From loser to leader: has one week changed anything?

From loser to leader: has one week changed anything?
Jay Cutler is hit after throwing touchdown pass to Matt Spaeth in the 2nd quarter against the Vikings. — Scott Strazzante, Chicago Tribune

It happens all the time. In just one week, the Bears have gone from an absolute disaster to first place division leaders in control of their own destiny.

After the loss to the 49ers, I predicted the Bears would ultimately be a 9-7 team. I said they might inch into the playoffs but would not have any shot at a Super Bowl.

I still feel that way, but I’m not unwilling to admit the offense was productive against a decent defense and that the changes made appear to have been scheme-based. Knowing that offers a glimmer of hope that if this current group finds a rhythm, in an offense it can run, they could be successful.

The best part about Sunday was the fact that Mike Tice might have started to realize some obvious things: The Bears’ game plan had much quicker passes with a commitment to running the ball.

If Tice can continue to be committed to the run, while letting Jay get rid of the ball quickly, extending plays when things break down, the Bears might have a real offense. Jay extends the play as well as anyone in the League, and it would be smart to try to continue and build on what you did against Minnesota.

But, the injuries piled up in a hurry against the Vikings, and fans can no longer be certain about the current group’s ability to overcome them.

Losing Lance Louis is a huge blow to the Bears’ offensive line. Hands-down, he has been the best lineman on the team this season, exceling in the trap and pull game and earning the praise of Mike Tice as a tenacious player.

The significance of Louis’ injury is further magnified based on the fact that the Bears’ offensive line was already pathetic with him.

Against the Vikings, however, and even without Louis, the line looked improved. Jonathan Scott in place of Carimi appeared to be an upgrade—at least currently—although that isn’t saying much.

Chris Spencer going down actually proved to be a good thing for the group as Edwin Williams stepped in and became the best pass blocker on the line, as he was last year by my evaluation.

It never did make sense that Williams didn’t enter this season as a starter, given the names on the roster. Hopefully the Bears will wake up and realize he should be starting on the left side from this point forward.

Not that losing Chris Spencer—should the Bears lose him for any length of time—be a good thing. Despite his play, they need depth.

Adding to the injuries, Charles Tillman left the game with a reported chipped bone in his foot. While the early word is that he will play on Sunday, if he were to miss time beyond this week, the Bears’ secondary would stand the real chance of being gashed by some top receivers.

Kelvin Hayden, who filled in for the injured Tillman, is no bum, but he is not Charles Tillman. With the Packers and Lions still on the schedule, it’s scary to think about a Tillman-less Bears’ defense going against Megatron in a few weeks.

So, has one week changed anything?

Well, the main thing is the fact that this team only works when Jay Cutler is starting at quarterback. Jay Cutler only continues to start at quarterback if he’s protected. It’s a simple formula.

The touchdown pass to Matt Spaeth was a throw only a few guys can make in this League. Rolling out left with a defender bearing down on him, Jay delivered the ball in the only "spaeth" Matt Spaeth could catch it in.

Not to mention the ridiculous throws to Kellen Davis and Earl Bennett on the first touchdown drive that resulted in a Michael Bush touchdown.

If the offensive line blocks for Jay Cutler, the Bears can go and win the Super Bowl. If not, it’s a first- or second-round exit. Whether or not they can do that has been a week-by-week thing so far, and so I expect it to be from here on out.

If the season were to end today, the Bears would play the Seahawks in the first round of the playoffs yet again. (Please . . . not another Seahawks-Bears playoff game. Something different . . . ANYONE else. Well, besides the Giants, that just won’t end well.)

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