1. Getting blasted by the Packers said more than blasting the Rams
Sure, the Bears dominated St. Louis in every facet of the game Sunday, but the Rams might be just as bad as winless Detroit at this point. Credit Matt Forte for racking up a career-high 132 yards on the ground – scoring a pair of touchdowns along the way – and the defensive line for finally showing some life in the trenches, plus making the move from Devin Hester to Danieal Manning on kick returns looks to be the right one. There was a lot to like about the performance from start to finish, including five takeaways on D and a sixth straight start without an interception for Kyle Orton under center.
That being said, the Rams mailed in the rest of the 2008 season long ago, and the fact that the Bears were shredded on both sides of the ball by the rival Packers just seven days earlier still haunts this team.
DT Tommie Harris
2. Harris is starting to be a factor again up front
Head coach Lovie Smith's version of the Cover-2 D just doesn't work unless there is consistent pressure from the front four, and it's the three-technique tackle position that must be the catalyst for that pressure. After looking lost for the better part of the first half of the season, Pro Bowler Tommie Harris is beginning to play like the unblockable force he was earlier in his career. Not only does he have four sacks in his last five games, including two Sunday in St. Louis, but he's had at least three total tackles in each of the last three contests – he had no sacks and just one stop against the Colts, Panthers, Buccaners, and Falcons earlier in the year.
Alex Brown and Adewale Ogunleye are solid players capable of having big games, but they need No. 91 wreaking havoc on the inside in order to really be effective.
3. The offensive line needs to start getting more credit for its play
When the experts were putting together their checklists of strengths and weaknesses before the season, it was widely believed that the Bears' Achilles' heel would be their offensive line. Center Olin Kreutz was no longer playing at a Pro-Bowl level, left guard Josh Beekman seemed to be getting pushed around in training camp, and it was debatable whether or not moving John Tait from left tackle over to the right side would indeed rejuvenate his career. And then first-round draft pick Chris Williams, who was supposed to man the left tackle position for the next decade, went down with a herniated disc in his lower back, which left long-time backup John St. Clair to protect Orton's not-so-nimble blind side.
But lo and behold, Forte has found running room more often than not, Orton isn't getting sacked all that much, and Chicago is respectable stat-wise in most every offensive category across the board – the starting O-line has remained intact for all 11 games, which makes any unit more cohesive.
CB Corey Graham
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images
4. Losing Vasher might not be a bad thing
There were a few Midway Monsters that got knicked Sunday in the Edward Jones Dome, with right corner Nathan Vasher probably banged up the most. He had trouble with a wrist/thumb injury earlier in the year that forced him out of the lineup for a few games, allowing second-year pro Corey Graham to become much more involved in the defense – and the coaching staff really liked what they saw from him. Graham played well enough to earn his share of snaps even when Vasher returned healthy, plus his size and physical style defending the run is a good fit for this scheme.
Having Graham starting opposite Charles Tillman at cornerback also returns Manning to nickel back on a full-time basis, giving the Bears their most physically-imposing secondary just in time for Minnesota's Adrian Peterson.
5. Sunday in Minnesota is a must-win and will make or break the season
The Saints did both the Bears and Vikings a favor by blowing the Packers off the bayou with a 51-29 beatdown on Monday Night Football, meaning 6-5 Chicago and 6-5 Minnesota will be playing for sole possession of the NFC North in Week 13. The Bears simply must win at the Metrodome, mostly because they would then have a two-game sweep of the Vikings under their belt – remember head-to-head record is always the first tiebreaker in the NFL. Smith and Co. also have the easiest remaining schedule of the three ballclubs fighting for the division title, including a three-game homestand at chilly Soldier Field starting in Week 14.
However, losing to Purple Jesus and the Vikings could spell disaster for this team since the odds of qualifying for a wild card have all but disappeared – those giveaway games against Carolina, Tampa Bay, and Atlanta a while back robbed the Bears of any breathing room.
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.