What We Learned Monday Evening

The Chicago Bears are not a very good football team, and there's just no way to hide it. Despite a grand effort on defense, the offense couldn't do a thing against the Vikings in an ugly-to-watch 20-13 defeat. Bear Report came away from the Metrodome with five important observations about the game.

1. Don't just blame Orton for that dreadful display in the passing game
While Kyle Orton did manage to throw for 184 yards and had a completion percentage of 57.9, he certainly looked like a quarterback making his first start in close to two full seasons. And while he was indecisive in the pocket at times and had just as much trouble avoiding the rush as both Rex Grossman and Brian Griese have, the fact that he only averaged 4.8 yards per pass attempt is much more offensive coordinator Ron Turner's fault than his. It's understandable that Turner didn't want to put the entire game plan on Orton's shoulders since he was bound to be rusty, but not taking a few shots down the field against the worst pass defense in all of football is nothing short of inexcusable.

The Bears obviously accepted the fact that they were not going to be able to run and only handed the ball off 16 times, but you've got to throw it downfield every now and then if you want those corners and safeties to loosen up in coverage.

2. Urlacher could bounce back next season and return to his dominant self
Brian Urlacher hadn't performed like the perennial All-Pro he is for most of the season, but he was nothing short of sensational against the Vikings and filled the stat sheet from left to right: six tackles, two sacks, one interception, one fumble recovery, and one pass defensed. It's been a struggle this year for the former Defensive Player of the Year, mainly because he's battled arthritis in his back that has proven to be quite painful. To Urlacher's credit, he hasn't blamed the condition for his borderline unspectacular play in 2007 and continues to give maximum effort every time he puts on a helmet.

But Monday's performance proved once again that he can be the best defender in the game when operating at full capacity, and you know the organization will do everything in its power to get No. 54 the best treatment possible in the offseason so he's good as new in 2008.

3. Either make Hester a full-time receiver or just let him be a return man


WR Devin Hester
Jim Mone/AP Images
We all knew it wasn't going to be easy for special-teams superstar Devin Hester to make the transition from defense to offense overnight, but Turner is not giving him much of a chance to succeed. Turner has been heavily criticized for running an offense that is way too predictable, and never is that more apparent than when Hester trots onto the field. That quick bubble screen keeps getting called even though it hasn't worked all year long, and Hester also lost one yard on a reverse Monday night because everybody in attendance at the Metrodome saw it coming.

According to Minnesota linebacker Chad Greenway in the locker room after the game, he knew exactly what to expect when the most exciting player in football entered the huddle: "You know when he comes in a game on offense that they're going to do something with him. We knew it would be something gimmicky like a reverse or a slot screen. We were aware of where he was but didn't do anything specifically different to counter for him."

4. Getting Vasher back at corner made all the difference in the secondary
The Bears had no idea that Nathan Vasher would ultimately miss 10 games after injuring his groin in Week 3 against Dallas, but he proved just how valuable he is to the defensive backfield Monday night. And while the interception he got was an absolute gift from second-year signal-caller Tarvaris Jackson, he and fellow corner Charles Tillman looked to have great chemistry once again despite not being on the field together for nearly three months. The domino effect of not having Vasher in the mix was nothing short of catastrophic for this defense because nobody was able to fill his shoes with any consistency all season long.

The coaching staff has seemingly lost all faith in nickelback Ricky Manning Jr., which means it's time for someone like Trumaine McBride or maybe even Danieal Manning to learn that valuable role during the offseason program.

5. Kreutz is the only offensive lineman assured of his job next season
Not only have the five opening-day starters on the offensive line proven to be deficient this year, but even the primary backups have shown that they need to be replaced. Terrence Metcalf was benched at left guard in favor of career tackle John St. Clair on Monday night, and right guard Roberto Garza was completely overmatched against the likes of Kevin Williams and Pat Williams in the trenches. Fred Miller has become a laughingstock at right tackle with brutal blocking and a plethora of penalties, and even left tackle John Tait is long overdue for a move back to the right side as he continues to struggle with speed rushers off the edge.

Olin Kreutz will be the starting center next season even though he hasn't enjoyed his best campaign, but nobody else currently on the roster is guaranteed of anything because the entire unit needs a top-to-bottom overhaul.

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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