Reporting Steve Silverman
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By Steve Silverman-
(CBS) The Giants are not the greatest of Super Bowl champions. They lost seven games this season and were swept in their season series with the Washington Redskins.
The game has changed so much since the 1980s when great teams like the Bears, 49ers and Giants dominated seasons from start to finish and overwhelmed opponents on their way to the Super Bowl. Now all you have to do is tread water for 15 weeks and then turn it on at the end of the regular season before getting into gear during the postseason.
It all leads to the question of how much better the Super Bowl champion Giants are than the Bears. Not the end-of-season Bears who did not have Jay Cutler or Matt Forte, but the Bears who were flying high with a 7-3 record before the big injuries hit.
The Bears felt they were in a position to challenge the Packers before the injuries. When Green Bay was flying high, it seemed that nobody could compete with them for 60 minutes with the possible exception of Chicago.
The Packers found out that you don’t win championships in November. The most shocking aspect of the Giants’ Super Bowl run was the divisional playoff win over Green Bay. The Giants not only went into Green Bay and won, they did it by 17 points even though two officials’ calls went against them and helped the Packers.
Therein lies the rub. It’s hard to picture the Bears going into Lambeau and dominating the Packers. Squeaking out a win on their best day? Possibly. But there’s no way they would go into Green Bay and overpower the Packers. Not on their best day and not on the Packers’ worst.
So there should be no fooling of ourselves going forward. The Bears are not as good as the Giants and general manager Phil Emery has quite a bit of work to do to get the Bears ready in 2013. The main issues are familiar. Chicago must get stronger on the offensive line and they must upgrade what is a painfully bad crew of receivers.
Additionally, the defense is getting older. Forget what Emery said at his opening press conference. He knows that his core defenders are all getting older. Can Julius Peppers and Brian Urlacher have another good year? Most likely. But when you are on the wrong side of 30 and have doled out as much punishment as that trio has, it’s difficult to stay healthy for 16 games and then get it going at top speed in the postseason.
But back to the offense. Offensive coordinator Mike Tice is good enough at his job to get the most out of his blockers. When the Bears decided to reign in Mike “Mrs. Doubtfire” Martz each of the past two seasons, the offense picked up as Tice got much more consistency from the offensive line. The big issue is Gabe Carimi, who should be the long-term answer at right tackle. However, Carimi has to show he can stay healthy. Left tackle J’Marcus Webb is not good enough. You want to be able to protect Cutler’ blind side and you can’t have confidence in Webb’s ability to do that. Interior linemen Roberto Garza, Edwin Williams and Chris Spencer are good enough, but the tackles have to be upgraded.
The Bears’ receivers are a joke. Any time Eli Manning put the ball in the air during the postseason to any of his three wideouts, you had the feeling Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks or Mario Manningham was about to make a big play. When you look at the Bears receivers, you just close your eyes and shake your head.
Earl Bennett is a good No. 3 receiver because he can run decent patterns and he has a good pair of hands. The rest of the Bears’ receivers need to be put out of their misery. Roy Williams is a phony as a No. 1 receiver. He is clearly in the business to get paid and nothing else. Williams is inconsistent and undependable. For every impressive catch he makes, he’ll make 10 mistakes that hurt the team. Johnny Knox suffered a back injury that may make it difficult for him to get back on the field, despite offseason pronouncements that he will be healthy. Devin Hester is a superb return man. However, he’s still learning on the job as a wide receiver.
Emery has to address the wide receivers and offensive line during free agency and the draft. It would also be wise to improve the tight end position and come up with a plan for retooling the aging defense. But for the immediate future, the wide receivers and the offensive line have to be the priorities if the Bears are to have any hope of finishing the 2012 season the way the Giants did this year.
Steve Silverman is an award-winning writer, covering sports since 1980. Silverman was with Pro Football Weekly for 10 years and his byline has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Playboy, NFL.com and The Sporting News. He is the author of four books, including Who’s Better, Who’s Best in Football — The Top 60 Players of All-Time. Follow him on Twitter (@profootballboy) and read more of his CBS Chicago columns here.