Bear Breakdown: Earl Bennett & Jeremiah Ratliff Have Been Solid As Of Late

Bear Breakdown: Earl Bennett & Jeremiah Ratliff Have Been Solid As Of Late

Quietly, Chicago Bears defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff and wide receiver Earl Bennett have showed up in a big way as of late.

Over the past couple of weeks, the two veterans have played major parts in two straight wins.

Bennett, 26, has reeled in touchdown grabs in back-to-back games. He caught all four of his targets for 23 yards and a touchdown in last week's 38-31 win over the Browns.

He's posted a career-high four touchdown grabs on the season, despite a slow start (14 catches in 10 games) due to concussion like symptoms.

Of Bennett's 30 grabs, 11 have come on third-down as he has once again become a very reliable target for Jay Cutler on third-downs. He's caught 75 percent of the passes thrown his way this season (30 of 40), higher than any other receiver on the squad.

The 30 catches are the most he has posted since 2010 (46).

The other receivers are looked for more often downfield than Bennett, but Earl has been very dependable.

Prior to the season, Bennett took a pay cut of $1 million from $2.25 down to $1.25.

He earned $500,000 for reaching 30 catches, an incentive in his restructured contract. If he brings in 10 more catches over the next two weeks, he will earn another $500,000.

He's signed through the 2015 season, scheduled to earn $2.35 million in 2014 and $2 million in 2015. He is by far the best fifth option in the entire league in my mind.

Behind the "Big Four" (Brandon Marshall, Matt Forte, Alshon Jeffery & Martellus Bennett), Earl has quietly been as steady as they come.

Since he is open more often than not, he certainly makes the most of his opportunities.

Ratliff, 32, is a nine-year pro who signed with the Bears on Nov. 3. The Bears were desperate for bodies and were willing to fork out $840,000 for what is going to turn out to be only five games of action.

He has racked up six tackles, one sack and three quarterback hits in three games. The past two weeks, he has played with no limitations, after playing in the rotation against Minnesota.

He came up big against his former team, the Cowboys on Monday Night Football, adding a sack and three tackles.

Last week in Cleveland, he was a force combining for two tackles, one stuff and three quarterback hits. He was active, which helped the Bears especially in the run stopping aspect.

Playing under an audition role in Chicago, Ratliff could very well earn a big payday if he can keep up the solid play over the final two regular season games.

Of the two veterans, Ratliff is a more important Bear this season considering the defensive struggles, but Bennett plays a prominent role, one that goes unnoticed by many.

The final two games are must wins for the Bears if they want to win the NFC North. They currently own sole possession in the division.

If these two playmakers can continue their impressive play, the Bears have a huge chance of making it to the playoffs.

It's nice to see two talented guys step it up when their number is called, especially in key situations.

 

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