Good and bad news on the last stand for Bears this season

By Doug Halberstadt
Sports Columnist

The 2010 Chicago Bears season is now officially over. They won more games than many experts predicted. They showed improvement as the season progressed. That’s the good news.

The bad news and maybe more importantly, the pill that is bitter to swallow is, this season had to come to an end at the hand of their biggest rivals, the Green Bay Packers. The two long-time adversaries squared off against each other in the NFC title game. Green Bay won 21-14 and earned the right to advance to the Super Bowl. The loss sent the Bears into the off-season with a bevy of questions to be answered.

Is quarterback Jay Cutler’s knee seriously injured? He left the game after the first half with an unspecified knee injury and was unable to return to the game. Post-game speculation included a torn ligament or possible cartilage damage. As of press time, there was no definitive answer. Will his entire off-season be spent rehabbing a serious knee injury? Will he be back as the Bears starter when the 2011 season begins?

Does quarterback Caleb Hanie deserve to be moved up on the depth charts? Should he be named the backup, or did he do enough to possibly even earn a starting job? His performance under pressure in the fourth quarter actually brought the Bears back into the game. He single-handedly resuscitated an offense that was moments short of receiving their last rites.

He not only gave the Packers something to think about during the game, but now offensive coordinator Mike Martz and Head Coach Lovie Smith are going to have to take a long look at Hanie and re-evaluate his position with the team.

How many more seasons will the Bears field a sub-standard offensive line? Granted, they did improve later in the season, but they still are the weakest link in the Bears, chain. They continue to allow multiple sacks and hits on the quarterback.

The defensive line hasn’t lived up to expectations, either. They only recorded four tackles in the championship game. They’ve repeatedly failed to put any pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Who should stay and who needs to be replaced? Julius Peppers was named to the pro bowl. Israel Idonije had his share of moments during the season. Rookie Corey Wootten showed some promise when he recorded the sack on Brett Favre during the Minnesota game, but I’m not sure I ever heard his name again the rest of the season. Henry Melton and Tommie Harris are inconsistent on their best days.

The defensive backs get burnt as often as thinly-sliced white bread in a cheap toaster. Not one guy on that unit really stands out as someone you could build around. Who’ll step up and be a leader back there? Can Major Wright be the guy in his sophomore season?

The Bears will have plenty of time to search for some of those answers. They don’t have to be back on the field again until training camp. That’s not until next summer. Sure seems like a long time away from now.

Doug Halberstadt can be reached via e-mail at

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