What We Learned: Bears vs. Cowboys

TE Greg Olsen (Sharon Ellman/AP)

The Chicago Bears are one of the many surprises in the NFL, upsetting the Cowboys in Week 2. What did we learn about the Midway Monsters after a second straight win? Start with these five observations:

1. Martz is going to dial it up, not dial it down
In Week 1 at Soldier Field, when the Lions lost starting quarterback Matthew Stafford to a shoulder injury before halftime, the Detroit coaching staff put on their conservative hats the moment No. 2 Shaun Hill lined up under center. Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz, on the other hand, reached deeper into his bag of tricks in Week 2 when his unit appeared to be overmatched against an overly-aggressive Dallas defense, as Jay Cutler got sacked on his first pass attempt and couldn't even take a seven-stop drop without being pulverized. Most OCs would have tried to slow down the rush with a variety of safe draws and screens, but Martz instead attacked the empty spaces created by the Cowboys' blitzers and hit some big plays as a result.

While Chicago looked to be in for a long day toward the end of the first quarter, Cutler hit Devin Hester on a 19-yard gain and then Greg Olsen for a 39-yard touchdown on consecutive plays, both of them hot reads specifically designed to exploit a blitz.

2. Maybe Urlacher can be a Pro Bowler again
Brian Urlacher made the Pro Bowl in six of his first seven seasons, only failing to make the squad in 2004 when he missed seven games due to a hamstring injury, and in 2005 he won the NFL's coveted Defensive Player of the Year award. However, after again being invited to Hawaii following the Super Bowl campaign of 2006, Urlacher was left off the NFC's all-star team in both 2007 and 2008 when he dealt with irritating back and neck issues, and then 2009 was a lost year since he injured his wrist in Week 1 at Green Bay, needed immediate surgery and sat out the final 15 games on IR. Bears fans were ecstatic to have a healthy Urlacher back in the starting lineup at middle linebacker, but they were led to believe that No. 54's days as a difference maker were in the rearview mirror.

Not so fast, as the former New Mexico Lobo has been credited with 16 tackles so far in two games, already has a sack and seems to be playing with the youthful energy that made him so much fun to watch earlier in his career, so the 32-year-old may have something left in the tank yet.

3. Omiyale might have saved the day in Big D
Even though Bears fans have been critical of Chris Williams, as the former first-round pick hasn't lived up to his billing yet, the thought of losing him was terrifying since there didn't appear to be anyone else on the roster capable of blocking Cutler's blind side capably. That theory was put to the test Sunday in Dallas, with Williams leaving the game in the first quarter because of a hamstring injury and unable to return. While swing tackle Kevin Shaffer originally got the call off the bench and looked to be in over his head the moment he stepped foot on the field, offensive line coach Mike Tice decided to flip-flop Shaffer and right tackle Frank Omiyale, who would be charged with blocking pass-rushing terror DeMarcus Ware the rest of the afternoon.


DT Matt Toeaina
Jonathan Daniel/Getty

Amazingly enough, Cutler was never sacked again and ended up posting the best passer rating of his Bears career to date, 136.7, and Omiyale deserves a lot of the credit for keeping Ware at bay and turning around Chicago's fortunes.

4. Harrison better get comfortable in street clothes
The Monsters of the Midway currently have the league's No. 1 rushing defense, surrendering just 28.0 yards per game and 1.4 yards per carry, and much of the credit belongs to a front four that has done a very good job of staying in their gaps and allowing Urlacher and his linebacker brethren to make most of their tackles without having to shed blockers first. Although the defensive line has only been credited with one sack the first two weeks, that one going to Julius Peppers in the opener, unheralded role players like Anthony Adams and Matt Toeaina have been staunch up front and made it difficult for enemy ball carriers to find holes. Toeaina, who was a game-day inactive in 2009, has supplanted one-time third-round pick Marcus Harrison in the rotation and recorded two tackles and a pass defensed.

Harrison was surprisingly deactivated in Week 1, and he went so far as to tell the media he would be back in action for Week 2, but there is no reason to mess with the depth chart and Toeaina is more deserving of playing time anyway.

5. Toub needs to shake up the coverage units
Even when the Midway Monsters were a non-playoff team from 2007-09, special teams coordinator Dave Toub still put together an elite unit in all phases, leading some experts to believe he has a chance to be a head coach in this league one day. Despite having three punts blocked in four preseason games, Toub and his minions were largely given a pass since many of the players on the field at the time were reserves not expected to make the roster, plus long snapper Patrick Mannelly missed one exhibition contest because of a shoulder problem. But now, the coverage units have been exposed, as Dallas rookie Dez Bryant returned a Brad Maynard punt 62 yards for a TD in the first quarter, and fellow first-year pro Akwasi Owusu-Ansah also returned a kickoff 40 yards.

Toub has been known to spin straw into gold over the years, but you can't deny the fact that some of his best special-teams tacklers have been taken away from him lately – Tim Shaw, Darrell McClover and Adrian Peterson to name a few.


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John Crist is the Publisher of BearReport.com, a Heisman Trophy voter 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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