Chicago Bears 2013 Offseason Preview
2012 Season Recap
The season started auspiciously for the Bears, who won seven out of their first eight games -- their plus-120 points scoring differential at that point led the league -- and looked like Super Bowl contenders at the end of October. But they lost their way in the second half. After scoring 19 touchdowns in the first eight games, they had only nine TDs in the final eight games, dropping five of six games during one stretch. The Bears became only the second team to start 7-1 and miss the postseason since the NFL expanded to a 12-team playoff format in 1990.
There were positive developments, to be sure. Wide receiver Brandon Marshall registered career highs with 118 receptions for 1,508 yards and 11 touchdowns. The defense returned six interceptions for touchdowns in the first seven games -- an NFL record -- and the Bears finished the season as the No. 1 team in takeaways (44) with a plus-20 turnover ratio. Cornerback Charles Tillman became the first NFL player to force four fumbles in one game when he tortured the Titans in Week 9.
It seemed like the Bears had all the ingredients to be successful on offense -- a legitimate No. 1 wide receiver (Marshall), a complementary running back tandem of Matt Forte and Michael Bush and a healthy Jay Cutler at quarterback -- but an inefficient line and conservative play-calling dragged it down. The offense finished 28th in the league.
Ownership's patience with Lovie Smith finally ran out and the coach was fired after nine seasons. After advancing to Super Bowl XLI in February 2006, the Bears failed to make the playoffs in five out of the last six seasons under Smith.
Stat To Feel Good About
If It Ain't Broke ...
Age notwithstanding, the defense remains one of the best in the NFL. During Smith's tenure (2004-12), the Bears ranked first in the league in takeaways, three-and-out series forced and third-down percentage. In addition, they were fourth in scoring defense. End Julius Peppers, linebacker Brian Urlacher (if the team brings him back in free agency), and cornerbacks Tim Jennings and Charles Tillman are playmakers who give offensive coordinators headaches but should give Trestman peace of mind.
Must Fix It
The 6-foot-7 Davis is a competent blocker, but he is not a reliable receiver. He was never able to gain Cutler's trust and probably won't be back in 2013 despite having a year left on his deal. There are several capable tight ends who could be available in free agency, including Martellus Bennett, Anthony Fasano and Fred Davis.
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What We'll Be Saying In July
For the first time in 41 years (since the days of Abe Gibron), the Bears have a head coach whose background is rooted in offense. Trestman has built a reputation as an offensive wizard and a quarterbacks guru during his many coaching stops, and he will call the offensive plays. Bears fans should have reason to be optimistic about the offense in 2013.
The Bears won't undergo a rebuilding as much as a reloading. A lot of pieces already are in place for the offense to be more potent. What it needs most are capable linemen, and that should be in place by the time training camp starts.
Chicago is not that far away from being a playoff team -- it proved that in 2012 -- but it could still look like only the third best team in the NFC North. The Packers are the kings of the division until proven otherwise, and the arrow on the Vikings is pointing up after they made the playoffs last year for the first time since 2009. The Bears should be capable of making the division a three-team race to the finish.