What We Learned: Cardinals vs. Bears

What did we learn about the Chicago Bears after a 41-21 defeat to Larry Fitzgerald and the Cardinals at Soldier Field? Start with these five observations made straight from the press box.

1. Something is severely wrong with Harris between the ears
Earlier in his career, defensive tackle Tommie Harris was being compared to the late Reggie White, not only for his on-the-field production but his off-the-field awareness. The son of a Texas preacher, Harris wreaked havoc in the trenches on his way to three straight Pro Bowls, and winning the Ed Block Courage Award in 2008 proved that he cared about much more than football – the award promotes the prevention of child abuse. Addressing the media Monday, a day after being ejected from Sunday's loss to the Cardinals for throwing a punch at offensive lineman Deuce Lutui, Harris made sure to apologize to all the kids out there in hopes they would learn from his mistake and never follow his poor example.

The fall from grace for the 6-3, 295-pound Harris has been stunning to watch, from maybe the best player at his position to run-of-the-mill contributor, and from gregarious and fun-loving to ornery and difficult with the media.


TE Greg Olsen
Getty Images: Jonathan Daniel

2. Accept that you're a passing team and game-plan accordingly
Sure, just like the Cincinnati game a few weeks ago, offensive coordinator Ron Turner's battle plan had to be thrown out the window rather quickly because the Cardinals scored 31 points in the first half and forced the Midway Monsters to play catch-up the rest of the way. After watching Arizona surrender 270 yards rushing and 6.1 yards per carry to the Panthers seven days prior, Matt Forte only got five rushing attempts because Jay Cutler had to chuck and duck all day in order to make it a ballgame. While it's difficult to call running plays staring at double-digit deficits so quickly, the Bears shouldn't concern themselves so much with balance because the passing game is clearly their strength right now.

Cutler is on pace to throw for over 4,000 yards, Devin Hester and Earl Bennett have both exceeded expectations and Greg Olsen finally showed up with three TD receptions, so quit living in the past and be what you are.

3. The Cover 2 is destined to fail with this personnel on the field
Say what you want about coach Lovie Smith's Cover-2 scheme, but it's proven to be successful when run properly and top-of-the-line players are running it. The strength of his defense is supposed to be up the middle, specifically the three-technique tackle, the Mike linebacker and one of the two safeties, which was great when Harris was unblockable up front, Brian Urlacher was winning Defensive Player of the Year and Mike Brown was the heart and soul patrolling center field. However, with Harris a shell of his former self, Urlacher on injured reserve and Brown now wearing a Chiefs uniform, the Bears simply don't have the personnel to make this system work.

There isn't a difference-making pass rusher on the roster, push from the tackles is nowhere to be found, Urlacher's replacements are nothing more than average Joes, none of the corners can be considered a quality coverage guy and the safeties bring zero leadership to the table – aside from all that, it's a good defense.


G Roberto Garza
Getty Images: Jonathan Daniel

4. The offensive line is overdue for yet another reshuffling
General manager Jerry Angelo did well for himself earlier in his Bears career patching the offensive line with quality veterans found in free agency, namely John Tait at left tackle from the Chiefs, Ruben Brown at left guard from the Bills and Roberto Garza at right guard from the Falcons. But filling in the blanks this time around has not gone smoothly, with Frank Omiyale already benched at left guard in favor of Josh Beekman and eventual Hall of Famer Orlando Pace running on fumes at left tackle – another free-agent fix, Kevin Shaffer, deserves a start very soon. Even if Shaffer gets a shot and proves to be better than Pace or right tackle Chris Williams, Angelo still needs to find a top-notch blocker or two before 2010, which will be arduous with no Day-1 draft picks.

Former Pro Bowler Olin Kreutz also appears to be done, meaning the Bears may be even thinner on the O-line next year if Beekman has to slide over to center.

5. Tillman moving from corner to safety has to happen soon
Even if Charles Tillman is the best cornerback on Chicago's roster, he didn't have a chance to do well Sunday against Arizona's Larry Fitzgerald in one-on-one coverage. Fitzgerald caught nine passes for 123 yards and two touchdowns, and he did most of that damage in the first half before Tillman left with a shoulder injury – it was minor, and Tillman should be good to go Thursday at San Francisco. Tillman's stock has been inflated in Chicago because he is a sound tackler and has a penchant for getting takeaways, but those traits would be even more valuable at free safety since he's no match for wideouts like Fitzgerald and Cincinnati's Chad Ochocinco.

This will be hard to do since Nathan Vasher can't cover anymore, Zack Bowman is still green and rookie D.J. Moore was lucky to make the 53-man roster, so Angelo may have to find the best available corner in free agency and write a big check.


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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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