What We Learned Sunday Evening

The Monsters of the Midway got off to horrible start before finding a way to come back and beat the Packers in prime time, and Bear Report came away from Lambeau Field in Green Bay with five important observations from the game.

1. Briggs, not Urlacher, is the best linebacker on the team right now
Lance Briggs hasn't done very much off the field to endear himself to Bears fans lately, but his play on the field has certainly made up for it. After missing the Week 4 matchup at Detroit with a bad hamstring, he came back in Week 5 to lead the team with 16 tackles and every one of them was a solo effort. No other Bear had more than six stops in the ballgame, including former Defensive Player of the Year Brian Urlacher, who trails Briggs in total and solo tackles this season despite playing one more game.

The odds of Briggs signing with Chicago for the long term are still next to non-existent after all that has happened, but Briggs continues to be one of the ultimate sure-tacklers in the NFL and is on his way to a third straight Pro Bowl.

2. Gould and Maynard may be the best in the business
If the offense is not going to be as explosive as the team thought it could be during training camp down in Bourbonnais, then the Bears need to start leaning on their special teams a little more to help make up the difference. Everybody knows what Devin Hester can do in the return game, but kicker Robbie Gould and punter Brad Maynard continue to be a pair of unsung heroes in Chicago. Gould booted two more field goals against the Packers and would still be perfect on the season if he hadn't had a 52-yarder blocked by Detroit, and Maynard averaged 44.9 yards on seven punts at Green Bay, dropping two inside the 20 and having only one bounce into the end zone for a touchback.

The field position game is critical for a team that relies on playing tough defense as much as the Bears do, meaning both Gould and Maynard will be crucial to this club's success the rest of the way.

3. Turner rediscovered his commitment to the running game


RB Cedric Benson
Matthew Stockman/Getty Images
Cedric Benson didn't exactly have a big night statistically running the football with 27 carries for 64 yards and a touchdown, but the mere fact that he got that many carries spoke volumes about offensive coordinator Ron Turner's game plan against the Packers. There are a lot of coaches out there who believe that rushing attempts are more important than actual rushing yardage because teams that run the ball consistently usually win the battle up front, control time of possession, and give their defense ample time to rest between series. Quarterback Brian Griese attempted 52 passes in the Week 4 loss at Detroit, a ludicrous total for a running team, but he put the ball in the air just 25 times in the Week 5 win at Green Bay.

The Bears had been absolutely shredded in the fourth quarter on D the last two games because they simply ran out of gas versus the Cowboys and Lions, but Urlacher and Co. showed a lot of life down the stretch against the Packers and made some big plays in crunch time.

4. Clark and Olsen are the keys to this passing game
With Bernard Berrian failing to prove that he can be a legitimate No. 1 receiver and Muhsin Muhammad struggling to get open consistently at 34 years old, it's become increasingly clear that the combination of Desmond Clark and Greg Olsen at tight end needs to be the focal point of the aerial attack. Olsen looked sensational in training camp before injuring his knee in the preseason finale and sitting out the first two games, but he led the team with four catches Sunday night and registered the first touchdown of his career. Clark was very good in 2006 and currently has as many receptions (19) as Muhammad and slot man Rashied Davis combined, and his game-winning 34-yard touchdown grab against Green Bay proved that he can still stretch a defense down the middle of the field.

Not only should having two tight ends on the field more often help the running game since both of them are quality blockers, but Olsen and Clark should flourish with Griese under center since the short and intermediate throws are what he does best.

5. Griese over Grossman looking more and more like the right decision
Griese didn't do much to justify his promotion when he threw three interceptions in the Week 4 loss at Detroit, but he took much better care of the football against the Packers with just one turnover on offense. And after getting sacked six times the week before, he went down just twice facing a Green Bay front four that boasts three accomplished pass-rushers in Aaron Kampman, Cullen Jenkins, and Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila. The offensive line didn't necessarily give Griese a lot of time to throw the ball, but he was decisive, timely, and made sure to eliminate the proverbial "disaster plays" that tend to plague Grossman when he's having an off night.

Grossman gives the offense a better chance to hit big-gainers and potentially light up the scoreboard, but Griese is better equipped to manage the game and drastically reduce the catastrophic mistakes that killed this team the first three weeks.

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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