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10 observations: It’s a long shot, but Bears need Harbaugh to fix this mess

Jim Harbaugh to the Bears? We’ll have to see it to believe it.

Fox Sports 1 insider Jay Glazer reported Sunday that the Bears could be a player in the Harbaugh sweepstakes. But it’s still a long shot. With teams already lining up behind the University of Michigan and its reported $8 million-a-year offer, the Bears would have to move quickly and break the bank — two things the McCaskeys don’t do well. But if they’re interested in proving to Bears fans they are serious about getting this thing right, going for Harbaugh would be one way to do it.

Harbaugh is an acquired taste personally and professionally. And he has a short shelf life — as reports of Harbaugh’s impending divorce from the 49ers have picked up steam, the 49ers have struggled throughout the season, and are skidding to the finish with four straight losses.

But the Bears would be remiss to not go all out to hire him when he becomes available. Harbaugh provides what the Bears need most: an infusion of direction, focus and intensity. He has an odd manner but in a way that players respond to. He has a record of player development at the University of San Diego and Stanford. Until this season, his 49ers teams played at a level of intensity eclipsed only by the Seahawks and Patriots.

2. When Marc Trestman argued that a quarterback’s career might be “revived” after a dose of reality like a benching, he probably didn’t mean one week. Still, while Jimmy Clausen didn’t put up prolific numbers against the Lions, his efficiency in running the offense helped keep the Bears in the game — avoiding sacks, big hits and turnovers that have doomed Cutler.

Any chance that risk-averse approach had an impact on Cutler?

“I think Jay’s always going to try to do that,” Trestman said. “He’s an experienced quarterback, but he is very observant. He watches everything.

“It’s been a very, very tough year for him in terms of playing at a consistent level, but I’ve seen this before and I have faith that he’s going to return. He’ll go to work this week … and take the things out of the game last week that he could have learned by standing and watching and observing the continuity of the game.”

3. Some guys get all the breaks: Cutler can only hope for some of the good fortune that gave Clausen a helping hand against the Lions.

False starts have hampered the Bears offense under Cutler all season. On Sunday, Michael Ola’s false start turned to gold: it forced the Bears to punt on fourth down — leading to a muff by the Lions’ Jeremy Ross that Sherrick McManis recovered. Clausen threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to Matt Forte on the next play.

In the third quarter, Pat O’Donnell’s Academy Award-winning acting job earned a roughing-the-kicker penalty that not only wiped out a 19-yard net punt, but led to the Bears’ second touchdown — Clausen’s 20-yard pass to Alshon Jeffery.

O’Donnell was roughed one other time this season — against the Buccaneers at Soldier Field — but Cutler wasn’t as fortunate. After regaining possession, Cutler was sacked twice, losing a fumble on the second one to set up a Buccaneers touchdown drive.

4. Last week, ESPN’s Jon Gruden called for Jimmy Clausen to replace Cutler. This week, Fox analyst Troy Aikman took his shot.

“I think [Cutler’s benching] goes beyond performance,” Aikman said on the Bears-Lions telecast, “and is real reflective of whatever Jay Cutler is or isn’t as a leader or someone who inspires the play of those around him.”

5. Matt Forte’s once-formidable pass-blocking has suffered lately. According to Pro Football Focus, Forte has a minus-9.2 pass-blocking rating in the Bears’ last eight games. He was a plus-1.5 in the first seven games. The same thing happened last year when Forte had a minus-4.6 pass-blocking rating in the second half after a plus-0.5 in the first half.

6. It’s One of those Years Dept.: Defensive end Willie Young, having a career year with 10 sacks, suffered a torn Achilles tendon that will require surgery and could impact his 2015 season.

“That’s a tough one,” Trestman said. “He has kind of been an inspirational leader. He’s a charismatic guy. He keeps people up. He’s fun to be around. He’s always up and around the building and has played well and gotten better throughout the season.

6b. Another team MVP candidate, tight end Martellus Bennett, avoided injury but had a difficult game, with one reception for no yards, a drop on Clausen’s first pass of the game, a pass interference penalty and an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for arguing the pass interference penalty.

7. Kudos to Willie Young — a huge addition on the field and in the locker room — for remaining the same upbeat guy he’s been all season, even in the face of a devastating injury. Wearing a walking boot, he still held court in the locker room after the game.

“Very impressive performance … I saw a lot of growth [Sunday],” Young said. “We’ve got some leadership, got some veterans, but at some crucial positions we have younger guys and I saw a lot of growth in those guys.

“The stuff that’s been thrown at them all year, the way they’ve responded to adversity and with everything that’s being down and the way things are going, I’m impressed.”

8. On the other hand, Jared Allen took no solace in what seemed like an encouraging performance against the Lions.

“No. We lost,” Allen said. “Are we really to the point where we’re going to get excited about close losses? If that’s the case, I don’t want to be a part of that. I want a team that hurts after losses. I don’t want to be a team that’s OK with losing close games. We’ve got to fix mistakes. We’ve got to get better.”

9. Ex-Bear Player of the Week: Eric Weems, a special teams stalwart who was cut in the preseason, caught a three-yard touchdown pass from Matt Ryan with three seconds left in the first half to give the Atlanta Falcons a lead they would not lose in a 30-14 victory over the Saints in the Superdome. Weems also had a team-leading 11th special-teams tackle.

Weems has 10 receptions for 102 yards and two touchdowns this season. Devin Hester had two receptions for 25 yards and has 34 catches for 472 yards (13.9 yards per catch) and two touchdowns. The Falcons play the Carolina Panthers on Sunday at the Georgia Dome for the NFC South title and a playoff berth.

10. Did you know … the Bears are the only team in the NFL that has not played a road playoff game since 1995? That’s because they never sneak into the playoffs. They have been a No. 1 or 2 seed in each of their four postseason appearances since 1995: 2001 (13-3), 2005 (11-5), 2006 (13-3) and 2010 (11-5). Whenever they’re close, they miss. That’s particularly unfortunate considering four of the last seven Super Bowl winners have been seeded fourth or lower.