NFC North: Chicago Bears

How they match up: Bucs at Bears

November, 21, 2014
Nov 21
2:00
PM ET

CHICAGO BEARS (4-6) vs. TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (2-8)

Noon CT Sunday at Soldier Field on FOX
 
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When: 1 p.m. ET, Sunday Where: Soldier Field, Chicago TV: Fox

The records scrub away some of the shine for Sunday's matchup at Soldier Field between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Chicago Bears, but the storylines involved remain interesting for what should be a competitive contest.

First off, there's the obvious with Lovie Smith coming to town to coach against his former team, which is led by former Bears backup quarterback Josh McCown. But even with the Bucs owning a 2-8 record, they're just two games out of first place in the NFC South.

The Bears, meanwhile, are looking to win back-to-back contests for the first time this season since Weeks 2 and 3.

Remember, the Bears fired Smith after a 2012 season in which he led the team to a 10-6 record. The club hasn't recorded a double-digit win season since, and doesn't appear to be on the way to doing it this year, either.

Bears reporter Michael C. Wright takes a look at the matchup with Buccaneers reporter Pat Yasinkas:

Wright: Pat, the Buccaneers are coming off a big road win at Washington, and I've long thought they were a much more talented team than the record indicated. Obviously, it's probably too late to save the season. But how's the atmosphere out there coming off this win, and what's the next step for the Bucs?

Yasinkas: The atmosphere is a lot better than you would expect from a 2-8 team. That's mainly due to the fact the Bucs are only two games behind Atlanta and New Orleans in the NFC South. And, you're right, this is a talented team. If the Bucs can put that talent together down the stretch, they could end up being a playoff team. It may sound crazy, but they're not far off the pace in the NFC South.

I thought last year's strong finish by Chicago would carry over into this season. But it hasn't. What's gone wrong for the Bears?

Wright: Where do I start? I think people put too much faith in the offense, expecting it to perform at the same level or better than it did in 2013. But what folks don't understand is the Bears sort of caught teams by surprise last season because opponents didn't know exactly what to expect out of a Marc Trestman offense. Opponents adjusted in 2014 to what the Bears put on film in 2013, and they've had trouble coming up with a sufficient counterpunch. On the other side of the ball, the Bears revamped the front four, but haven't received the production commensurate with the investment. The Bears miscalculated what the staff would be able to get out of the linebacking corps, which has struggled, not to mention the secondary.

Surely, there's quite a bit of disappointment about Tampa Bay's record, especially when considering how the Bucs have squandered fourth-quarter leads five times this season. Why haven't the Bucs been able to hold leads, and overall, what's the thought out there regarding the job done so far by former Bears coach Lovie Smith?

Yasinkas: The Bucs have had their share of disappointing losses. They've blown five fourth-quarter leads and the reasons for that are collapses by the defense and an inability by the offense to protect a lead. That has been very disappointing and you can make a strong case that the Bucs should have a much better record than they do. Fans aren't very pleased with what Lovie Smith has done so far. He has been stubborn, sticking to a Tampa 2 defense that may be antiquated and an offense that's conservative. But the Washington game was a good example of what "Lovie Ball" can be when it works properly. Smith's record isn't very good, but he's not on the hot seat. Ownership believes he can show some promise down the stretch and turn things around with another offseason.

There has been a lot of talk about Jay Cutler's future in Chicago. Does he have one?

Wright: Boy, that's a good question that I'm not sure I can answer at this point. Obviously with the contract, Cutler is sort of handcuffed to the team for the next couple of seasons. But if Cutler doesn't improve down the stretch, I could see the Bears looking for ways to cut ties (a trade perhaps?). The Bears gave Cutler a $126.7 million contract, and he certainly hasn't produced at the level you'd expect a player making that type of money. So if the arrow isn't pointing up for Cutler at the conclusion of the season, it certainly wouldn't surprise me if the Bears entered 2015 with an open competition at the position or looked to trade him in the offseason.

Speaking of quarterbacks, when Josh McCown left Chicago to sign with the Buccaneers, it seemed like an ideal match, especially when considering how he performed in 2013 as the fill-in for Cutler. Can you give me a rundown as to why has McCown struggled this season?

Yasinkas: McCown admitted recently that he was pressing too much in the first three games. He was trying to make something happen out of nothing and that led to some mistakes. But McCown got five games to sit back and watch while he dealt with a thumb injury. In the past two games, he has been much more efficient. The Washington game was similar to what he did in Chicago last year. If he can continue to do that the rest of the season, the Bucs will be very happy.

I know it's only Year 2, but this league doesn't have much patience anymore. Is Marc Trestman on the hot seat?

Wright: Similar to Cutler's situation, I think it all depends on how the team performs down the stretch. At this point, I don't think general manager Phil Emery is inclined to fire Trestman in part because of the investment in Cutler. Prior to Trestman's arrival, Cutler had played for three different offensive coordinators in three different systems over four seasons. So for Emery, gaining some level of stability for Cutler was important, which is what the GM believed he did in bringing aboard Trestman and offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer. Remember, the Bears signed Cutler to a seven-year contract, and Emery doesn't want his quarterback playing in yet another system for another coach. So unless the Bears totally nose dive over the last six games, Trestman's job is safe. Certainly, there will be scapegoats let go at the conclusion of the season regardless of what happens. But I don't think Trestman is on the hot seat. He'll get another season unless things go totally awry.
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LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears receivers Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery returned to the practice field inside the Walter Payton Center on Thursday, a day after the club held them out because of ankle and hamstring ailments.

Marshall and Jeffery participated in a limited capacity, but neither is expected to miss Sunday’s matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Soldier Field.

Other limited participants included right tackle Jordan Mills (ribs) and guard Eben Britton (illness). In other injury news, the Bears held out cornerback Demontre Hurst (knee), defensive end Trevor Scott (knee), receiver Chris Williams (hamstring) and Darryl Sharpton (hamstring).

The Bears also held out veteran defensive end Jared Allen, but his absence wasn’t injury related.

Rookie defensive end Ego Ferguson (illness) returned to the practice field Thursday after being held out Wednesday, and receiver Josh Morgan (shoulder) participated fully Thursday after working Wednesday in a limited capacity.
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- According to Bears quarterback Jay Cutler, Tampa Bay’s Josh McCown “isn’t much of a bettor.”

So don’t expect the quarterbacks to place any friendly wagers on Sunday’s matchup between the Bears and Buccaneers at Soldier Field.

“I wish him well except for this week,” Cutler said of his former backup. “We’ll go at it head to head and see what happens.”

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 Cutler experienced somewhat of resurgence last season, his first under head coach Marc Trestman, and credits his working relationship with McCown as one of the factors in his improvement. Cutler produced a career-high passer rating of 89.2 last season as the Bears finished eighth in total offense.

Filling in as the starter for five games while Cutler was injured last season, McCown threw 13 touchdown passes and only one interception. Both quarterbacks combined for five 300-yard passing performances in 2013, which tied a franchise single-season record established in 1954 and tied in 1999.

The synergy between Cutler and McCown in the meeting room resulted in both quarterbacks excelling.

“I think Josh is good for a lot of people,” Cutler explained. “I think you could pair him up with probably most of the people in this room, and he’d find a way to help make you better. He’s not going to make you worse. I know that. He’s just one of those types of people. So I know he’s doing good things for that quarterback room in Tampa, just like he did for us.”

So why did they click?

“He’s played the position at a lot of different places,” Cutler said. “So we were coming into a new system [in 2013]. He had been through a lot of new systems like I had. We helped each other learn. His journey and as many places as he’d been, he’s been through some ups and downs. So he knew what the position was about, what it took to play the position. So he could relate really well.”

Bears general manager Phil Emery and Trestman have also been complimentary of McCown’s time in Chicago, with both expressing happiness when the quarterback signed a two-year deal in free agency to join the Buccaneers.

“It’ll be fun to see the guys and all that, but at the end of the day our focus is on going up there and getting a win because we need it for our team,” McCown said. “When you’re 2-8, you need wins. So that’s my focus. But I’m looking forward to it. It’s fun. I have so much love for all those guys up there, and anytime you get to do that -- against guys you know -- it just makes it more fun because you know how they’re going to prepare, and you know they’re going to give you their best. So I’m looking forward to that.”
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Coaches and players downplayed the players-only film session held by Chicago's defense last week prior to the team's 21-13 win over the Minnesota Vikings, but nobody's denying the positive impact.

After surrendering 27 points or more in three consecutive games, including 50-plus in losses to Green Bay and New England, the Bears limited Minnesota 13 points and 243 total yards, in addition to stalling the Vikings' offense to a 2-of-11 performance on third downs.

[+] EnlargeAllen
AP Photo/Charles Rex ArbogastThe Bears held the Vikings to just 10 first downs on Sunday. The Vikings converted on just 2 of 11 third-down attempts.
"We talked last week about everyone needing to do more," Bears defensive coordinator Mel Tucker explained Wednesday. "Players and coaches together, just looking to take it up a notch. I think that was an effort on their part to take some extra time together as a unit. I think that was a positive. I think it paid off for us."

Tucker approached Jared Allen about holding the meeting, according to the defensive end, who said the staff "wanted to give us an opportunity to take over as leaders and add some accountability to the defense."

"He approached me about it," Allen said. "I thought it was a good idea. It's a good way for guys to understand what each group is doing. It's just another way to hold each other accountable and to build off things and create communication."

Allen stressed the meeting "really wasn't a big deal." But its effects on the defense can't be denied as the group held the Vikings to just 10 first downs, while taking the ball away once on an interception, in addition to producing two sacks.

"This is not something unusual," Bears coach Marc Trestman said of the meeting. "The more we can do things together, oftentimes we can get better that way. It's another way to get better, another format for the guys. It's a positive thing. It's encouraging the guys want to do those types of things."

Linebacker Lance Briggs jokingly denied the meeting ever took place, before adding "what I can tell you about the players-only meeting was that the information is for the players only."

Fair enough, but it's clear the approach worked for defense against the Vikings.

The group faces another challenge Sunday when the Bears host former head coach Lovie Smith and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Soldier Field. Smith set a high standard for Chicago's defense during his nine-year tenure as the team's head coach.

Buccaneers quarterback Josh McCown, who served as the backup in Chicago last season, doesn't see much difference in the club's defense now compared to his time as a Bear.

"It's very similar to what I saw last year, very similar to what we've practiced against here down here in training camp," McCown said. "This last game, it really looked like they flew around, made some plays, played with great energy and great juice. So we expect nothing less come Sunday."
LAKE FOREST, Ill. – Veteran linebacker Lance Briggs considers current Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Lovie Smith one of the greatest coaches in Chicago Bears franchise history, on par with team founder George Halas and the iconic Mike Ditka.

Smith
Briggs
“Lovie should be remembered as one of the great coaches of Chicago,” Briggs said Wednesday. “You have George Halas, you have Mike Ditka, and then Lovie Smith comes next.”

Factually speaking, Briggs is correct.

Smith’s 84 wins in nine seasons (84-66) ranks third in Bears history behind only Halas (324-151-31) and Ditka (112-68). Smith led the Bears to three division titles and the 2006 NFC championship, falling to the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLI.

“We continued [the Bears] tradition of great defense throughout Lovie’s years,” Briggs said. “Now looking back, defense and special teams, it was a special time.

In particular, Briggs flourished under Smith, earning seven straight Pro Bowl selections (2005-11) from his customary weakside linebacker spot.

However, the relationship took time to develop.

“When he was hired I started doing a little research [about Smith],” Briggs said. “One of the guys that stuck out was [former Bucs Hall of Fame linebacker] Derrick Brooks. I remember when he got hired a lot of people were saying Brian [Urlacher] should play [weakside linebacker] and Lance should play [middle linebacker]. I remember him saying no. Brian is my middle linebacker and Lance is my weakside linebacker. It worked out. We bought in. All I remember doing that first year was run. We would run, run, run. We didn’t even know where we were running to, but we had to run.

"It was fun to be around Lovie, especially when you got to understand his personality. I remember back in 2004 [Smith’s first season in Chicago], he challenged me all the time. It would be like, ‘Lance, you’re not going to make that play, or he’s not going to make that play.’ Or he’d talk to Brian or some of the other players and say, ‘Lance can’t make that play. Derrick Brooks can make that play. The real No. 55 can make that play.’ As I started making more and more plays and the years went on, his tune really changed. That was earned. To me, that respect he showed me was earned. That goes for all the guys in the room.”

For all of Briggs’ fond memories of the Smith era, the 12-year NFL veteran still wants to win on Sunday. Briggs does not expect there to be a conflict of interest.

“I’m a Chicago Bear,” Briggs said.
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The Chicago Bears kicked off preparation Wednesday to host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers without the services of receivers Brandon Marshall (ankle) and Alshon Jeffery (hamstring), as both were held out of the club’s practice inside the Walter Payton Center.

The Bears also held out defensive tackle Ego Ferguson (illness), defensive end Trevor Scott (knee), linebacker Darryl Sharpton (hamstring) and receiver Chris Williams (hamstring).

Right tackle Jordan Mills (ribs), guard Eben Britton (illness) and receiver Josh Morgan (shoulder) practiced in a limited capacity.

Linebacker Lance Briggs, running back Matt Forte and defensive lineman Jeremiah Ratliff were non-participants on Wednesday, but their inactivity was not injury related.
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Lovie Smith spoke glowingly Wednesday of his nine-year tenure as head coach in Chicago with the Bears set to host the Buccaneers on Sunday at Soldier Field (1 p.m. ET, Fox).

Fired by the organization after a 10-6 finish in 2012, Smith spent all of 2013 out of football until taking over in January as coach of the Buccaneers. Smith expects to reminisce over "special memories" formed during his time in Chicago on Sunday, "but as far as the game is concerned, once we tee it off, it's another game we're trying to win."

[+] EnlargeLovie Smith
AP Photo/Steve NesiusFormer Bears coach Lovie Smith looks back on his nine years with Chicago as ones he'll never forget.
Interestingly, at 2-8, the Buccaneers remain just two games out of first place in the NFC South. So Smith isn't concerned with how he'll be received Sunday by the fans at Soldier Field.

"I know how I'm remembered there," Smith said. "As I come in Sunday, I'm coming in as an opposing coach. That's how I'm looking at it. The year I had off and just being in Chicago for nine years, I don't need anything validated this week. Fans were great to me and my family while we were there, administration was. I have lifetime friends on the Chicago Bears football team. I think I have all those things right now. I'm an opposing coach on the other side of the field coming in this week."

Asked if he received a fair shake in Chicago, Smith eschewed expressing bitterness and focused on the positive.

"To be at a place for nine years in the NFL is pretty good," Smith said. "I enjoyed every second I had there. A part of life sometimes [is] you move onto other places. The best job I've always had has always been my next job; couldn't be happier where I am now."

Here are a few more highlights from Smith's conference call Wednesday with the media assembled at Halas Hall:

On proudest memory of his time in Chicago: "Oh, I'm proud of everything we were able to do. I loved my time there. I loved the organization that I worked for and the opportunity they gave me. But as much as anything, the players I got a chance to lead and to coach. The lifetime memories, the lifetime relationships I was able to form from being there, of course that's what will stay with me forever."

On how Smith implemented his program upon first coming to Chicago: "When I talk about the special players that I had a chance to coach, when you come into a new program -- which we've had to do here -- you lay out the blueprint on how we're going to do things: what would be our philosophy, just how we're going to win football games. So I laid that out and we had guys who bought into it right away. A lot of students of the game, a lot of good players. Then from there, you just start building each day and working to get better. And we did that. Initially we had a few tough times early on. But you know, after we got going, things really turned around quickly."

On what he learned most from nine-year tenure in Chicago: "It's pretty hard to say 'most.' There are so many things. When you're in a place for nine years coaching a team, you can't really point out just a few things. You just kind of formed everything. And for me, being my first head coaching job, all of my philosophies and things I thought I believed in, I got a chance to see. Every imaginable situation you can be in as a head football coach, I feel like I had a chance to be in there. Just about any game, coaching the Hall of Fame game to a Super Bowl, besides winning a Super Bowl, I think as a coach I got a chance to witness and be a part of just about everything you could want to as a coach."

On his year away from football in 2013: "I'll tell you, there wasn't a whole lot of negative things that came from it, as I saw it. In coaching, it's non-stop. In every year of my life, I've been involved in coaching. So to take a chance to step back, enjoy some of the other things, my family. You know I'm a big family man. But I got a chance to spend a lot more time with them; got a chance to see how much I loved football and look at it from a different perspective. And then just start planning to come back into the game. It's not like the year I was out I was retiring or anything like that. I started planning for my next job. My next job has always been the best job I've had, so that's what a year off allowed me to do; one of the best years of my life."

On what it was like dealing with expectations of Chicago's fans as a first-time head coach: "A dream come true. Everything that you thought was kind of how it turned out being for me. To come to a storied franchise with a great fan base and to just help to bring that fan base and what was expected, back. The things you dream about, that's how it really turned out for me. I enjoyed every day I came to work and the people I had a chance to work with. Not only the players, of course, but the staff and the administration, too. Again, your first job, I'm sure everyone would hope that your first job would be something like my first job."
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Tampa Bay quarterback Josh McCown spent 2013 as the backup in Chicago, and admitted Wednesday “it is a little surprising” to hear the leadership of Bears coach Marc Trestman is being questioned.

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“I’m just thinking about it as you say it,” McCown said. “I’m not in that room now. So I don’t know if things have changed or whatever. As far as how I understood and what I understood last year, I felt like he was consistent with his message and didn’t waver from that. I don’t know if that’s changed or not. Like I said about [Buccaneers coach] Lovie [Smith], that’s a hard thing to do to stick to your guns and stick to what you believe is right in the midst of turmoil or things that aren’t going your way.”

Trestman has remained true to the principles he expressed would be a part of the Bears under his watch, according to several players in the team’s locker room. But with the team having lost three of its past four outings, skepticism about Trestman’s leadership abilities have surfaced.

McCown started five games for the Bears last season filling in for an injured Jay Cutler, and threw 13 touchdown passes and only one interception in producing a passer rating of 109.0, which ranked as third best in the NFL. McCown attributed his success in 2013 to Trestman’s steady approach.

“I appreciate that from Marc, and felt it last year,” McCown said. “I think that was one of the main things that helped me play at the level I played at. I guess I would say, if [Trestman's leadership is being questioned], it surprises me."

The Buccaneers rewarded McCown last offseason for his strong showing in Chicago by signing him to a two-year contract worth $10 million, which could reach $15 million if the quarterback hits certain incentives.

“We were happy for him and his opportunity to continue his journey, and I don’t think anyone here feels any differently about that now,” Trestman said.

When Tampa Bay hired Smith last January, the coach considered McCown to be an important component for what he wanted to build with the Buccaneers.

“Coming into a new environment, there are some key positions you’d like to know as much as possible about,” Smith explained. “Of course it starts with the quarterback position, and in my year out [of football], I had a chance to watch a lot of football. [I] saw Josh, had a chance to be around him the year or so I had a chance to coach him [in 2011 and 2012], and just knew what he would bring. I felt like as a new team, young team, we needed his leadership; and not just leadership, his play. I believed in him as a starting quarterback in the league. All those things kind of played a big part in it.”
Chicago Bears guard Kyle Long understood the heat his team was taking last week from fans and the media in the wake of it losing its third consecutive game.

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 So while the club’s victory over the Minnesota Vikings provided a brief respite, Long knows the Bears still have more to do.

“We’ve had to circle the wagons just because we’re taking fire from everywhere,” Long said Tuesday during the “Carmen & Jurko Show” on ESPN 1000. “When you string together a few losses in that fashion, people want answers. People want change. What we need to realize is the only change that needs to happen is we need to change our attitude, and we need to figure out how to quit making mistakes and start playing to a higher level.”

Although the Bears captured a much-needed win, it didn’t come without the club starting slow and making mistakes along the way. Chicago’s opening drive lasted 10 plays but was bogged down by penalties for illegal formation (Martellus Bennett), false start (Long) and unsportsmanlike conduct (Jay Cutler) as the possession ended at Minnesota’s 29 with Robbie Gould missing a 47-yard field goal wide right.

Interestingly, the Bears didn’t commit a penalty on their second possession, which Cutler capped with a 27-yard touchdown pass to Alshon Jeffery.

“I think the biggest thing to the penalties is it’s something we were able to correct and get out of that business very early,” Bears coach Marc Trestman said on Monday. “But it certainly slowed us down. It slowed us down on both sides of the ball early on, getting off the field defensively and staying on the field and continuing drives offensively. It’s not what we want. It’s not acceptable to us. But at the same time, I appreciated the fact that our team was able to clean that up and move forward. We were pretty clean the rest of the way.”

The Bears finished the game with seven penalties for 60 yards. They’ve committed five penalties or more in all but one game this season.

The last time the Bears played a home game, fans at Soldier Field booed the team coming off the field down 14-0 to the Miami Dolphins, resulting in Long criticizing the fans after the 27-14 loss. Long expected a similar reaction from the fans against the Vikings, but understood why this time.

“Rightfully so, I was expecting to be met with some adversity when things would not go our way because throughout the course of a game, there’s ebb and flow. Things go well. Things go not so well,” Long said. “We were greeted with a few boos, and that’s understandable. That’s the kind of football we’ve put out for Bears fans in recent memory. But we’re trying to change that course and try to have them singing a different tune next time around.”

The next opportunity for that takes place Sunday at Soldier Field with the team hosting the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, led by former Bears coach Lovie Smith.

The Film Don't Lie: Bears

November, 18, 2014
Nov 18
11:00
AM ET
A weekly look at what the Chicago Bears must fix:

The Chicago Bears freshened up the offense and better utilized running back Matt Forte in their win over the Minnesota Vikings, but when they host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday, they’ll have to do a better job exercising patience and taking what the defense gives.

Of Chicago’s 10 possessions against the Vikings, just four spanned 10 or more plays. The club probably needs to improve on that number against the Buccaneers, which, under Lovie Smith, will force the Bears to play a slow, dink-and-dunk style because of the difficulty of sustaining long drives without making mistakes. Obviously, Jay Cutler threw two interceptions against the Vikings, which is another area in which improvement is needed, considering he’s turned over the ball multiple times in each of the team’s past three outings. The win over the Vikings marked the first time this season Cutler turned it over more than once (a feat accomplished in each of the team's six losses), and the Bears came out victorious.

Forte carried the ball 26 times for 117 yards against the Vikings, and the Bears improved to 18-5 when he hits the century mark. The only issue with the team’s use of Forte against the Vikings was when they did it. Of their first 15 plays, the Bears ran 13 passes, which isn’t conducive to establishing the running back early and letting him get into a rhythm. The Bears need to lean on Forte earlier against the Buccaneers.
Chicago Bears QB Jay Cutler incorrectly recalled the events leading to a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty in the first quarter of Sunday's 21-13 win against the Minnesota Vikings, but he's probably correct in that he didn't deserve to be flagged.

Cutler
About midway through the first quarter, Vikings coach Mike Zimmer challenged that what appeared to be a Cutler incompletion was actually a fumble. Zimmer was correct regarding the fumble, but lost the challenge and timeout because nobody immediately recovered the fumble.

During the break in action, Cutler was flagged for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty when he spiked the ball due to officials blowing the play dead because of Zimmer's challenge. Cutler completed a 30-yard pass to Matt Forte on the play before and was trying to get the Bears back up to the line of scrimmage quickly to run another play. But officials -- believing the Bears had substituted -- held the ball to allow the defense time to adjust, preventing them from snapping it. Cutler argued with officials about whether the Bears had substituted just before they blew the next play dead for Zimmer's challenge.

"That was from the spike," Cutler said of the 15-yard penalty on Monday during "The Jay Cutler Show" on ESPN 1000. "Like what every other quarterback in the league does whenever you just throw it down into the ground, just end the play. The dude on the back sideline, he threw it. I don't know. I was baffled. I looked at him, I was like, 'What's this for?'

"Yeah, because our conversation was about a substitution, because we were trying to hurry it up, and they were holding us because they said we substituted, which we didn't. We had the same 11 on the field that we had before. So if we substitute, they can hold it and they can hold it and wait for the defense to get ready. That's fine. But if we don't substitute, they've got to set the ball and they've got to get out of the way."

Cutler believed he had spiked the ball after a false-start penalty, which wasn't the case. The Bears did commit a false-start penalty during the drive, but that actually occurred two plays before Cutler was flagged 15 yards.

"I'll tell you what happened: We're getting up to the line, and we've got a call coming in. So we're trying to hurry it up. He's holding the ball and he's not letting us snap it because he says we substituted," Cutler said. "We didn't substitute. So I'm yelling at him, 'We didn't substitute. Get out of the way,' in so many words. He didn't know what I was talking about apparently. So he's just holding it, holding it, holding it. Finally he gets out of the way. I think we had a false start. So I just pump it into the ground, get out of the way. It's over. And then this dude over here threw the flag.

"So I look at him, and I'm like, 'What's the problem here? What do you want me to do? Every other quarterback throws it into the ground.' Then he came and apologized and said he shouldn't have held it, that we didn't substitute. I was like, 'Yeah, I know. I told you that.' I was like, 'What's the penalty for?' He just walked off. I was like, 'All right, well, good talk.'"

Like many quarterbacks do on stoppages in play just after a snap, Cutler spiked the ball, but he probably didn't deserve the penalty. Perhaps this was a case of officials interpreting Cutler's jawing at them the play before as frustration that spilled over.
CHICAGO -- The Chicago Bears attempted to convert three fourth downs Sunday during their 21-13 win against the Minnesota Vikings, but desperation brought about from the team's recent struggles had nothing to do with it, according to Marc Trestman.

"I would say today had no considerations based on previous situations," Trestman said. "We did what we had to do to try to stay on the field and score."

The Bears successfully converted two of their three fourth-down conversions, but missed on their first attempt from the Minnesota 1 in the third quarter. On Chicago's first drive to open the second half, the Bears marched from their own 17 to the Vikings 1 in 11 plays.

On fourth-and-1, Cutler sprinted around left end, lowering his shoulders near the pylon to try to punch it in for the touchdown. But Tom Johnson stuffed Cutler for no gain on the play.

"When we snapped it, I felt good about it," Cutler said. "We were two-on-one out there with [Jermon Bushrod], so they made a good play."

The club's next two fourth-down conversion attempts came in the fourth quarter, with both taking place on the same drive. Matt Forte converted both fourth-down attempts on a possession ending with Cutler's 4-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Marshall, which made the score 21-10 after the extra-point kick.

"The intent was to make a first down," Trestman said of the club's fourth-down attempts. "The results were good. We didn't get the one on the goal line, which is unfortunate because we had the ball all the way down the field. But we did what we had to do to win the game."
CHICAGO -- Observed and heard in the locker room after the Chicago Bears' 21-13 victory over the Minnesota Vikings at Soldier Field:

Allen
Weight off their shoulders: Sporting a cowboy hat in the locker room after the victory, defensive end Jared Allen expressed relief in the Bears winning their first game in more than a month.

"People questioned the character of our locker room, but we know what we have," Allen said. "You can only get beat up so many times before you fight back."

Allen finished the game with five tackles and a sack to go with three quarterback hits.

Room cleared out quickly: The celebratory locker room in the bowels of Soldier Field cleared out quickly after the team's win.

Left tackle Jermon Bushrod sat alone dressing while linebackers Jonathan Bostic and Christian Jones -- wearing a Florida State cap -- chatted across the room. Those three and safety Brock Vereen were the last to leave the locker room.
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The body language police focuses on Jay Cutler's every move, often coming to the conclusion the quarterback doesn't care.

Despite how Cutler may come off during news conferences, that's truly not the case, according to one NFL assistant who keeps in contact with the quarterback and described him as being "down" lately due to what's transpired with the 3-6 Chicago Bears.

[+] EnlargeCutler
AP Photo/Scott BoehmAs Jay Cutler said on multiple occasions Thursday, pulling the team out of this losing streak all starts with the quarterback.
That's part of why it didn't come off as just hollow talk Thursday at Halas Hall when Cutler talked about the need to improve, and the pressure he's feeling as the face of the offense to not let "those guys down" Sunday when the Bears host the Minnesota Vikings.

"We're not doing exactly what we should be doing," Cutler said. "We're not making plays on offense when we should be making them. It starts with me. I've got to play better. I've got to put these guys in positions to make some of these plays. We talked about that yesterday, just getting some energy out there. If things aren't going well on Sunday, someone's going to have to say something. If we have to say something in the huddle and get some guys going because we've got some good guys in our huddle. We like our group, we feel like we should be able to move the ball better, so whatever we need to do."

As he said on multiple occasions Thursday, it all starts with Cutler.

Coming off a three-turnover game in Sunday's loss to the Green Bay Packers, Cutler has now committed 15 turnovers, leading to a total of 65 points by opponents. Cutler is now 8-12 under Bears coach Marc Trestman.

"I think in football in general there are going to be mistakes, and you have to be good enough to overcome those mistakes at times," Bears offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer explained. "Sometimes things just work out and sometimes they don't. It's been more they don't [work out] than they have this year, and I think we can right that. We can make that correction. So guys miss blocks or guys don't catch a ball, and then you have to overcome that. I think it happens at times. It happens with Jay."

It doesn't have to continue.

"Like most games that you have success in, you're creating turnovers, you're taking care of the football, you're making explosive plays, making plays in special teams," Trestman said.

The quarterback is typically operating at a high level, too, which is what Cutler needs to do against the Vikings. At this point, it's unlikely the Bears will turn around the season. But a strong outing by a quarterback can help the Bears erase the memories of the three consecutive defeats, including two losses in which the club gave up 50-plus points.

"I think it's important for more reasons than just that," Cutler said. "Just to get this locker room, get these guys back into the groove of wining things. Like I just said, whenever you're winning and [making] good plays, you can get on a roll. Whenever you're losing, you can get on a roll that way too. So, we've got to get out of the rut and try to string together some good plays, some defensive stops, some good special teams plays, and try to close in the fourth quarter."

That all starts with Cutler. He knows it, and regardless of what you might think, he cares deeply about it.

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