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15 on 6: Cutler was Catalyst for Bears on Sunday

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15 on 6: Cutler was Catalyst for Bears on Sunday

Monday, October 5th
CSNChicago.com
Jay Cutler proved to be the catalyst on Sunday as the Chicago Bears played down to the level of their opponent during week 4. Many times, as a player, you sense your team is just not "feeling it" on gameday. You build upall week preparing mentally and physically for Sunday. I have been through great weeks of practice where your confident everyone is "locked in" as a team, only to go out andlay an egg. Other times, practices were so wretched you worried of the embarrassment along with the wrath of coaches that would soon follow a poor performanceonly to besurprised when the team put forth one of its best efforts. Normally, a player steps up and stops the bleeding in the later scenario which Jay Cutler did today.

I couldalways tell in the huddle if we were going through the motions.Asthe startingquarterback, you are in charge of the group. You have to do something to get the blood flowing in the offense. It could be changing the tempo with snap count, the inflection of your voice calling plays to create a sense of urgency, or it could be flat out making a play. Jay infused not only the offense, buthisentire team. The excitement from asell out crowd was his bonus. Three times with great plays, Jay stopped the bleeding for the Bears in the first half. Otherwise, it could have been a long day.

1. Look at the reactionfrom Bear teammates whenJay leaped into the end zone for the Bears first score. Heearned more trust displaying he willsacrifice his bodyfor his team when called upon. When you have a chance to score in the NFL, YOU DO IT! Too many things can go wrong on any play. Just look at the 3rd downand goal situation early third quarter as reference. Jaytried to hand offa power play to Matt Forte but was stepped on by pullingRG Roberto Garza thus,the Bears had to settle for a field goal by Robbie Gould.You must seize the opportunity when you have it and Jay knowing the moment cashed in withunselfishness and great effort on his touchdown run.

2. I originally thoughthis second big play was a double post, but after seeing the replay, it was a deep dig route (in cut)toEarl Bennett. Hester was in the slot with Bennett on his outside. Jay faked the play action to his left, which is tough actionfor a right handed thrower. The reason is your eyes come off the safeties as you drop to fake and your back is to the defense. Also, you are dropping opposite of what you need to set your feetto deliver the football. You need to make your fake a good onetofreeze thedefender over the slot and the middle linebacker who could potentially drop into the lane of the throw. Once you reel around you better locate that backside safety quickly because he is your key. If the safety bites on the dig route, Jay may have potentially hitHester down the middle who was influencing by clearing him deep. Lions safety Ko Simpsonwas threatened enough by Hester's speed for Jay to pull the trigger for a 25 yard gain to Bennett, which set up the two yard TD pass to TE KellenDavis.

3.Touchdown number one when Jay called his own number influenced touchdown number three to Greg Olsen in the second quarter. Offensive Coordinator Ron Turner wanted to put the ball in the hot hand of Jay at this point. It was a 4th down and goal call. Give Jay the run pass option. The Lions already witnessed Jay running for a score. They immediately reacted when Jay bootlegged out to prevent him from doing it again. It became an easy touchdown toss to Greg Olsen in the back of the end zone to put the Bears ahead 21 to 14.

This is why the NFL is a QB driven league. A quarterback like Jay Cutler can elevate everyone's play. It's what franchise QB's do. You can't tell me the Indianapolis Colts defense is better than the Bears. Why are the Coltsundefeated? When the offensive line is notup to snuff, Manning makes a play!WhenJosephAddai got hurt last year, Manning made plays! When soonto be Hall of Fame WR Marvin Harrison retired, the offense has not missed a beat! Be thankful for Jay Cutler. Ron Turner is! His play calling just got a hell of a lot easier this year. The last three weeks have proved it withso-called nowide receivers and an offense that supposedly can't run the ball.

Bears add another pair of players following Mitch Trubisky to the Pro Bowl

Bears add another pair of players following Mitch Trubisky to the Pro Bowl

Add two more names to the list of Bears Pro Bowlers this season.

Offensive linemen Cody Whitehair and Charles Leno Jr. are also heading to Orlando to help lend some protection to Mitch Trubisky, who was named as a replacement to Rams QB Jared Goff Monday.

Leno takes the place of Saints tackle Terron Armstead and Whitehair is replacing New Orleans center Max Unger for this weekend's exhibition game.

Whitehair and Leno have been staples on the Bears offensive line, starting every game the last three seasons (Whitehair at center or guard, Leno at left tackle). 

Whitehair, 26, was a 2nd round selection in 2016 while Leno, 27, was a 7th round draft pick in 2014 in Phil Emery's last draft as Bears GM.

Both players were a huge part of a line that paved the way for Trubisky and Co. to pass for 3,747 yads and rush for 1,938 yards with 44 total offensive TDs.

The complete list of Bears players going to the Pro Bowl after a 12-4 season now sits at: Trubisky, Whitehair, Leno, Tarik Cohen, Akiem Hicks, Khalil Mack, Kyle Fuller and Eddie Jackson. 

This is the first time the Bears have had 8 Pro Bowlers since 2007 (following the 2006 season). They previously had 9 selections in the Super Bowl championship season of 1985 and 11 Pro Bowlers in 1942.

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Elite? More proof the Bears are legitimate Super Bowl contenders in 2019

Elite? More proof the Bears are legitimate Super Bowl contenders in 2019

Comparisons in sports are both easy and inevitable, particularly when the actual entities being compared don’t in some way compete directly against each other to settle the discussion. Joe Louis didn’t ever meet Muhammed Ali in the squared circle. The ’85 Bears defense was a decade too late to take the field against the ‘70’s Steel Curtain, and besides, they wouldn’t have been on the field at the same time anyway.

But comparing the 2018 Bears – and for purposes here, the 2019 Bears – to the current standards of excellence – Super Bowl entrants Los Angeles Rams and New England Patriots – is possible. And arguably relevant. More on that momentarily.

For context’s sake, consider the Bears vs. the NFC North and in particular the two measuring standards going into last season, Green Bay and Minnesota.

The Bears went a convincing 5-1 in the division. They dispatched the Detroit Lions twice by a combined 19 points, including 7-point win in Detroit in the second game when their backup QB outplayed the Lions’ starter, whose arrow is what it is at this point. Detroit had won nine of the previous 10 meetings before last year; it can all change that quickly.

The Bears also took the measure of the Packers, going on the road in week one and letting complacency creep into a game they controlled. That was back when Cody Parkey was making all (three) of his field goals and before a young team fully grasped that a wounded animal is sometimes more dangerous than a healthy one. By the time the Packers made their visit to Soldier Field, the Bears had evolved to the point of never trailing in a game in which they, fittingly, clinched the NFC North outright.

As for the Vikings, the popular pick to win both the division and the NFC was squashed a second time in a season. The Bears won going away over a team that was playing for its playoff life.

Pulling the camera back for a wider perspective…

The division is one thing, and it’s entirely possible that the Bears could be incrementally better in 2019 with a settled-in coach, system and roster and still lose more than one game in the division. Green Bay is getting a new coach, Kirk Cousins could perform closer to the level the Vikings thought they were getting with their $84 million guaranteed, and the Lions could…well, the Lions…the Lions are tough at home.

But with the not-assured assumption that the Bears at least offensively can improve in 2019, the case can be made that they in fact are deserving of being in the NFC-elite discussion, perhaps NFL-elite.

The reasons start with the obvious, that they field a defense that is superior to that of the Patriots (16th in Football Outsiders’ DVOA ranking) and the Rams (19th). The correlation between that and success, however, isn’t automatic: Only they and the Baltimore Ravens from among the top seven defenses reached the postseason.

Seven of the top 10 offenses, based on Football Outsiders’ metric, did reach the playoffs, though, and Nos. 2 (Rams) and 5 (Patriots) play for the next Lombardi. The Bears ranked 20th; among the playoff participants, only Houston (21st) and Dallas (24th) ranked lower, and the Bears and Texans were out in the wild-card round.

The Bears benefitted from a fourth-place schedule that included only three playoff teams – Rams, Patriots and Seattle Seahawks. But the Bears did defeat two of those three (Rams, Seahawks).

Next season, six of the Bears games are against playoff teams, plus two against 8-7-1 Minnesota, meaning that half of their games are against winning teams, based on that strength-of-schedule permutation.

But getting to a final point of comparison, the Bears defeated the Rams despite an-overamp’ed Mitchell Trubisky throwing three interceptions (to Jared Goff’s four). They led the Patriots early in the third quarter, fell behind and came up a yard short on a Hail Mary that would’ve tied the game (with the leap of faith that Parkey would have converted the PAT). Trubisky threw 2 interceptions but the Bears out-rushed the Patriots, an area that has been an underappreciated area of strength for the Brady offense. The majority (81) of the Bears rushing yardage (134) came from Trubisky, and an upgrade at running back rates here as the No. 1 offseason Bears need. (Well, tied for No. 1, with kicker; that’s in a different class.)

The future is promised to no one. GM Ryan Pace said as much in his season-ending remarks: “It’s on us to ensure that we’re on the right track and that we stay on the right track.”

But rare has been the season this decade that ended with legitimate bases for projecting the Bears into a position where the oft-amusing odds of winning the Super Bowl get at least a cursory look for reasons other than ridicule. Reflecting on the conference championship games and the upcoming Super Bowl, the Bears have those legitimate reasons.

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