What We Learned Sunday

The Midway Monsters got back on the winning track with a 20-10 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs in the home-opener on Sunday, and Bear Report came away from Soldier Field with five important observations.

1. Briggs is going to have his best season ever
When Lance Briggs ended his holdout and signed his one-year franchise tender, 2007 essentially became a season-long job interview for all the other 31 teams in the league. Play-making linebackers like Adalius Thomas and London Fletcher earned gigantic contracts this past offseason in free agency, but Briggs is a different kind of player and doesn't necessarily rack up a bunch of highlight-reel-worthy interceptions and sacks. Therefore, it was reasonable for Bears fans to worry that he might play outside the framework of the defense in an effort to accumulate as many personal statistics as possible so he can earn earn that once-in-a-lifetime payday he covets so badly.

But after Sunday's performance against the Chiefs – 12 tackles (11 solos), a sack, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery, and a pass defensed – Briggs looks to have maintained his discipline and is and on his way to a third consecutive Pro Bowl appearance.

2. Hester may be the most valuable player on the roster
We at Bear Report are simply running out of superlatives for Devin Hester, who's already making a case as the greatest return man in NFL history despite the fact that he's only played 18 career regular season games. He returned yet another punt all the way for a touchdown against Kansas City, this one from 73 yards out, and then he took back a kickoff 95 yards for a score before it was nullified because of a holding penalty on a dejected Rod Wilson. While the Bears have struggled to find a way to get Hester the ball on offense as a receiver, he just about won Sunday's game by himself with his brilliance on special teams and only seems to be getting better at his craft.

It's getting to the point where opposing teams must seriously consider kicking the ball out of bounds every single time and sacrificing all that precious field position – it's a small price to pay to keep the ball out of Hester's magical hands.

3. The Bears would be in deep trouble without Walker
Since Dusty Dvoracek was a big question mark this season coming off a year spent on injured reserve with a foot ailment, GM Jerry Angelo felt the need to get veteran Darwin Walker in a trade with Buffalo midway through training camp. While it was assumed that Walker would immediately be inserted into the starting lineup next to Pro-Bowler Tommie Harris, Dvoracek rose to the challenge and managed to hold his spot with the first team. But with Dvoracek going down with a ruptured ACL in Week 1 and out for the season once again, Walker is now the starter and terrorizing the trenches on just about every snap.

DE Adewale Ogunleye and DT Darwin Walker (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Walker was credited with just six tackles in two games, but he's been able to get consistent penetration from his nose tackle position and allowed Harris to do his thing at the three-technique – he had two sacks against the Chiefs.

4. An experienced offensive line is starting to get old
The starters along the offense line averaged 31.8 years of age on opening day, but the slope between experienced and just plain old is a slippery one in today's NFL. Fred Miller, 34, has not played very well from his right tackle position so far this season and had to leave for a time Sunday with a neck stinger. Roberto Garza, the youngest of the bunch at 28, can't use age as an excuse to explain his relatively poor play so far this year.

Since Cedric Benson is not the kind of running back that makes tacklers miss and Rex Grossman isn't very mobile in the pocket, Olin Kreutz and Co. need to step it up a notch and hold together for one more run at the Vince Lombardi trophy before this unit inevitably sees a few changes in 2008.

5. Babich is much more creative than Rivera ever was
Bears linebackers have been heavily criticized the last two seasons for not getting to the quarterback often enough, but both Briggs and All-Pro Brian Urlacher registered sacks Sunday against K.C. New defensive coordinator Bob Babich has been more aggressive and more dynamic with his calls than Ron Rivera ever thought to be, leading to seven sacks in two games by six different defenders. Babich has also employed a three-safety look from time to time by replacing CB Nathan Vasher with S Brandon McGowan in obvious running situations, which is a look that Rivera never showed.

Hunter Hillenmeyer also appears to have improved his play in pass coverage, allowing the defense to keep three LBs on the field more often instead of always have to switch to the nickel package with Ricky Manning Jr. and potentially opening up more holes in the running game.

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.

Bear Report Top Stories