- Michael C. Wright, ESPN Staff Writer
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LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Because of the short turnaround going into Thursday night’s game at Miami and the accompanying hectic schedule here at Halas Hall, we decided to put together our Streaking/Slumping feature a day early.
With Chicago coming off such an important victory over the Vikings, it’s tough single out some of the Bears as “slumping” but a few actually are. So without further ado, we kick this thing off:
1. Jay Cutler, QB: Cutler admits his decision making needs to improve, but it’s difficult to dispute the quarterback’s efficiency during a three-touchdown day against the Vikings. Other than his interception to Husain Abduallah in the end zone with 17 seconds left in the third quarter, Cutler made good decisions throughout the day. Cutler threw the ball away when needed, and scrambled when the defense turned its back in coverage. Cutler also did an impressive job of anticipating pressure and moving around in the pocket to avoid it.
2. Devin Hester, WR/PR/KR: Wanting to increase his opportunities to make plays, the Bears -- for the first time all season -- lined up Hester deep on kickoff returns against the Vikings. Hester didn’t disappoint. Hester returned two kickoffs for 100 yards, including a 68-yarder in the third quarter that set up a 37-yard field goal. Hester took his very next return on a punt 42 yards. Hester also contributed in the passing game by hauling in a 19-yard TD just before intermission to give the Bears a 14-10 lead. The receiver finished the day with four catches for 38 yards.
3. Greg Olsen, TE: Supposedly, tight ends didn’t fit in the scheme of offensive coordinator Mike Martz. Apparently that’s not true, based on the contributions Olsen has made. After experiencing a two-game drought in which he didn’t pull down a single reception, Olsen has caught at least three passes in each of the past three games, and has scored TDs in two consecutive outings. A valuable weapon down the seams, Olsen juked Vikings linebacker E.J. Henderson on a hitch-and-go route for a 17-yard score in the second quarter. Olsen’s height and athleticism presents matchup problems for opponents, which the Bears will look to exploit more often.
1. Julius Peppers, DE: Peppers provides plenty of pressure on quarterbacks, and he’s stuffed the run. His presence is also allowing more opportunities for teammates to make plays. But the Bears signed the defensive end to rack up sacks, which isn’t what the club is getting. So although he’s played well overall, Peppers is slumping in the sacks department. In addition, teams have also been able to hold their own on occasion against the defensive end in one-on-one situations. Interestingly, Peppers, who has two sacks on the season, hasn’t posted a sack in more than a month.
2. Tim Jennings, CB: Jennings made up for some lapses in coverage by making a game-winning interception against the Bills. But against the Vikings, Jennings continued to struggle in coverage, which likely played a role in why the Bears -- despite facing one of the NFL's best running backs in Adrian Peterson -- operated quite a bit out of nickel. With Jennings covering him for stretches, Vikings receiver Percy Harvin was able to catch four passes for 64 yards and a touchdown (which wasn’t Jennings’ fault) before leaving the game with an injury. While Jennings isn’t playing horribly, his average performances stick out somewhat on this defense, which is playing at an exceptionally high level.
3. Matt Toeaina, DT: Tommie Harris catches plenty of heat for the way he’s played in the past. But interestingly, Harris appears to be performing a little better recently than Toeaina, who took his job. After making 13 tackles in the four games leading up to the club’s win over Buffalo, Toeaina has contributed only one tackle in each of his last two outings. Like Jennings, Toeaina isn’t playing horribly. But he also hasn’t been a dominant force recently against the run. Two of the longest runs against the Bears by Minnesota running backs came on handoffs right up the middle. In addition, Toeaina hasn’t registered a quarterback pressure in four games.