After the Chicago Bears' 35-21 loss against the Green Bay Packers, here are three issues that merit further examination:
The Bears usually do a decent job of limiting quarterback Aaron Rodgers' big plays against them, but he threw a career-high five touchdown passes and had three completions go for longer than 30 yards. I can't blame any one portion of the Bears' defense for that. It was a total team defeat. Their front line got almost no pass rush, accounting for one sack (of backup quarterback Matt Flynn) and a total of two quarterback hits. Safety Craig Steltz can hit but has a hard time in coverage, which is one more thing than fellow safety Major Wright has demonstrated. The decision to give cornerback Zack Bowman a new chance in place of Tim Jennings yielded no better results, and middle linebacker Brian Urlacher was conspicuously quiet with three tackles. When the offseason begins, the Bears will look at their defense and see four locked in starters -- Urlacher, cornerback Charles Tillman, linebacker Lance Briggs and defensive end Julius Peppers. Otherwise, all positions should be in play, don't you think? And don't forget that Briggs asked for a trade last summer because the Bears haven't upgraded his contact.
I'm not sure what to make of quarterback Josh McCown's better-than-expected performance. He looked and played like someone who received an early Christmas present and had nothing to lose. The plan was obvious: Use running backs Kahlil Bell and Armando Allen as often as possible and limit the pressure situations McCown encountered. I noticed a few NFL players mocked McCown for dunking the ball over the goal post after a two-point conversion in the fourth quarter pulled the Bears within 17 points, but to me it just reflected probably the only Bears player who had fun Sunday night. I don't know that McCown extended his career Sunday night, but he gave the Bears a credible performance when expectations couldn't have been any lower.
Bell ran hard and made the best of his opportunity Sunday night, gaining 121 yards on the ground and another 38 on four receptions. I would expect more of the same Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings, who released him in training camp in 2009. The Bears obviously have a limited opinion of Bell's worth, having buried him on their bench for most of the past three seasons. But in 12 career games in which he's gotten at least one carry, Bell has 503 yards. That's some significant production, something the Bears might want to consider when they are mapping out playing time for 2012.
And here is one issue I still don't get:
The Bears have missed the playoffs for the fourth time in five seasons. How much turnover will that cause? Early indications, at least, suggest there won't be a major shakeup among the front office or coaching staff. The biggest question mark is whether the Bears will renew the contract of offensive coordinator Mike Martz. I'm against the idea of starting over with a new coordinator and scheme, but the offense's collapse over this five-game losing streak might have sealed Martz's fate.