Chicago Bears: Jay Cutler and the Defense Answer All of Our Questions
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"I thought Jay (Cutler) played outstanding ball," Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith said, according to CBSSports.com. "(And) in order for that to happen, the protection upfront...we had to play a good game. So the line did a great job, gave him time and allowed him to hit the receivers, especially Brandon Marshall, who really kind of showed up."
‘‘When you get five takeaways," Smith later added, "you’re headed in the right direction." (via Rick Telander of the Chicago Sun-Times)
Expectations for the Bears entering the season were at a level not seen since the Ditka era. With sky-high hopes and potential, however, came a laundry list of questions:
Can Jay Cutler keep his cool and perform in the spotlight? What about the offensive line? Concerns also surrounded the pass rush, Brian Urlacher's knee and the horrendous play at safety from a season ago.
Surprisingly, the Monsters of the Midway stepped up on national television in Week 4 and, if only for one game, provided satisfactory answers to all the questions their fans have been asking.
Cutler showed up and played at the elite level that many have long thought he could, completing an impressive 75 percent of his passes on the way to a 140.1 quarterback rating. He didn't throw a single interception, made quick decisions and was sacked only twice, losing a total of just eight yards.
Four receivers caught at least three passes Monday night, the first time Cutler has connected on at least three passes to more than two receivers since Week 1 against the Colts.
Will the Bears make the playoffs?
Perhaps the key to the entire game for the Bears was containing the Cowboys' all-world pass rusher DeMarcus Ware, who was held to a single sack and just three tackles and had almost no impact on the outcome of the game. New packages with extra protection were installed, suggesting that, yes, the line can protect the quarterback.
Kellen Davis, who had left most Bears fans wondering if they'd see any production from the tight ends this season, showed up in multiple crucial situations. The Michigan State product got open when Cutler was under pressure and finally managed to consistently catch the ball. With 62 receiving yards, he was the team's second-most productive receiver behind Marshall and could be a big key to the passing game going forward.
Far and away regarded as the team's weakest link coming into the season, Chicago safeties had breakout games. Major Wright got the headlines with a pair of interceptions, but Chris Conte—who even drew praise from ESPN TV Analyst Jon Gruden during the game—may have been the biggest star in the secondary.
A third-round pick last season, Conte recorded a team-high 11 tackles (eight solo), many of which were in the open field on significantly larger players. Both Wright and Conte were consistently where they were supposed to be—a stark contrast to safety play in Chicago in recent seasons.
The defensive line managed to sack Romo just once, but the Dallas QB was under heavy pressure all night, which led to the five interceptions.
Does all this mean that the stars have aligned and the Bears will play this impressive brand of football for the rest of the season? Certainly not. Does it show that every problem Chicago faces has a presently attainable solution?
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