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Bears 60-second rant: Making a list

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Dan Parr

dparr@pfwmedia.com
Associate editor

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Posted Dec. 20, 2011 @ 9:20 p.m. ET
By Dan Parr

It didn't eliminate them from the wild-card race, technically, but Chicago suffered a fourth consecutive loss in Week 15, allowing 31 unanswered points to the Seahawks in the second half after holding a 14-7halftime lead.

Lovie Smith's team has gone from 7-3 and a postseason favorite to a 7-7 team with little hope of finishing with a record above .500 in the past month.

The Bears were a different team — one of the best in the NFC — in the five games before Cutler broke this thumb. Getting Cutler healthy solves one big problem, but his return alone will not cure all that ails them.

If the Bears are going to close the gap between themselves and the Packers, and it's a substantial distance to make up, they are going to need to have a much better offseason than they did in 2010, when band-aids like Roy Williams and Marion Barber were added in free agency and the draft produced only one player (FS Chris Conte) who started more than half the games this season.

The only quarterback other than Cutler signed beyond this season is rookie Nathan Enderle, who has yet to play a down this season. Mike Martz was a big proponent of selecting Enderle in the fifth round of this year's draft, but we don't know if Martz is going to be back next season. His contract is up. The Bears paid dearly for misevaluating the backup QB position this season. Caleb Hanie and Josh McCown are unlikely to return. Finding a competent veteran backup for Cutler has to be a priority.

There are still question marks at left and right tackle, too. If Chicago's offense is going to keep up with the likes of other NFC powers like Green Bay and New Orleans, Cutler is going to need an upgrade at wide receiver, and a true No. 1 WR could make a huge difference. There are decisions to be made at tight end — starter Kellen Davis will be a free agent.

Oh, and RB Matt Forté's contract situation will rise to the forefront again very shortly with his deal due to expire this offseason.

On defense, this club still needs to complement Julius Peppers with a somewhat consistent pass rusher on the D-line. The Bears have to make a call on DE Israel Idonije and CB Tim Jennings, two starters who are due to hit the open market this offseason.

Making all these critical decisions — and deciding whether or not it will be GM Jerry Angelo making them — is what faces a Bears franchise that has hit a rough patch.

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