Bears could just as easily be 0-2, but they’re not

Bears could just as easily be 0-2, but they’re not
Jay Cutler celebrates with Martellus Bennett, who caught the game-winning pass. — Jose M. Osorio, Chicago Tribune

It’s not easy to get a handle on a team with a 58-percent roster turnover, an entirely new coaching staff and a 2-0 start that could just as easily be 0-2. For right now, the Chicago Bears are still a bit of an enigma.

But despite two close contests to start the season, the Bears did manage to come out on top in both, and they did manage to play their best when they had to — particularly quarterback Jay Cutler.

“If it’s the fourth quarter, I have a lot of confidence,” Brandon Marshall said after the Bears’ 31-30 win over the Vikings on Sunday. “We have ‘Mr. Fourth Quarter’ on our side in our huddle [Jay Cutler]. I’m just excited to have him in our huddle because he makes everything so easy.”

With the Bears trailing Minnesota 30-24 and just 3:08 to play, Cutler was seven-of-10 passing for 76 yards and a game-winning touchdown strike to tight end Martellus Bennett.

Cutler’s performances late in games are becoming somewhat of a trademark for the QB. Throughout the 2012 season, Jay Cutler posted an NFL-best 114.7 passer rating in the fourth quarter. And already this season, he’s orchestrated two come-from-behind victories against playoff teams.

And yet, Sunday marks just the first time since weeks two and three of the 2009 season, that the Bears have won back-to-back contests when they’ve trailed in the fourth quarter. What it means is that not only is Cutler still playing well in the fourth quarter, but now he’s turning those solid performances into wins.

“So like I said,” Marshall, “I call him ‘Mr. Fourth Quarter.’ He’s just ice cold, man.”

Ice cold, baby … Interestingly enough, however, that’s just how Cutler has looked while leading his offense. As for what the ability to rise in the face of adversity says about his football team, head coach Marc Trestman knows it can mean a lot.

“It says a lot about our players and their resiliency throughout the game — just moving on to the next play and doing the things they had to do. … And they love football. They made a decision that they’re just going to play the next play the best they can and see what happens in the end. That’s all we can ask of them.”

It’s that mentality of shrugging off difficulty that one can hear echoed from player-to-player in the Bears’ locker room these past two weeks. Whether that emanates from their head coach or simply from a mature, veteran group is up for debate, but regardless, the mindset is working.

“It’s early in the season,” Martellus Bennett said after the game, “but we’re trying to find our identity, and right now, it’s a strong one; it’s the ‘team that never quits.’ We’ve got guys like that where whatever happens, we’ll just go play for each other. The defense never gives up, the special teams never gives up, and the offense never quits.”

Teams like the Bears are going to experience growing pains. But to experience them and still come out on top may say something about the direction Chicago is headed.

But despite the sanguinity that comes from overcoming adversity, the reality is that it’s hard to win the NFL, and Sundays aren’t always going to be forgiving of multiple drive-killing fumbles and interceptions.

Eventually, those mistakes will catch up to a team, and while they may be able to be excused early on in the year from a team in flux, they also need to be corrected early in a 16-game season. And that’s something Marc Trestman knows.

“It’s hard to be minus two in turnovers and get a kick return for a touchdown and win a game,” Trestman said. “To play an entire football game — 58 plus 2 minutes — it’s tough to win, and we appreciate the win. … We’re going to show up tomorrow and say the same thing we did a week ago: We can get better, and the evidence is out there today.”

Just how tough those wins are to come by in this league is evidenced by the fact that the Bears are just one of three teams still undefeated in the NFC; the Seahawks and the Saints being the other two.

And in a year where Jay Cutler was, for no other reason than perhaps his position, tapped to be the new face of the franchise and the leader of this team, he’s looking more and more the part each and every week — carrying his team to victory and keeping cool under pressure.

“He’s so cool,” rookie right guard Kyle Long said of Cutler. “I wish I was as cool as Jay Cutler. I was all fired up, and Jay was just like his heart was going two beats a minute like nothing is going on. He does a great job. He’s our leader on the offensive side of the ball, and we’ll follow him to the promised land.”

For the Bears, the ultimate “promise land” is a championship, but for now it’s simply Week-3.

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Filed under: Post Game Report

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