Dane Noble of Windy City Gridiron answered my questions about the Chicago Bears as they wrap up the regular season against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field.
Acme Packing Company: The Bears will be playing their starters, but will it take their edge off that it's unlikely they have anything left to play for in the regular season?
Windy City Gridiron: The Bears have an opportunity to sweep the division Sunday, which is something that hasn't happened in the North/Central since the late 1980s. They also have an opportunity to help knock a long-standing rival out of playoff contention, specifically the team that Lovie Smith vowed to beat when he took the reigns in Chicago seven years ago. Honestly, we probably won't see all of the starters for the entire game, but you can bet they are not going to mail it in just because they have the #2 seed locked up.
APC: When I see the improvement in recent weeks by Forte and Cutler, I'm thinking it has less to do with them and more to do with an offensive line that is blocking better for both of them. Or is the truth somewhere in the middle?
WCG: It's just a perfect example of the entire team getting more and more reps under their belts, as well as Mike Martz and Mike Tice having worked with their guys a lot more. It's a new system, with a lot of new guys, so reps are just as important as anything. The OL still has major issues, but Martz and Tice are figuring out ways to adjust to help cover up some of thoe deficiencies. Not to take anything away from Cutler, Forte, or any of the other skill position players... just as a whole, the entire offense is finding more cohesion through a process of getting more and more reps under their belts.
APC: The Bears have allowed 30+ points to the Jets and Patriots in recent weeks. Has there been a problem on defense?
WCG: That defensive unit can be confusing sometimes. There are two things I would point out... one, for some reason, the Bears defense just forgets how to tackle sometimes. Maybe it's because they are constantly playing for strips, but it just seems like two or three times every season, they just can't tackle anyone. the other part is more system-related. Our defense is predicated on the pass rush... force the QB to throw the ball early, and let the LBs underneath make plays on short throws, or let the DBs make breaks on the ball before the route has been completed by the WR. The issue comes into play when we can't get to the QB. We simply do not have the talent in our secondary to cover WRs for any sustained amount of time, so when the QB has time to find soft spots, we get shredded. It all starts up front... if we can get to the QB, we're going to cause serious problems. If we can't get to the QB, then we are in big trouble.
APC: With Lovie Smith's hot seat turned off, do you think they'll be any changes to the coaching staff next season? Or do they still have to win in the playoffs?
WCG: The only coaching change we would see next year is if STs coach Dave Toub get s big promotion somewhere else. He's even been mentioned in coaching circles as a future head coach in the NFL... when that happens, who knows. As for Lovie, Martz, Marinelli, Tice... he's built up quite a team of coaches under him. With this year showing an upswing in performance, and getting more wins, I don't see any changes happen for next season.
APC: Looking ahead to the offseason, what's the one position you'd like to see the Bears upgrade?
WCG: Left Tackle. We have issue across the board, but we need badly to figure out a way to protect Jay Cutler's blind side. We also are in need of an offensive guard, a center, another guard, and maybe even another tackle. Is that more than one position? Let's just say "OL" is my answer.