What We Learned: Rams vs. Bears

What did we learn about the Chicago Bears after a 17-9 win over Steven Jackson and the miserable St. Louis Rams at Soldier Field? Start with these five observations made straight from the press box.

1. Cutler was reigned in as if he were another Grossman or Orton
When Jay Cutler racked up 131 yards passing in the first quarter against the Rams, highlighted by Devin Hester's 43-yard bomb and Earl Bennett's 71-yard catch-and-run, it was safe to assume the strong-armed signal caller was on his way to a big day. But that didn't happen, as Cutler was neutered after the Bears got off to a 10-0 lead and only registered 12 yards through the air the rest of the way. When asked at the podium why his offense took its collective foot off the accelerator, choosing to run the ball 24 times with Matt Forte and 11 more with Kahlil Bell, Cutler said there was no reason to take any chances since the coaching staff believed St. Louis was incapable of driving the length of the field to score.

So there you go, Bears fans, two first-round picks and a $30 million extension later, the Chicago brain trust has essentially turned Cutler into another Rex Grossman or Kyle Orton – "Just don't screw it up, son, that's all we ask."

2. It's fair to revisit the Briggs-or-Berrian decision from 2008
With both Lance Briggs and Bernard Berrian filing for free agency after the 2007 season, Briggs coming off his third straight Pro Bowl nod and Berrian establishing himself as one of the top deep threats in the league, Bears general manager Jerry Angelo had to decide between the two when it came to how he was going to spend his money in free agency. He opted to give Briggs a six-year, $36 million contract, which opened the door for Berrian to sign with NFC North rival Minnesota for six years and $42 million. Nobody will dispute the fact that Briggs is a better linebacker than Berrian is a receiver, but when Jamar Williams steps in against the Rams and records 18 tackles in just his second career start on the weak side, one has to wonder if replacing Briggs would have been much easier than it has been trying to replace Berrian.

While Berrian has hardly lit it up with the Vikings, as Sidney Rice has surpassed him on Brett Favre's priority list, having Berrian alongside the likes of Hester and Bennett may have made Cutler's transition to the Windy City a bit smoother.

3. Manning needs to be removed from the depth chart at safety
It's been said time and time again that Danieal Manning is the best pure athlete on the roster, but after watching him play reasonably well at free safety as a rookie in 2006 alongside Mike Brown, jerking him around from safety to corner to nickel and back again ever since has done nothing but stunt his development. The fourth-year pro was demoted to nickel back against the Rams, as Chicago instead put Al Afalava at free safety even though he is a much better fit at the strong safety position. The Bears got away with Afalava and Kevin Payne on the field at the same time because St. Louis has one of the worst passing games in the league, but if that's the lineup Sunday against the Packers, Aaron Rodgers will have a field day firing deep to Donald Driver and Greg Jennings.


S Danieal Manning
Getty Images: Kevin C. Cox

Although Manning still has some value because he plays the nickel role well and returns kickoffs like a bat out of hell, the Bears would be wise to face the fact that they've ruined him as a safety and spend the offseason looking for a classic center fielder-type.

4. Angelo would give anything to have that second rounder back
When the Bears sent a second-round pick in the 2010 NFL Draft to Tampa Bay for Gaines Adams just before the trading deadline, the transaction was given a tentative thumbs-up since pass rushers are paramount in the Cover 2 and this one had a lot of unrealized potential. However, Adams has provided Chicago absolutely nothing so far and looks totally overmatched when he has been on the field, lending credence to the idea that was a total bust and the Buccaneers were ecstatic to get anything for their one-time No. 4-overall selection. Adams was a healthy scratch in Week 13 against the Rams, so the Bears coaching staff has already soured on him.

He can hide behind his claim that Adams was acquired for the future and he'll be improved once he gets more work with defensive line guru Rod Marinelli, but Angelo would take his second rounder back in a flash if he could.

5. Williams-and-Shaffer combo might be the way to go in 2010
Former first-round draft pick Chris Williams may not have looked like a natural in his first career start at left tackle, but he was an improvement over what Bears fans saw from future Hall of Famer – do we have to keep calling him that? – Orlando Pace for 11 games. Over on the right side, Kevin Shaffer held his own after doing nothing more than being a replacement off the bench for Pace in two contests earlier this season. While Williams gave up one sack on a speed rush around left end and Shaffer was whistled for one pre-snap penalty, those were the only noticeable errors from Chicago's tackle combination Sunday.

Assuming Angelo can find reinforcements at left guard in free agency, the Bears could do a lot worse than Williams at left tackle, Shaffer at right tackle and Frank Omiyale as a swing man and spot starter next season.


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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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