Chicago Bears Week 6 Stock Report: Jay Cutler, Matt Forte Heating Up
It hasn't been hard to pinpoint what Chicago has done right the past five weeks—there wasn't much to choose from.
But on Sunday night the Bears played like they accidentally thought it was the Pro Bowl, including their barely-remembered second-round pick, a defensive lineman "doubtful" to play with a bum knee, and two safeties who know the benches at Soldier Field far better than the turf.
Even the offensive line handled the Vikings easily.
Read that last line again. Now pretend you believe it. Pretend you think that Waterloo-waiting-to-happen could actually improve when right tackle Gabe Carimi comes back.
And if you're still drinking this Kool-Aid, find out who's hot and whose stock is waiting to skyrocket for the Bears.
Because believe it or not, the best is yet to come.
Hot Stock: Jay Cutler
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Cutler started the game smooth and efficient, completing five straight passes, including a touchdown bomb to Hester that put the Vikings behind early.
He made good decisions (quickly) for four quarters.
And he had time to keep his focus downfield, thanks to a resurgent offensive line, finishing 21-of-31 for 267 yards and two touchdowns, with no picks.
But his willingness to block Jared Allen for Matt Forte on a busted run play?
They give you statues in Chicago for that kind of effort. They don't question whether or not you can play in the second half of the NFC Championship game.
Most telling stat: Cutler was only sacked once. And not just because the line was good but also because he was quick on his feet.
If this guy plays QB for the next 10 games the Bears will be in every one.
Hot Stock: Matt Forte
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Meanwhile, Matt Forte was a wrecking ball.
He ended up with 17 carries for 87 yards and six catches for 36 more. But most of his damage was done in the first half, pummeling the Minnesota defense every time he touched the ball, including five plays of nine-plus yards in the first half alone.
At his current pace, he will end the season with 264 attempts for 1,399 yards and 96 catches for an additional 1,017 yards.
That's 2,416 yards from scrimmage.
And it would be good enough for third all-time, behind Marshall Faulk's 2,429 and Chris Johnson's 2,509.
Not bad for a guy looking to land a big contract.
Hot Stock: Devin Hester
Seems he could make this list every week.
But he was especially sharp against Minnesota, hauling in five passes for 91 yards and a touchdown in addition to his usual record-setting return game.
Truth is, if his receiving game catches up to his return game he could spark the Bears to a new level on offense.
But Hester will always be known for his amazing returns. Despite what teams do to prevent it, he keeps scoring touchdowns.
Over his career, Hester is averaging one return touchdown every 19.5 chances (punt/kick combined).
At that rate, if he has as many return opportunities (1,070) as Brian Mitchell, arguably the best returner in the pre-Hester era, he'd retire with an astounding 55 return TDs.
Hot Stock: Julius Peppers and the Bears' Defense
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It's hard to separate Peppers from the defense. When he plays well, the other 10 guys look great. And when the other 10 guys play well, he's usually in a position to succeed, too.
Despite a bum knee, not practicing all week, and being downgraded to "doubtful," Peppers had one of his best games of the season.
He sacked McNabb twice despite seeing the expected dose of double-teams. And he forced one-on-one opportunities for other Bears' defensive lineman, leading to three more sacks.
The young Chicago safeties were also stout.
Chris Conte made several good reads, did his job supporting the run game and never let anything past him. (That last part is the most important—and it means he'll get the start again.)
Major Wright was not a liability in coverage and supplied his usual hard hits. If he can hammer Green Bay receivers on slants the way he did the Vikings, the Bears may actually force the Packers to (gulp) do something different.
The Bears bottled Peterson for almost four quarters, allowing one tough touchdown run among an otherwise pathetic 39 yards on 12 carries.
As a whole, Chicago played its most complete game, defensively. When the Bears had to come through, they did.
The collective sigh of relief among Bears' fans was audible throughout the stadium. This is the defense everyone expected all year.
About to Breakout: Stephen Paea
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Paea may have been credited with just two tackles against the Vikings, but they were memorable.
His second was a solid stuff of Adrian Peterson. This guy is fast and strong.
And the third tackle, which he received no credit for, was reaching the quarterback a split second after Israel Idonije (see above).
Pressure up front drives the turnovers and mistakes that feed the Tampa 2 scheme. If Chicago can get consistent play from its second-round pick at nose tackle, the Bears' defense could find itself with a new engine.
And the Bears already have a schedule that makes for an easy road to the NFC playoffs.