Sunday School: What We Learned

The Chicago Bears should be 3-0. They aren't. After snatching defeat from the jaws of victory in back to back ballgames, should we now be encouraged or discouraged? Here are five things we learned about the Midway Monsters after a gut-wrenching 27-24 defeat to the resiliant Buccaneers on Sunday.

1. Briggs has overtaken Urlacher as the best linebacker in the Windy City
The Bears headed into the season with one of the best linebacking corps in the entire NFL, although Brian Urlacher hasn't delivered many big plays thus far and Hunter Hillenmeyer keeps getting beaten in coverage. Lance Briggs, on the other hand, is terrorizing enemy offenses from sideline to sideline and earning every penny of that mega contract he signed this past March. Briggs may have only been credited with six tackles against the Buccaneers in Week 3, but he intercepted a pass and knocked down three more on the afternoon – most of the bone-jarring hits delivered by this defense in three games have been courtesy of No. 55, too.

One has to wonder if Urlacher is indeed a player in decline after back problems in 2007 coupled with offseason neck surgery, but Briggs is in his prime and well on his way to a fourth consecutive Pro Bowl appearance.


RB Kevin Jones
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

2. Jones needs to start getting more carries
It's very hard to blame the coaching staff for running rookie Matt Forte into the ground since he's been the team's only consistent offensive threat through three weeks, but he's already received 73 carries – tops in the NFL. The second-round draft pick from Tulane is on pace for an astonishing 389 rushes in 2008, which would break the franchise record of 381 set in 1984 by the legendary Walter Payton. And when you consider the fact that Forte is also tied for the team lead with 13 catches, the Bears are subjecting their prized possession to way too much punishment at this point in his career.

Former Lion Kevin Jones was brought in to alleviate some of the pressure from Forte and give the ground attack more of a one-two punch, yet he's only been given four attempts combined in two games since getting 13 carries in Week 1.

3. Neither Tillman nor Vasher will ever be a true cover corner
The front office has spent a ton of money in recent years in an effort to keep the nucleus of a once-dominant defense together, including $69 million on contract extensions for Charles Tillman and Nathan Vasher at the two cornerback spots. While both of them are terrific players and come up with their fair share of turnovers – Vasher dubbed "The Interceptor" and Tillman known for his ability to strip the ball after completions – they can be taken to school by good wideouts if the quarterback has time to throw. With the Bears creeping their linebackers closer to the line of scrimmage Sunday in an effort to confuse the Tampa Bay offensive line as to who's coming and who's not, Brian Griese took advantage of one-on-one matchups on the outside and thrashed the secondary for 407 yards passing.

Not only was Vasher being pulled in favor of the bigger Corey Graham at times in obvious running situations, but he was torched by journeyman Antonio Bryant for a 38-yard pitch-and-catch in overtime that set up the game-clinching field goal.


WR Brandon Lloyd
Otto Greule Jr./Getty Images

4. Don't expect Lloyd to be that good all season
The Bears finally had one of their receivers take it personally and make a few plays through the air, as Brandon Lloyd announced himself as the team's top target with six grabs for 124 yards and a touchdown against Tampa Bay. The former Illini star used his athleticism to make several highwire-act catches, including a 19-yard scoring strike from Kyle Orton when he came up with an acrobatic grab in the end zone over one of the best corners in the business, Ronde Barber. Even more impressive, Lloyd did all of his damage after intermission.

But now that Lloyd has put all of that good work on tape, coupled with the stone-cold reality that neither Rashied Davis – yet another back-breaking drop Sunday – nor Marty Booker has done a thing so far in three games, opposing defensive coordinators will start rolling a safety Lloyd's way and force somebody else to get open regularly.

5. Harris is once again going to be a ghost at times because of injuries
What do Nick Roach and Trumaine McBride have in common, aside from both being nothing more than special-teams contributors who don't see the field on defense? They have the same amount of tackles (3), tackles for loss (0), sacks (0), and passes defensed (0) this season as the highest-paid defensive tackle in the league, Tommie Harris. We all know the Bears organization is a little less than forthcoming with regard to injury updates on their players, especially big-name players, but Harris is obviously more banged up than originally believed as he's been borderline invisible at times on D.

While it's good to see Dusty Dvoracek, Israel Idonije, and rookie Marcus Harrison step up to the challenge on a unit ranked fourth in the NFL against the run, Harris is the one who was supposed to deliver the explosive, game-changing plays up front – he hasn't come up with even one yet.

John Crist is the Publisher of Bear Report and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.


Bear Report Top Stories