Forget the past, Bears are in first place

Forget the past, Bears are in first place
Nuccio DiNuzzo, Chicago Tribune

It was only a week ago when the Bears seemed to be free falling off their perch at first place in the NFC North. The Bears were slaughtered on national television for the whole world to see amid Aldon Smith's 5.5 sacks, who looks to be the next Julius Peppers. Packer fans were laughing hysterically, the national media was questioning this team’s wit, and even Bears fans were dumbfounded and began attacking the head of the Bears’ operation.

A week later and the script is flipped. The Bears handed the Vikings a hot out-of-the-oven dose of Jay Cutler. The game was virtually over at half with a 25-3 lead, and other than a Kyle Rudolph touchdown, it was an unadulterated beat down of the Minnesota Vikings. Only a week after being crucified by the Smith bros., and new-found 49ers’ starter Colin Kaepernick, and the Bears find themselves at 8-3 and back atop the division.

The Jay Cutler Experience

Jay Cutler’s stats: 23 of 31, 188 yards passing, 1 TD, 1 INT, and a passer rating of 86.5.

Those stats don't seem overwhelming, but those are just stats. If you actually sat down and watched the game Sunday you saw exactly what Jay Cutler means to this team which is essentially everything. Jay Cutler transcends a well below average offense line, and the one sack for five yards proves that. And considering Roberto Garza stepping on Cutler's leg after the snap was a credited sack to the Vikings’ Fred Evans just proves the point more so.

Cutler threw the ball exceptionally well on Sunday. His throws were extremely accurate, and he had peak velocity behind each. He made throws into tight windows that only a handful of guys can make. His throw to Spaeth in the endzone should be framed and hung up in a museum. The most impressive stat was Cutler’s accuracy in the face of pressure: Per PPF, Cutler was 12-15 in the face of pressure and had a 93.1% adjustment completion rate, which is staggering.

The Bears kept it simple. They ran the ball to make third downs more manageable and picked up the first down with Cutler’s ability to throw into tight windows. The Bears also made sure Brandon Marshall got his touches Sunday. More than 50% of Cutlers passes were thrown in Marshall’s direction. Marshall ended up with 12 catches for 96 yards, and yes, Brandon Marshall reads twitter if you were wondering.

Bears’ defense back to being . . . well, the Bears’ defense       

No hangover from Monday night as the Bears did what they do best. They gained momentum as the game moved on with their ability to stifle the run and not let Adrian Peterson get into any sort of rhythm. Peterson did manage to reach 100 yards, but it came later in the game, and the Bears never let him beat them down the field.

A major factor in the win was the inability of Peterson to keep control of the ball which led to two costly Vikings’ turnovers, which the Bears capitalized on. The Vikings are the definition of one-dimensional, and the Bears slowed down that one-dimension and forced Ponder into passing situations. The Bears only worked Ponder for two sacks, but found ways to effect a passing down without managing a sack.

Ponder had a similar line to Cutler’s but the level of talent from each is at an entirely different level. Ponder only threw one pick off a ball that sailed after a QB hit by Melton on a stunt. Ponder ended with a 58.2 passer rating, and was sloppy all game.

The Bears were back to dominating in the Red Zone, as they were 1-3 in key situations. The coverage in the endzone shows their keen ability to play the ball and the receiver in tight places like the back of the goal. The defensive backs were on point, and Conte and Wright were back playing at that level they were before the 49ers game. Tim Jennings almost notched his ninth interception of the season, but the play was ruled incomplete.

Lance Briggs and Brian Urlacher were also back to playing the run well in terms of gap control. The penetration up front caused major headaches all day for the Vikings. Lance, after being brutally outplayed by Vernon Davis, had two pass deflects in the win.

Toubing

Toubing = the act of having Adam Podlesh run in a 2-point conversion on a fake extra point attempt.

Dave Toub is spectacular. Even on a down year he has found ways to make an impact with his special teams. He finally made the switch to Eric Weems as a kick returner, and also was forced to move him to punt return because of the concussion Hester received early in the game.

On top of that, he still has Julius Peppers in at punt block, who blocked the 17th of his career and kept the Vikings off the board after a momentum gaining drive.

Spectacular offensive line play?

After being utterly exposed by Aldon Smith, the Bears made some changes to the offensive-line. As I noted, they only gave up one sack for five yards. The running game was also effective, with an overall of 132 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns. Even with a flurry of injuries the guys performed well.

Jonathon Scott did a formidable job at RT. J'Marcus Webb kept Jared Allen quiet. Even with Gabe Carimi at right guard the Bears found success. I won't go in depth about the injuries, but this performance was encouraging to say the least. Mike Tice put these guys in simple blocking schemes and did not push them to their limits.

8-3 and in first place. Next game: Seattle Seahawks.


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