What We Learned Sunday Afternoon

The Monsters of the Midway once again saved their season with a pulse-pounding 19-16 comeback victory over the Eagles on Sunday, and Bear Report came away from Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia with five important observations from the game.

1. Griese is going to be the starter the rest of 2007 and into 2008
Brian Griese is the first Bears quarterback since Jim Miller in 1999 to throw for over 300 yards in back-to-back games, posting 322 against the Eagles after a 381-yard effort the week before versus the Vikings. Not only did Griese solidify himself as the starter under center for the duration of this season and eliminate any speculation that Rex Grossman might earn his job back, but now it appears that the organization is growing increasingly comfortable with the idea of starting 2008 with Griese at the controls while GM Jerry Angelo looks for a new QB of the future. Griese just needs to avoid the injury bug because it's bitten him in the past.

Look for the Bears to select a young quarterback in the 2008 NFL Draft some time on Day 1, but they'll most likely avoid taking a passer in the first round because the Grossman experiment has left a bad taste in everyone's mouth.

2. Philadelphia came up with the blueprint of how to take Hester away on returns
Eagles punter Saverio Rocca only averaged 33 yards on four attempts against the Bears, however, his net average was also 33 yards since Devin Hester didn't even get a chance at a return. Rocca was instructed to punt the ball directly out of bounds at all costs and sacrifice a little distance in order to take Hester's quick-strike ability away, and although head coach Andy Reid had to give up a little field position with this approach, Hester was not a threat in the return game. Similarly, kicker David Akers perfected the high-and-short kickoff all day long, forcing the upbacks to field the ball around the 20-25 yard line and never allowing Hester an opportunity to work his magic in the open field.

It will be up to Bears special teams coach Dave Toub to find a way to combat this tactic in order to get his most dangerous weapon more chances because every team in the league will mimic what Rocca and Akers did Sunday.

3. Benson is not a special running back and will never live up to his billing


RB Cedric Benson
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Cedric Benson now has seven starts under his belt this season, and while it's true that the offensive line hasn't played particularly well and the passing game was stuck in neutral until Griese took over in Week 4, the excuses for him are simply no longer there. Benson is averaging an unimpressive 3.1 yards per carry despite getting at least 15 attempts in every game so far, plus he's only on pace to rush for 950 yards this season as the featured back on a self-proclaimed running football team. Even when the O-line does create some wide lanes for him to run through like it did against both Minnesota and Philadelphia the last two weeks, the former No. 4-overall draft pick can't make any tacklers miss at the second level as evidenced by the fact that his longest run this year is just 16 yards.

Moving Adrian Peterson into the starting role isn't the right decision to make because he's too valuable on special teams, so perhaps it's time for rookie Garrett Wolfe to be on the field more often and increase the likelihood of a big play on the ground.

4. Yards don't win games ... points win games
One of former Defensive Player of the Year Brian Urlacher's favorite expressions was on display Sunday in the City of Brotherly Love. Donovan McNabb and Co. moved the ball at will in the first half between the 20s, but Urlacher and his minions clamped down in the red zone and forced a trio of Akers field goal attempts. So even though the Bears are only ranked 25th in the league in total defense – 26th against the run and 23rd against the pass – through seven games, the Midway Monsters are allowing fewer points per game (23.6) than the Saints, Texans, Broncos, and Rams despite surrendering more yards than each of those teams because of their ability to keep opponents from reaching paydirt.

If the Bears can get themselves to 4-4 before the bye and take an extra week to lick their wounds on defense, they should come back from the break much stronger since CB Nathan Vasher (groin) and DT Darwin Walker (knee) will return to the starting lineup and DT Tommie Harris (knee) and S Adam Archuleta (hand) will have an opportunity to fully heal from their respective injuries.

5. Davis and Bradley will not be factors the rest of the season
Bernard Berrian is still leading the team in receptions despite a toe injury and some battles with the dropsies, and fellow starter Muhsin Muhammad has finally worked his way back into the offense after being the forgotten man the first few weeks of the season. And since the tight end combination of veteran Desmond Clark and rookie Greg Olsen continues to be effective in the short and intermediate passing game, that means fewer opportunities for slot man Rashied Davis and reserve wideout Mark Bradley to get in the game and show what they can do. Head coach Lovie Smith raved about Bradley during training camp and Davis looked to have improved greatly after the former cornerback had a full season operating at receiver, but both of them have been non-factors so far this year and will likely see the field less and less as the campaign progresses.

Hester is also gaining more of the coaching staff's confidence and made two catches on that game-winning touchdown drive against the Eagles, meaning Bradley and Davis simply are not necessary components of this offense right now.

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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