Bill Huber: The Bears defense hasn't been Monsters-of-the-Midway material this season. What's going on down there, and do they have what it takes to dominate the Packers offense like Minnesota did last week?
John Crist: The Bears have dealt with their fair share of injuries this season just like every NFL team, from Tommie Harris' knee to Hunter Hillenmeyer's thumb to Charles Tillman's shoulder. But unlike last year when this unit was absolutely decimated by injuries from start to finish, the story of 2008 has been more about ineffectiveness from key players – and Lovie Smith's pride and joy, the Cover 2, is coming into question as a result. While Chicago has been terrific against the run and only surrenders 74.9 yards per game on the ground, the pass defense has been shredded by some pretty run-of-the-mill quarterbacks and gives up 251.8 yards per game through the air.
Brian Urlacher and Co. certainly have the credentials to be a dominant force again since six of the 11 starters are current or former Pro Bowlers, but this group of Midway Monsters simply doesn't scare anyone anymore.
JC: Orton and Grossman certainly appeared to be neck-and-neck for the starting job during training camp down in Bourbonnais, but the coaching staff knew what was going on behind closed doors and has been proven right by Orton's terrific play. First of all, Orton is more mature than the rambunctious youngster who was the subject of a few infamous internet photos featuring a mostly-empty bottle of Jack Daniel's. And on the field, he's got complete command of the huddle, is spreading the ball around without worrying about his stat line, and is much more accurate with this throws than Grossman ever was – pass catchers are seeing more catch-and-run opportunities as a result.
The Bears do their best to hide injury information like Randolph and Mortimer Duke hide the results of the season's crop report, but all indications point to Orton being relatively healthy and ready to play Sunday in Green Bay.
BH: Regardless of who's at quarterback, they'll have to deal with the Packers' superlative defensive backs. Last week, Green Bay rendered former Bears wideout Bernard Berrian null and void. Do the Bears have anyone who can test the secondary, or should tight end Greg Olsen expect about 15 passes thrown his way?
JC: The Bears' lack of a No. 1 receiver was on display in Sunday's loss to the Titans, as Grossman clearly missed having a go-to guy like Berrian when he got in tough down-and-distance situations. Orton hasn't necessarily needed a primary target to be successful, which is all the more impressive with also-rans like Rashied Davis and Marty Booker on the receiving end – Devin Hester has all the talent in the world and will make any DB nervous in open space, but he's a long way away from being a consistent threat on offense. While Brandon Lloyd was establishing himself nicely the first few weeks of the season, he sprained a knee in Week 4 and, living up to his reputation as a soft player, hasn't suited up since.
Olsen is the real deal and looks to be the next great tight end in this league, although it's tough to get explosive plays from that position – especially against a secondary as good as Green Bay's.
BH: All offseason in Green Bay the coaches raved about Brandon Jackson, but he hasn't lived up to the hype. All offseason in Chicago, the coaches raved about rookie Matt Forte. He has lived up to the hype. Tell us more about this versatile running back.
JC: Forte is obviously getting a lot of attention around the league since he's the subject of a Behind Enemy Lines question each and every week, and deservedly so. Cedric Benson was just a colossal failure in the backfield last season mostly because he couldn't make any contribution whatsover to the passing game, proving to be a terrible receiver and not much of a blocker. Not only does Forte have the guts to absorb punishment between the tackles and enough speed to make plays on the outside, but he's a fantastic receiver and doesn't mind sticking his nose in there in pass protection.
Forte is the offensive MVP of this team so far without question, and I could make a very strong case for him being elected to the Pro Bowl as a rookie ahead of veterans like New York's Brandon Jacobs, San Francisco's Frank Gore, and Dallas' Marion Barber.
BH: There's a punt returner in this game with two touchdowns, but it's not Hester – it's Green Bay's Will Blackmon. What are opponents doing to keep the record-setting Hester in check?
JC: I believe it's more what Hester is doing to himself as opposed to what teams are doing to stop him. Believe me, every special teams coordinator in the league pulled out all the gadgets the last two years doing whatever possible to slow him down: pooch punts, high-and-short kickoffs, deliberate kicks out of bounds – the list goes on and on. It simply didn't matter, as Hester was the most electrifying player in all of football and making a case as the greatest return man in history before his 25th birthday.
It's impossible to say with any certainty whether his increased role on offense has taken away from his mesmerizing magic on special teams, but for some reason he looks very tentative and awfully unsure of himself lately.
Be on the lookout for Part II of this three-part series, where Bill answers five questions from John, on Thursday.
Behind Enemy Lines: Part I
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