Five Things We Learned: Bears-Vikings

December, 9, 2012
12/09/12
7:03
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Brandon Marshall Bruce Kluckhohn/USA TODAY SportsBrandon Marshall continued his historic Bears season, setting a team record with 101 catches.
MINNEAPOLIS -- Here are Five Things We Learned in the Chicago Bears' 21-14 loss to the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday:

1. Hard to view the Bears as an 8-5 team: The situation the Bears find themselves in after dropping four of their last five looks much more dire than their 8-5 record might indicate. Quite frankly, it looks as if the wheels are totally falling off. For one, the Bears continue to lose key players to injury as defensive linemen Shea McClellin (knee) and Henry Melton (shoulder), quarterback Jay Cutler (neck) and special team standouts Sherrick McManis (knee) and Craig Steltz (chest) all were unable to finish the game. Next up for the Bears: the Green Bay Packers, a team the Bears have beaten a grand total of one time since Cutler arrived in Chicago in 2009. Then two games on the road to end the year where anything could happen, especially that last week versus another NFC North rival, the Detroit Lions. Bears head coach Lovie Smith said on Friday that his team is in perfect position to finish out the season. I could not disagree more.

2. Teams can't win when the offense can't score: The brilliance of Brandon Marshall and the general above-average play of Cutler aside, the Bears' offense is downright embarassing. You mean to tell me that group couldn't find a way to score enough points to beat a team that starts a quarterback as limited as Christian Ponder? It's like the Bears defense can't even give an inch, because the offense is almost never there to bail them out. Not only did the offense manage to score a measley two touchdowns against an average Vikings offense, but Cutler's pick-six to Harrison Smith put even more pressure on the banged-up defense. Say what you want about Adrian Peterson rushing for over 100 yards in the first quarter alone, the Bears defense did not play a terrible game. They just get no help from the offense, which continues to drop touchdowns and commit costly penalties. That is a unit in need of another major overhaul in the offseason.

[+] EnlargeDevin Hester
Brace Hemmelgarn/USA TODAY SportsDevin Hester had a solid punt-return effort on Sunday, but he hasn't caught on as a wide receiver with Jay Cutler.
3. Cutler will never trust Devin Hester: Personally, I like Devin Hester very much. He is a good person who made the most of his opportunities here in Chicago. But you can't drop that ball in the fourth quarter. You just can't. It's been painfully obvious over the years that Cutler isn't a fan of Hester as a wide receiver. But how can you blame the quarterback? When plays are there to be made, you got to make them. Hester just hasn't proven he can be a consistent and reliable threat on offense. Which begs the question: If Cutler is the Bears quarterback next year, which we all assume he will be, will there be a spot for Hester on the roster? Right now, I just don't know how Phil Emery can stand pat with this current group of receivers in the offseason. After Marshall, rookie Alshon Jeffery, who also admitted he dropped a sure touchdown on Sunday, and Earl Bennett, who needs to do a better job staying healthy, the Bears need to look outside the organization for help. Could that squeeze Hester out and make trading him a priority in the offseason? It also doesn't help that Hester has been indeciseve in the return game for much of the year. To be clear: I'm not saying there isn't good football left in Devin Hester. I'm just saying a change of scenery might benefit both parties.

4. Offensive line needs help: It's really hard to win games when your offensive line is comprised of mostly average to below-average players. Mike Tice is ultimately responsible for the line, but what can he really do with his personnel? An undrafted rookie free-agent guard (James Brown) had to play meaningful snaps in the most important game of the year. That's a problem. Your former right tackle is playing guard. The left tackle isn't very good. The new right tackle is a journeyman. The starting center is still playing a reasonable level but he's on the wrong side of 30. This is a postion group that is screaming for help. Hopefully the Bears get Lance Louis back at some point, but two new starters is a must next year, at the bare minimum. I think people that have watched this group all year would agree with that statement.

5. Marshall continues to amaze: There has never been a skill position player, in my time covering the team, who can dominate a game like Marshall. Not only did he catch 10 passes for 160 yards and a touchdown, he also broke Marty Booker's single-season record for receptions. Marshall now has 101 catches through 13 games, and should finish at around 120 or 125. I know he's the whole offense, which is not healthy for the overall product, but man, is he fun to watch. Now it's up to the Bears to find players to better complement him. Marshall plays winning football every single week. Safe to say if the Bears had another player even close to Marshall's skill level on offense who the quarterback would give the ball to, the Bears would not be in this situation. The record might read 8-5, but this does not feel like an 8-5 team. Not that any of it is Marshall's fault, even though he's the first to point the thumb, not the finger, whenever he meets with the media.

Jeff Dickerson | email

Chicago Bears beat reporter
Dickerson has been the Bears beat reporter for ESPN Chicago since 2004. He also hosts weeknight radio shows on ESPN 1000.

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