- Jeff Dickerson, ESPN Staff Writer
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CHICAGO -- Here are five things we learned in the Chicago Bears’ 27-21 victory over the New York Giants:
1. Brandon Marshall is content: As expected, Marshall was the focal point of the Bears’ offensive attack Thursday night after he had a modest five-target, four-catch, one-touchdown outing last Sunday. Marshall is a great player -- that was never in question -- but his unhappiness despite leading the team in receptions heading into Week 6 struck many observers as curious. But Marshall can now relax and have an enjoyable three-day weekend after he hauled in nine passes for 87 yards and two touchdowns on a team-high 11 targets. Marshall now has 40 receptions on the year and is on pace to catch 106 balls. Despite being under contract only through 2014, Marshall has little to complain about.
2. Jay Cutler continues to grow: Kudos to Cutler for protecting the ball. Maybe the Bears lose that game if the offense turns the ball over, but it never happened. Cutler was smart with his decision-making, throwing the ball out of bounds when necessary or using his feet to scramble and pick up first downs when nothing opened down the field. Cutler’s quarterback rating through six weeks is 95.2, and while an improved offensive line and better weapons certainly play a role in his success, Cutler just seems smarter this year. The Bears win games with this Jay Cutler. If he sticks around all year, even with a shaky defense, the Bears are legitimate playoff contenders in the NFC.
3. What a difference three years make: The last time the Bears faced the Giants in the regular season before Thursday night, New York sacked Cutler an NFL-record nine times in one half, and it gave the quarterback a concussion in a 2010 meeting at the New Meadowlands. Cutler was sacked a grand total of zero times tonight. Sure, New York is a much different team this year. In fact, the Giants are downright awful. But the Bears' pass protection played a huge role in Cutler’s productivity in Week 6. The group just keeps improving. It’s exciting to think where the Bears' offensive line will be later in the year, barring injuries of course.
4. Defense can’t do much: At least the Bears’ defense found a way to force three turnovers and score a touchdown. Because unless the Bears can take the ball away on defense, there isn’t much else the unit is capable of accomplishing. There is absolutely no pass-rush to speak of. None. The defensive line is a nonfactor. Some of that can be attributed to injuries, but the Bears simply aren’t getting enough from starting defensive ends Julius Peppers and Shea McClellin. Peppers wasn’t credited with a single tackle in the NFL stat book, and McClellin had a rough night, to put it nicely. McClellin was pushed around all night by the Giants and was a liability in run defense. Whatever gains McClellin made last week versus the New Orleans Saints, he gave it all back and then some against New York. Safety Major Wright was also all over the place and had several breakdowns in coverage.
5. Bears lucky to have Robbie Gould: A strong argument can be made that Gould is the best kicker in the league, going 2-for-2 Thursday night to extend his perfect streak on the season (10-for-10). He has also connected on 12 straight from 50-plus yards, tying him with Vikings kicker Blair Walsh for the NFL record. But Gould kicks outdoors. Walsh is an indoor kicker. That makes Gould’s accomplishments all that more remarkable. When the weather turns later in the year, don’t be surprised if Gould’s leg wins several games for the Bears.