By Chris Emma–
LAKE FOREST, Ill. (CBS) — With Jay Cutler still sidelined with a thumb sprain, the Bears are set to start Brian Hoyer at quarterback for a fifth straight game.
The name of the game with Hoyer has been efficiency and protecting the football, but it has come at the cost of points left on the field. Hoyer hasn’t been willing to take chances deep down the field, and that’s not going to change.
“I’m not about taking chances, risking the football,” Hoyer said Tuesday. “The No. 1 priority is taking care of the football. Whenever you start to turn the football over – I learned the hard way in a playoff game last year – you don’t give yourself a chance to win.”
Hoyer has become the first Bears quarterback since 1960 to throw for 300 yards without an interception in four consecutive games. He has yet to turn the ball over in his four starts leading the Bears (1-5). Still, the team is 1-3 in his starts and averaging 18.3 points per game.
Meanwhile, top receiver Alshon Jeffery has been held without a touchdown this season. The Bears have lost their last two games by one score, and they blew a 13-0 lead in the fourth quarter Sunday against the Jaguars to lose 17-16.
Bears offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains believes in what Hoyer can do.
“He’s done a nice job distributing the ball,” Loggains said. “I think he’s done a nice job going through his progression and taking what the defense is giving him in that way.”
In leading the Bears’ offense, Hoyer has been effective. He’s spread the ball around the field to different targets and put up big numbers in the process. But the unit has seen drives consistently stall and fall short of the end zone.
Loggains has maintained that Hoyer should approach the game plan as directed, which means minimizing mistakes and protecting the football. The Bears have steered clear of taking chances deep downfield.
Even as their offense has failed to put up points, Loggains and Hoyer stand by their strategy.
“We want him to be as aggressive as he can in the timing of the play, so there are shot opportunities that are called and we have to execute,” Loggains said. “Brian has done a nice job doing what he’s coached to do.”
Meanwhile, Cutler has practiced just once — the Wednesday of Week 4 in a limited role — since his injury during the second game of the season. He remained sidelined Tuesday and seems highly unlikely to play in Thursday’s contest with the Packers (3-2) in Green Bay.
Cutler could perhaps be brought back for Week 8 against the Vikings, when he has the benefit of a longer week to work. However, the Bears may wait until after their Week 9 bye week to bring him back fully rested. The key for Cutler is getting his grip back to 100 percent, so throwing the ball deep downfield isn’t a liability.
Once Cutler is ready to return, the Bears will be forced to make a decision on which quarterback starts the rest of the season. It seemed to be Hoyer’s job to lose, though his struggles to find the end zone could mean Cutler returns to the job.
All the Bears are focused on for now is preparing for the Packers on a short week of rest with Hoyer leading the struggling offense.
“Us being a game-plan offense,” Hoyer said, “at this point we’ve run enough that we can pick from here, there, see what Green Bay’s doing defensively and see what’ll work against them, and still stay creative enough without straying too far from what you do.”