Posted by ESPN.com’s Kevin Seifert
After Chicago’s 41-21 loss to Arizona, here are three (mostly) indisputable facts I feel relatively sure about:
I’ll go into more depth on this Tuesday, but for now I think the Bears’ biggest problem on defense is they don’t have a big-time playmaker. At least, they don’t have one who is consistently making the type of game-changing plays -- sacks, interceptions, touchdowns -- that alter the course of games. That was always the hallmark of their mid-2000’s defenses. Pro Bowl linebacker Lance Briggs has that ability, but he’s been invisible in the Bears’ recent blowout losses. Defensive tackle Tommie Harris has fallen off the deep end. Cornerback Charles Tillman has returned one of his two interceptions for a touchdown and has forced two fumbles, but his impact hasn’t been nearly enough to compensate for his slumping teammates.
The Bears continue to have depth issues in their offensive backfield. Adrian Peterson is back from a knee injury, but it looks like Garrett Wolfe will miss at least a few weeks because of a lacerated kidney. Brad Biggs of the Chicago Sun-Times reports Wolfe will be hospitalized for at least one more day after suffering the injury in Sunday’s game. I’m fully aware that former Pro Bowl running back Larry Johnson is now available, but I don’t see him as a fit in Chicago. There’s no reason for the Bears to take that risk when they aren’t willing to use a second running back. Matt Forte is the only tailback that gets on the field.
There will have to be a tremendous turnaround for Chicago to bring back Harris next season. What’s the upside? Harris no longer makes a big-play impact. He has clashed with the team on his practice schedule, leading to a paid one-week sabbatical. And more than a few teammates were upset with his ejection from Sunday’s game. If nothing else, Harris left the Bears’ defensive line one man short of its usual rotation. Players are used to compensating for injured teammates. But his ejection left his teammates disappointed and perhaps suspicious as well. Defensive end Alex Brown, for one, angrily refused to talk about a player he has defended throughout the year.
And here is one question I’m still asking:
Why does Jay Cutler spend so much time jawing with opponents and officials? I realize Cutler is combative, competitive and ornery. Those personality traits have no doubt played a role in his football success. They feed his aggression and playmaking ability. But I don’t see anything good coming from the verbal volleys. On Sunday, it eventually cost the Bears 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct. More importantly, it sets a chaotic tone for the rest of the offense. If the general is off complaining to referees and taunting opposing players or -- in the case of Cleveland defensive coordinator Rob Ryan -- coaches, there is no one left to lead and organize the troops.