Bear Down (But Not Out)

The Chicago Bear’s loss to the New York Giants on Sunday was hard for fans to watch and harder for Cutler to play in. After being sacked 9 times in the first half, Cutler remained in the locker room for the rest of the game with a mild concussion. If the Bears were down by more than 3 points at halftime, the rest of the team should have remained in the locker room with him. The running game was non-existent with each running back being held under 30 yards and the offense didn’t convert one 3rd down. Despite all the negativity that came out of last Sunday’s came, the Bears remain 3-1 and there is no reason to believe the team can’t adjust and start another winning streak.

The offensive line continues to look terrible. There is no getting around that. In the first 3 games Mike Martz and Mike Tice found a way to adjust and give Cutler enough protection to stay mostly upright and be ranked as a top passer. The talent on the O-line isn’t going to improve dramatically this season so we need to trust that this pair of experienced, talented coaches can find a way to protect the quarterback.

The offensive line has been the biggest problem for the Bears but it hasn’t been the only one. Several of Sunday’s 9 sacks were Cutler’s own fault. As Kurt Warner discussed on Mike and Mike in the Morning this week, it is about the big play but it isn’t all about the big play.  “…they’re going to continue to take chances but so much of it as a quarterback is just making quick decisions, understanding what’s going on up front and that you can’t sit back and just wait for the big play every time…” There were several plays in which Cutler could have thrown short crossing routes or check downs instead of taking a big hit. He is still learning to be a better controlled quarterback under Martz so his decision making will improve as the year continues. Aside from his concussion there isn’t much to worry about with Cutler.

The defense was the lone bright spot in Sunday night’s game. They recorded 2 sacks, forced 2 fumbles and kept Manning from throwing any touchdowns. The Bear’s defense has focused more on the ‘bend don’t break’ Cover-2 defense which has them forcing more turnovers again. Charles Grant should make more plays than Mark Anderson, the man he replaces’ which should help this defense even more. Though he won’t match the 10.5 sacks he reached in 2004 or the 10 sacks from 2003, he is an experienced defensive end much like Alex Brown was for the Bears last year. This Bear’s defensive squad won’t match the ’05 team but it looks like they will be more consistent then they have in several years.

Assuming the team doesn’t have to roll out Todd Collins for more than 1 game, the season is far from lost. The Bears offensive line, receivers and quarterback play will continue improving and the defense already looks solid. The Bears next 4 opponents (Panthers, Seahawks, Redskins, Bills) are a combined 4-12 thus far so this stretch of games will be key in getting the team back on track.

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