My, what a difference three points make. If the Bears had lost to the Bengals by three instead of beating them 24-21, people would have been screaming, “Cutler sucks,” and lamenting how the offense hasn't changed for the better. I know. I was on Twitter and saw the tweets about Cutler following his interception. But the Bears did win, so suddenly fans are making their Super Bowl plans for February (yes, February).
The truth, of course, lies somewhere in between. So let’s take a look at five quick lessons learned from Sunday’s win before we purchase that plane fare to New York. Besides, aren’t we all kind of sick of Bruno Mars at this point?
1. Marc Trestman was a calm, yet focused, rock on the sidelines.
Trestman has a sideline demeanor that reminds one of his predecessor — the stoic Lovie Smith — with the educational pedigree of a Dick Jauron. But the difference is that Trestman always seemed to be in the moment, intently focused on what was going on and always considering the next play.
Only once did Jay Cutler have to call a timeout in between plays, a sharp contrast from last year, when an obviously angry and frustrated Cutler would be seen walking back to the sidelines in disgust. In contrast, there were no sideline histrionics in this game.
Trestman wasn’t forced into a lot of game-defining decisions, but the ones he did make were reasonable. He went for it on fourth down, and the Bears made it. He also decided to go for a 59-yard field goal at the end of the first half, trusting in Robbie Gould’s strong leg, and also understanding that Gould had the wind at his back.
Trestman’s counterpart Marvin Lewis, on the other hand, was guilty of some questionable clock management. The Bears’ coaching staff were far better than Cincinnati’s.
2. Cincinnati beat themselves
Not to steal the thunder from a big Bears’ victory, but let’s face it, the Bengals really beat themselves by being an undisciplined bunch of thugs. Yep, those three personal fouls were costly for Cincy, especially Rey Maualuga, who committed an unnecessary roughness penalty after the Bengals had stopped Michael Bush on third-and-six at the Cincinnati 45 with a little over a minute left. That cost them a chance to win or tie the game.
Meanwhile, turnovers were also costly for Cincy. And even when they made their lone turnover of the game — intercepting Cutler near midfield early in the fourth quarter — they gave it right back when Mohamed Sanu fumbled at the 17.
In the end, Cincinnati made more plays but also more mistakes, and that cost them the game.
3. The new offense is a work in progress
The much anticipated debut of the Trestman offense played to a mixed review at Soldier Field on Sunday. On the one hand, they did what they said they were going to do by getting rid of the ball quickly. However, the offense was sluggish, especially in the first half. And the no-huddle offense didn’t work.
In fact, Cutler and the Bears didn’t really find their rhythm until the fourth quarter, but it was enough to eek out a win. On the winning drive, Cutler found his buddy Brandon Marshall for a 38-yard gain. However, the difference this year is that Marshall wasn’t Cutler’s first or even second option on the play.
As ESPN.com reported, “We wanted to try and get Marty [Bennett] down the middle again, they covered that up,” Cutler said. “We had a checkdown to Alshon [Jeffery] in the left flat, they covered that. B was kind of the third, late read there. It got to him a click late, but he still made a great play on it.”
That’s how an offense is supposed to work.
The running game never really got on track for the Bears. If you subtract Cutler’s scrambles, Chicago ran for 65 yards on 25 carries, a 2.6 yard average. Cutler’s 18-yard scramble on the winning drive was twice as long as any of Forte or Bush’s runs on the day.
Martellus Bennett made a great catch in the back of the endzone on a ball tipped by a Bengals’ defender.
Cutler completed 21-of-33 passes for 242 yards and two scores. He wasn’t sacked and threw one interception, but he converted on only six of 14 third downs.
Look, you can’t judge an offense by one game, especially when the guys are still learning as they go along. But the offensive line blocked pretty well, and rookies Kyle Long and Jordan Mills made a solid impression.
4. The Bears’ defense had a strange day
By “strange,” I am referring to the fact that while the defense once again bailed out the offense — as we have gotten used to over the years — they also seemingly couldn’t stop the Bengals’ offense at times. The pass rush and the pass defense were very poor.
A pertinent example of what I’m talking about is the play of Charles Tillman. On the one hand, he had two interceptions and a tackle for a loss (though it doesn't show up on the ESPN stat sheet for some reason). However, he was also beaten badly at times, forcing him to commit a pass interference penalty. A.J. Green had 162 yards receiving and two touchdowns, including a 45-yarder.
However, it was reported that Tillman was dehydrated and vomited multiple times.
But the Bears’ defense stopped the run and Stephen Paea had a nice game. Yet, Shea McClellin had the only sack, and Julius Peppers was nonexistent, despite playing against a backup LT on the Cincinnati offensive line.
Plus, the Bengals had 340 yards of offense and converted on seven of 11 third downs. Andy Dalton torched the Bears for 189 yards in the first half and a pair of touchdowns.
Still, in the end, it was the turnovers that saved the day. They had three to the Bears' one. Strange days indeed.
5. Cutler was a leader
When the Bears needed him to, Cutler displayed leadership abilities that many of us thought he was incapable of. If you don’t believe me, here is what LT Jermon Bushrod had to say:
“It makes you feel good when your quarterback comes into the huddle and just tells us if we keep doing what we have to do, we’ll be successful. We listened to him. We got behind that guy.”
It was Cutler’s second victory after coming from behind by 10 or more points in his Bears career. He only had one while in Denver.
On the winning drive, Cutler completed three of four for 63 yards during the drive and scrambled for an 18-yard gain. His passer rating was 93.2 on the day. The eight-play, 81-yard drive was evidence of Cutler’s ability to not only lead this team in crunch time, but also that the Trestman offense does work.
Honorable mention: Gould hit a 58-yard field goal with the wind to his back that could have been good from 65 yards. That turned out to be the winning margin. Additionally, the Bears won the field position battle.
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Filed under: Post Game Report