Are The Bears Who We Think They Are?
The 2009 Chicago Bears bare some resemblance to the 2008 team that ranked 21st in passing offense, 26th in total yards per game and 21st in total yards per game on defense. Sure Jay Cutler has replaced Kyle Orton at quarterback and 3 new starters on the line have been added, but realistically the offense is still the same. The Bears offense revolves around second year running back Matt Forte. Despite rushing for 1238 yards in 2008, Forte only had 3 games in which he rushed for 100 yards or better. Forte is more than a ball carrier as chipped in 63 catches for 477 yards in 2008, but once again it is a deceiving stat. 20 of those catches and 160 of those yards came in just 3 games. That was a third of his production all season. Also in all three of those games, the Bears lost. The other two offensive weapons are wide receiver Devin Hester and tight end Greg Olsen and both combined for only 105 receptions in 2008. Although Hester is considered a burner of sorts, he still ranked tied for 100th in the league for yards per catch. Not very impressive.
On the defensive side of the ball, Brian Urlacher is now out for the season. Urlacher was in the Bears top 3 as far tackles went in 2008 and is the quarterback for the defense. His leadership and on field presence can make even an average defense, better. Hunter Hillenmeyer is in his seventh season and will called upon to replace Urlacher. Make no mistake though, he is no Urlacher in every sense of the game. While the Bears 4 man defensive front remains the same, it is the same front 4 that only produced 28 sacks in 2008. That is less than 2 sacks a game. While the secondary seems on paper to be a little improved, they still have the tendacy to give up the big play as was evedent by the 50 yard touchdown allowed against the Packers in week 1.
Realistically all that has changed for the 2009 Bears is the quarterback. Regardless of the new faces on the offensive line, Cutler does not conjure up comparisons of Drew Brees or Tom Brady. His receiving core is no comparison to the likes of Brandon Marshall and Eddie Royal of which he had in Denver. So on paper as Forte goes, so do the Bears. If Forte is held modestly in check by the Steelers on Sunday, the Steelers should win. In closing, the 2009 Bears are, who we think they are. They are the 2008 Bears with a new name at quarterback and defense that is missing their leader.