Brandon Marshall, feel free to drop a few footballs.
Julius Peppers, rush half-speed on a couple of third downs.
Chicago’s defense is so dominant and Detroit is such a joke—having lost an NFL-worst seven straight games—that only the following Bears possess the power to almost single-handedly eliminate them from the playoffs.
Here they are.
3. Olindo Mare/Field Goal Unit
Robbie Gould has been one of the most consistent kickers in the league for years. But an injury has forced Gould to the sideline and Mare to the field for the rest of the season.
There’s a reason Chicago is the 39-year-old Mare’s fifth team since 2006—he isn’t what he used to be, to say the least. Last year on the Carolina Panthers, he had just a 78.6 field-goal percentage. In just three kicks for the Bears, Mare has already missed one.
Of course, it wasn’t entirely his fault. It was blocked—the third time Chicago allowed a field goal to be blocked in 2012.
Missed field goals destroys momentum and morale and blocked ones can get returned for touchdowns. Mare and the Bears’ field goal unit can’t cost the team points on Sunday.
2. Anthony Walters
Nervous yet? This is the second backup that’ll play a key role in Detroit.
Walters is a second-year, undrafted Delaware safety who’ll fill in for the injured Chris Conte at free safety. In his first career start, Walters’ job will be to prevent a home run by the NFL’s most lethal deep threat: Calvin Johnson.
He’ll have plenty of help. Tim Jennings and Charles Tillman are two of the best cornerbacks in the league and earned Pro Bowl trips this season.
No one man can shut down Megatron, though. And Walters must provide an effective double team to Johnson when he takes off downfield because quick scores are exactly what the Bears can’t afford to allow.
1. Jay Cutler
Since 2008, Cutler has averaged 1.1 interceptions per game. This season, he’s consistently maintained that average throwing 14 picks in 14 contests.
In his first meeting with the Lions, Cutler managed to protect the football despite the relentless pass rush in his grill all day. Chicago cruised to a 13-7 victory because he didn’t screw up. If he chooses to only throw to his teammates again, the Bears will win (and advance to the playoffs after the Minnesota Vikings lose).
However, in their last two losses, Cutler threw three interceptions in one-score games. He can’t try to be the hero and force passes where he has no business throwing them. Just play smart, allow Chicago’s defense to do the heavy lifting, and they’ll avoid elimination.
David Daniels is a featured columnist at Bleacher Report and a syndicated writer.
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