What We Learned: Bears vs. Ravens

S Danieal Manning (Getty: Larry French)

What did we learn about the Chicago Bears after a 31-7 loss to Joe Namath – er, Joe Flacco – and the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium? Here are five observations made from the press box.

1. All the switching of positions has killed the secondary
When asked about moving Danieal Manning from free safety to cornerback before the 2007 season, coach Lovie Smith said it can only help a young player to learn as many positions as possible as a defensive back in case he's needed to plug a hole. Manning was subsequently shifted to nickel back and again to free safety, and pretty much everywhere in between every few weeks, and he has turned out to be nothing more than a talented disappointment. The same can be said for Corey Graham, a corner by trade who spent the offseason at free safety and training camp at nickel back, and Kevin Payne, a classic strong safety that was switched to free safety first to accommodate Mike Brown last year and then Al Afalava this year.

Joe Flacco of the Ravens threw for a career-high four TD passes in Sunday's 31-7 pasting and found wide-open receivers all day long, cementing the idea that Chicago's secondary is thinking in coverage instead of reacting – understandable considering all they've been forced to learn from one spot to another.

2. Turner has no imagination on offense in specialty situations
Trying desperately to get back in the game after digging themselves an early 14-0 deficit, the Bears faced a 3rd-and-goal from the Baltimore 1-yard line. There is nothing wrong with offensive coordinator Ron Turner calling a running play in that situation, but a slow-developing counter off tackle to Matt Forte instead of some sort of quick-hitting trap up the middle proved to be a bad selection – Forte was stuffed at the line of scrimmage, of course. Then on fourth down, as opposed to rolling Jay Cutler out of the pocket and giving him a run-pass option with multiple receivers to choose from, Turner called a do-or-die fade pattern to Greg Olsen that needed to be thrown on a dime in order to work, but Cutler didn't put enough air under the ball and Chicago turned it over on downs.

An offensive game plan needs to be progressive in nature, calling certain plays early knowing all the while you're going to run counters off those same plays later to further confuse the defense, but Turner gives the impression that he makes calls at random with no big-picture thinking whatsoever.

3. Harris is the first of the big-name players that needs to exit
It's understandable that the Bears were a bit frustrated with their Planes, Trains & Automobiles-like adventure just getting to Baltimore, as their flight Friday night was canceled because of mechanical problems and then Saturday's flight arrived late because of a blizzard wreaking havoc on the east coast all weekend long. Most of the players took the inconvenience in stride and didn't allow it to be an excuse for their poor effort against the Ravens, although three-time Pro Bowler Tommie Harris figured it was the perfect explanation for another one of his ghost-like performances. Maybe a rookie puts his foot in his mouth and tells the media he didn't get enough sleep, but a team leader like Harris blaming a combination of tardy chartered flights, an angry Mother Nature and uncomfortable hotel beds is pathetic.


WR Devin Aromashodu
AP Images: Nick Wass

Not only has Harris sufficiently proven he'll never again be the player worthy of that $40 million contract he signed in the summer of 2008, but the seismic shift in his personality – the fun-loving character Chicago once knew is gone – makes it all the more justifiable if the front office declines his $2.5 million roster bonus this offseason.

4. Maybe Cutler needs a Marshall-like target to succeed
While the Bears certainly don't have a receiver capable of doing what Brandon Marshall does in Denver, Devin Hester, Earl Bennett, Johnny Knox and Devin Aromashodu – along with Olsen – have all done some good things this year and aren't a bad group overall. However, Cutler went out of his way to force the ball Hester's direction when he was picked off four times in Week 1 at Green Bay, and the same thing happened this past Sunday in Baltimore when he was intercepted three times firing repeatedly in Aromashodu's vicinity. Like Marshall proved in Week 14, when he set an NFL record catching 21 passes from former Bear Kyle Orton, he has the ability to reel in most everything even when the defense is trying to game-plan against him.

If Cutler is going to get tunnel vision from time to time and only trust one receiver on game day, Chicago is in trouble because there isn't anyone on the roster even close to resembling Marshall.

5. Smith could very well be let go despite Friday's report
CSNChicago.com reported Friday that sources high up within the organization said Smith will be back in 2010 regardless of what happens down the stretch, citing labor unrest as one of the reasons why. But when general manager Jerry Angelo gathered the Chicago media for an impromptu press conference Sunday in Baltimore, he went out of his way to say nothing has changed and everyone will be up for review after the season ends Jan. 3 at Detroit. Angelo had every opportunity to give Smith a vote of confidence going forward, but he didn't – even when reporters asked for it.

Angelo is obviously feeling the heat himself since this roster looks talent-deficient each and every Sunday, so those radical changes Bears fans have been clamoring for week after week could very well be on the way.


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John Crist is the Publisher of Bear Report and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.

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