Bears Aren't Fully Healed From Early Wounds

The Chicago Bears looked impressive in the second half of their Sunday night win, but they know they easily could be 1-4 if football fortune hadn't smiled on them. They still possess plenty of areas to improve upon.

Anyone who thinks the Bears are out of the woods because they lucked into a win Sunday night wasn't paying attention to the first half, when they played like something that bears do in the woods.

At 2-3, the Bears are alive, if not completely well, but there are still nine teams in the NFC with better records. Still, the Bears are in the midst of a stretch in which they can take control of their own destiny in the NFC North, thanks to a third consecutive game against a division foe. On Sunday, they host the 1-4 Vikings at Soldier Field. Two weeks later, the Bears host the Lions with a chance to avenge a Week 4 loss in Detroit.

It wasn't just luck that allowed the Bears to escape Lambeau Field with a 27-20 victory over the Packers. There were some encouraging signs, but it's always fortuitous when the other team gives you the ball five times and takes it away just once. Without the benefit of a plus-4 turnover differential, the Bears wouldn't have won.

The defense was spectacular in the second half, pressuring Brett Favre, stuffing the run and flying around in much the same fashion as last season. With that kind of defensive effort and continued exceptional play by the special teams, the Bears will make it to the postseason, even with an average offense.

As dominating as the defense was after the break, though, it's difficult not to dwell on the first half. For the first 30 minutes, the Bears didn't have a clue on how to defend a quarterback who turned 38 Wednesday and doesn't exactly have state-of-the-art weapons at his disposal.

Looking at the game as a whole, it's clear the defense is capable of playing tremendously or pathetically. A little consistency, please. With everyone healthy, the defense can still dominate, especially against a Minnesota team that has quarterback problems, but injured cornerback Nate Vasher might be another couple weeks away, and tackle Darwin Walker suffered a knee injury Sunday.

The Bears offense remains a work in progress, and the running "attack" will not be an effective complement to the passing game if it doesn't improve on its average of 3.1 yards per carry, which is 30th in the league. Even on the rare occasions when the offensive line creates running room for Cedric Benson, he doesn't seem capable of making much out of it. On 101 carries this year, Benson doesn't have a run longer than 16 yards, and he's only gained more than 13 yards once. It doesn't figure to get any easier for Benson against the Vikings, the NFL's No. 1 run defense.

The kind of ground game the Bears have been producing isn't going to divert the defense's attention away from a passing game that showed some promise last week. Brian Griese has done an excellent job of involving the tight ends, especially rookie Greg Olsen, who flashed his big-play talent in Green Bay. But none of the Bears' wide receivers caught more than one pass Sunday night.

Former go-to guy Muhsin Muhammad has 10 catches this season for 102 yards, and his ineffectiveness could be a trend rather than an aberration. Bernard Berrian leads the team in catches and yardage, but also in drops, and he left Sunday's game with a toe injury after just one reception.

Despite all their faults, the Bears still looked like a playoff contender in the second half against the Packers. But they won't get to the postseason playing well for one half per game, which is what they've done so far this season.

The Vikings provide a perfect opportunity for the Bears to start playing 60 minutes of football.

NOTES

  • TE Greg Olsen, the Bears' first-round draft choice, leads the team with a 14.2-yard average per catch.

  • TE Desmond Clark leads the Bears with two touchdowns catches and is second with 19 receptions and 231 yards. He also leads all NFL tight ends with a 13.4-yard average per catch since the start of the 2006 season.

  • RB Adrian Peterson is averaging 4.2 yards per carry (84 yards on 20 attempts), 1.2 yards better than starter Cedric Benson and 1.1 yards better than the Bears' overall rushing average.

  • CB Charles Tillman has half of the Bears' six forced fumbles, leads the team with four pass breakups and is tied for fourth with 18 solo tackles.

  • WLB Lance Briggs leads the Bears with 21 solo tackles, two more than Brian Urlacher, even though he missed one game with a strained hamstring.

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