Another nail-biter and another Bears victory; It feels pretty good to escape with a win in a game that looked like a soul-crushing loss after Forte’s fumble with 6:28 to go in the 4th. For the second week in a row Jay Cutler led a late TD drive to seal the victory. This was an ugly win, I’ll get to the details below, but a win all the same. Even better, the Lions lost to the Cardinals giving the Bears sole possession of first place. Kings of the North!
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1.) Jay Cutler: Mr. 4th Quarter! According to Brandon Marshall, that is the nickname he gave Cutler during his rookie season in Denver. Before this season I would of thought that a mocking nickname, but seems to fit so far this year. Cutler made his share of mistakes today. He was stripped by Jared Allen in the 2nd quarter which was returned for a 61 yard TD and threw two picks on throws he shouldn’t have made. When it mattered most, Cutler put his mistakes behind him and led the Bears on a 66 yard drive capped off by a perfect 16 yard TD throw to Marcellus Bennett with 10 seconds to go in the game. Similar to last week, what struck me most about Cutler was his poise. He hung in the pocket when he had time, scrambled out of trouble when he needed to, and didn’t seem fazed at all by time remaining on the clock. To a man, every offensive player interviewed mentioned how “cool” he was on that last drive. On an offense with 2 rookies on the OL and a 2nd year WR, it shouldn’t be underestimated how important it is for Cutler to set the tone in the huddle. It’s not a term that gets attached to Cutler often, but from my point of view Jay is becoming a leader.
2.) Peppers / Melton: Where are our high-priced defensive linemen? Both Peppers & Melton were non-factors again today. Maybe offensive lines are scheming to keep them out of the backfield, but two games without either guy putting pressure on the QB is unacceptable. The Bears aren’t going to be able to sustain their winning streak without eventually getting some penetration from their DL.
3.) Martellus Bennett: I said this last week, but what a difference a real TE makes! Bennett caught 2 balls on the game-winning drive including the touchdown. For the day he had 7 catches, 76 yards, and 2 touchdowns. Bennett hurt his shoulder in the 2nd quarter attempting an acrobatic one-handed grab out of the back of the end-zone. He toughed it out and finished the game, but said he was still in pain afterwards. Hopefully he is good to go in week 3 because he is quickly becoming Jay’s #2 option in the passing game.
4.) Matt Forte – That was the kind of game fans were expecting after all the talk about Forte being the focus of Trestman’s offense. It’s hard to believe but Forte actually had more targets then Brandon Marshall (11 to 10) and caught all 11 for 71 receiving yards. He added 90 rushing yards for a total of 161 on the day. Not too shabby. On the down side, he allowed Brian Robison to rip the ball out of his hands ending a crucial 4th quarter drive and he made a pretty weak attempt to block Jared Allen on the fumble that resulted in a 67 yard TD for the Vikings. All things considered it was still a pretty good day for Forte.
5.) Defense – The defense had to be frustrated only being up 3 at half after shutting down AP and holding the Vikes to just one score (that no one saw thanks to Fox). They kept AP from breaking any long runs and forced three turnovers on the day. They did seem to tire in the 2nd half and allowed the Vikes into the red zone on 3 drives, but held them to a field goal every time and gave the Bears a chance to win after Forte’s fumble. They did just enough to preserve the victory, but I’m a little worried how they will fare against a top-tier QB. Luckily they don’t face one until week 5. That’s right Lions fans, week 5.