What We Learned Thursday Evening

There's no question that the Chicago Bears have been disappointing this season, but Thursday night's defeat to the Washington Redskins detailed just how far this team has fallen in 2007. Bear Report came away from FedEx Field with five important observations from the game.

1. Perhaps Peterson is nothing more than a second-string tailback after all
While it's certainly not time to go pat Cedric Benson on the back and reassure him that it really wasn't all his fault, Adrian Peterson has not been able to instill any life into one of the worst rushing attacks in the NFL. Many Bears fans had grown tired of Benson's ineffectiveness on the ground well before he got hurt in Week 12 and were looking forward to seeing what Peterson could do as the featured back, but he's produced only 102 yards on 39 attempts in two starts. That's a miserable 2.6 yards-per-carry average, which does absolve Benson to some degree but ultimately proves that the offensive line is the main reason why this team averages just 82 yards per game running the football – 31st in the league.

Peterson was essentially benched in the second half Thursday in favor of rookie Garrett Wolfe, who showed some shiftiness with 50 total yards on three carries and four receptions.

2. Urlacher will have the most talked about back in Chicago this offseason
While there were rumors that Brian Urlacher could be a late scratch before last night's game because of a nagging calf injury, it's the tendonitis in his back which has made him look awfully human this season. Sure he's still compiled 101 total tackles – tops on the team – in addition to a pair of interceptions and a trio of sacks, but he simply hasn't authored the usual amount of "Wow!" plays that were used to seeing from the former Defensive Player of the Year. On one particularly crucial 3rd-and-11 in the fourth quarter, he was beaten by tight end Chris Cooley for a 33-yard completion down the seam because he could not make his usual drop into coverage over the middle as quickly as he typically does.

Urlacher has played in pain for most of the season and watched helplessly as his Superman status took a hit as a result, meaning we could have seen the best of him as a player because back tendonitis isn't so easily cured.

3. Maybe Berrian can indeed be a primary target in this league

WR Bernard Berrian
Win McNamee/Getty Images
Bernard Berrian was expected to have a big year in 2007 as he prepared himself to be a free agent for the first time in his four-year career, but he got off to a rocky start and was uncharacteristically dropping a lot of easy throws. While he may have hired Drew Rosenhaus as his agent and wanted everyone to know that he was going to be paid like a No. 1 receiver after the season, his shaky performance on Sundays suggested that he may be better suited as a secondary threat that concentrates on the deep ball. However, Berrian has turned it on the last four games, reeling in 22 passes for 276 yards and two touchdowns.

Berrian made a couple of catches last night that had fans screaming "How did he do that?" including a 17-yard TD in the back-right corner of the end zone that not even the officials believed – a booth review overturned what was originally ruled an incomplete pass on the field.

4. The defense as a whole is a living, breathing, walking, talking paradox
Believe it or not, the Bears have forced more three-and-outs than any team in football, lead the league in defending 3rd-and-long situations, and are amongst the leaders with 35 sacks on the season. Nevertheless, Bob Babich's crew still ranks 28th overall in total defense, surrendering 123.2 yards per game on the ground (26th) and another 231.9 through the air (25th). Most importantly, the artists formerly known as the Monsters of the Midway can no longer make a crucial stop in crunch time as they did repeatedly last season, as Todd Collins (Todd Collins?) and the Redskins marched right down the field and scored a touchdown on the ensuing drive after Robbie Gould's 22-yard field goal had trimmed the Washington lead to 17-13 – the 24-13 advantage proved insurmountable with just 2:41 remaining in the game.

This defense has major deficiencies in the middle right now, as the defensive tackle rotation is thin, Urlacher is a shell of his former self, and both safety positions have been a mess since Mike Brown got hurt again in Week 1.

5. It's officially time for Orton to show what he can do with this offense
If Rex Grossman's knee injury turns out to be severe, and all indications after the game suggested it would be, then Kyle Orton should be inserted into the starting lineup for the remainder of the season. The Bears know what they have in Brian Griese, a reliable backup quarterback who can get the job done in a pinch but is beyond the point of being a starter for any significant length of time. Even if Orton isn't going to get a legitimate chance to complete for the No. 1 job next season, he might play well enough to generate some trade interest around the league considering how poor the state of quarterbacking in the NFL is these days.

The Midway Monsters are officially out of the postseason hunt at 5-8, so it would make sense to play as many youngsters as possible these last three games so the front office can get a better evaluation as to what they truly have and what they really need heading into free agency and the draft.

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.

  • Is Devin Hester already the greatest return man ever?
  • An interview with running backs coach Tim Spencer
  • Ed "The Claw" Sprinkle: The Oldest Living Bear
  • A look at the autobiography Sayers: My Life and Times
  • Getting to know third-year quarterback Kyle Orton
  • All of that plus much more in the January issue of ...

    BEAR REPORT, the only publication exclusively dedicated to your Chicago Bears ... CLICK HERE to subscribe today

    Bear Report Top Stories