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The Bear's Necessities

By: Paul Wildfeuer

What’s happened to the Chicago Bears style of football? For as long as I can remember, Lovie Smith has drawled the same message at press conference after press conference, that the Bears are a team based around a solid defense and a consistent running game. However, with the acquisition of Jay Cutler, we seem to have forgotten our long sung mantra. Our once prolific defense now ranks 18th in the league in points per game (22.5), 23rd in the league in rushing defense (122.3 yards/game), 18th in sacks (21), and 29th in 3rd down conversion percentage (42.8%). As for our offense, the Bears now rank 28th in rush yards per game (89.3) and are tied for dead last in rushing attempts (221). This begs the question, who should take the blame for these unflattering statistics? Much like World War I, Football games are won in the trenches. I am not going to harp on the Bear’s O-line, because anyone who has watched the team play realizes that this a problem fixable only through massive personnel changes. Instead, I am calling attention to our defensive front, whose drop in production has hurt us on both sides of the ball. First of all, I need to say something about Tommie Harris. When we first drafted Harris out of Oklahoma, I thought he’d be nothing short of a perpetual pro-bowler. Very rarely do we see someone with the combination of size, strength and speed that Tommie showed in his first few years in the league. That being said, watching him play post knee injury reminds me of watching a race car with a parachute attached. You know he has the potential to be great, but something seems to be holding him back. This year, Harris stands to make around 9 million dollars, and so far has 14 tackles and 1.5 sacks to his name (and one interception for six yards). If we are to pay him that kind of money, there needs to be a justification, and his measly stat line and personal troubles (remember him punching Deuce Lutui?), in my opinion, fail to provide one. Our defensive ends continually struggle to get pressure on opposing quarterbacks, as our starters Alex Brown and Adewale Ogunleye (who is now our D-lines MVP) have combined for only nine sacks in ten games, and Mark Anderson, who you might remember had 12 sacks his rookie season, remains a non-factor. The stat that I find most disturbing about our team’s defense? Daniel Manning is now tied for 22nd in the league in tackles, and ranks 3rd among all safeties, a sure sign that players are repeatedly making it into our secondary. Before we start clamoring for Jay Cutler’s head on a pike, or demand that Lovie Smith resign with two years left on his contract, let us remember that without our defensive line both stopping the run and getting pressure on the other teams QB, we don’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell against a decent team. Seeing as how we have no first round pick in 2010, the Bear’s need to find a way to remedy this problem internally. Rod Marinelli, the famed D-line coach, has got to show that he still has some worth in this league after leading the Lions to an undefeated season, and he can start by getting our big guys to play better. If our defense can get some more stops, and take some of the pressure off Cutler and the offense, our team will drastically improve, and by next year, who knows, we might be nipping at Minnesota’s heels for control of the NFC North.

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