Chicago Bears and the Silver Lining for 2011-2012 Season
An 8-8 record is nothing to be proud of, especially in a sports town like Chicago. The Bears have once again fallen short of the standards that the good residents of the Windy City set for their sports teams.
Although mediocre at best, head coach Lovie Smith and his Bears showed us a few good things that will carry over into what looks like a promising 2012-2013 season.
Cutler Keeps on Improving
Cutler proved, even after his season-ending injury, that he's one of the most valuable players in the league. His statistics did not represent all he did for the Bears' offense.
Anyone who watched the Bears during their five-game win streak will tell you that Cutler commanded Chicago's attack. His ability to extend plays with his legs and arm was second to none, and he exhibited many of the vocal qualities that we as fans look for in our leaders.
On top of his reinforced status as a leader on the team, Cutler is just simply playing smarter football. His decision making has become top notch and he showed amazing pocket awareness the entire year, something that he was clearly lacking in his two prior seasons with Chicago. With the Bears' handicapped offensive line, that's saying something.
Look for Cutler to come out slinging the pigskin right off the bat next year. The new hybrid offense—combining components from Mike Tice and Mike Martz schemes—looks like it might work well with Cutler. Depending on how the Bears manage Cutler's assets in the offseason, he may very well be preparing for the best year of football in his career.
Forte Shows His Worth
If Forte's performance this year doesn't convince the Windy City's football team how valuable he is, then I don't know what will. The McCaskey's should give the OK to re-sign Forte soon, or the family will have created a lot of new enemies.
Up until his untimely injury, Forte ranked amongst the elite in a plethora of different rushing categories. He led the league in yards from scrimmage for several weeks and always ranked in the top five in total rushing yards. And if that isn't impressive enough, Forte was elected to the Pro Bowl even after missing several games in the season.
It's hard to see the Bears refrain from giving No. 22 his contract, and Forte clearly doesn't want to leave Chicago. Expect another stellar year from this dynamic, young running back.
Losing Stinks, but Higher Draft Picks Don't
Yes, the losing streak the Bears suffered is not a good thing, but this is the silver lining. What kind of fan doesn't like a higher pick in the draft? It's a likely possibility that Chicago either trades up for an even higher draft pick, or uses the pick for a solid first-round prospect.
It seems like the Bears could use a solid wide receiver.
Bears Will Be Put Under the Radar...Again
Why is this a good thing?
It may be just me, but it seems that the Bears play a lot better when they aren't expected to do anything. Or if they are expected to lose a game.
Age Still Isn't Affecting Chicago's Stars
If there is such a thing as "high-octane defense," then the Bears have it. It doesn't matter what anyone says, Chicago's defensive stars are still studs.
Lance Briggs and Brian Urlacher, arguably one of the best linebacker duos to ever play the game, played solid football all year long at 30-plus years old. Briggs got elected to his seventh consecutive Pro Bowl and Urlacher to his eighth overall. Both players had impressive stats of more than 100 total tackles a piece and combined totals of two forced fumbles and four interceptions.
Charles Tillman also got elected to the Pro Bowl, and it was about time, too. Tillman has played corner back in Chicago's Tampa 2 defense for several years at an above-average level. He also racked up a total of 99 tackles, which is phenomenal for a defensive back.
And don't forget about Julius Peppers. This season wasn't his best, but any offensive coordinator will tell you that Peppers is one of the biggest defensive threats in the entire league. His motor is still running strong.
These stars don't have a long time left in the NFL, but they haven't shown the conventional signs of aging. A good few years of solid production are left in these veterans.