The Chicago Bears were expected to come out of Week 1 beaten, battered, and bruised after a punishing loss to the Packers. Except that didn’t happen. The Bears actually played their division rivals extremely well. So well in fact, that the game came down to a crucial interception by Bears quarterback Jay Cutler in the final minutes of the game to seal a six-point victory for the Packers at Soldier Field.
It was a far cry from a pummeling performance by the Packers, as many expected, but it was far from underwhelming, either. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers was extremely efficient, finding recently signed wide receiver James Jones for two touchdowns, while throwing for 189 yards on 18-of-23 passing and three total scores.
The Bears needed to play perfectly in every phase on Sunday, and simply didn’t. The secondary was their weakest point, and the pass rush was nonexistent. Offensively, Cutler was efficient, and Matt Forte was a lightning bolt of productivity both in the running and passing game. The offensive line, which seems to be an annual concern, showed major signs of weakness against a compact and aggressive Packers front seven, but played more to the tune of “bend, not break.”
In their Week 2 home matchup against an on-fire Arizona Cardinals team, the Bears have it both very good and possibly very bad in terms of matchups. It’s still extremely early in the young 2015 season, but the Bears have many questions to answer during Sunday’s upcoming battle.
1. Who, Other Than Matt Forte?
Forte touched the ball 29 times on Sunday, with 24 rushes for 141 yards and a touchdown, while catching five passes for 25 yards. His five receptions were tied for the most with Alshon Jeffery and Martellus Bennett.
Forte was the for-better-or-worse bell cow on Sunday, and it became apparent early that he was going to have to shoulder a heavy load in order for the Bears to see any offensive productivity throughout the game. Jeffery, Eddie Royal and Marquess Wilson were all game-time decisions with injuries, and were essentially ineffective for much of the game.
Forte is one of the more fresh 29-year-old running backs in recent memory, and still has plenty of tread left on his body. However, he’s in a contract year, and is the most valuable player on the entire roster; a commodity the Bears cannot live without, as shown in Sunday’s close defeat. The Bears need players like Royal and Wilson to step up to see that Jeffery gets open, especially in the red zone.
There are no proven rushers behind Forte, and Jeremy Langford is a rookie who struggled to consistently make any progress during the preseason. If the Bears wear Forte out early in the season, it’s going to be a long second half, one that could find them once again in the top 10 picks of the draft next April.
2. The Secondary
The secondary was the weakest link of all the Bears' chains on Sunday, allowing veteran James Jones to score two touchdowns, one in the corner of the end zone that went right through the hands of starting cornerback Alan Ball.
Antrel Rolle and Adrian Amos are the safeties, and while Amos played respectably in his debut performance on Sunday, he still has far too much to improve on to say that he’s the better choice over former starter Ryan Mundy.
It was somewhat surprising to see how “well” the Bears' secondary played against the Packers’ passing attack, especially considering many expected Rodgers to go ballistic against such a weak passing defense. The Bears held their own as a unit and, for most of the game, did a great job of keeping everything in front of them and not finding themselves playing on their heels. There were a number of instances however where the back seven found themselves missing assignments and biting on run fakes, allowing Rodgers to carve the Bears up the middle through the air.
The Bears face an equal, if not more potent passing attack this Sunday in the Cardinals, who Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd and budding star John Brown to town as well as the fully healthy Carson Palmer. While Palmer isn’t the do-it-all quarterback that Rodgers is, he’s still an effective passer, and a top-tier quarterback when healthy. Remember, the Cardinals were 6-0 with Palmer last season before he was lost for the year with a torn ACL. The Cardinals' offensive line isn’t as good as Green Bay’s, but it’s not awful. Look for the Bears to be more aggressive along the front seven early to force Palmer into making bad throws, but expect the safeties to have their work cut out for them with such good receivers going against subpar cornerbacks.
3. The Offensive Line
John Fox’s decision to play third-year offensive lineman Kyle Long at right tackle has yet to show that it was the right choice, but rarely does one game answer that type of question. Long gave up two crucial third down sacks, one costing the Bears a chance at six points, having to settle for a field goal.
The other came when Long gave up a sack to Julius Peppers on a crucial third down that resulted in an overturned fumble call, forcing the Bears to punt. Long was overmatched for most of the game, as was his counterpart Jermon Bushrod.
The Cardinals aren’t without dominant defenders among their front seven, and even in their secondary with Tyrann Mathieu capable of causing havoc in any backfield he lines up in front of. The Bears will have their work cut out for them against the likes of Calais Campbell along the front seven, but should be able to hold their own. The Cardinals' defense is one of the best in the league, but the Bears showed against Green Bay the ability to move the chains with various offensive sets. This should be one of the most intriguing matchups of the day.
A Look at the Rest
Cutler looked confident and comfortable against Green Bay in Week 1, and Week 2 should be no different, especially with a healthy arsenal of weapons (Alshon Jeffery is still dealing with lingering calf and hamstring injuries and is officially Questionable for Sunday) in the passing game. If the offensive line can give him time in the pocket, expect him to make big plays against the Cardinals' linebacker corps, the lone weakness of their otherwise stout defense.
Special teams was one of the weakest areas for Chicago in Week 1, especially the kickoff coverage unit, which struggled to pin the Packers deep to start drives. The punt unit played well, preventing the Packers from any notable returns, and gave the defense solid starting field position in key moments.
— Written by Chris Dougherty, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Dougherty also serves as a National Recruiting Analyst for 247Sports.com and has written for other sites, including FanSided.com and Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter @warontheweekend.