What We Learned: Vikings vs. Bears

What did we learn about the Chicago Bears after a 36-30 win over Adrian Peterson and the Minnesota Vikings at Soldier Field? Here are five observations made straight from the press box.

1. All Cutler needs is a little time to go through his progressions
You can't take away the fact that Jay Cutler leads the league with 26 interceptions, six more than Rex Grossman ever threw in a season, but Monday's win proved once again that his natural talent is as good as any signal caller in the league. While the coaching staff foolishly let Orlando Pace block Jared Allen one on one in a Week 12 embarrassment at Minnesota, this time Chris Williams got some help from tight ends and running backs against the pass-rushing menace – also from offensive coordinator Ron Turner with those bootlegs and rollouts we've been waiting all year to see. Once he was able to set his feet and survey the field, Cutler found open receivers and made the right decision time and time again.

Forced to take three-step drops for most of the year because the blocking up front couldn't protect him long enough, the majority of Cutler's giveaways were the result of hurried throws and sloppy footwork.

2. Harris' head has more to do with his inconsistency than his knee
Even though he was only credited with three tackles on the stat sheet, Tommie Harris got two of them behind the line of scrimmage and was a fixture in the Minnesota backfield time after time. Listed on the injury report all week long with his troublesome knee problem, just like he is every week, evidence is mounting that there is nothing wrong with Harris from a physical standpoint and his up-and-down play is caused by whatever is going on between his ears. Whatever the reason may have been, the three-time Pro Bowler was motivated to wreak havoc against the Vikings and looked like the three-technique tackle – remember, that's the most important position in this defensive scheme – rewarded with a four-year, $40 million contract extension only two summers ago.

Not picking up his $2.5 million roster bonus in June would be dangerous since tackles like Harris are few and far between, but cutting that big check might be just as risky because you never know which player you're going to get on game day.

3. Hester needs to be fazed out of the No. 1 receiver role now
While you have to give Devin Hester a lot of credit for being the primary weapon in this offense most of the season even though he's inadequately equipped to succeed in that role, Monday's win showed that the passing game can be just as good – maybe even better – without him. It may be premature to declare Devin Aromashodu as the answer to Chicago's prayers at wideout, but he's a bigger target, just as fast running routes and has the kind of pass-catching instincts Hester simply doesn't possess. Hester would serve the Bears best as a No. 3 out of the slot and full-time return man, although he may not be needed on kickoffs anymore based on what Danieal Manning and rookie Johnny Knox have both done in 2009.


DE Mark Anderson
Getty Images: Jonathan Daniel

Hester is always going to be more of a Percy Harvin than a Steve Smith, so don't force him to master the entire route tree, and then build around Aromashodu, Knox and Earl Bennett next year.

4. This team needs to find a difference maker rushing off the edge
Not that Adewale Ogunleye and his 6.5 sacks in 14 games were sorely missed or anything, but the Bears need to find a consistent pass rusher – preferably at the right defensive end position – as quickly as possible. Don't blame the Cover 2 for being an antiquated scheme because it works just fine if run properly, just like it has in Minnesota with Allen and just like it has in Indianapolis with Dwight Freeney. Although Alex Brown would be a welcome addition to any team because he does anything to win, five sacks in 15 games from the premier pass-rushing position aren't enough.

Neither Gaines Adams nor Jarron Gilbert made much of an impact with their most extended playing time of the season Monday, and Mark Anderson can't be counted on for the future since he was only auditioning for other teams against the Vikings.

5. Don't be fooled into thinking Chicago is ready to compete again
Bears fans are still beaming after Monday's performance against the Vikings, beating a quality opponent for the first time in months and shooting down any hopes a division rival had for the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs. The running game showed some spark, Cutler threw a season-high four TD passes, the front four got after Brett Favre pretty consistently, backup safeties Josh Bullocks and Craig Steltz didn't embarrass themselves and special teams – aside from Robbie Gould surprisingly missing a field goal in overtime – were impressive yet again. After the final gun it was quite fair to wonder, Maybe this team isn't so bad after all.

As Lee Corso might say, "Not so fast, my friend." The offense still needs a new system. The defense still has holes to plug at every position. The coaching staff still could use a shake-up. The front office still has to do a better job assessing talent. Relish Monday's win, Bears fans, but don't let your team off the hook that easily.


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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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