What We Learned: Bears vs. Vikings

What did we learn about the Chicago Bears after a 36-10 loss to Brett Favre and the Minnesota Vikings at an always-loud Metrodome? Start with these five observations made straight from the press box.

1. Angelo went to the well too often looking for free-agent linemen
The Monsters of the Midway went to Super Bowl XLI with only one of their five starting offensive linemen being a draft pick (center Olin Kreutz), as left tackle John Tait, right tackle Fred Miller, left guard Ruben Brown and right guard Roberto Garza were all free-agent acquisitions. General manager Jerry Angelo was hoping to do the same thing in 2009 with future Hall of Famer Orlando Pace brought in to man the left tackle position and career backup Frank Omiyale targeted to make the transition inside to left guard, but both of them have turned out to be colossal failures so far. Pace was totally dominated by Jared Allen before finally leaving the Vikings game due to injury, and Omiyale – how he earned the starting job back from Josh Beekman is anyone's guess – couldn't even keep former first-round bust Jimmy Kennedy at bay.

Angelo may have no choice but to go fishing in the free-agent waters once again this offseason, mainly because he has refused to target young blockers early in the draft and keeps coming up empty with his second-day selections.

Rod Marinelli
Getty Images: Jonathan Daniel

2. The Marinelli Effect turned out to be nothing but a mirage
When the Bears brought in Rod Marinelli to be their new defensive line guru, fresh off the first 0-16 season in NFL history his last year in Detroit, every pass rusher on the roster raved about his energy level on the practice field and attention to detail in the film room. Both Alex Brown and Adewale Ogunleye started strong and were getting after the enemy passer consistently, but there has been zero pressure up front since the bye week. When Pro Bowlers like Carson Palmer, Kurt Warner, Donovan McNabb and – most recently – Brett Favre have the time to go through their progressions comfortably, you give up an average of 36.5 points per game, as the Bears have done in losses to the Bengals, Cardinals, Eagles and Vikings.

Yes, good coaching and smart scheming can help extract every last ounce of ability from lesser-talented players, but having no difference makers makes it near impossible to win week after week.

3. Cutler has no margin for error trying to lead this offense
When Jay Cutler feathered a beautiful touch pass to Johnny Knox in the back-right corner of the end zone for a 24-yard scoring strike, Bears fans got to see just what an elite quarterback can do – even though the rookie was running out of room and didn't have much separation. But on a similar play to the other side of the field later in the game, with Knox running the same fade pattern, Cutler underthrew the ball ever so slightly and had it picked off by a leaping Cedric Griffin, who made a highlight-reel play. Since Knox is inexperienced and didn't have the wherewithal to turn into a defender mid-route, Cutler gets ridiculed for yet another interception and yet another missed red-zone opportunity.

While Cutler certainly deserves some of the blame for throwing a less-than-perfect pass, a bigger receiver with better ball skills might have knocked it away from Griffin and saved his quarterback an INT.

WR Sidney Rice
Getty Images: Rick Stewart

4. Minnesota is set up to be dominant on offense for quite some time
The Vikings moved the football at will on an overmatched defense, as Favre threw for a fantasy-friendly 392 yards, five different receivers caught at least five passes and Adrian Peterson scored his ninth touchdown in five career games against Chicago. Although former Bear Bernard Berrian was signed to be the No. 1 option in Minnesota, Sidney Rice has emerged as an elite pass catcher and Percy Harvin is well on his way to Offensive Rookie of the Year honors as a slot wideout and return man. Peterson is the best running back in the game even if he didn't always look like it Sunday, and he'll be unstoppable if he ever learns how to stop fumbling.

Plus, with this offensive line protecting him and this much talent at his disposal at every skill position, there's no reason why Favre can't play another two or three years since he looked as good as ever in Week 12 – he's the MVP right now.

5. Losing to the Rams might be the kiss of death for Smith
Not only are the Rams 30th out of 32 teams in scoring offense at just 11.8 points per game, but they are also 30th in the league in scoring defense because they allow an even 27 points per game. With the exception of running back Steven Jackson, who is having an incredible year despite being the only offensive player worth game-planning against, St. Louis is in total rebuilding mode and every bit as bad as its 1-10 record would suggest. The Bears have lost six of seven games and have nothing left to shoot for in 2009 except pride, but they should still be considerable favorites over a Rams team that has been playing out the schedule pretty much since a 28-0 blanking by the Seahawks in Week 1.

Losing to St. Louis – his former employer – at Soldier Field would be nothing short of catastrophic for coach Lovie Smith, and it might be enough to warrant a pink slip.

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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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