What We Learned Sunday Afternoon

The Midway Monsters were run out of the building by a 34-point blitzkrieg from the Lions in the fourth quarter on Sunday, and Bear Report came away from Ford Field in Detroit with five important observations from the game.

1. Offensive problems runs much deeper than Grossman vs. Griese
The main reason head coach Lovie Smith finally decided to make the swap from Rex Grossman to Brian Griese under center was because he needed his offense to take better care of the football. The Bears dubiously led the league with 11 turnovers in three games when Grossman was at the controls, but Griese proved to be no better by throwing three interceptions – two in the red zone and the other returned for a touchdown – in his first start at Detroit. And since the defense has not been able get takeaways from the other team at the stunning pace it did a year ago, the Midway Monsters are getting murdered every week with regards to turnover ratio.

Sure, the quarterbacks have not been up to snuff, but the offensive line has lost its way, the running backs can't move the ball consistently on the ground, and nobody in the receiving corps has stepped up to be a reliable target.

2. Give the defense its due for the through-three-quarters performance
The Lions scored an NFL-record 34 points in the fourth quarter to blow the doors off the Bears late in the game Sunday, but defensive coordinator Bob Babich and his minions still deserve a world of credit for the way they shut down one of the best offenses in football for three quarters on the road. Despite the fact that the entire starting secondary from Week 1 was out of the lineup in addition to Pro-Bowl linebacker and leading tackler Lance Briggs, the Bears led this game 13-3 even though their embarrassment of an offense was once again sputtering on every level. Adewale Ogunleye and Mark Anderson each produced two sacks, while Brandon McGowan and Alex Brown both recovered a fumble against the No. 1 passing attack in the league.

The defense simply ran out of gas in the fourth quarter and – stop me if you've heard this before – got next to no help from its offense, but the Detroit running game was contained, stud receiver Roy Williams was kept relatively in check, and QB Jon Kitna was harrassed all day long by a fierce pass rush that didn't need much help from blitzing linebackers.

3. It's official: Trading away Jones during the offseason was a bad idea


RB Thomas Jones
Nick Laham/Getty Images
Cedric Benson looked better and better over the course of 2006 as the punishing change-of-pace to starter Thomas Jones at tailback, so dealing Jones to the Jets in March for a flip-flop of second-round draft picks was the logical move in order to finally make Benson the starter. GM Jerry Angelo drafted Benson No. 4 overall out of the University of Texas in 2005, and it was high time that the former Longhorn lived up to his lofty billing and became the workhorse back everyone expected him to be. Many experts around the league believed he was a breakout star waiting to happen this season, but instead he's only averaging 3.2 yards per carry, isn't helping much in pass protection, and keeps putting the ball on the ground despite a grand total of zero fumbles the year before.

Jones hasn't exactly lit it up thus far in the Big Apple, but his teammates have raved about his work ethic and warrior mentality while Benson continues to be plagued with question marks about his ability and professionalism both on and off the field.

4. Not enough footballs to go around for all the new offensive weapons
Back in Bourbonnais during training camp, everybody from ESPN's John Clayton to Sports Illustrated's Peter King to yours truly was raving about the Bears on offense and how all the new playmakers were going to make Grossman and Co. a force to be reckoned with across the NFL. Yet here we are at the quarter post of the 2007 season, and the Monsters of the Midway are the 30th-ranked offense in the league at just 245.8 total yards per game, 27th in rushing at 82.8 yards per game, and 28th in passing at 163 yards per game. Converted cornerback Devin Hester has just as many catches (one) and fewer offensive touchdowns (zero) as reserve tackle John St. Clair, rookie TE Greg Olsen has only two receptions so far and was shut out at Detroit, and fellow rookie Garrett Wolfe has three yards on three carries at tailback and is yet to make any impact whatsoever.

It's safe to say that the Bears tried to implement too many fresh faces at the same time, which has done nothing more than make it harder for everyone to find his role and given offensive coordinator Ron Turner too much to think about and too many players to satisfy when developing his game plan during the week.

5. 2007 is over if the Bears don't win their next two games
While it's true that this team opened the 2005 season 1-3 before ripping off an eight-game winning streak en route to the NFC North title, that team wasn't dealing with the rash of injuries we've seen on the defensive side of the ball already. The next two games are within the division – at Green Bay before hosting Minnesota – and give this team an opportunity to either get back in the race or be completely buried before the season's midpoint. Should the Bears defeat both the Packers and Vikings in Weeks 5 and 6, respectively, they'll at least be a viable threat in the wild card hunt at 3-3 and will have put themselves in good position with a 2-1 mark against divisional opponents.

But the Packers are 4-0 and look to be for real with QB Brett Favre once again dipping his green-and-gold clalice in the Fountain of Youth, and the similarly 1-3 Vikings must be taken seriously because they can still play defense and gave the Bears all kinds of fits moving the ball a year ago.

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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