Bears Weekly Progress Report: Injuries Have Hurt Chicago, but Not Like 2011

Andrew Garda@andrew_gardaFeatured ColumnistDecember 21, 2012

CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 16:  Brian Urlacher #54 of the Chicago Bears stands on the sidelines during a game against the Green Bay Packers at Soldier Field on December 16, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. The Packers defeated the Bears 21-13.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Both the offense and defense for the Chicago Bears have claimed responsibility for the team's rapid decline this season. And they're both right.

The real question is, how much does injury have to do with the drop-off in play on both sides of the ball.

Defensively, you can't deny that losing Brian Urlacher, Tim Jennings and Henry Melton had a great effect on the Bears. Add Geno Hayes, Shea McClellin and Matt Toeaina (just added to Injured Reserve) and you've got a significant loss of talent.

The Bears' defense was already fading a bit before they started going down in groups, but overall they have shown flashes of the same ferocity they had prior to the injury bug.

You can see the base talent, but you can also see that the injuries are just too much. For example, the drop-off from Jennings to D.J. Moore and Kelvin Hayden was steep. The step-back from Urlacher to Nick Roach, too great.

On the other hand, the injuries to the offense have just shown how shallow the talent was to begin with.

The offensive line was never great. At one point they were playing adequately, but they were never more than that. When you're just hanging on by a thread, you can't afford to lose anyone, even a middling player like Lance Louis.

It's not like the offensive line lost Nick Mangold, Joe Thomas or Duane Brown. Louis should be someone you can replace off the bench with little to no drop-off.

However, since Louis was injured, the line play has dropped off precipitously.

Losing Earl Bennett hurt more, but his absence mostly showed how raw Alshon Jeffery still is and how limited Devin Hester remains. Again, Bennett is a solid player but far from irreplaceable off the bench.

Or at least he should be.

If you look at the offense, they still have their top three weapons healthy. Matt Forte, Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall are all in decent shape, yet the offense continues to struggle.

Injuries sure aren't helping, but this is not a repeat of 2011, when the team didn't have Marshall and lost both Forte and Cutler.

Unlike the defense, the offense really can't cry "injury" all that much.

Of course, the entire team needs to pick it up this weekend if they expect to make the playoffs. For the defense, it needs to find a way to make up for its key players being hurt.

The offense doesn't have that excuse.


Visit the B/R NFC North Facebook page—like us and keep up with everything on Bleacher Report.

Follow me on Twitter at @andrew_garda.