On Monday Night, in Dallas’ sterling football stadium against a less than polished Cowboys team, the Chicago Bears looked like a team capable of winning the all-silver Vince Lombardi Trophy.
They did it by executing a game plan that called for pressuring Cowboys’ QB Tony Romo into turnovers and a balanced offensive game plan. The five interceptions Romo threw weren’t all the work of a dominating defense. The Cowboys, at times, looked more like Cowpokes as they bumbled audibles, failed to catch catchable passes and even fumbled interceptions into the waiting hands of the Bears outlaw defense. Adding to their ineptitude were a few overthrown passes by Romo that could have changed the complexion of the game. Yet, it was still an impressive display for Chicago’s defense and was, inarguably, the biggest reason the Bears won.
The story of the Bears offense is more complicated. In the first half, they looked similar to the underachieving group that was annihilated by the Packers defense in week two and was unable to score a passing TD against the Rams at Soldier Field. The growing frustration was caught by ESPN when the naughty Cutler yelled at his new offensive coordinator, Mike Tice, much like he did last year when he asked someone on the sideline to tell his old coordinator, Mike Martz, to… well, see for your self. This year’s outburst was with six minutes and 30 seconds to go in the first half. If Cutler didn’t necessarily use the same verbiage that he did towards Martz his body language sure did.
Later on the sideline, cameras caught Cutler clearly refusing to talk to Tice. The surly QB walked away from the burly coach because he was upset that plays were taking too long to come into the huddle. It’s the same reason he curse out Martz. The delays interrupted the best drive of the game to that point – a 13 play, seven minute balanced run and pass series that ended with a failed rushing play to convert a 3rd and one.
The funky QB, like any other quarterback, likes to get a rhythm going with his offense. But, when his offensive line isn’t failing him by playing inharmoniously it seems like the coaching staff is by hitting off-key notes with play selection or ruining Cutler’s timing with off tempo play-calling.
After the game, many in the media criticized Cutler’s hissy fit. David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune scolded Cutler for his inability to get along with others and offered this bit of wisdom, “He can be such an asset because of his ability. He cannot become a liability because of his attitude.”
But, maybe Haugh is failing to see that Cutler’s immaturity may turn the Bears old habits into a thing of the past.
After Cutler’s silent treatment, the Bears offense made the kind of offensive noise Chicago fans had only seen perfected by their dreaded rival, the Green Bay Packers.
The Bears began the third quarter on their 27-yard line after Devin Hester almost broke a long return. On first down, Cutler threw a completion to Alshon Jeffery on a crossing pattern for 11 yards. He had perfect protection thanks to right tackle Gabe Carimi singularly blocking fearsome Cowboys pass rusher Demarcus Ware and problem child, left tackle, J’Marcus Webb, holding off blitzing linebacker Victor Butler.
After a two-yard run by Matt Forte, Tice rang up a max protection (seven blockers) pass play with Cutler taking a deep drop and finding Jeffery on a curl route for 16 yards. Interestingly, it appeared the rookie WR was lined up incorrectly as Cutler motioned for him to either go in motion or come closer to the left tackle. In classic crotchety Cutler style he then waved Jeffrey back as if to say, “screw it, stay there.”
There was now a noticeable tempo building – the plays were coming in quickly so Cutler had time to study the defense, the O-line was picking up blitzes as if they’d done their homework and the Bears’ QB was throwing the pigskin around like he was on school play-ground. ESPN announcers Mike Torico and former coach Jon Gruden were effusive in their praise of Cutler’s arm and were grading his performance an A+.
Now, in Cowboys territory with a new set of downs, Cutler took yet another deep drop and hit Marshall underneath for 10 yards. The Bears were supposed to swear off deep drops this year because of their inability to pass protect for longer than a nano-second, but here they were holding blocks for a full four seconds and doing it for a third consecutive pass play.
With a first down on the Cowboys 34 yard line, Devin Hester entered the game. In the first half Hester was targeted three times and he netted three yards. He had publicly criticized Mike Tice’s play calling, wondering, like most Bears fans, what had happened to the so-called, “Hester Package,” a collection of plays that were to take advantage of his explosive skills. Against, the Cowboys the Hester package was clearly in, but there was nothing to show for it. Until now.
The Cowboys tired of the ever-growing time Cutler was getting to find receivers on crossing patterns sent an all out blitz with seven pass rushers. Seeing the onslaught coming Cutler, quickly faked a handoff to Forte, took another deep drop and launched a 34 yard pass off his back foot because 6’4” Marcus Spears was about to land his 320 pounds on him. Hester ran his “Double-Move Go Post” route against the Cowboys corner defense. The aggressive call by the Cowboys left the speedy Hester one-on-one with rookie cornerback Morris Claiborne and it was no-contest. Hester blew past Claiborne and made a gorgeous diving catch giving the Bears their first passing touchdown since the Green Bay game when Cutler found TE Kellen Davis late in the 4th quarter.
From an offensive perspective, the drive began the torching of the Cowboys. The Bears would stumble in their next possession with a Cutler fumble reminding us that #6 sometimes demands more pass protection time than anyone should expect. But, Cutler did add another passing touchdown with six and one half minutes to go in the fourth quarter when he beat another Cowboys’ blitz and hit a wide open Brandon Marshall.
Both of Cutler’s passing touchdowns were quite impressive and if this Bears offense does end up making Aaron Rodgers envious it might just be Cutler’s enmity that provided the spark.