What We Learned: Bears vs. Falcons

What did we learn about the Chicago Bears after a 21-14 loss to Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons at Georgia Dome? Start with these five observations made straight from the press box.

1. Forget this nonsense about being a running football team
Many of the experts out there believe the 5-0 Saints to be the best team in the NFC and the 5-0 Colts to be the best team in the AFC, and the common denominator for both of them is that they run pass-first offenses led by Pro Bowl-caliber quarterbacks. The Bears don't have skill-position talent as deep as either New Orleans or Indy, but Drew Brees is throwing touchdown passes to the likes of Devery Henderson and Robert Meachem, while Peyton Manning keeps finding no-names Austin Collie and Pierre Garcon. Most everyone sees Devin Hester, Earl Bennett and Johnny Knox exceeding expectations catching passes from Jay Cutler, so the only question now is why they aren't getting more opportunities to do so.

Simply accept the fact that you're not going to get what you want out of Matt Forte and the running game because the offensive line isn't opening up holes, not to mention the fact that you can indeed throw the ball in inclement weather – just ask the Titans after their latest visit to New England.

LB Nick Roach
Getty Images: Jonathan Daniel

2. Urlacher's ability to call the defense was missing in Atlanta
With Brian Urlacher out for the season due to his wrist problem and veteran Hunter Hillenmeyer still on the shelf because of a rib fracture, Nick Roach has stepped into the middle and put his athletic ability on display. That being said, the former Northwestern Wildcat has a way's to go in terms of making the play calls in the huddle and getting his defense adjusted before the snap, which led directly to Roddy White's 40-yard touchdown on a wide receiver screen via Matt Ryan. With three pass catchers split to the right but only two defenders over there to cover them, Roach should have checked the Bears out of a blitz and given the D a better shot at stopping what was an easy pitch and catch.

Roach has done rather well at middle linebacker in terms of the physical stuff, but there were a few plays Sunday when the defense didn't quite know what it was doing right before the snap because the signals were taking a while to be relayed from player to player.

3. Forte getting 10.1 yards per carry against Detroit was a fluke
The Lions have proven to be one of the doormats of the league once again, getting shut out 26-0 by the NFC North rival Packers in Week 6 with Daunte Culpepper and Drew Stanton both posting a passer rating in the 20s. Some Bears fans thought Forte and the running game finally got things figured out since the second-year ball carrier ran for 121 yards and a touchdown on only 12 carries versus Detroit before the bye, but we're talking about a franchise that is 1-21 over the course of the last two seasons and surrenders 4.6 yards per carry so far in 2009. Take away his performance against the Motor City Kitties, and Forte has rushed 74 times for 173 yards – that's just 2.3 yards per carry – and zero scores.

Something needs to be done along the offensive line, starting with Josh Beekman supplanting the train wreck that has been Frank Omiyale at left guard.

CB Zack Bowman
Getty Images: Jonathan Daniel

4. Bowman being a star in OTAs and training camp hasn't mattered
While it's not time to give former Pro Bowler Nathan Vasher his job back or anything, Zack Bowman has struggled mightily at right cornerback so far this year. The 6-1, 197-pounder was nothing short of sensational throughout the entire offseason program and training camp until he pulled up lame with a hamstring injury, which cut into his preseason reps and may have slowed his development to some degree. The Bears have been forced to employ Charles Tillman as a shadow for White and Calvin Johnson of the Lions the last two games, meaning he hasn't been able to camp out at left corner where he's most comfortable.

Both Bowman and Vasher came up with an interception against the Falcons, but that's partially because the opponent is throwing quite often in their direction to wide-open receivers.

5. Cutler is going to have a hard time being a Pro Bowler in the NFC
Yes, Cutler threw two interceptions Sunday in Atlanta that took points off the board and has fired seven picks so far through five games, but there is no question he's the real deal and the best quarterback most Bears backers have ever seen. Nevertheless, he's far from a shoe-in to make the Pro Bowl, and one of the QBs more deserving than he is right now is the second-year star he lost to in Week 6: Ryan. Cutler is currently ninth in the NFC in passer rating – that does include Philadelphia backup Kevin Kolb – with an 86.9 mark, and former Pro Bowlers like Dallas' Tony Romo and Seattle's Matt Hasselbeck are nipping at his heels just a point or two behind.

Only Jake Delhomme of the Panthers has thrown more interceptions (10) than Cutler, plus he's already been sacked this year (10) almost as many times as he was all of last year (11) in Denver.

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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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