Jay Cutler: What Starting QB's Return Means for Chicago Bears vs. Vikings
Cutler, who has been cleared to play and is expected to start vs. the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, according to ESPN Chicago's Michael C. Wright, gives the Bears offense another dimension and gives Chicago's defense much more room for error.
Backup signal-caller Jason Campbell and the Bears looked completely out-matched by the San Francisco 49ers last week, losing 32-7 on the road. Chicago had just 58 total passing yards in the defeat and averaged just 2.6 yards per pass attempt.
Cutler's return means that the Bears can air it out more effectively, thus opening holes for Matt Forte and Michael Bush on the ground. Neither running back has been effective since Cutler went down late in the first half against Houston in Week 10. Chicago's running game will benefit immensely from the return of its starting quarterback because of Cutler's ability to stretch the field and spread the defense out.
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While Campbell averaged just 4.8 yards per pass attempt during Cutler's absence, Cutler himself is averaging over seven yards per pass attempt this season, which forces defenses to stay honest against the pass. That will be key for the Bears on Sunday as they prepare to go up against an above average defense in the Minnesota Vikings.
Minnesota has 26 sacks in 10 games and ranks eighth in the NFL in terms of fewest yards per carry allowed (3.9). But against Cutler, the Vikings can't afford to crowd the box with eight men. Otherwise, they'll pay by giving up big pass plays to Brandon Marshall.
Getting Cutler back was the first step towards recovery for Chicago's offense. The second step is to produce a game plan that capitalizes on Cutler's strengths, which is throwing the ball down field to open up other aspects offensively.
It may not always be pretty this Sunday, but at least Cutler's return ensures the Bears will be more explosive and dynamic on the offensive side of the ball. And they'll need to be considering they're in danger of dropping three in a row and surrendering the NFC North lead this weekend.
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