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49ers-Bears: 5 Questions with Windy City Gridiron

It's a short week, but we were able to get some questions answered by Adam from our Bears blog, Windy City Gridiron.  The Bears have had a very topsy-turvy season ever since making the big deal in getting QB Jay Cutler.  Many folks were expecting a solid season from the Bears, but it's been a mixed-bag so far.  They appeared to be a solid home team and poor road team, but that might have been flipped on its head after getting pounded by the Cardinals.  Let's hope it's not a complete reversal this week.  Thanks again to Adam for taking the time to answer some questions.

Fooch: Let's cut to the chase, the Bears have been incredibly inconsistent, but still find themselves only 1 game out of the wildcard spots.  Big picture the rest of the year, do you have any idea what to expect from this team?

WCG: The Bears are right slap in the middle of gut-check time.  Our GM Jerry Angelo hit a homerun in pulling off the trade for Jay Cutler, but failed miserably with the 3 free agent OLinemen he signed.  Frankly, our OL stinks.  On the defensive side of the ball, we brought in Rod Marinelli, who is well-known throughout the league as one of the best DL coaches, to help with our pass rush.  The Tampa-2 defense hinges directly on the pass rush, but the last 3 or 4 games, it has disappeared.  Big picture, for the rest of the year, we will continue to struggle on both sides of the ball if we can't figure out the OL and DL.

After the jump we get a few more questions answered...

Fooch: After half a season, what are your thoughts on the Jay Cutler trade?  How has it changed since the deal first went down?

WCG: It hasn't really changed.  Fact is, we got a 26 year old QB with talent not seen too often in the NFL for basically a couple of 1st round draft picks.  People seem to be fixated on his attitude and maturity level, but I have no doubt that as he grows and gets more experience, he'll be fine.  He's got all the tools, and has made some throws this year as a Bears QB that most Bears fans have never seen before.  We just have to be able to protect him better.

Fooch: Matt Forte was high on fantasy draft boards but he seems to be struggling, averaging only 3.6 yards per carry.  Is the issue something with him, the offensive line, or some other aspect of the offense?

WCG: If you take away a couple of big runs this year, he's averaging even less that that.  People have been giving him a hard time all year, but honestly, it's not remotely his fault.  He is getting hit in the backfield half the time he has the football, because our OL is getting blown backwards on the snap.  People are saying that he's not hitting the hole hard enough, or that he's lost his power from last year.  The thing with Forte, and it goes all the way back to his days at Tulane... his biggest talents are his shiftiness and vision (and his ability to catch out of the backfield).  Last season, we saw Forte's best runs coming from his ability to see the seams, and make the cuts to get to them; this year, there are no seams.

Fooch: After years of bringing a big time defense, the Bears defense now seems to have settled into a sort of blah level of average performance.  Is the defense just getting old, or is there some other explanation?

WCG: There is a big misconception that the Bears defense is getting old.  The fact is, most of them are still in their twenties.  Entering the season, we had one of the best groups of LBs in the league, with Brian Urlacher (who was finally healthy), Lance Briggs, and Pisa Tinoisamoa.  Three very fast, aggressive guys who make plays all over the field.  Losing Urlacher and Pisa right at the outset hurt us, big time.  Combine that with very little talent in the secondary, and a non-existent pass rush, and we've got problems.  The only bright spot for our D has been the play of Briggs, who is having another pro Bowl season, and rookie safety Al Afalava.  Aflalva is very aggressive, and hits like Mike Singletary used to, not to mention having Mike's eyes.  He injured his arm (shoulder) last Sunday, but he is someone to keep an eye on when he's on the field.

Fooch: How do Bears fans view the return of Mike Singletary?

WCG: I think it will be bittersweet to a lot of old school Bears fans, especially considering the unrest felt right now towards Lovie Smith.  It is weird seeing him wearing San Francisco colors, but I don't think too much will be made out of it from a fan-perspective.  The media will have a field day, but I don't think it will be a distraction for either team.  Can you imagine though if the game were to be played in Chicago?  Now that would be interesting!