Sunday School: What We Learned

The Chicago Bears are on life support, but there is reason for hope. The Vikes have a tough schedule down the stretch. The Bears, however, do not. Here are five more things we learned about the Midway Monsters after a 34-14 beatdown delivered by rival Minnesota at the Metrodome on Sunday night.

1. It's not over in the NFC North by a long shot
The Bears probably could have wrapped up their third division title in four years if they had just defeated the Vikings on Sunday night, but Minnesota's 34-14 victory hardly guarantees a spot in the postseason. While the Bears have three straight home games on the horizon and don't play a team with a winning record the rest of the way, their NFC North rivals have three difficult matchups following their Week 14 gimme at Detroit: at the pass-happy Cardinals, home against the surging Falcons, and then home again versus the dominating Giants. It's not beyond the realm of possibility that Minnesota loses two or three of those contests down the stretch.

Chicago should be the favorite at Soldier Field over the visiting Jaguars, Saints, and hated Packers before the season finale in Houston, so a three-game sweep on the homestand might be enough to vault back into first place.

TE Desmond Clark
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

2. Tight ends can no longer pick up the slack
It's no secret that the Bears have arguably the least impressive crop of receivers in the league, and their lack of productivity is now starting to have a trickle down effect. Terrific tight ends Desmond Clark and Greg Olsen have been splitting out wide and doing what they can to create mismatches in the secondary, but gimmicks like that can only bridge the gap for a week or two. Olsen has caught a grand total of one pass in the last two games, and Clark had just a single grab against the Vikings.

While Devin Hester was able to turn a short slant pass into a scorching 65-yard scoring strike in the first quarter, Rashied Davis is still battling a mean case of the dropsies, Brandon Lloyd can't find his rhythm after missing time with a sprained knee, and neither of the kids – rookie Earl Bennett nor practice-squad hero Brandon Rideau – is being given a chance to contribute.

3. The D simply doesn't have a chance without constant pressure
For about a quarter, the Bears looked like they were up for the challenge in the trenches and broke through for a pair of early sacks – one by Alex Brown, and the other by Tommie Harris. Journeyman quarterback Gus Frerotte was uncomfortable in the pocket initially, but he settled down once his offensive line started to keep the Chicago front four at bay. Suddenly, Adrian Peterson was finding room to run, tight ends Jim Kleinsasser and Visanthe Shiancoe both made big plays over the middle, and Bernard Berrian delivered his 99-yard dagger that essentially put an end to the competitive portion of the ballgame.

The Bears will apparently live and die by the Cover 2 so long as Lovie Smith is head coach, meaning this defense is quite beatable if the D-line has an off day.

OT John St. Clair
Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

4. St. Clair doesn't deserve the blame he's getting
Yes, Vikings defensive end Jared Allen looked just about unblockable for the better part of the game and has racked up five sacks of Bears quarterbacks this year. He played left tackle John St. Clair like a flute for the majority of the contest and made a ton of big plays defending both the run and the pass, but let's keep things in perspective and remember that he signed that contract in the offseason guaranteeing him $31 million for a reason. For the most part, St. Clair has done a fine job protecting his QB's blind side in 2008, especially considering he was nothing more than an emergency replacement in 2007, so perhaps you can hang this one on the coaches for not sending backs and tight ends Allen's direction often enough.

A couple of Matt Forte screens and draws to Allen's side of the field might have helped slow his ferocious pass rush off the edge, but this was far from offensive coordinator Ron Turner's finest hour.

5. Now's the time for Harrison to grow into all that first-round talent
Veteran Anthony Adams will likely be elevated to the starting lineup at nose tackle now that Dusty Dvoracek has been moved to injured reserve – for the third time in three years as a pro – with a torn biceps muscle. Adams is a quality run stuffer and a team-first player, but rookie Marcus Harrison needs to get as many snaps as possible these next four games to see if he can be the long-term answer lining up next to Harris. While Harrison fell to the Bears in the third round because of character concerns coming out of Arkansas, the 6-3, 317-pounder has been a model citizen thus far and only scratched the surface of his sky-high potential.

Everybody loves Dvoracek for his blue-collar style and game-day intensity, although it might be time to turn the page since he will have missed 35 of 48 career games by season's end.

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

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