What We Learned: Redskins vs. Bears

Although the Chicago Bears are still tied atop their division, there is little reason to be positive after a 17-14 home loss to Washington. What did we learn Sunday? Start with these five observations:

1. Maybe Cutler will never be an elite quarterback after all
General manager Jerry Angelo gave up a small fortune to procure Jay Cutler from Denver, and following a rough first year in Chicago because he and former offensive coordinator Ron Turner were an oil-and-water match, the hope was that Mike Martz pushing the buttons would put Cutler into Peyton Manning territory. However, in 22 games as the starter for the Bears, No. 6 has put together a passer rating of 78.6 and a TD-to-INT ratio of 34-to-33 – those numbers were 87.1 and 54-to-37, respectively, in Denver. Most alarmingly, leaving the Broncos and rebooting his career with the Bears hasn't helped him win more games, as his record was only 17-20 in the Mile High City and is just 10-12 so far in the Windy City.

It's understandable that he would want to go after DeAngelo Hall of the Redskins, as the loudmouth former Pro Bowler is only an elite player these days in his own mind, but after serving up four picks Sunday, Cutler has more in common with unproven QBs like Chad Henne and Kevin Kolb than premier passers like Aaron Rodgers and Philip Rivers.

2. Tinoisamoa has been an unsung hero on D this season
Perhaps Pisa Tinoisamoa has an easy job, as he's only asked to be the third best linebacker on this defense after Lance Briggs and Brian Urlacher. Nevertheless, Tinoisamoa is looking like the sure tackler the Bears thought they were getting last year, when he suited up for just two games, didn't finish either of them because of a knee issue and ending up spending the balance of the campaign on injured reserve. With Briggs sidelined most of the last two contests due to a nagging ankle problem, Tinoisamoa has been a three-down defender and held his own both against the run and the pass.

The Monsters of the Midway have kinks to work out with their front four and their secondary, but, assuming Briggs returns healthy after the bye in Week 8, this team is loaded at linebacker – Tinoisamoa's training-camp battle with Nick Roach is a thing of the past.

3. O-line can no longer be held together with bubble gum
Aside from Chris Williams, who was a first-round pick in 2008, Angelo hasn't selected an offensive lineman before Round 4 in the last eight drafts. Williams, expected to be the left tackle of the future, looks like a bust and is playing left guard. Frank Omiyale, the current left tackle, was a fifth rounder of the Falcons in 2005 and is already on his third organization. Lance Louis and Edwin Williams have both started at right guard this season, with Louis a seventh-round choice in 2009 and Williams an undrafted free agent the same year – he was recently signed off the Washington scrap heap. Right tackle J'Marcus Webb was taken in Round 7 this past April. The three veterans of the bunch, center Olin Kreutz, guard Roberto Garza and tackle Kevin Shaffer, are not only on the back nine of their respective careers, but they're on the 17th fairway. While Kreutz may be a six-time Pro Bowler, he's average at best these days.

OT Frank Omiyale
Scott Boehm/Getty

The last time this team had an effective offensive line, Kreutz was a legitimate difference maker, future Hall of Famer Ruben Brown proved to still have some gas in the tank at guard and John Tait was earning a fortune to hold down the fort at tackle, as the Bears moved on to Super Bowl XLI.

4. Wright needs to be in the mix after the bye week
The Bears didn't lose to the Redskins in Week 7 because of their defense, and for the most part the D has played well the majority of the season, but that doesn't mean another playmaker or two couldn't be added. True, Danieal Manning made one of the prettier interceptions Sunday that Bears fans have seen in a while, although he and Chris Harris haven't exactly assembled a highlight reel that would make Mike Brown blush. Despite just being a rookie and missing a lot of practice time going all the way back to training camp because of various ailments, third-round pick Major Wright has a nose for the ball and could help Chicago force more turnovers – Wright's hamstring should be healed in time for Week 9.

Not to mention the fact that Martz's offense doesn't look anything like it did in the glory days of the Rams, so the defense has to author some big plays and maybe put the pigskin in the end zone on its own, like D.J. Moore did against Washington.

5. Smith is one of the league's worst game-day coaches
When it comes to challenges, Bears coach Lovie Smith never seems to know when is and when isn't a good time to reach into his pocket and throw the red flag on the field. Way too often, he wastes challenges – and burns a potentially-valuable timeout, too – when his team is on the wrong end of a big play in the hopes of simply getting lucky, even if there is clear evidence on replay that the call is not going to go his way. That was the case Sunday, when Smith challenged Earl Bennett's 48-yard reception to the 1-yard line and hoped it was really 49 yards and should have been called a TD, so when the call was upheld, he was reluctant to challenge Cutler's goal-line fumble on the very next play because he didn't want to be out of challenges and only have one timeout left with 27 minutes left in regulation.

Credit Smith for his overall 56-47 record, his two division titles and his one Super Bowl appearance, because he has done a lot with less than Pro Bowl talent at several important positions, but his game-day decision making is questionable at best and downright dumb at times.

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John Crist is the Publisher of BearReport.com, a Heisman Trophy voter and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.

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