(We're sprucing up our day-after-game posts here on the NFC North blog, but the structure remains the same.)
I wasn't a big fan of linebacker Lance Briggs' post-game manifesto against the "critics," but I did agree with one of his statements: Linebacker Brian Urlacher was all over the field in his first regular-season game since dislocating his wrist in the 2009 season opener. Urlacher finished with eight solo tackles, including a sack and three others behind the line of scrimmage, and showed some of his old sideline-to-sideline speed. The play that really stood out came in the first quarter, when he chased Lions tailback Jahvid Best to the sideline and dove over a pile of players to take him down for a two-yard loss. It's a long season. But so far, so good for Urlacher.
It's been interesting to watch the evolution of the Bears' safety position. Transition was expected, but not necessarily in the manner it played out Sunday. While Danieal Manning played the entire game at strong safety, Chris Harris split time with rookie Major Wright at free safety. Harris had a poor preseason, and his history with the organization and coach Lovie Smith might have earned him the respect of getting the Week 1 start. But when a team's top draft choice starts rotating with a veteran, you figure it's just a matter of time before you have a new starter. "The plan was to rotate both," Smith said. "Major had been doing some good things. We feel good about all three of our safeties. Major has a lot of range."
As the Bears lined up for what would be their winning touchdown play, Lions safety Louis Delmas originally thought the ball was coming his way. The Lions were playing a straight man-to-man defense, Delmas said, and he was assigned to tight end Greg Olsen. "He's an excellent receiver," Delmas said. "But I think they saw a matchup they liked better." Indeed, credit goes to Bears quarterback Jay Cutler for spotting tailback Matt Forte lined up wide against Lions linebacker Julian Peterson. Forte is going to win that matchup every time, and Cutler put just enough air under the ball for Forte to collect a 28-yard scoring strike.
And here is one issue I still don't get:
Why isn't Forte a better goal-line runner? As we noted Sunday, Forte had one of the worst goal-to-go ratio of carries to touchdowns in the NFL last season. In the fourth quarter against the Lions, he got three cracks from the 1-yard line and was stopped for no gain on all three. Is this a power issue? An offensive line issue? Poor use of personnel? Playcalling? A combination? One way to find out is to use backup Chester Taylor in those situations and see if the result is any different.