What We Learned: Browns vs. Bears

What did we learn about the Chicago Bears after a 30-6 W over Derek Anderson and the pitiful Browns at Soldier Field? Start with these five observations made straight from the press box.

1. The win wasn't nearly as impressive as the final score would indicate
It's easy to look at the box score and assume the Monsters of the Midway dominated a bad Cleveland team from start to finish and gave the Soldier Field faithful reason to be optimistic. But that was not the case, as the offense struggled mightily in the red zone, Jamal Lewis ran the ball fairly well against a lot of eight-man fronts and the lines didn't play particularly well on either side of the ball. Matt Forte only averaged 3.5 yards per carry facing the 31st-ranked rushing defense, Tommie Harris again wasn't much of a factor and – most alarming by far – Jay Cutler took a beating all day long in the pocket.

The Bears can get right back in the wild-card race with three straight non-division NFC opponents (Arizona at home, at San Francisco, Philadelphia at home) coming up on the schedule, but a three-game sweep looks like a lot to ask at this point.

QB Jay Cutler
Getty Images: Jonathan Daniel

2. Beekman-for-Omiyale won't fix all of the O-line's problems
Fans might get the impression that the Bears had a big day running the ball with 170 yards on 37 carries, but remember Cutler was forced to scramble five times for 32 yards and Garrett Wolfe picked up 36 yards on a garbage-time scamper down the left sideline late in the final seconds. While Forte made his fantasy owners happy with 90 yards and a pair of touchdowns runs, he never busted one longer than 12 yards and was forced to deal with would-be tacklers the moment he took the handoff quite often. Inserting Josh Beekman back at left guard and sending Frank Omiyale to the end of the bench was certainly the correct decision, although it was far from a cure-all for the offensive line as a whole.

Most concerning is the lackluster play of left tackle Orlando Pace, who, granted, wasn't asked to be as good as he was in St. Louis, but it might be time to at least entertain the thought of sitting him down for a week and see what happens.

3. Playing Payne at free safety was a bad idea in the first place
Originally a tailback his first two years at Louisiana-Monroe, Kevin Payne switched to defense as a junior and found a home at strong safety because of his physical nature and in-the-box aggressiveness. He was forced to play out of position last year at free safety because the Bears did what they could to get more out of the now-departed Mike Brown, which meant Payne's play went south as the schedule wore on because he doesn't have the coverage skills to handle faster wide receivers and bigger tight ends in space. Still, because coach Lovie Smith is in favor of Danieal Manning moving from free safety to nickel back when the opposing offense goes three- and four-wide, Payne was back at free safety and looked terrible before finally being removed in favor of life-long corner Nathan Vasher last week.

Either play Manning at free safety on every down – he may improve there as a result – and get Corey Graham on the field in the nickel package, or hope Vasher means it when he says he'll do anything to help the team win.

TE Greg Olsen
Getty Images: Jonathan Daniel

4. Olsen will never be a tight end in the true sense of the term
The reason a tight end is called a "tight end" in the first place is because he lines up in tight on the end of the line of scrimmage, making him important as an extra blocker in the running game and also an eligible receiver in the passing game. But it's becoming clear that former first-round draft pick Greg Olsen is never going to be a good enough blocker to handle defensive ends on a consistent basis, and the fact that he's now starting this season ahead of Desmond Clark means he has to handle more of the traditional tight end duties instead of just catching passes. Expected by many to have a breakout campaign, Olsen is only averaging about three receptions per game and a paltry 9.8 yards per catch.

It wouldn't be crazy to put Clark back in the starting lineup and then use Olsen as nothing more than a second tight end and hybrid receiver, a role that everyone knows suits him well.

5. Roach can play the middle but is better suited for the outside
At 6-2 and a generously-listed 230 pounds, Nick Roach is hardly an ideal fit at the strong-side linebacker position since a lot of plays are run his direction and he has to deal with blocks from tight ends and fullbacks. He can make better use of his sideline-to-sideline speed at middle linebacker, which he did after Brian Urlacher was lost for the season with a wrist injury and then Hunter Hillenmeyer fractured a rib. That being said, even though Roach is a Northwestern graduate and one of the smarter players in the locker room, his relative inexperience made calling the signals in the huddle an issue and adjustments at the of scrimmage a challenge.

The Midway Monsters appeared to be much more ready for what the Browns (ahem) offense threw at them, so re-inserting the veteran Hillenmeyer inside and then moving Roach back outside looks like the right decision.

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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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