ChicagoBears.com senior writer Larry Mayer speaks with coach Lovie Smith about the most pressing issues involving the Bears every Wednesday during the season.
LM: There was a lot to like about Sunday's 51-20 win over the Titans. What did you enjoy most?
LM: There's a long way to go, but how pleased are you that the Bears are 7-1 at the midpoint of the season?
LS: "You don't win anything when you start 7-1, but it helps. The best we could have been was 8-0, and after you lose an early game like we did, the best we could be after that is where we are, so you have to like that. Our team is in pretty good shape health-wise. We don't have a lot of injuries, and I feel like our arrow is pointing up. We made progress in a lot of areas in this last game, so we're pleased with where we are."
LM: What are your thoughts on facing the Texans, another team that's off to a 7-1 start?
LS: "We think we're a good football team, but in order for you to really know that you have to play the best football teams. They're 7-1, and I really believe you are what your record says you are. We're playing a 7-1 team, so that's saying we're playing a heck of a football team. We're excited to get an opportunity to match up against them, especially at home."
LM: I'm assuming the No. 1 objective, as it always is, will be to stop the run and put the Texans in predictable passing situations. But how difficult is it to face a team that can run and pass?
LS: "You would like to get into the game and try to make them lean on one. A lot of things can cause a team to do that, like jumping out ahead of them right away and forcing them into a game where they have to pass the football. But it's harder when you play a team that's balanced like that. That's who we are as a football team. We're a balanced team for that exact reason."
LM: Brandon Marshall was certainly expected to make an impact. But with him on pace to break franchise records and set career highs in all receiving categories, has he exceeded your expectations?
LS: "If you look at his track record, he's been a great player. We felt like we were bringing in a No. 1 receiver, so I can't say he's exceeded expectations. We expected him to come in and be a big part of what we're going to do offensively, and he's done what we thought and hoped he would do coming in. He'll tell you there are still some plays he left out there. He hasn't peaked yet. But it'll be a lot of fun just watching him go through the second half of the season."
LM: The Bears offense got off to another slow start in Tennessee before kicking into high gear, How much of an emphasis will you place on getting off to a quicker start against the Texans?
LM: "Starting fast has been a focus each week with all three phases. But we made progress; that's how I look at it. You want to do a lot of things better, but we scored 37 points on the offensive side of the ball. So that's headed in the right direction. We haven't done that in a long time. Moving forward, we want to build on that success, and that's how I look at it this week."