COMMENTARY | The Chicago Bears were Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Halas yet again en route to their second consecutive loss of the season on Sunday.
The New Orleans Saints beat the Bears 26-18 in a game in which Chicago showcased the very best and worst of what their team has to offer.
An early turnover, and the offensive line's inability to pick up the unique blitz packages of the New Orleans Saints, put the Bears in a hole early, of which not even Alshon Jeffery's single-game franchise record 218 yards receiving could help dig their way out.
With the first five weeks of the new season in the books, fans are still struggling to understand exactly who this 3-2 Bears team is.
Is Chicago's "feared" defense actually a lie? The Chicago franchise has always been built around defensive toughness. From Dick Butkus to Brian Urlacher, it's the Bears' defense that receives top billing at Soldier Field. This season, it looks as though the Bears are being overvalued thanks to previous seasons allowing their "Monsters of the Midway" mystique to resonate much more than they may deserve.
Although the ball-hawking Chicago defense has still been able to create turnovers (14), they have not been regularly able to stop teams on a drive-to-drive basis, without the benefit of the big play.
The Bears rank No. 26 in the NFL, allowing 28 points per game to opponents, and their formerly imposing pass rush has only been able to get to opposing quarterbacks for eight sacks, which ranks them third-worst in the NFL.
Troubling stat: The Bears have allowed 150 points through their first five games in 2013. In 2012, they only surrendered 71 points through Week 5, and they did not give up their 150th point until Week 11.
Creating turnovers has allowed the Bears to cover up a lot of their defensive problems, but without a single takeaway against the Saints, Chicago's inability to get off the field cost them big.
Is the offensive line really improved? Through Cutler's first four seasons in Chicago, the porous offensive line had regularly been pointed to as the reason for the QB's failures. The 2013 season was supposed to feature a rebuilt O-line with free agent Pro Bowl signee Jermon Bushrod, and rookie draft picks Jordan Mills and Kyle Long, allowing fans a moment to believe they could help the pass protection make that mythical leap from horrendous to somewhat average.
Over the first two games of this season, Cutler was sacked only one time. Suddenly feeling like he finally had the freedom to move around in the pocket and actually step into his passes, Cutler threw for 534 yards, five touchdowns, and engineered back-to-back game-winning drives to start the year.
Over the last three games, Cutler has been sacked eight times and hit 17 more.
While there is no question the offensive line has improved this season, exactly how much and how far they will be able to take the Bears is still up for debate.
Is Chicago Capable of beating the elite NFL teams? The Bears are 1-2 this season against teams with winning records. It may seem like too small a sample size to take anything away from this stat, but Cutler has had an alarming trend over his career of only being able to beat inferior competition.
Since joining the Bears in 2009, Cutler is 11-21 against teams with a winning percentage above .500. And for his entire career, Cutler's mark against those superior teams is only 16-31. These numbers are even more glaring when combined with his record against losing teams. Cutler is 23-2 with the Bears against teams below .500.
Beating the bad teams may be enough to earn the Bears a playoff appearance in 2013, but if they want to really be one of the Super Bowl contenders, they also have to start showing up against the elite teams on their schedule.
Thankfully, Chicago will be greeted by the 0-5 New York Giants and the 1-3 Washington Redskins before arriving at their Week 8 bye. The Bears really need to extend their record to 5-2, because the three games following their bye will be treacherous.
The Bears will come off their bye week with a Monday night showdown on the road against the division rival Green Bay Packers. From there, the Bears will get a rematch with the Detroit Lions -- who already put up 40 points against them earlier this season -- before facing the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens.
Fans may not have a firm grasp of who the Bears are quite yet, but these next five games will guarantee they have a definitive answer by the time they sit down to stuff their faces with turkey on Thanksgiving.
Dalton Russell has covered the Chicago Bears in print and online media since 1998. He lives just outside the shadow of the iconic architecture of Soldier Field.
- Sports & Recreation
- American Football
- Chicago Bears