A Tweet from Sun-Times beat writer Sean Jensen signaled the most positive development from the Bears dominant performance Sunday:
Lovie Smith, when asked about 5 sacks: “We’re not Super Bowl ready. We’re just getting started.”
The most uplifting thing for me about the Bears Sunday was just how great they weren’t. How many mistakes they made. How much better they can be if they keep improving right through until Indianapolis in February. It won’t all get fixed in the month of September but there are clear areas where the Bears need work.
EDGE BLOCKING, QUARTERBACK RELEASE
John Abraham beating J’Marcus Webb is not a surprise. John Abraham is better at football than J’Marcus Webb. I truly believe Webb is going to need the entirety of the 2011 campaign to find his footing at LT and the Bears need to prepare for that. But the quarterback needs to be responsible for releasing the football before edge rushers are able to make their second move on either tackle. With the ability of Matt Forte to make plays in space, there is literally no excuse for Cutler to hold the football and take a sack. Drop it to #22 in space and see what comes from it or toss it into the fifth row. Your own physical health and the mental health of your young left tackle will be protected.
RUN DEFENSE POSITIONING
As good as the linebackers were Sunday, and Brian Urlacher was as good as he’s been in years, there were too many times Falcons running backs seemed to be on the third level once they penetrated the line of scrimmage. The cut-back run has killed the Bears throughout the Lovie Smith era, primarily due to over-pursuit and an aggressive linebacking corps. With Henry Melton possibly returning the middle of the defensive line to elite status, they should be able to maintain their gaps and suffocate opposing run games.
RED ZONE SCORING
Did the Bears miss Greg Olsen Sunday? I don’t know. Would red zone attack really be a concern if Jay Cutler had executed the brilliant Mike Martz throw-back screen to a wide open Kellen Davis? Probably not. Nevertheless, the Bears are in the big leagues of the NFC and will have to score with the Packers and Eagles and Saints in order to make a deep run in the postseason. That means touchdowns in the red zone, not field goals.
DEFENDING THE TIGHT END
There’s a few things you have to get used to when your team runs the defense the Bears run. One of those things is that receivers are going to be open in the same old spaces on third-and-medium. (On the positive side, you also get used to not being beat deep down the field very often.) But the red flag must be raised by just how wide open Tony Gonzalez seemed throughout the afternoon. The Bears will next see a Saints team without their top receiver (Colston) and with a rising star called Jimmy Graham at the TE position. The week after the Packers will bring Jermichael Finley, perhaps the best pass-catching TE in the league, for a date at Soldier Field. Defending tight ends might not be the most important issue facing the 2011 Chicago Bears but it is certainly the most pressing.