Bears

15 on 6: Cutler starting to shine in Martz's offense

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15 on 6: Cutler starting to shine in Martz's offense

Sunday, Sept. 11, 2011
Posted: 9:30 p.m.
By Jim Miller
CSNChicago.com

I think it is only appropriate to start this year's blog commenting on the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11th attacks of 2001. As you may or may not know, I was with the Bears during that time and was stunned like all of us. I never thought I would witness our country being attacked in my lifetime. We had a bye week before playing Atlanta on the road.

We tried to practice that week, but it was worthless. I remember coaches and players were just looking at each other out on the practice field thinking, "What are we doing here." We wanted to be glued to the television like everyone else for any new information. Coach Dick Jauron pretty much cut every practice short that week, knowing what was more important. I think everyone at the Bears facility went home that weekend with some form of soul searching on their mind.

Everyone must have dug deep because I remember coming back and every one was inspired to play football. Almost like WWI or WWII, where volunteers helped the military in any capacity they could, I think we were just inspired to do our part. Maybe give the country a four hour window to take their minds away from some serious pain. Start the healing process somewhat. I know it did for me. It was a very emotional time for everybody in this country because it affected everybody. It still does today. The tragic events have altered the way we live and affected our freedom that we cherish so dearly. May those who perished Rest in Peace and God Bless.

Many have wondered, how it would affect the performances of the games today? Although it's still emotional, I think a lot of players reflected and took a moment to pause to pay their respects well before the game started. I know that's what I did before we lined up to play Atlanta after the bye week. We were focused to give the fans a show and win the game. But I was never more proud when, before the game, the Military men and woman rolled out the American Flag. It was the full length of the field. It was the loudest I had ever heard the "National Anthem" performed. Ever! There was not one person in the whole Georgia Dome who did not participate. It still gives me goose bumps and was truly awesome!

Defense Dominates the Day

I worried about the Bears ability to score points coming into the 2011 Lockout season. The organization traded away their "Redzone" TD maker in TE Greg Olsen to the Panthers. Plus, with the new "Kickoff rule", it remains to be seen how it will punish the Bears. A lot of money has been invested into the return units and a simple rule affects about 30 of their scoring. It means that production has to be made up elsewhere. I still am trying to sort out myself where the production comes from within this roster. Here are my thoughts:

Kellen Davis - Is big, strong, and fast. He's not the best route runner but could be an option. Jay Cutler missed him today on a TE throwback screen that would have been a walk to the endzone.

Roy Williams - His size suggests he is a "Redzone" target, but he's not in shape, drops too many balls, and pulled a groin today which could keep him out awhile. Tony Romo never developed a rapport with him and I don't think Jay has yet.

Marion Barber - We have to see how the line settles in for Barber to be a "Goal Line" option pounding it up in there. Plus he's out with a calf injury.

Long screen passes for TD's like today, will not be the norm. The Bear's were 12 in the "Redzone." They only got down there twice and had to settle for FG's when they crossed the 50 on three occasions. It's pride, the offense doesn't want to rely on the defense to score. There will be games this year where the Bears' offense will have to come through consistently. It could be asked to do it as early as next week versus the Saints. Why not now?

I thought Cutler had an outstanding game. He looks more confident in year two of Martz's offense. He looked comfortable going through his reads quickly and was terrific in locating check down receivers when the pocket collapsed. He missed the TE throwback to Davis which would have made it a three touchdown day. I also thought he motivated his teammates. Jay was giving high fives and pats of encouragement. He was having fun winning, which is what it's all about.

Check in during the week as I'll get into what Jay needs to do to be ready for the Saints.

Jim Miller, an 11-year former NFL quarterback, is a Comcast SportsNet Bears analyst who can be seen each week on U.S. Cellular Bears Postgame Live. Miller, who spent five seasons with the Bears, analyzes current Chicago QB Jay Cutler in his "15 on 6" blog on CSNChicago.com and can be followed on Twitter @15miller.

View from the Moon: Bears 'siestas' continue, leaving progress difficult to find, but it’s there ... somewhat

View from the Moon: Bears 'siestas' continue, leaving progress difficult to find, but it’s there ... somewhat

Consider this a connect-the-dots exercise, with the end game being to figure out what the overall picture is. Because the Bears’ 27-24 loss to the Detroit Lions was many things, a couple actually very good, but too many of them kinda-to-very bad...

The overarching point of the 2017 season, per senior Bears management, is progress. Not just on the part of rookie quarterback Mitch Trubisky, who had a fourth solid performance in six NFL starts; but on the Bears as a whole. A week after showing anything but, the Bears showed something that could masquerade as progress.

How real is it? The Bears in the past eight days have given few reasons to trust it.

Because while coming close against a respectable Lions (6-4) team counts for something, the Bears are still 3-7 at the end of the day and 3-13 under John Fox against the NFC North – a division winning percentage of .188, which would be lower than that of the Marc Trestman Bears (.250), who managed to win their three NFC North games in two seasons vs. Fox’s three.

As concerning perhaps, the loss left the Bears 3-9 under Fox in games decided by three or fewer points, the hallmark of what simplistically can be ID’d as “losing” teams.

“We’ve had a lot of close games, and it’s just finding a way to close those out,” Trubisky said. “We’re going to work towards that, and figure it out for sure.”

What makes “progress” difficult to see, though, is that the Bears do not play like a team either coached to be or with the proven ability to play at a professional level all the time. Teams with that problem typically make coaching changes at the ends of seasons, since the conclusion usually is that the talent can be there, just that the coach in hand, fair or not, can’t get it out of the roster.

“We’ve shown spurts and moments, like we have for some time now,” Fox summarized. “But we have lulls. We have siestas. We just don’t do it for 60 minutes. ... People have ups and downs. Well, we’re in a stage as a football team where we have those moments in games. We have to do a better job of coaching it and we have to do a better job of executing it in games.”

The Green Bay Packers were one kind of measuring standard last week, and the 3-7 Bears were embarrassed against a foundering team that had been soundly beaten by the Lions the week before the Bears faced them, and buried 23-0 at home Sunday by the Baltimore Ravens.

The Lions were a different kind of quiz, a real offense putting up more than 27 points per game. The Bears allowed the Lions their requisite 27 points (seven of those coming on a touchdown return of a Trubisky fumble), but put up nearly 400 yards and 24 points of their own in a game that ended on a Connor Barth missed field goal from 46 yards, Barth’s fifth miss in 11 attempts from beyond 40 yards.

(Barth’s miss may have been particularly bitter for Fox, after watching Detroit’s Matt Prater win the game from 52 yards – the same Matt Prater who kicked for Fox in Denver in 2011 when Fox’s Broncos beat the Bears in the Marion Barber Game with Prater field goals from 59 yards to tie with 3 seconds left, and from 51 yards to win in OT.)

“All these games in the NFL – they’re hard games – but when you have a game like this that you should win, you just have to win those games,” said wide receiver Kendall Wright. “I think with us, when we win one of those close games, it will help us get over the edge and we’ll start stacking them up on top of each other.”

Then again...

The Bears seemed to lose their compass in the third quarter, with one rushing yard on four attempts. But they finished with 222 yards and the way they amassed them mattered: 125 and a touchdown for Jordan Howard; 53 for Trubisky, a number of them on designed runs; and 44 plus a TD for Tarik Cohen – all combining to average 7.4 yards per carry.

Bigger picture, the Bears were in the position of having at least a chance to tie because Trubisky managed to drive the Bears 55 yards in the final 1:32 from the Chicago 17 to the Detroit 28. This would constitute something shiny lying there in the mud, and make no mistake: This is a big deal.

To put Trubisky in some kind of context: Rookie quarterback Nathan Peterman, the fifth-round pick of the Buffalo Bills, replaced Tyrod Taylor in the Bills starting lineup Sunday, against a Los Angeles Chargers defense allowing opponents to complete more than 64 percent of their passes. Peterman completed 11 of 14 in the first half, about 79 percent. But – five of the Peterman “completions” were to Chargers.

DeShone Kizer has been in and out and back in the starting lineup for the Cleveland Browns, suffering through a rookie season with one of the worst teams arguably in NFL history. But – Kizer, with 12 interceptions vs. four TD passes, is one of the reasons the Browns are in various “worst ever” discussions.

Trubisky threw 30 passes without an interception on Sunday, and 65 without a pick over his past two games. He’s thrown 145 NFL passes with just two interceptions, an INT rate of 1.4 percent that ranks ahead of Aaron Rodgers, Carson Wentz, Deshaun Watson, Matt Ryan and a list of others. Critics of his development can have their points, but the kid has learned ball security at an early NFL age even while averaging 32.4 pass plays per game.

The next step is getting his team over the top, because he is still completing just 53.1 percent of his passes and was missed badly on a number of throws on Sunday. His deft TD pass to tight end Adam Shaheen in the first half was NFL-perfect (where his guy or nobody catches it), but his throw low and behind running back Benny Cunningham at the goal line in the first quarter forced the Bears to settle for a field goal in a game decided ultimately by three points.

Trubisky clearly gets the big picture, too, pointing the thumb and not any fingers. He paused before answering a question about his rookie learning curve:

“I think adversity is a great teacher,” he said. “Overcoming the struggle is a great teacher. There’s no rookie excuse. You don’t get a freebie because you’re a rookie.

“My teammates trust me and they have confidence in me, so I’m preparing as I should. Coaches have me prepared and my teammates have my back. New situations are going to arise every time, but there are no excuses. I’m just looking at these opportunities as chances to overcome, and not dwell on it.”

Under Center Podcast: Alex Brown goes off on Connor Barth

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USA TODAY

Under Center Podcast: Alex Brown goes off on Connor Barth

On the latest Under Center Podcast, Laurence Holmes, Alex Brown and Jim Miller break down the Bears loss to the Lions on Sunday following Conner Barth’s missed field goal in the last seconds of the game and debate whether or not Tarik Cohen should be a part of the Bears two-minute offensive packages.

Plus, if the Bears hope to keep Vic Fangio past 2017, does he need to finish out the season as the Bears interim head coach?

Listen to the full Under Center Podcast right here: