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Chicago Bears: Three Areas the Team Needs to Improve to Be Elite

Yahoo Contributor Network

COMMENTARY | Listening to television pundits concerning the struggles of the New England Patriots, you would have been forgiven if you assumed the team had been blown out by 30 points each week. They are, in reality, 2-0. Such is the life of a perennial Super Bowl contender.

Where the Patriots are being criticized despite their 2-0 start, the Bears are (mostly) being lauded for theirs. And though Bears fans do have reasons to believe this team is trending upward, there are a few areas that the Bears will need to tighten up if they have hopes of being among the NFL's elite:

Third-Down Defense

This is a big problem, and it's also twofold. First, the Bears' defense has allowed opponents to convert 14-of-27 (52%) third-down chances. This creates discouragement, fatigue, and opponent confidence. Second, it is partially (mostly?) the result of a lacking Bears' pass rush -- one that on paper should be at least respectable with Julius Peppers and Henry Melton as anchors.

As the new defensive coordinator, Mel Tucker has brought in a few wrinkles to the scheme, but the Bears are still running the same defense as they have in previous years. In line with most defenses, without pressure from the four linemen it's tough to play good defense, especially on the third down.

Offensive Turnovers

Overall, the Bears' offense looks much-improved, so complaining about the unit's turnovers comes with a little bit of an asterisk. It's easier to overlook these turnovers -- a fourth-quarter interception, a goal line interception, a fumble-returned touchdown -- because the team is 2-0. If the Bears had gone on to lose those two games (which they easily could have were it not for timely execution and defensive turnovers), Jay Cutler would once again be in the crosshairs of criticism.

Since they didn't, it's being pushed under the rug a bit. And let's be honest, there is a lot to like in this offense -- the least of which being a clearly improved offensive line. Additionally, now in his eighth season, it's unlikely that Cutler suddenly ceases to make a few poor decisions across the spectrum, regardless of how good Mark Trestman may be with quarterbacks. The idea is to take advantage of all of Cutler's upside so that his head-scratcher decisions don't carry the same weight they otherwise would.

Special Teams Coverage

When Cordarrelle Patterson returned the opening kickoff 105 yards for a touchdown for the Minnesota Vikings in Week 2, it was not something Bears fans were accustomed to seeing. Between Devin Hester's historic career, Robbie Gould's rock-solid consistency, and longtime special teams coordinator Dave Toub scheming, Bears fans have been unbelievably spoiled in this phase of the game.

With Toub now gone to Kansas City, it's a little too coincidental that the coverage suddenly starts showing cracks right out of the gate. Luckily, Hester's record-setting day (249 return yards) helped offset Patterson's return, as well as the defensive touchdown the Vikings scored on Cutler's fumble. The Bears were fortunate this all happened against a team like the Vikings, who suffer from multiple glaring roster holes. It would be surprising if the Bears were as fortunate against some of the NFL's more elite teams if they don't manage to mend the cracks.

Brian is a lifelong Chicago Bears follower. Living in Illinois his entire life has given him an opportunity to closely follow Chicago sports and has allowed him to contribute to Yahoo Sports,Yahoo Voices, and various independent sports blogs. Brian is also a senior in college majoring in creative writing.

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