Free Head Exam: Chicago Bears

After the Chicago Bears' 20-17 victory Monday night over the Green Bay Packers, here are three issues that merit further examination:

  1. We've noted the Bears shuffled their lineup at defensive line and cornerback, but it's worth noting they also rotated Kevin Shaffer and rookie J'Marcus Webb at right tackle while Frank Omiyale continued to hold down the left tackle position. Quarterback Jay Cutler was sacked three times in the Bears' first three possessions, but overall I thought he had enough time on most of his throws. He is exceptionally accurate when throwing off his back foot, a nice skill to have when your offensive line is in flux. But you have to credit offensive line coach Mike Tice for patching things together for a second consecutive week. Cutler wasn't sacked over the Bears' five final possessions.

  2. I thought it was interesting to see tailbacks Matt Forte and Chester Taylor both in the starting lineup. Longtime blog readers will recall I routinely banged that drum when Taylor was in Minnesota, wondering why he couldn't be paired with Adrian Peterson in an effort to get the team's best players on the field. Neither Taylor nor Forte got much going in the running game Monday night, totaling 38 yards on 14 carries, and Cutler was actually the Bears' most productive ground-gainer. But over time, I like the possibilities presented by having two multi-talented tailbacks on the field together.

  3. I thought Julius Peppers had a dramatic impact on the game even though he officially finished with two solo tackles and one quarterback hit. He mauled Packers guard Josh Sitton to block a 37-yard field goal attempt in the third quarter and drew a huge holding penalty on right tackle Mark Tauscher, wiping out Jermichael Finley's 15-yard touchdown reception. Based on watching Peppers for a good part of the night, I can honestly say the Packers could have been called for at least a half-dozen holds against him. I can't believe that his presence wasn't at least partially related to the 18 penalties the Packers took, 10 of which were by offensive players.

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

What suddenly emboldened the Bears to bench defensive tackle Tommie Harris? His production dipped noticeably two years ago and he has never rebounded. The Bears had blamed the drop on knee injuries, but this year Harris has been noticeably absent from the injury report and has still been almost invisible in games. Was that the tipping point for the Bears? Did something else happen behind the scenes? Is coach Lovie Smith finally loosening his loyalty to some veteran mainstays? Or was this just a one-game warning shot? I'm not sure.