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60-second rant: Bears have proven they can make good use of bye

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Dan Parr

dparr@pfwmedia.com
Associate editor

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By Dan Parr

The Bears' offense tried to look on the bright side after it produced only a field goal in a Week 17 loss to the Packers, matching its season low in points. After all, the 10-3 loss didn't cost it much.

Chicago is the No. 2 seed in the NFC, just as it would have been with a win over Green Bay, and QB Jay Cutler escaped injury, despite being sacked six times in a game where the Bears didn't have much to gain other than keeping their division rival out of the playoffs.

It would have been a nice feather in the cap of the NFC North champions, but, instead of that, Dom Capers' defense reminded them that clear communication at the line of scrimmage is tougher to pull off when an opposing crowd is screaming at the top of its lungs.

Cutler said playing in front of the raucous fans at Lambeau Field was an important learning experience that will serve the Bears well heading into the postseason. Communicating before the snap became an issue for the O-line, as the current front five had not gone through a game together in that kind of environment this season.

"We haven't had a lot of crowd noise this year, so I think it was really good for myself and the offensive line being in a hostile situation," Cutler said. "It was a valuable experience for myself and some of the young guys in this offense."

The last time the Bears had a bye — in Week Eight — they were coming off an ugly home loss to the Redskins in which Cutler threw four interceptions to CB DeAngelo Hall. The offense was in disarray.

Smith and offensive coordinator Mike Martz made adjustments during that week off that not only saved their season but pushed it to heights that weren't anticipated by most league observers.

A tough road loss to the playoff-bound Packers doesn't call for the same sort of response during this bye, but improvement and a productive week off are necessary.

While Chicago is unsure of the opponent that will travel to Soldier Field to play at noon on Jan. 16 — it will be the Eagles, Saints or Seahawks — they are well-aware of the things that they have to do better in order to get the outcome they desire.

Limiting sacks and turnovers — Cutler threw two picks against the Packers — and maintaining balance between the pass and run are the aspects of the game that the Bears improved in after their first bye. If Chicago strays away from that blueprint in the postseason, a supportive home crowd probably isn't going to be enough to keep them from exiting quickly.

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