Jay Cutler Injury: Why It's the Worst Possible Timing for the Chicago Bears

Bob Bajek@bobbajekAnalyst IIINovember 21, 2011

Jay Cutler Injury: Why It's the Worst Possible Timing for the Chicago Bears

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    Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler's right thumb injury could not come at a worse time.

    Cutler broke the thumb on his throwing hand Sunday against the San Diego Chargers, after trying to make a fourth-quarter tackle on Chargers cornerback Antoine Cason, after Cason intercepted the ball.

    Multiple sources report that Cutler could have surgery and will be out for six to eight weeks.

    The Bears will have backup Caleb Hanie step in, but Chicago will still not be the same.

Chicago Bears' Offense Was on a Roll

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    The Chicago Bears' offense was on a roll during their five-game winning streak.

    The Bears' offense have scored 26.6 points a game—excluding two Devin Hester returns and a couple pick sixes against the Detroit Lions.

    Cutler has gotten wide receiver Roy Williams going of late. Williams had five catches for five first downs and 62 yards against the San Diego Chargers.

    The game against the Chargers also saw the Bears convert 57.1 percent of their third downs, a huge improvement over their usually abysmal averages.

    Cutler and his passing game have made it the last couple of games where running back Matt Forte doesn't have to be Superman for the Bears to win. Forte has 123 yards over the last two games.

Jay Cutler Is the Difference Maker for Chicago Bears

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    The Chicago Bears will miss a huge difference maker in Jay Cutler.

    Cutler brings the Bears the vertical-passing game that the team has historically lacked. He was the first quarterback in team history to have back-to-back 3,000-yard passing seasons.

    The Bears' offensive line is still not a solid one, but Cutler has been able to still be effective in evading sacks by leaving the pocket.

    Cutler throws blazingly fast, sometimes only where wide receivers Devin Hester and Johnny Knox could catch it.

    The Bears still do not have good receivers, but Cutler makes the most of what's around him.

    Hester drops many balls, Knox still needs to work on separation and Earl Bennett is a good possession receiver, but will never be a No. 1.

    During the Chargers game, though, Cutler made Knox (three catches for 97 yards), Bennett (three catches for 75 yards) and Williams (five catches for 62 yards) look good. 

Caleb Hanie Is Inexperienced/Unproven

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    With Jay Cutler out, the Chicago Bears will now turn to backup quarterback Caleb Hanie.

    Hanie, a third-year player out of Colorado State, has just 34 passing attempts as a Bear.

    He is 8-for-14 for 66 yards and a pick during the regular season.

    Against the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship game, Hanie had some nice throws and almost rallied the Bears to a win.

    However, he also threw two interceptions, including an embarrassing one to Packers defensive tackle B.J. Raji for a touchdown that put the Bears behind 21-7 late in the fourth quarter.

    While Hanie holds passing records for Colorado State, he still hasn't proven himself as a starting NFL quarterback.

    Opposing defenses will then stack eight or nine guys in the box to shut down Matt Forte and dare Hanie to beat them through the air.

Caleb Hanie Will Have To Develop Rapport with Chicago Bears' Wide Receivers

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    A starting quarterback like Jay Cutler would have developed a good rapport with his receivers by this point in the season.

    Trust and timing are huge factors in a game, as shown in the following example:

    In the third quarter, Cutler was under pressure from a San Diego Chargers' blitz. He evaded being sacked, threw off his back foot into double coverage and Johnny Knox was able to nab a 24-yard touchdown.

    Knox had to make an adjustment inside on that pass.

    Plays like that are only possible if both the quarterback and receiver trust each other.

    Backup Caleb Hanie has thrown in practice, but he has had limited reps and hasn't thrown in many game situations.

    Expect the passing game to slow down in the coming weeks.

Chicago Bears Barely Holding on to Playoff Spot

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    Jay Cutler has led Chicago to a five-game winning streak, improving their record to 7-3.

    Right now, the Bears are tied with the Detroit Lions for the two NFC Wild-Card spots.

    Both the Atlanta Falcons and Dallas Cowboys are 6-4.

    All three opponents have solid quarterbacks in the Falcons' Matt Ryan, the Cowboys' Tony Romo and the Lions' Matt Stafford, while the Bears have Caleb Hanie. 

    The Bears' recent success was largely tied to Cutler and his playmaking abilities.

    As defenses key in on the Bears' running game to neutralize Matt Forte, a highly-probable ineffective passing attack would only damage Chicago's playoff hopes.

    Bob Bajek is a writing intern at Bleacher Report. He is also a freelance reporter and can be followed at Patch.com and Twitter.