Jay Cutler is a good quarterback on most days, nothing more. The Chicago Bears defense might be the best in the NFL, proving it once more as they took a big hold on the lead in the NFC North with a 13-7 win over the Detroit Lions, which was never really that close.
At 5-1, the Bears are among three teams with one loss or less next, 0.5 a game ahead of the Minnesota Vikings of the Vikings in the division, which is far from over as the Green Bay Packers, who have already beaten the Bears this season, are starting to wake up from their early fall slumber.
But the Bears’ defense took out the Detroit Lions out of the NFC North race, apparantly. As talented as Matthew Stafford is with finding recievers and especially Calvin Johnson, the Lions just don’t have the kind of defense and other tools to pull them through this kind of game, with Stafford struggling as Charles Tillman simply eilminated the best wide reciver in the NFL. That’s right – Clavin Johnson finished with only 3 catches for 34 yards, targeted 11 times. He simply wasn’t in the game after a huge drop in the first quarter.
The rest was the Bears coming up with big plays, forcing four turnovers. Stafford threw yet another interception, snatched by D.J. Moore. The Bears defense got to him three times, but kept him out of his rythm by constantly changing the pass rush and formations, keeping him guessing. They sent five pass rushers or more on about a third of the plays, but the real success came when they used a four man pass rush on Stafford, getting all three sacks and interception that way. They have more sacks and the lowest yards per play average in the NFL on four-man pass rushes.
And their ability to come up with big plays? The Lions fumbled the ball three times, two of them in the end zone. The Bears scored on their first possession and simply locked down the gates. The Lions did average 5.5 yards per rushing play, but pretty quickly gave up on trying to make something happen.
The big news for the Bears regarding their offense was Jay Cutler showing some toughness. People still remember his “quitting” in the NFC championship game against the Green Bay Packers from two seasons ago. This time, after taking a big hit from nemesis Ndamukong Suh, Cutler left the field only to come back again, leave again for more checks and then finally return. He even got a few cheers from the fans for showing he’s willing to play through injury, something that’s always been a doubt regarding him.
His numbers? A bad game, but when the Bears defense is this good, almost a guarantee for a score or at least denying two or three, Cutler hardly needs to be All-Pro like. He finished with 16-31 for 150 yards and one touchdown, one of the weakest performances you’ll see from a winning quarterback all season. Most of what he did, when not hounded by the Lions’ defensive line (5 sacks), was pass it to Brandon Marshall (81 yards, 6 receptions, 1 TD).
Marshall has 38.7 percent of his team’s receptions this season, the highest rate of any receiver in the NFL. Marshall is also the only receiver this season who has more than 40 percent of his team’s receiving yards. Cutler has a go-to default option when he’s in trouble, which is good, but the Bears offense needs more than that. Until they get it, there’s the Brian Ulracher gang to pull them through.