Good News, Bad News: Bye Banter

There is good news and bad news for the Chicago Bears through seven games of the season. While Kyle Orton and the offense have been impressive more often than not, Tommie Harris and the defense have been unable to live up to their reputation. Get the Inside Slant from the NFL experts at

Kyle Orton has been the Bears' most pleasant surprise in the first part of the season, avoiding mistakes, making big plays and making opponents pay for overplaying the run.

In fact, the entire offense has performed better than expected in helping the Bears to a 4-3 record and a share of first place in the NFC North.

Orton has done an exceptional job of spreading the ball around to multiple receivers. In seven games, six different players have led the team in receiving yards. He is sixth in the NFL with 1,669 yards and has a 10-4 TD-INT ratio and a 91.4 passer rating. Orton has not been intercepted in his last 116 passes and has been entrusted with making calls at the line of scrimmage and running some no-huddle offense.

Rookie running back Matt Forte demonstrated to opponents after just two games that he warranted special attention, and that has slowed him some after an impressive start – 215 yards on 46 carries in his first two games. But the threat of Forte's running has helped open up the passing game, to which he's also contributed a team-best 29 receptions, although his average yards per carry has dropped to a mediocre 3.5.

Heading into the season, the wide receivers got no respect outside their own locker room, but they're starting to make believers out of their critics. Rashied Davis has already matched his career high with 22 catches. Devin Hester has taken major strides as a receiver, and Marty Booker is starting to become a factor after a slow start and is averaging 16.6 yards per catch. Before he suffered a sprained knee in Week 4, Brandon Lloyd gave every indication of becoming a go-to receiver and was on pace for a 996-yard season. He has missed the past three games but should return after the bye.

TE Greg Olsen is starting to emerge as a difference maker with 16 catches for 237 yards in the past four games, and TE Desmond Clark (17 catches, 205 yards) still provides a valuable safety net for Orton and the occasional big play. The two have combined for 39 catches and 501 yards. Olsen's 296 yards – on 22 catches – are the most on the club.

While the defensive line has contributed to the Bears' superb work in stopping the run, it has not supplied the pass-rush pressure that was expected. The Bears are No. 26 in sacks, and the team leader, Alex Brown, has just three.

DT Tommie Harris
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

No player on the team has more room for growth than defensive tackle Tommie Harris, whose performance last week was his first of the season that resembled the Pro Bowl level he played at the previous three seasons. Harris, who had eight sacks last year, got his first last week.

"Tommie's a great player," head coach Lovie Smith said. "He makes our entire defensive line better. The best game he played this year was [against the Vikings]. We saw signs of the old Tommie coming back. We expect to see that and more the next time we play."

The secondary is also a mess, but that situation should improve with a weekend off. Starting corners Charles Tillman (shoulder) and Nathan Vasher (wrist) and nickelback Danieal Manning (hamstring) all missed the last game and did not participate in this week's scaled-back practices Wednesday and Thursday. Neither did No. 3 cornerback Corey Graham (concussion), who may have already moved ahead of Vasher into a full-time starting job.

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