CHICAGO -- Here are five things we learned in the Bears' 21-13 loss to the Green Bay Packers:
1. Ownership cannot be happy: The Bears are not frugal when it comes to paying star players. The organization has made sizeable financial investments in Jay Cutler, Julius Peppers, Matt Forte, Lance Briggs, Brian Urlacher and Charles Tillman, just to name a few, and for five of the last six years the Bears will not have a home playoff game to show for it. Why? Because in order to host playoff games, the Bears need to win their division. And to win the division on a regular basis, the Bears need to beat the Green Bay Packers. Why can't Lovie Smith find a way to win against their NFC North rival? This is a serious problem. The Bears have now dropped eight of their last nine to Green Bay and are unable to put up much of fight even when the Packers play some of the worst special teams in modern history with two missed field goals and a botched fake punt return. If Smith can't beat Green Bay, then it's difficult to build a case for him to continue being the Bears' head coach beyond this season, despite his very impressive 82-66 overall record. This organization seems further away then ever from winning a Super Bowl. Surely, the people upstairs at Halas Hall see this as well.
2. The offensive line needs a complete overhaul: You can't fix everything in one offseason. But when Jay Cutler has time to throw the football, he is a pretty good NFL quarterback. The Bears need to roll up their sleeves and try to solve this mess up front, regardless of whether or not there is coaching change. General manager Phil Emery strikes me as a very shrewd talent evaluator, and there is no doubt in my mind he understands what kind of liability the Bears' offensive line is and has been formulating a plan to correct it for the last several weeks. How many more games are we going to watch Cutler get swallowed up by an opponents pass rush because the guards can't pick up a simple line stunt or twist inside? Cutler isn't perfect, but he is getting drilled in the pocket almost every week. That is no way to treat a player you supposedly view as a franchise quarterback. I like Lance Louis, keep him if he recovers from an ACL tear. Jonathan Scott has shown some fight. He'd be a nice swing tackle. Keep James Brown if you think he's got potential. After that, I'm open for all suggestions and ideas. I have a feeling Emery is too.
3. The defense didn't fold: There is no reason for the Bears' defense to hang its collective head. If you hold Aaron Rodgers and that explosive Packers' offense to 21 points, then you are doing something right. I understand that Rodgers on several plays had too much time to stand in the pocket and survey the field, but I will state this again, is it too much to ask your offense to score three touchdowns in a game? Seriously. The Bears find every possible way to not play winning football on offense; from dropped passes to penalties to their inability to punch the ball in for inside the five-yard line. They give the defense no help. Zero. It's unrealistic to expect the defense to play perfect football this late in the year with all the injuries, but they play well enough to help the Bears win ballgames. The same cannot be said for the offense. And that is why the Bears could still finish 8-8.
4. Was there really a Devin Hester package?: Look, I'm not going to rip Hester. He said he ran the correct route on Cutler's disastrous second-quarter interception and I believe him. But how can Cutler and Hester still not be on the same page after four years together? Doesn't that signal a problem? If the quarterback is so out-of-sync with a wideout after all that practice and game time, why is the wideout even on the field? Again, that's not a knock on Hester, but these two clearly haven't clicked from day one. Why force it down each others throats? Let Hester focus on the return game, where I thought he showed a spark on Sunday on both kickoff return and punt. And if you have to use Hester for a couple of snaps on offense: send him deep. For the life of me, I'll never understand why the Bears just don't let Hester spring a double-move on a defensive back and run down the field. Asking him to break off his route at a certain spot or asking him to read where Cutler is going; it's a recipe for disaster. We are six years into the Hester experiment on offense and the Bears still don't know how to use him.
5. There were bright spots: It doesn't feel right being all doom and gloom despite the fact the Bears have lost five of six and might miss the playoffs. Here are a few quick positives. Corey Wootton has become a player at defensive end. He brings it every game and appears to be a strong candidate to be a full-time starter Week 1 of next season. Rookie wideout Joe Anderson did excellent work on special teams with a couple of big hits in his first NFL game, while cornerback Zack Bowman has revitalized his career on the third phase since he re-signed with the Bears during the season. The Bears set up and executed a couple of nice screen passes to Matt Forte and Armando Allen that both went for sizeable gains. Did I mention the defense played reasonably well? Oh, yeah. I already did. Well, that's all I got. The Bears are in serious trouble and it will be interesting to see if they truly believe they are playoff contenders. If they just go through the motions in Arizona, it will not be a Merry Christmas in Lake Forest, I can assure you.