What We Learned: Lions vs. Bears

Sunday was a struggle for 30 minutes and more than enough to make some fans squirm in their seats, but the Chicago Bears corraled the Lions with special teams after halftime and sent them home losers again. What did we learn at Soldier Field? Start with these five observations ...

1. There is never a bad time for a bye week in the NFL
Even though Danieal Manning said in the locker room after the game that he prefers the bye week not to be so early in the season, he admitted the team is a little banged up right now and could certainly use an seven extra days of rest. In particular, the linebacker position continues to be a problem from a depth perspective, although you have to hand it to reserves like Tim Shaw and Darrell McClover – they were signed off the street and have done well on special teams. Expect Pisa Tinoisamoa and Hunter Hillenmeyer to both return in Week 6 at Atlanta, which will help a unit already down Brian Urlacher for the rest of the year.

That being said, while Tinoisamoa will be back in the starting lineup at strong-side linebacker no questions asked, Hillenmeyer may be relegated to a backup role again with Nick Roach impressing in the middle.

RB Matt Forte
AP Images: M. Spencer Green

2. Don't assume the running game is fixed just yet
If you look at the statistics, Matt Forte had a big day on the ground: 121 yards, 10.1 yards per attempt, a touchdown and a career-long run of 61 yards on Chicago's second play from scrimmage. However, if you subtract the 61-yarder and his 37-yard score, Forte only ran for 23 yards on 10 carries – a measly 2.3 yards per attempt. The offensive line is doing a relatively good job protecting Jay Cutler in the passing game even though he's on pace to be sacked more this season than he was last season in Denver, but Forte still doesn't have many holes to run through and is being hit quite often before he reaches the line of scrimmage.

The Bears are officially a passing team four games into the Cutler experiment and should continue that trend for the rest of the year, so don't get used to these triple-digit performances from Forte.

3. Marinelli was indeed the most important signing of the offseason
The Monsters of the Midway weren't very monstrous rushing the passer in 2008, accumulating only 28 sacks in 16 games – they were shredded through the air more often than not as a result. But at the quarter post of the '09 campaign, the Bears already have 14 sacks, with nine different players recording at least one so far. The supposedly solid-but-unspectacular defensive end combination of Alex Brown and Adewale Ogunleye has been especially productive, totaling seven sacks and taking down enemy QBs for 62 yards worth of losses.

He'll never be able to escape the fact that he was the coach of the first and only 0-16 team in NFL history last year in the Motor City, but Rod Marinelli is earning his money in the Windy City and proving to be worth the hype his signing generated.

P Brad Maynard
Getty Images: Jonathan Daniel

4. Toub has a realistic chance to be a head coach in this league
Coach Lovie Smith says he'll always support his subordinates when it comes to them getting an opportunity to move up on the NFL totem pole, as he did repeatedly with former D-coordinator Ron Rivera, and he may have to do the same with Dave Toub before long. Even though he's seemingly never dealt the same hand on special teams, Toub has had the Midas Touch with return men – Devin Hester, Danieal Manning and Johnny Knox have all scored on kickoff returns the last three seasons. A tiny third-down back like Garrett Wolfe, who previously admitted he never played special teams even going back to high school, has been transformed into a force on the coverage units and makes a big tackle every week.

It helps when you have a money kicker like Robbie Gould, an assassin punter like Brad Maynard and a marksman long snapper like Patrick Mannelly on the roster, but Toub fills in the blanks beautifully and calls a terrific scheme each and every Sunday.

5. Detroit is set up to be a contender again down the road
While they're not ready to make any noise in the NFC North just yet, the Lions have an impressive array of talent on the offensive side of the football and appear to be headed in the right direction. Matthew Stafford slung it all over the field in the first half against the Bears, Kevin Smith deserves a tip of the cap for scoring twice with a bad shoulder and nobody in the league can cover Calvin Johnson man-to-man. Even the offensive line is in relatively good shape, which is important for a team throwing a rookie QB to the wolves with hopes he becomes more Peyton Manning than Ryan Leaf.

New coach Jim Schwartz has his hands full defensively, mostly in the secondary because Detroit hasn't covered anybody for years, but first-year pro Louis Delmas is a keeper and should patrol center field for quite some time – that gigantic chip on his shoulder will serve him well.

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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.

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