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Bernstein: The Bears Have Bad Receivers

By Dan Bernstein- Senior Columnist

(CBS) Before I make my point, allow me to inoculate myself against yours.

Jay Cutler remains a shaky collection of talents, still prone to too many hold-your-breath throws. The rigid offense of Mike Martz is complicated and possibly antiquated. Blocking is all but nonexistent for the run game and tenuous at best when a pass is called.

Got it? I know it's never completely cut-and-dried. The reasons for the Bears' inefficiencies are many, and shared.

But, really. Somebody get open.

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And when you do, don't try to catch the ball with your face, or let it ricochet off your sternum. Neither tactic is particularly productive.

This is the receiving corps that had coaches and executives so excited, this bargain-basement collection of shrimps, wimps and gimps?

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The pass-protections against the Packers weren't so bad. On a few plays Sunday there was time for a deep drop, and the blurry shape of something resembling a pocket. The odd yellow-helmeted menace broke through, but the overall performance was well removed from last week's Superdome jailbreak.

Man coverage or zone coverage notwithstanding, it seemed like even the completions were near-misses, near-drops or near-picks. This has to stop.

During the summer, Martz called Roy Williams an "elite" receiver, and predicted that he'd be good for 70-80 catches this year. Martz also, I believe, called the Ford Pinto "stylish and safe," referred to "Blues Brothers 2000" as "a towering cinematic achievement – a great, great American film," and described Hostess Sno-Balls as being "rich in antioxidants."

Williams had better still be hurt, because if not…hoo, boy. He would not want to race Julius Peppers right now. Or maybe even Lance Louis. Or Virginia McCaskey.

He bet on himself with this one-year contract, and his current hole-cards are 7 and 2, off suit.

Dane Sanzenbacher is a player no NFL team wanted, despite seven rounds of chances to prove otherwise. He is small and slow. Yes, he's smart, but so is Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Devin Hester and Johnny Knox are dangerous return men, now rendered less so by the new rule that turns one of the game's most exciting plays into outfield practice. The Bears need more short fields, and they don't seem to be coming anytime soon from bringing back kickoffs. Opposing punters have Hester increasingly gameplanned.

Their big plays on special teams have long covered for inadequacies at actually playing the position – that's clearer now.

Kellen Davis looked big and athletic on his touchdown, but stone-handed on that drop and unreliable as an in-line blocker. Matt Spaeth is a guy. Tyler Clutts will be mentioned to you several years from now, and you will have absolutely no idea who he is or was. Matt Forte will catch a lot of passes this year, and that's bad.

What's more, the receiving problem looks worse when we catch ourselves lamenting missing mediocrity. So they don't have Earl Bennett, Cutler's favorite target when he needs a hot-read to catch a nine-yard hook before getting absolutely pulverized. Does any sane defensive coordinator spend a down of practice time preparing his group to face him?

And while I'm asking questions, am I really wondering – even for the slightest second – if the offense misses Greg Olsen, the light, speedy tight end who couldn't block anybody and crumpled to the ground the moment a tackler breathed on him?

No? Phew. OK, good.

But forget all the misguided, unfocused talk about balance, folks. It's about completions. This offense is built to sling the ball around, just like every NFL offense, phantom pains from past decades be damned. Passing is scoring, more so than ever.

The Bears have issues, now, of course. Cutler needs to tighten up his game, a rush or two for an actual yard wouldn't hurt, Chris Williams must stop flopping around like a boated catfish, and the procedural penalties are embarrassing.

I just think the illness that truly plagues this team was made more obvious than ever at Soldier Field.

And it's catching.

Dan Bernstein has been the co-host of "Boers and Bernstein" since 1999. He joined the station as a reporter/anchor in 1995. The Boers and Bernstein Show airs every weekday from 1PM to 6PM on The Score, 670AM. Read more of Bernstein's columns here. Follow him on Twitter @dan_bernstein.
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