Chicago Bears: 5 Things We've Learned Following Week 5 Loss to Saints

James Tillman III@@JTILLMAN9693Analyst IOctober 9, 2013

Chicago Bears: 5 Things We've Learned Following Week 5 Loss to Saints

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    After a 3-0 start, the Chicago Bears were riding high, and the Marc Trestman era was off to a great start.

    However, since recording victories in their first three contests, the Bears have come back down to earth, dropping consecutive games to the Detroit Lions and the New Orleans Saints.

    So are the Bears a good team in a slump, or are they are just an average team that is fortunate to have three wins on the season under a new coaching regime?

    Let's take a look at some of things we've learned about this team so far.

Offense Still a Work in Progress

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    While the unit performed fairly well in the first few weeks of the season, that has not been the case in two consecutive losses. 

    Against the Lions, the offense struggled to make plays early, and as a result, Chicago trailed 30-13 at halftime. While two late scores made the final score respectable, the game wasn't nearly as close, as the Lions held the Bears offense in check for most of the game.

    The same deficiencies were present against the Saints. On the first possession, Matt Forte missed a pitch from Jay Cutler that resulted in a 10-yard loss, and the Bears were forced to punt a few plays later.

    On the next possession, Jay Cutler was sacked and fumbled the football, and the Saints eventually scored on a field goal as a result of the turnover. These are just two examples of how the offense failed to move the ball for most of the contest.

    So despite the success we witnessed during the three-game winning streak, this offense is still a work in progress, and it will take a considerable amount of time before we see what this unit is truly capable of.

Jay Cutler Is Playing Well in Contract Year

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    Jay Cutler has had some up-and-down moments this season. There have been times when he makes plays that leave fans in awe, while there are other instances that make you wonder what was he thinking.

    For example, we couldn't get enough of how well he led the offense through the first three games of the season—a trio of outings that included clutch fourth-quarter scoring drives that resulted in a 3-0 start.

    However, against the Detroit Lions, Cutler threw for 317 yards but turned the ball over four times (three interceptions and one fumble that was returned for a touchdown).

    He followed that up with a solid performance against the Saints, completing 24 of 33 passes for 358 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions.

    Overall, Cutler has thrown for 1,368 yards and 10 touchdowns, while completing 65.7 percent of his passes. These numbers are rather impressive considering the offense is still experiencing growing pains.

Defense on the Decline

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    Remember the swarming defense that recorded 44 takeaways and ranked fifth in the league in total defense last season?

    Well, that unit has taken a step back this year. Not only is depth starting to become a concern with season-ending injuries to both Henry Melton and Nate Collins, but this unit has also not been able to generate a consistent pass rush against opposing quarterbacks.

    Although the defense did record two sacks against the Saints in Week 5, Drew Brees had ample time to throw the ball, completing 29 of 35 passes for 298 yards.

    As a result, the Saints held the ball for a whopping 36 minutes, a factor that contributed to Chicago suffering its second straight loss.

    With the offense still struggling to find an identity, the defense will need to rediscover its ball-hawking tendencies from a year ago and find a way to limit third-down conversions.

Brandon Marshall's Production Has Dipped Due to Double Coverages by Opposition

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    Last season, Brandon Marshall was the focal point of the offense to say the least.

    In fact, Marshall set franchise records with receptions (118) and receiving yards (1,508), per Dane Noble of Windy City Gridiron.

    Marshall began the 2013 season right where he left off last year, with 15 grabs for 217 yards through the first two games.

    However, in the past three outings, the opposition has neutralized the team's No. 1 receiver with a variety of different coverages, which has resulted in a dip in Marshall's production.

    In Weeks 3-5, Marshall has only caught 15 passes for 161 yards, including just four catches against the Saints.

    Per Adam Jahns of the Chicago Sun-Times, Marshall offered this statement about his diminishing role in the offense:

    I have to do a better job of putting myself in position to beat double coverage and try to make myself more quarterback-friendly, so I can make a play for our offense. So the past few weeks have been frustrating.

    While Marshall may be frustrated with his reduced role, it will ultimately allow other players, such as Alshon Jeffery, to play a larger role within the offense.

Alshon Jeffery Is a Star in the Making

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    Alshon Jeffery saw limited action during his 2012 rookie campaign due to injuries, and he recorded just 24 catches for 367 yards in 10 appearances for Chicago.

    While Jeffery got off to a slow start this season (13 receptions for 104 yards), he has been sensational in the past two outings.

    Against the Lions, Jeffery caught five passes for 107 yards and a touchdown. He followed that up with 10 catches for 218 yards against the Saints in Week 5.

    While opposing defenses have blanketed Brandon Marshall in the past couple of games, Jeffery is showing that he can be a threat in the mid-range game, and down the field as well.

    Per Michael C. Wright of ESPN, Brandon Marshall offered this assessment on Jeffery's last outing:

    It’s just awesome to see this guy mature right before your eyes. I’ve always said this guy can be one of the best that ever done it. He’s probably gonna shatter all the Bears records by the time he’s done at the receiver position. That’s one of the only positives from our offensive side today.

    That being said, if opposing defenses continue to focus all of their efforts on Brandon Marshall, look for Jeffery to be a major factor for Chicago during the rest of the season.