CHICAGO -- Here are Five Things We Learned following the Bears' exciting 38-34 win over the New York Jets.
1. Bears always have the edge on special teams: The Bears knew the Jets would try something sneaky on special teams, so Dave Toub prepared his unit all week for a fake. When it happened, the Bears were ready, and Rashied Davis' play in the third quarter swung the momentum back in the Bears' favor. Toub also jacked up the pressure on New York by using Johnny Knox, Davis and Danieal Manning as up men on kickoff return with Devin Hester back deep. That formation left the Jets with few choices, so somebody dangerous usually ended up with the ball in his hands, and the Bears tended to benefit from good field position. Throw in a big Brad Maynard punt (49 yards) when the Bears really needed it, a Hester 38-yard punt return, a huge hit by Davis and Brian Iwuh, and it was another clutch day for special teams -- despite a rare miss by Robbie Gould on a field goal.
2. The defense can't function without pressure: Not to rain on anybody's parade, but the Jets killed the Bears on those quick little slant routes and with the tight end down the middle of the field. That shouldn't be a surprise, since all those routes are standard Cover 2 beaters, but the Bears usually keep that in check because the front four generates enough pressure. That wasn't the case against the Jets. Mark Sanchez wasn't even sacked. That's a problem. Plus, the defensive line got knocked around in the run game, as Shonn Greene averaged 5.8 yards per carry on 12 attempts. Not good. The offense bailed out the Bears on Sunday, but will the same thing happen in the playoffs? On a side note, if you play the Jets in the playoffs, just load up with an extra tight end in the box and pound the ball on the ground. Then use some play action and exploit that awful secondary. Besides Darrelle Revis, the Bears had a field day against Antonio Cromartie, Drew Coleman and Dwight Lowery.
3. The Chris Harris trade was a wise one: I was worried about Harris after watching the veteran endure a shaky preseason, but 15 games into the regular season, my doubts are long gone. Harris is clutch, and now has three game-ending interceptions -- five total -- on the season, and continues to be a force supporting the run in the box. The safety led the Bears in tackles against the Jets -- 11, according to the official NFL stats distributed in the press box -- and also recovered a key fumble. It goes without saying Harris needs to stay on the field for every snap, but would it be smart to tack a few more years on his contract? Harris is only signed through 2011, and if Lovie Smith remains in Chicago, who would run this defense better than the "Hitman" from the safety position?
4. Matt Forte is getting stronger: That's now four times in the past six games Forte has eclipsed 90 yards rushing, and his 113-yard effort versus the Jets may go down as his finest performance of the season. New York, like the Bears, is known for its defense, but Forte muscled his way out of tackles almost the entire game. His ability to catch the ball out of the backfield -- why was Jason Taylor covering Forte on that wheel route that almost resulted in a touchdown? -- adds an extra threat the Bears' offense. This has been a rough year for Chester Taylor, but I continue to maintain his mere presence alone has helped preserve Forte for much of 2010. You cannot overstate how important it will be for the Bears to run the ball effectively in the postseason. With Forte playing at this level, Bears fans probably feel pretty good about their chances.
5. Mark Sanchez is more than a game manager: The Bears probably didn't give Sanchez enough respect heading into the game. All week, the defense downplayed Sanchez's importance to the Jets' offense, but the Jets quarterback proved he was up to the task by throwing for 269 yards and a touchdown. Plus, Sanchez was extremely mobile and difficult to bring down -- the Bears had no sacks -- and also made relatively sound decisions with the football. Not bad for guy with a bad shoulder who was somewhat questionable to play earlier in the week.