(WSCR) – If Bears fans had the same optimism and view of the team that Jay Cutler and Mike Martz had, then there would be much less criticism of the offensive struggles. But, that optimism appears to only be held by those within Halas Hall.
And because of that, Cutler is taking a beating. So is Martz. And just to be clear, they’re not wailing away at each other.
The Chicago Bears have dropped three of four in jarring, ugly fashion, and to say the past month hasn’t been a good one for the quarterback and the offensive coordinator would be a mild understatement.
Opponents are taking target practice at Cutler, sacking him at will. The turnovers are piling up and the Bears (4-3) are staggering into the bye week following a 17-14 loss to Washington. Cutler said they have to “keep believing” in the system, and he and Martz said things aren’t as bad as they seem.
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They might have a hard time selling that to the public, considering the Bears committed six turnovers against the Redskins, DeAngelo Hall tied an NFL record with four interceptions and Cutler got sacked four times.
“We did a lot of good stuff in that game,” Cutler said. “There are some things that happened that we haven’t done this year, and there were good things. That’s stuff that we’ve got to focus on and just try to make it work.”
This, however, does not look good.
The four sacks against Washington brought his league-leading total to 27 and gave him 19 in his last three games – a binge that started when the New York Giants took him down nine times in the first half, leaving him with a concussion that sidelined him for a week.
That’s not the only ugly number hanging over the Bears.
Only two teams are averaging fewer yards per game than them at 290.4, and they continue to struggle on third downs, with a league-worst 18-percent conversion rate after going 2 for 10 against Washington. They also failed again to convert in a key goal-line situation.
This time, it was on the first drive of the second half, when Cutler lost a fumble trying to go over the top with the Bears leading by four. Sideline views afterward indicated he got into the end zone, but coach Lovie Smith decided not to challenge the ruling.
Clearly, there’s plenty to clean up. So where do the Bears start?
“That’s a very negative question,” Cutler said, laughing.
One thing he wouldn’t do differently is avoid Hall. He made that clear after the game when he said there’s “no reason to shy away from him” and that he would “go after him every time,” and his feelings on Wednesday were no different. Cutler gave a flat-out no when asked if he would shy away from Hall – never mind how acrobatic that one-handed interception and 92-yard return for the go-ahead touchdown were.
The other three were damaging, too, but Martz said Hall’s picks were more the result of good guesswork than tight coverage.
“Hall was a guy that was way off all the time,” he said. “That’s why we completed more balls to him than anybody else. He guessed is what he did, he just guessed and he guessed right on the pick. We pushed him off and he just sat and jumped in and he guessed right.”
Martz dismissed the idea that Johnny Knox, the intended receiver on the interception that led to the TD return, and Devin Hester could have broken up some of the passes that got picked off. He also said recent route-running issues have been resolved, that the timing between Cutler and the receivers is fine.
“We went through a stretch three weeks ago where there were a couple things we needed to clean up,” Martz said. “They’ve been very good about that. When you can get the ball out on time, they’ve done a good job with all that stuff.”
One thing Martz said he would like to do is use running backs Matt Forte and Chester Taylor together more often. They’ve seemed more like afterthoughts lately, particularly Taylor. One of the high-profile free agents the Bears signed in the offseason, he has just 44 carries this season for 160 yards with a 3.6-yard average, and he’s not exactly feeling taxed at the moment.
“I feel fresh,” Taylor said. “I feel as fresh as I have in a long time.”
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