What We Learned Sunday

The Midway Monsters opened the regular season 0-1 after a gut-wrenching 14-3 loss to the ultra-talented Chargers in San Diego on Sunday afternoon, and BearReport.com came away from Qualcomm Stadium with five important observations.

1. Brown may have played his last game as a Bear
As a high-salaried player that can't stay healthy anymore, the front office is going to have to think long and hard about what to do with safety Mike Brown. His leadership is unquestioned and he's still a wonderful player when healthy, but he simply can't avoid the injury bug and has only been able to suit up for 21 regular season games the last four seasons. Brown was once again placed on injured reserve after the loss in Week 1, this time because of a ruptured ACL in his knee, a potentially devastating blow that brought him to tears in the locker room after the game.

The defense was sensational for three quarters against a Chargers team that lead the league in scoring offense last season, but the Midway Monsters will have to make due with the likes of Danieal Manning, Brandon McGowan, and rookie Kevin Payne in the secondary for the rest of 2007.

2. Put your fears to rest about the return of Harris
Tommie Harris had trouble finishing practices down at training camp in Bourbonnais and played sparingly during the preseason, leading to rampant speculation that he was still yet to fully recover from last season's torn hamstring. Even Harris admitted before Week 1 he still had a gigantic mental hurdle to jump despite the fact that he'd been cleared to play and appeared to be 100% healthy. He was only credited with two tackles on the day, but his trademark explosiveness off the snap was on display from start to finish as he practically took the handoff from Philip Rivers in the San Diego backfield on more than one occasion.

Darwin Walker will now move into the starting lineup at nose tackle with Dusty Dvoracek again lost for the year on injured reserve, but he and Harris just might be the best pass-rushing DT combination in the league this season when it's all said and done.

3. Benson is not getting enough help up front
It's very easy to look at the raw numbers and simply assume that Cedric Benson is not getting the job done as the new starter at tailback. After averaging just 2.3 yards per carry in four preseason games, he produced only 42 yards on 19 carries (2.2 ypc) against the Chargers, coughed up a fumble, and also dropped a swing pass out of the backfield. Second-stringer Adrian Peterson was able to find a little daylight with 7 attempts for 38 yards, but he too lost a fumble and – like Benson – never broke a run longer than 11 yards.

RB Cedric Benson (Jack Smith/AP Images)

The offensive line did not have a good day blocking in the running game, so Olin Kreutz and Co. needs to start opening up some holes up front because neither Benson nor Peterson is the kind of running back that's going to make tacklers miss and create something out of nothing.

4. The loss of Olsen may have been underestimated
It's a little bizarre to think that the Bears desperately need rookie tight end Greg Olsen to return from injury considering he's never played a regular season NFL game, but so much of what this offense did during training camp revolved around double-tight formations. Because of Olsen's ability to line up at tight end, fullback, H-back, and receiver, offensive coordinator Ron Turner had been planning all along to get Olsen on the field as much as possible along with veteran TE Desmond Clark. The two of them together have the potential to be incredibly effective in the passing game, but with Olsen still possibly a week or two away from being ready to go, Turner had to scrap a good portion of what he had been planning to do in Week 1.

Olsen's absence could be one explanation for why the offense was so unimaginative against the Chargers, so Turner needs to employ more three-wide sets versus Kansas City and find a way to get the likes of Mark Bradley and Devin Hester involved.

5. This defeat can not be pinned on Grossman
It's impossible to make the argument that Rex Grossman played a good ballgame against San Diego, but he was not the reason why the Bears opened the season 0-1 and had so much trouble moving the football consistently. 12-of-23 for 145 yards with no touchdowns and one interception are not enviable numbers by any stretch of the imagination, however, he hung in there against a fierce pass rush despite the fact that his running game was largely ineffective and his receivers weren't making plays for him. The INT he threw was clearly Bernard Berrian's fault as he got lazy and did not finish his route, and the fumbles by Benson and Peterson seemed to come at the most inopportune times because Grossman looked to have his offense on the move.

Grossman will have every opportunity to right the ship against a Kansas City squad that looked atrocious in Week 1 against the Texans, but he had better get the job done early because the boobirds at Soldier Field will be ready to make their presence felt should he struggle again.

John Crist is the Editor in Chief of BearReport.com 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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