Free Head Exam: Chicago Bears

After the Chicago Bears' 30-13 loss Sunday to the New Orleans Saints, here are three issues that merit further examination:

  1. A series of injuries made it difficult to judge the Bears in several areas Sunday. At the top of the list was the offensive line, where the Bears finished with an entirely different right side. Chris Spencer was at right guard for Lance Louis and Frank Omiyale had replaced right tackle Gabe Carimi, who departed with a knee injury. Five of the Saints' six sacks came in the fourth quarter, and five of them also came when the Saints pinned back their ears and sent at least six pass-rushers. It's hard to come down too hard when a line featuring two injury replacements is overwhelmed by a pass rush that, because of the game situation, can disregard the running game and come after the quarterback.

  2. The Bears' secondary was also in shambles by the final whistle, with both starting safeties on the sideline. Chris Harris (hamstring) was inactive and Major Wright departed because of a concussion, but only after missing a tackle on Devery Henderson's 84-yard touchdown reception. So it's no surprise that the Bears' nickel and dime defense struggled Sunday. Saints quarterback Drew Brees completed 13 of 18 passes for 170 yards and two touchdowns on 19 plays in which the Bears had at least five defensive backs on the field, according to ESPN Stats & Information. But independent of having backup safeties in the game, the Bears also were unable to get much pressure from their defensive line in those situations. Those 19 plays included but one sack.

  3. The Bears were too reliant on tailback Matt Forte. He took 10 of the 11 carries by running backs and was targeted on a team-high 14 of Jay Cutler's 45 passing attempts. He caught 10 for 117 yards. I realize the Saints' pass rush probably had something to do with it, as did the chest injury to receiver Earl Bennett, but the Bears weren't able to get downfield at all Sunday. Receivers Devin Hester and Johnny Knox caught a combined three of the 15 passes Cutler threw in their direction. This season, Forte has touched the ball or been the intended target on nearly 40 percent of the Bears' plays. That's great for Forte, who is seeking a contract extension. But it makes things too easy on opposing defenses.

And here is one issue I still don't get:

I never understood exactly how linebacker Brian Urlacher was expected to erupt for the game of his life Sunday, a day after attending the funeral of his mother. No matter how motivated or emotionally raw Urlacher might have been at kickoff, a middle linebacker can't simply will himself to a rare performance in the way, say, Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre did after his father died in 2003. We've all seen Urlacher have monster games, but anyone in his position needs a confluence of favorable factors to produce a 20-tackle game. It was unrealistic to expect Urlacher to start throwing fellow NFL players around in a made-for-Hollywood storyline.