Where don't Bears need help?

You name position, and they have weakness — too many glaring

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MINNEAPOLIS — On the play Chicagoans will remember most from the Bears' season-ending 17-13 victory Sunday over the Vikings, safety Major Wright nearly made it a meaningful game after all.

Wright leaped to break up a pass intended for Vikings receiver Percy Harvin and came down on Brian Urlacher, who sprained his left knee during an awkward landing that made everybody watching wince. As Urlacher covered his face on the turf in obvious pain, the Bears had to wonder if the year already was ruined on the first day of 2012.

"I just took a knee and started praying he would be all right,'' Wright said, speaking for many Bears fans.

"He is the Chicago Bears,'' quarterback Josh McCown added. "To see that guy on the turf is a sick feeling.''

Urlacher will be fine but nobody in the Bears organization should forget how horrifying those seconds of uncertainty felt as they begin an offseason that requires, more than anything, honest self-evaluation.

Despite welcoming the first victory in 42 days, Urlacher's injury capped a day of sobering reminders. For a game that meant nothing, a near-miss against a 3-13 cellar-dweller said everything about what the Bears priorities should be.

Yes, they need to draft a middle linebacker to develop because Urlacher isn't invincible and is 33 — but the Vikings proved that might be down the Bears' list. Before they can live up to Lance Briggs' description of a "championship-caliber'' team, the Bears first must fix the offensive and defensive lines.

Nobody can dispute the lack of a big-play wide receiver and dependable cornerback. Roy Williams and Johnny Knox led wideouts with 37 catches apiece so calling the corps pedestrian seems overly kind. As for the cornerback opposite Charles Tillman, whose 22-yard interception return for a touchdown provided the winning margin, the Bears are begging for an upgrade over Tim Bowman or Zack Jennings or whoever.

But nothing else really matters unless the Bears realize what they don't have on the line of scrimmage and they should thank the Vikings for making that clear.

After giving up seven more sacks, we can conclude the Bears don't have a quality offensive line regardless of whether tackle Gabe Carimi and guard Chris Williams return healthy. If the Bears aren't concerned over the regression of left tackle J'Marcus Webb they should be. Granted Webb was trying to block Jared Allen — who the Bears once triple-teamed after 31/2 sacks — but he should do more than serve as Allen's usher. Webb could have worn a yellow hat instead of a helmet as much as he was leading Allen to the quarterback.

Defensively, the Bears badly lack a defensive tackle who plays with consistency as much as another pass-rusher. On one play Toby Gerhart gained eight yards and offensive tackle Phil Loadholt drove Henry Melton downfield for nine. On another, Matt Toeaina imitated New Year's Day fireworks by getting blown up in the hole. Overall, a defensive front that dominated the Falcons to open the season closed it looking vulnerable against a bad team missing its best runner.

The Bears did take positives home. They showed professional pride in a game that carried such little incentive I kidded the loser should have to invite Donovan McNabb to training camp. They got a second straight serviceable effort from Josh McCown. Despite a regrettable interception, he did enough to deserve a long look as Jay Cutler's backup.

"If God wants me on the team, I'll be on the team,'' McCown said.

My sense is Smith and general manager Jerry Angelo will have a bigger say — and both men had bigger concerns as they left the Metrodome with an 8-8 stamp of mediocrity on their season.

The Bears can be good at fooling themselves as Smith's snit last week addressing offensive coordinator Mike Martz's status confirmed. But to return to the playoffs in what must be viewed as another make-or-break season for Smith and Angelo, they must ask tougher questions of each other. They need to do what Smith seldom does and take a glass half-empty approach to their .500 record.

I would start by replacing Martz with Mike Tice as the primary play-caller — preserve continuity, eliminate complexity — before putting the roster under a microscope. But I'm not Smith, who sounds too content.

"We're going to try to keep as many of our coaches and players as possible together,'' he said. "We don't want to tear this team down and start over. This is a good football team. We're going to win a lot of games with this core.''

As good as the core is, the Bears still haven't won enough in four of the past five seasons to make the playoffs. Ignoring that reality only will bring the Bears closer to missing five of six.

dhaugh@tribune.com

Twitter @DavidHaugh
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