Lovie Smith met with the media today and confirmed everyone's worst fears -- Jay Cutler will miss an extended period of time.
Smith was optimistic that Cutler will return before the end of the season. He was also optimistic in Caleb Hanie's ability to lead the Bears offense.
As we know, Hanie came in for the injured Cutler during the NFC Championship game. Hanie was thrown into the fire with very little preparation and when the Bears were down 14-0. He gave the Bears a fighting chance to win, eventually throwing a pick-6 to B.J. Raji, eventually losing 21-14. This time around, Hanie has time to prepare. Hanie's decision making will be tested but as we've seen in the past month, Mike Martz has designed plays to take advantage of Cutler's mobility which is similar to Hanie's.
During Smith's presser, he reiterated that this team wins football games by running the ball, with it's defense, and special teams.
While Cutler is the undisputed leader on offense, the success it has depends on Matt Forte and Marion Barber. As we saw against the Chargers, they keyed on Forte but the Bears stuck with the run by using Forte and Barber. The Bears' commitment to the run will keep teams honest.
Brian Urlacher also addressed the media and he knows the urgency of needing to rally the defense. While Cutler is the team's offensive leader, Urlacher is still the face of the franchise. The future Hall of Famer knows his time is running out. He also knows that he still has critics out there who think he's washed up and over-rated. A championship will help cement his legacy.
The injury that has fallen to the waist-side is Patrick Mannelly was put on injured reserve. He's been among the best long snappers in the league. The bottom line is that he gets the ball on the money for Robbie Gould and Adam Podlesh for them to do work.
While the knee jerk reaction to Cutler's injury is to panic, it's time to believe. Good teams respond to adversity and Smith always gets the most out of his team. He's been through this adversity before.
In 2005, Kyle Orton kept Rex Grossman's seat warm and led the Bears to eight straight wins. Despite making a run towards the playoffs, even the most optimistic fans didn't get a sense that the team was good enough to make the Super Bowl. With this team, you get the sense that it is possible. The difference now is that this team is more talented and built to win now.