1. Benson doesn't appear to be a self-motivated football player
When Thomas Jones was starting in the backfield this past season, Cedric Benson was forced to treat every carry he got like it was his last. The two-pronged approach worked in the second half of 2006, as Jones and Benson formed one of the top tailback tandems in the NFL and helped lead the Bears to a berth in Super Bowl XLI. However, Benson hasn't been impressive as the starter this year until Sunday's game against the Seahawks, when he ripped off runs of 43 and 20 yards on his first two attempts after being told during the week that second-stringer Adrian Peterson would be more heavily involved in the offensive game plan.
All-Pro players don't need anyone to give them a kick in the rear because they have personal pride and do the work necessary without being asked, but it appears that Benson grew a little too fat and happy with Jones now in a Jets uniform and wasn't pushed to succeed until Peterson began breathing down his neck.
2. Harris hasn't been remotely healthy since Week 3 and needs a rest
Tommie Harris was a one-man wrecking crew against the Seahawks in Week 4 last season, sacking QB Matt Hasselbeck twice and destroying their up-until-then effective four-receiver sets with constant pressure up the middle. But Harris was a shell of his former Pro-Bowl self Sunday, registering just one tackle on the day and unable to help as Hasselbeck torched the Bears for 337 yards passing. Harris has been playing on a sprained knee for most of the season and hasn't been able to complete a full week's worth of practices since last year, making it all the more amazing that he's still tied with Adewale Ogunleye for the team lead in sacks with seven thus far.
The bye after Week 8 was supposed to give Harris extra time to heal so that he might be rejuvenated for the rest of 2007, but the knee problem continues to linger and looks to be the main reason why he struggled in Seattle.
3. Smith's game-day management must be called into question once again
Head coach Lovie Smith
James A. Finley/AP Images
And for the second time this season, Smith wasted all kinds of time late in the game trying to score a touchdown when trailing by 10 points even though the wise move would have been to kick a field goal as soon as possible and save precious seconds on the clock – when you need two scores to tie, it doesn't matter which one comes first.
4. Miller is completely over the hill and needs to be replaced ASAP
With a pair of false-start penalties in addition to allowing DE Patrick Kerney to rip Rex Grossman's head off on more than one occasion, 12th-year veteran Fred Miller has proven that he has nothing left in the tank at right tackle. The Bears featured the most experienced offensive line in the league at the beginning of the season but now the group just looks old, unable to open holes consistently in the running game or protect the quarterback properly on passing plays. Miller was most guilty Sunday in Seattle, but he'll be in the starting lineup once again against Denver this week because reserve John St. Clair doesn't offer much of an alternative.
GM Jerry Angelo deserves some of the blame here because he has neglected the offensive line in the draft during his tenure in Chicago, so there are no young tackle prospects to speak of on the roster right now.
5. A wild-card berth in the NFC is still within reach despite a 4-6 record
A victory in Seattle would have evened the Bears at 5-5 and put them in prime position to make a late-season push for the playoffs, but there is still hope in the Windy City despite a dismal 4-6 mark after 10 games. Of the potential wild-card contenders in the NFC, only the 7-3 Giants appear to be a lock at this point – but remember that New York has a history of crumbling down the stretch during the Tom Coughlin regime. Of the other non-division leaders currently ahead of them, the Bears have already beaten the 5-5 Eagles and would own any tiebreaker, they play the 5-5 Redskins in Week 14, the 6-4 Lions look to be in freefall mode after two straight losses, and the 5-5 Cardinals have no recent playoff pedigree.
A 9-7 record will probably be good enough in the NFC this season, and it's not unreasonable to assume that 8-8 could get the job done considering how watered down the conference is overall.
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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