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It's clear after watching Aaron Rodgers march his team to a Super Bowl victory that there is really only one thing for the Bears to focus on in the coming months: The pass rush.
The Bears only have one option when it comes to dealing with Rodgers in the future and it isn't civilized. Rodgers did just about what he wanted against the best defense in the league on Sunday - after he ran roughshod over the best teams in his own conference in the earlier rounds of the playoffs. At this point he is so accurate and so deadly that when he is healthy he is just about unbeatable.
So when they face off against him next season, the Bears will need to hit Rogers hard and hit him often.
They don't need to hit him in the head (Danieal Manning's shot to Rodgers' arm at the end of the bootleg touchdown run early in the NFC Championship game was more destructive than Julius Peppers' foolish, flag-drawing face-to-face hit in the pocket later in the game), but they need to do damage.
Defensive end Israel Idonije made some strides this year, while Anthony Adams has been stout in the middle and a few other Bears have shown flashes, but the bottom line is they'll have to take another couple shots at adding speed and ferocity to that line (and the linebackers) in the draft and in its aftermath. Fortunately, that need dovetails nicely with the fact that the Bears are getting old on that side of the ball and will need to find a new generation of playmakers in the coming few years.
The Bears should be comfortably under whatever salary cap is in effect and will have a full slate of draft picks for the first time in years, having finally finished paying the price for Jay Cutler (a price that I still argue was amazingly low).
The memory of Manning's hit reminds one of another imperative for the Bears going forward. They need hard-hitting safeties to put the fear of football into Packer receivers.
What made Rodgers' postseason even more amazing was that he was able to overcome all sorts of drops to still put together eye-popping numbers.
Chris Harris will be back in the secondary and while I've had my doubts about him, there was no arguing with his production this year. The thing the Bears cannot do is count on Major Wright to be the guy at the other safety spot. Manning will be a free agent and from his comments at the end of the season, it seems like a good bet he will go elsewhere. The Bears better fortify this position.
The Packers ran the ball just a dozen times while attempting 48 passes. And they still prevailed.
Maybe balance between the running game and the passing game isn't so important after all, as long as the offensive line (and scheme) is good enough to protect the quarterback - and the quarterback is smart enough to know when to throw away the ball and live for another down or series.
Let's make sure that scheme is in place next year from the start, okay Mike Martz? And hey Jay, you'll be working absolutely as hard as you can too on making sure that the lessons learned this season lead to more efficiency next year, right?
That is, if there is a next year.
There's a great chance the owners will lock out the players when the league's collective bargaining agreement expires on March 1 and there's a great chance that a majority of fans will absolutely ignore the particulars of the situation and blame the "overpaid" players for being locked out.
I suppose it makes sense to think there is too much money involved for an extended work stoppage to occur next season, but it doesn't feel that way at this point. Owners apparently have convinced themselves that raking in tens of millions of dollars every year isn't nearly enough. They want hundreds of millions.
One of their demands for the next collective bargaining agreement is that players give back enough of their share of the pie to set up a multi-hundred-million dollar fund to help retire the debt on all the new stadiums built over the past decade.
You would think trying to impose this sort of retroactive cost on workers would be utterly ridiculous on its face, but owners are going for it, along with their plans to extend an already brutal 16-game regular season schedule to 18 games.
It should all be delightfully exasperating.
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