In this week's Five Questions, PFW publisher and editor and Bears expert Hub Arkush says the days of winning with a good running game and defense are over, and that Lovie Smith has done a better job than most of managing Mike Martz.
1. Should the Bears have a more balanced approach on offense vs. the Packers, or should they keep emphasizing the passing game against a defense that has allowed both quarterbacks it has faced so far to throw for more than 400 yards?
Arkush: Everyone should strive to have as balanced an offense as possible, but the reality of today's NFL is you cannot contend for a Super Bowl if you can't throw the ball and win an occasional shootout. The Bears didn't hire Mike Martz and Jay Cutler to run the football. If they want to be an 8-8 team, they should run more and throw less. Clearly they have to run more than 11 times, regardless, but their only shot at contending is to continue trying to develop, improve and rely on the passing game. The days of winning by running the ball and playing defense in the NFL are gone.
2. What's your assessment of the job Lovie Smith has done managing Mike Martz?
Arkush: Better than most. He couldn't be managed in Detroit and San Francisco and he was fired and seemingly at the end of the road. Lovie was able to sit him down at midseason last year and make the changes they needed to, and I have to believe it'll happen again. Bottom line is Lovie's a defensive coach and he's better off letting Martz run the offense than interfering in it himself. During the week is the time for Lovie to manage him, not Game Day, and that's how he's trying to do it.
3. After accounting for more than half of the Bears' total yardage in the first two games, has Matt Forté increased his price tag?
Arkush: With the Bears, yes. With the rest of the league he's still a nice back, but second tier as a featured back. The reason Forté means so much to the Bears is they have so little at wide receiver and tight end. He wouldn't stand out nearly as much on a team with more playmakers.
4. Injuries are an issue at the position, but what do you think would be the most effective duo at safety when everyone is healthy?
Arkush: I suspect Brandon Meriweather at free safety and Major Wright at strong. The Bears' problem is Peanut Tillman is the only pure free safety on the roster and they have him at cornerback. Chris Harris is good against the run, but a liability in pass coverage and I fear Wright is a younger version of the same player. I can tell you that Chris Conte should not be on an NFL field right now.
5. Is it too early to be concerned about second-round pick Stephen Paea, who has been inactive in each of the first two games?
Arkush: It's too early, but he needs to make the leap to at least being active on Sunday awfully soon. Henry Melton will have moments against mediocre opposition but you saw what happened vs. the Saints and what will happen when he gets in with the big boys. Paea's style should lend itself to earlier success — he's a mauler not a finesse guy — so it better happen soon.
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