By Laurence W. Holmes-
(CBS) Time offers the opportunity for perspective, so I thought it would be a good idea to wait each week to give my thoughts on the Bears game. The idea being that 24 hours allows for me to watch the game over and talk to a few more people. Hence, “The 24 Blog.”
WHAT I SAW:
For most of the first half, the Bears dominated the Steelers. The game didn’t look close. Pittsburgh definitely won the third quarter and made for some tense moments, but as they did last year, the Bears defense took the ball away, scored and iced the game.
Jay Cutler played a composed, if not spectacular, game. His 159 passing yards, don’t look like much, but he showed an understanding of the gameplan and patience. “Mr. Fourth Quarter” came through in the clutch with a big-time touchdown toss to Earl Bennett in the corner of the endzone.
Through 3 games, Cutler has been sacked only three times. Here’s why that’s important: According to Pro Football Focus, Cutler made 84% of his passes when under no pressure. The clock in his head has slowed down. Because the protection has kept him clean for the most part, he now is more comfortable going through progressions and stepping into throws.
Henry Melton had tears in his eyes after injuring his knee. It’s a torn ACL and he’s gone for the year. Melton bet on himself this summer, forcing the Bears to Franchise Tag him instead of taking a long-term deal that he deemed to low. This is the worst-case scenario for the Melton camp. Sure he got the guaranteed $8M, but he won’t be able to prove he’s healthy until June. Signing him is a risk many teams, including the Bears, may choose to not take.
WHAT I HEARD:
“He came through when we needed him… He’s been doing it all season and that’s who he’s become.” – Julius Peppers on Jay Cutler
Peppers isn’t a guy who throws praise around lightly. It’s the …”That’s who he’s become” line that’s significant. The perception of Cutler as clutch is a reality through three games. In the second half of games Cutler is completing 73.3 percent of his passes. In the fourth quarter, he’s ranked seventh in the NFL in passer rating with a 108.2 mark. He’s been dynamic when games have been on the line.
“I thought I was a tick late on it, but Earl made a heck of a catch in the corner for us.” Cutler on Earl Bennett’s TD
Bennett has been a bit of a forgotten man in this offense. The positive part of it is that the Bears have so significantly upgraded the receiving options, that Bennett can flourish in man-coverage. On the TD, the Bears saw man, weren’t expecting it and exploited it. Bennett doesn’t need to be prolific, but he does need to be reliable. Cutler still trusts him. Bennett’s body control on that play was amazing. Credit to the Marc Trestman and his staff for getting a decision to challenge in quick. Trestman said the decision from the guys up stairs was “unanimous”.
“Not only do we preach taking the ball away, but we preach scoring.” DJ Williams on Bears defense
I’m in awe of what the Bears defense continues to do. So far they have as many touchdowns as the Jacksonville Jaguar’s offense. Blitz pressure by Lance Briggs led to Major Wright’s interception and touchdown. I know that everyone is talking about Cutler laying out a DB, but watch the Wright play again, James Anderson destroys Jerricho Cotchery to free Wright up. Bears defenders are killers, when they get the ball. Even the new guys like Williams and Anderson have bought into that culture. Wright now has touchdowns off interceptions in 3-straight seasons.
Julius Peppers had been getting pressure all night, but wasn’t getting home. I thought it was easily his best game of the year and that’s before his 42-yard fumble recovery touchdown.
WHAT I WAS TOLD
“Those are the special moments.” Brandon Marshall on his blocking.
On 3rd-and-9 from the 16, Matt Forte got a short pass from Cutler. He was able to pick up the first down because Marshall came off his defender to lay a block that sprung Forte for the first down. Forte got 11 yards on that play then scored on the next. It put the Bears up 10-0. Marshall loves catching touchdowns. He wants the ball, but he’s also one of the most physical WRs in the game and likes to show off that ability as well. He takes a ton of pride in it.
“They’re blitzing up 24-3, that’s not good.” -Dan Hampton
Ordinarily with a big lead, you would see the Bears sit in Cover-2, but the Bears have struggled to sustain a pass rush with just their front-4. I give Mel Tucker credit for realizing what was going on and adapting. The blitzing was effective. Lance Briggs did a great job forcing action. D.J. Williams had two sacks and forced a fumble. It’s the most productive I’ve seen Bears linebackers on the blitz, but I worry it’s a formula the Bears defense isn’t built to sustain.