
3. Johnny Knox, WR: It’s definitely an indictment on the receiving corps when a team’s No. 1 receiver has just one 100-yard game the entire season. Knox has scored just one touchdown in his past six games, and hasn’t hauled in more than three balls in three consecutive outings. So that’s bad enough. Compounding that is his fumble returned for a touchdown Sunday against the Patriots that basically put away the game way too early.