Chicago Bears: Five Bears That Will Make or Break Chicago's Title Hopes
While an 11-5 season may not seem like an up-and-down year, the Chicago Bears had some pretty sharp declines on their road to an NFC North title in 2010. It's those declines that still have Bears' fans a bit weary heading into the playoffs.
For the Bears to be successful, the formula is quite simple. They have to be balanced and consistent. They can't have those same types of ups and downs they had against teams like Detroit. Teams in the postseason won't give Chicago those games.
The following guys will have to show consistency if a "certain team from a certain town" hopes to be hoisting a certain trophy come next month.
5. Matt Forte
Forte was just a shell of his 2008 self last season but has rebounded quite nicely in 2010. The former Tulane running back overcame a slow start to just crack the 1,000 yards barrier after some very impressive performances in the season's final weeks.
The key for Forte will be the way he runs. For most of last season and the beginning of this season, Forte's running style was very timid. He'd tiptoe up to the line and only managed two or three yards at a crack, albeit with a pitiful offensive line.
With improvements to the offensive line in the latter half of this season, Forte's game has returned to its 2008 form. He attacks the line and has run with that same aggression we saw in his rookie year.
It'll have to be the latter Forte for the Bears offense to find success in the playoffs.
4. Devin Hester
There are two different forms of Devin Hester—Devin Hester the returner and Devin Hester the receiver.
We know what Hester is capable of in the return game. For all intents and purposes, he will probably have permanent residence in Canton when his career is over. He's shown repeatedly, perhaps no more evident than against the New York Jets, that he's going to hurt you nearly every time he touches the ball, even if it's not a touchdown.
Where Devin Hester could hurt the Bears is on the receiving end. While he's made some nice plays for them this season, he has also been plagued by inconsistency in some games. He often cuts off his routes, and it has led to some Jay Cutler interceptions. When he runs the precise routes that Mike Martz loves, however, he becomes a game changer in the offensive game as well.
If Hester builds on those solid performances, he had on offense during the regular season, such as against and the Jets, he's going to be an all-around nightmare for opposing defenses.
3. JaMarcus Webb
This one falls mostly under the "break" category.
As bad as the Bears offensive line has been this season, JaMarcus Webb has been the one wearing the dunce hat in the group. His penchant for penalties and his excellence in the "lookout block" place him down around the league's worst players overall.
Since it's highly unlikely that Webb will actually perform well, Chicago should just hope for the minimum amount of mistakes from the rookie right tackle. If he doesn't limit his penalties or give Jay Cutler at least a little bit of time, it's going to be a long postseason for the Bears.
2. Jay Cutler
You knew his name was going to be on here. Just as there are two types of Devin Hester, there are two types of Jay Cutler—happy Jay Cutler and mopey Jay Cutler. We've seen too much of the latter in his time in Chicago.
When things are good for the Bears offense, Cutler is as happy as a clam. When things are bad, you can usually find Cutler pouting somewhere on the sideline and giving as little support to his team as possible.
Not only is Cutler going to need the right attitude heading into the postseason, he's going to need to limit his mistakes. Too often we have seen Cutler just make an unnecessary throw either off his back foot or into coverage. But we've also seen Cutler make some fantastic throws and some good decisions this season—something not seen in 2009.
If the Jay Cutler we saw against the Jets, the Eagle and the Cowboys shows up, the Bears are golden. If it's the Cutler from the Washington game, we have trouble.
1. Mike Martz
The success of Cutler is directly related to what Mike Martz calls offensively.
Just as the Cutler, Forte and the offensive line has seen improvements over the season, the play-calling of Martz has also seen a steady incline. Early on, we saw that pass-happy offense that Martz is so renown for. Cutler was throwing it up 35-40 times per game, and the offense sputtered.
After the Bears bye week, Martz started utilizing that run game that Chicago is known for. There was not a more balanced team in football in terms of play selection than the Bears following their bye. The running game saw success with more opportunities, and the passing game came with it.
Much of that success is what Martz has called for Cutler in the pass. The quick pass has not only helped Cutler develop confidence, it has opened up the deep ball that Martz loves so much.
Week 17 saw the Bears get away from that improved play-calling. Despite the fact they were able to run the ball, Martz still went to the air 39 times. It's those types of games that have Bears' fans still concerned about Martz as a play-caller. He'd be wise to keep the balance.