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JENSEN: BEARS’ MIDSEASON REPORT

CHICAGO IL- OCTOBER 22: Charles Tillman #33 Chicago Bears reacts after Bears recovered fumble against Detroit Lions third quarter October

CHICAGO, IL- OCTOBER 22: Charles Tillman #33 of the Chicago Bears reacts after the Bears recovered a fumble against the Detroit Lions in the third quarter on October 22, 2012 at Soldier Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)

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MVP

Charles Tillman, CB: The Bears are winning with defense, and no one is playing better than Tillman, who has a league-high seven forced fumbles and has scored two touchdowns. Tillman’s lockdown of the Lions’ Calvin Johnson was supremely impressive.

BIGGEST SURPRISE

Major Wright, S: He looked lost in the past, but Wright has been fairly steady this season, making the tackles he should and intercepting three passes, including one he returned for a touchdown. He and Chris Conte are providing stability in the secondary.

UNSUNG HERO

Michael Bush, RB: While Matt Forte has been very good in his career, his backups have been very bad. In Bush, the Bears finally have the complementary back they’ve wanted. Though he isn’t as explosive, Bush is a threat as a runner and receiver. Perhaps most importantly, he’s adept in short-yardage situations.

BIGGEST
DISAPPOINTMENT

Gabe Carimi, RT: He’s a first-round pick, and he certainly isn’t playing to that level. In some ways, he’s still a rookie after playing in 11/2 games last year. But he needs to step up in a big way if the Bears are going to make a run at the Super Bowl.

TOP CUTLER MOMENT

39-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Marshall vs. Titans: Yes, the Bears were playing the Titans, and they were blowing them out. But on this fourth-quarter play, Cutler dropped back and launched a perfect strike to Marshall, who caught it in stride. That was the Bears’ offense at its best.

MOST TELLING STATISTIC

The Bears have seven touchdowns on interception returns. They already are tied for third-most in NFL history, and they’re only two shy of the 1961 San Diego Chargers’ record of nine.

NO. 1 THING I LEARNED ABOUT THE BEARS

Age is just a number, apparently. The Over the Hill Gang on defense is playing some ridiculous football.

THREE KEYS FOR THE SECOND HALF

1. Shore up pass protection: Jay Cutler sometimes looks jittery in the pocket early in games. That’s usually an indication that he doesn’t trust his protection, which should come as no surprise. Mike Tice must do whatever is necessary to limit the blows Cutler takes.

2. Get Devin Hester’s mojo back: One of the things that makes the Bears truly special is Hester, and he isn’t returning kicks with his usual swagger. His unit still is jelling, but it must cut down on penalties and free him up for some big gains on a more consistent basis.

3. Start faster: The defense certainly has started strong, allowing only 12 points in the first quarter. But the offense has to do more early on, especially against the better clubs. The offense generally finds itself in the second half, and that won’t cut it for the Bears to make a Super Bowl run.

FINAL RECORD
PREDICTION: 13-3



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