Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 10/24/12
As Week 7 in the NFL season came to an end last evening, the Chicago Bears picked up their fifth victory of the young season and sit atop the NFC North with a 5-1 record. It was a hard-fought battle against the division rival Detroit Lions. It was a perfect autumn evening for football, and the Bears did not disappoint the home crowd at Soldier Field in Chicago.The Bears have had some bumps along the road so far this season. The offense has shown some weaknesses, both in personnel and internal communication. The offensive line has some sub-par talent starting and there are consistently too many timeouts wasted due to slow play calling. Those are the downsides of that offense. Fortunately for Chicago, there are plenty of positives to speak of as well. The Bears welcomed in offseason acquisition Brandon Marshall with open arms, as the Bears have lacked a star wide receiver for decades. The reunion of he and former teammate Jay Cutler had the potential for great success, and it seems as if the pair are back on track in their new home of Chicago. In six games, Marshall has 41 receptions for 577 yards and four touchdowns. The last Bears' wide receiver to surpass 1000 receiving yards in a single season was Marty Booker back in 2002, so it's fair to say that the Bears are very pleased with where Marshall is at. Cutler has also shown some ups and downs this season. He's totaled 1359 yards passing on 56.7% completion rate, with eight touchdowns and seven interceptions. He's also ran for 84 yards on 17 carries. Overall, Cutler has been playing well this year. He had a terrible game in Green Bay in Week 2 where he threw four interceptions, but besides that game, he has been better at protecting the football. Also, Cutler has been sacked 19 times this year, which is not terrible, but it can certainly be improved upon. The offensive line situation has room for improvement as well. They definitely have not been as bad as many feared heading into the year, but the play at left and right tackle has been questionable all year to say the least. Left tackle J'Marcus Webb has been highly criticized his short NFL career due to this poor play and high penalty rate. He has played adequately this season. While he has shown some improved play, there still have been multiple plays where he gets beat badly.Even more unsettling, right tackle and first round pick of last year, Gabe Carimi has not looked good at all. He has been beat consistently against the competition and has been called for numerous penalties this season. He committed back-to-back false starts during a 1st-and-goal situation two weeks ago in Jacksonville. Fortunately for the Bears, both of these players are young and have shown they are capable of improvement. Also, offensive coordinator Mike Tice has been lining some tight ends up beside these young tackles in order to help them with protection and to take some pressure off of them too. The special teams unit has been solid for the Bears all year. Usually, under the watchful coaching eye of special teams coach Dave Toub, the Bears excel at all aspects of special teams. This year, they have had a couple of blemishes, but all in all, they have looked good. They let up a fake field goal for a touchdown against Green Bay, and they had a field goal blocked last night against Detroit. Devin Hester has also yet to return a kickoff or a punt for a touchdown this year. He has come close to breaking a couple so far, but he has not yet been able to go all the way. Look for Hester and the special teams unit to improve as the season goes on. The biggest reason this 2012 Bears team is on the verge on becoming the team to beat in the NFC is because of their defense. This veteran squad of Brian Urlacher, Julius Peppers, Lance Briggs, and Charles Tillman have been playing the best defensive ball in the NFL this season. They are stingy on the run and make life troublesome for all quarterbacks in the league with their zone coverage. The Bears have forced 21 turnovers through this point in the season. Those numbers are remarkable. To put that in perspective, the Bears are on pace to shatter the turnover marks of both the 1985 and 2006 Super Bowl teams. The Bears also forced three of their five turnovers in the red zone last night.The biggest reason the Bears defense is playing so well is because of the dominant performance of the defensive line. Led by Peppers, this defensive line unit has great depth, youth, and energy. Rookie defensive end Shea McClellin has made a positive impact so far, as well as Corey Wootton and Stephen Paea. These players sub in and out for each other to help keep the energy up on the defensive line. Defensive tackle Henry Melton has also played very well to this point along with veteran defensive end Israel Idonije. That success on the defensive line is generally how the Bears secondary has been able to amass 14 interceptions through six games. With the quarterback under pressure all game long, the Bears cover-2 zone coverage is designed to force the quarterback into making mistakes. The Bears play their two safeties very deep in order to prevent the long play from happening. This tactic makes the quarterback try to throw the ball between defensive backs in the 0-15 yard area. Any tipped ball or overthrow and a Bears defender is usually there and ready to make a play. At least, they have been this season. With the previously mentioned 21 turnovers and five defensive touchdowns, the Bears defense is on its way to being tops in the NFL this season.There is great parody in the NFL today, making it near impossible to predict the outcome of the next week's action. One theory that has held somewhat true in the wacky world of pro football is that the hotter the team at the end of the season, the greater their odds are to get to the Super Bowl. So, keep that in mind with these prophetic words in terms of the Bears' hopes this year. This Bears team has found great success in all three aspects of the game: offense, special teams, and defense. With continued health and consistent play, look for the Bears to hold on to their lead in the NFC North and get ready to battle for NFC dominance in the postseason.
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