Free Head Exam: Chicago Bears

After the Chicago Bears' 37-13 victory against the Detroit Lions, here are three issues that merit further examination:

  1. Devin Hester is now one touchdown return away from tying Deion Sanders' all-time NFL record of 19. The circumstances of Sunday's performance were particularly dramatic, considering that an ankle injury and strep throat kept him out of practice all week. Hester was debilitated enough to be ruled out of playing offense and even returning kickoffs, giving him the smallest of windows in which to contribute. One note on Hester's approach of Sanders' record: Sanders' 19 touchdowns came over a career span of 188 games. Hester has 18 in less than half of that span, a total of 88 career games.

  2. For the most part, the Bears treated the Lions like an annoying puppy that won't stop biting your heels but can be kicked to the curb once you're fed up. While the Lions seemed intent on proving their toughness, the Bears dispatched them as pests. Coach Lovie Smith couldn't bring himself to refer to them as a major rival, noting: "You can only have one true rival. It will always be Green Bay. You could call that a rivalry, too, with them [the Lions]. You need to win your division and division games are always like this. Detroit has played pretty good football this year." But Smith clearly wasn't happy with some of the Lions' tactics. Asked about a play that ended with Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh ripping and tossing Bears quarterback Jay Cutler's helmet to the sideline, Smith said: "I think it's safe to say you shouldn't do that. I'll leave it at that."

  3. In two games since returning from a chest injury, receiver Earl Bennett has caught all 11 of the passes Cutler has thrown his way. Sunday, he accounted for two-thirds of the Bears' total receptions and more than a third of their total offense. You don't want to oversell one player's contribution or importance in a team game. But I think it's obvious how Bennett's return has impacted Cutler. He's thrown more to Bennett than any other Bears player over the past two weeks. Given their connection rate, it's hard to imagine that ending anytime soon. Remember when Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz suggested Bennett could be the team's No. 1 receiver? Just checking.

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

What has gotten into cornerback Charles Tillman? It's difficult to find ways to measure it from a statistical standpoint, but generally speaking, Tillman has played two great games against Lions receiver Calvin Johnson this season. Johnson did beat him for a 40-yard play in the third quarter Sunday, but Tillman more than held his own. He dislodged the ball from Johnson's hands on what would have been a long touchdown pass and later pushed through him for an interception he returned for a touchdown. Tillman turned 30 this year, and you wondered how much longer he would be the Bears' No. 1 cornerback. But if the Bears trust him to spend most of a game locked against an MVP candidate, I think you have your answer.