NFC North: Martellus Bennett

He’s taken part in just four practices at training camp, but in that short sliver of time, Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler shows evidence he’s poised to take a major step in Year 2 of Marc Trestman’s offense.

“It’s obvious in practice that Jay is taking more and more control by the day,” offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer said. “Not that he didn’t before; he did. But with his comfort level with all the things we’re trying to get done, he’s able to solve some of his own problems on the field, even when he didn’t maybe have that answer taught to him yet. It’s really helped that Jay has studied really hard all offseason. He’s worked on technique. He’s been one of the hardest-working guys on the team this offseason.”

Cutler
In other words, Cutler isn’t resting on what the offense accomplished in 2013.

You know the numbers. The Bears set records last season in net yardage (6,109 yards), passing yards (4,281), completion percentage (64.4), passing touchdowns (32) and passer rating (96.9) in addition to achieving a franchise-best 344 first downs while scoring the second-most points in franchise history (445).

Cutler’s 63.1 completion percentage ranked second in franchise history, as he churned out a career-best passer rating of 89.2.

Cutler has long held a reputation for surliness, and the outside perception is he’s aloof with teammates. Yet within the organization, the quarterback didn’t display such qualities, according to the coaches. Actually, he’s quite the opposite, they say.

“I didn’t know him before last year, and to be honest with you, since I’ve been around him I’ve been nothing but impressed,” quarterbacks coach Matt Cavanaugh said. “I think he’s got a real sincere attitude about this organization, his teammates, the coaching staff and what we’re trying to get done. He believes in it.

“He does things that will never, ever get reported, and you just say, ‘Wow, that’s unselfish.' I admire that in him.”

What went largely unreported during last year’s camp was Cutler’s penchant for gathering the players late at night to go through walkthroughs of what the offense might be working on the next day.

Evidence of Cutler’s growth also manifested itself Saturday on the field after the club’s second workout of camp. Earlier that day, Cutler and tight end Martellus Bennett squandered what should have been a touchdown in the red zone when linebacker Jonathan Bostic broke up the quarterback’s pass.

As the rest of the team walked off the field after practice, Cutler walked over to an adjacent field with Bennett to talk about ways they could be more effective in the red zone. The conversation wasn’t combative, and the duo walked away smiling, having gained a better understanding of how to capitalize on the next red-zone opportunity.

“In certain situations [Bennett is] really hard to cover,” Cutler later explained. “He’s such a big guy that even some of the intermediate stuff over the middle, he’s able to bring guys and get separation. He played basketball, so he knows how to high point the ball down in the red zone. We’ve just got to keep throwing different stuff at him and incorporating him in different ways.”

Cutler hasn’t been perfect, nor has anyone else on the offense thus far at camp. But everyone recognizes the deficiencies, and Cutler seems to be taking the lead in cleaning up things.

Cutler admitted “there’s been some sloppy stuff out there,” thus far at camp, which he said “is to be expected.”

That’s part of the reason Cutler is sometimes taking repetitions with the second-team offense. The staff wants Cutler to take as many snaps as possible to strengthen his command of the offense, while also working with different personnel that might become more involved in the scheme if there’s an injury to a key contributor.

Trestman agreed with Kromer's assessment that Cutler is more of a problem-solver in Year 2 of the offense.

“It happens both in the protection game because of his acumen. He’s seein' it all. He’s also doing it within the framework of our passing game as well,” Trestman said. “He’s able to get guys in the right position, change routes quickly and get the best and most out of each and every play. That’s kind of where he is. He’s kind of fixing it at the line of scrimmage when he needs to get that done.”

Cavanaugh called Cutler “a great example” for the offense.

“He just wants to be the best he can be every day, and he wants to make the people around him better, too,” Cavanaugh said. “That’ what you want in your leader. You want a guy who can make people around him better and be an example for them and make them better.”
The Chicago Bears finally finalized the defensive coaching staff by bringing aboard defensive-line coach Paul Pasqualoni and linebackers coach Reggie Herring. So what’s the next step?

That remains to be seen, as the Bears have kept everything pretty close to the vest thus far in what’s been a relatively quiet offseason. But remember, it’s still early. This team has lots of decisions and moves to make.

Thanks to everybody who sent in questions. Obviously, we can’t execute this feature without your participation. So we definitely appreciate it.
 
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The Chicago Bears locked up quarterback Jay Cutler for the long term on Thursday with a seven-year contract, a move that might finally secure some stability on the club’s offense.

“It rewards Jay, and it helps the team continue to be able to build a championship-level team,” Bears general manager Phil Emery said.

[+] EnlargeJay Cutler
Ron Schwane/USA TODAY SportsAlong with his play in 2013, Jay Cutler impressed the Bears with the way he handled adversity.
Throughout his tenure in Chicago, Cutler has rightfully received plenty of criticism on several fronts, ranging from his truculence with the media and demeanor in games, to a record of futility against NFC North rival Green Bay. But what was undeniable in 2013 is the fact that he improved tremendously during his first season in a new offense under Bears coach Marc Trestman and offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer.

Emery saw as much almost immediately, and admitted it.

In leading the Bears to a 3-0 record to start the season, Cutler completed 67.3 percent of his passes for six touchdowns and three interceptions to go with a passer rating of 94.2. At that point, Emery knew “we were headed in the right direction” regarding Cutler.

But when Cutler suffered a groin injury on Oct. 20 at Washington, Emery had to pump the brakes on rushing to hand the quarterback a new deal.

Cutler returned too quickly from the groin injury and played in the club’s Nov. 10 matchup against the Detroit Lions. Largely ineffective in that outing, Cutler finished with a passer rating of 69.8, a performance Emery admitted “wasn’t his best day.”

“But you know what? He battled back and he put us in a position to tie the game," Emery said.

How Cutler handled that adversity provided more evidence that Chicago needed him for the long term. In that game, he suffered an ankle injury that would put him on the shelf for the next four games while backup Josh McCown performed well enough to conjure discussion about a potential quarterback controversy.

That became another adverse situation Emery would use as a litmus test in determining whether Cutler’s future was with the Bears.

“How he handled that as a person after throwing a couple of picks, coming back and being a reason that you win that game” played a major part in Emery’s decision, as was the way “he handled the Green Bay Packers [in the regular-season finale].”

“That’s when I finalized the decision,” Emery said.

So the general manager reached out to Cutler’s agent, Bus Cook, on Monday to start the process of locking up the quarterback long term.

Given that Cutler signed a seven-year deal, it’s likely a cap-friendly contract that will allow the Bears to be aggressive in free agency to restock a floundering defense.

There’s no doubt that he showed growth under Trestman. In four seasons with the Bears prior to 2013, Cutler had generated a passer rating of 81.9. In 2013, Cutler produced a career-high passer rating of 89.2, his best since his rookie season (2006).

It’s important to note Cutler’s improvement came in just one season in a new offense, coached by a new staff and filled with new players on the offensive line. What will happen once Cutler gains a level of mastery in the offense similar to what Aaron Rodgers has in Green Bay, what Tom Brady has in New England?

It’s impossible to predict with any real accuracy.

But by locking up Cutler, the Bears gives us a chance to find out.

“When was the last time you had a Jay Cutler?” receiver Brandon Marshall asked on Monday. “When was the last time you had Jay Cutler with Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, Martellus Bennett, Matt Forte, [Matt] Slauson, [Jermon] Bushrod, [Kyle] Long, [Roberto] Garza, Trestman, Kromer, [receivers coach] Mike Groh, Phil Emery? The pieces are there.”

Undoubtedly, Cutler is the most important one.

All-NFC North: Chicago Bears

January, 2, 2014
Jan 2
10:00
AM ET
NFC Teams: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South


The Chicago Bears placed three offensive players on ESPN.com's All-NFC North team in Alshon Jeffery, Martellus Bennett and Matt Forte, with one notable exception in Brandon Marshall.

Meanwhile, cornerback Tim Jennings served as the lone representative from Chicago’s struggling defense.

For the record, we nominated both Jeffery and Marshall since they are the NFL’s top receiving duo. They combined for 2,716 yards -- the highest for a receiving pair in franchise history. Despite his pedigree as a four-time Pro Bowler and the fact he’s caught 90-plus balls in two consecutive seasons, Marshall fell victim to the numbers game as Detroit’s Calvin Johnson earned the spot on the all-division team opposite Jeffery. Marshall recorded his fifth 100-reception season, tying him for the most in NFL history.

Interestingly, Jeffery, Marshall and Forte are just the seventh trio of teammates in NFL history to feature one 1,200-yard rusher and two 1,200-yard receivers in a season.

In his second season, Jeffery posted 1,421 yards and seven touchdowns on 89 receptions. Both Marshall and quarterback Jay Cutler have campaigned pretty hard for Jeffery to be named to his first Pro Bowl. It’s almost certain that Marshall will make the Pro Bowl despite the snub on this NFC North team.

Having hit the 1,000-yard rushing mark for the fourth time in his career, Forte has also broken Chicago’s single-season record for catches by a running back (70), a mark he previously set as a rookie.

Bennett, meanwhile, set career highs in receptions (65) and receiving yards (759), while tying a career high in receiving touchdowns (5).

With the way the Bears have performed on defense, Jennings is definitely the only player deserving of All-NFC North mention. His 12 interceptions since 2012 rank second in the NFL only to Seattle’s Richard Sherman (16). Jennings is also one of six players in 2013 to return multiple interceptions for touchdowns, and his three interception returns for TDs since 2012 are tied for second-most in the league over that span.

One of the most notable absences on the all-division team is Bears return man Devin Hester, who tied Deion Sanders' NFL record for return touchdowns with an 81-yard punt return score in Week 7 at Washington. Hester's 2013 campaign has been decent, but Cordarrelle Patterson of the Minnesota Vikings put together a better season than arguably the best returner in NFL history.

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Brandon Marshall broke down the history of the quarterback-starved Chicago Bears franchise on Monday when asked whether Jay Cutler should be brought back in 2014 on a new contract.

With Chicago’s season coming to an end Sunday after a 33-28 loss to Green Bay, Cutler’s contract situation remains a hot topic because the quarterback is not signed beyond 2013. As the players cleared out their lockers at Halas Hall following final meetings with Bears coach Marc Trestman, Marshall provided his take on Cutler.

“One thing I know about Chicago: It’s been a long time since we had a quarterback like Jay Cutler,” Marshall said. “So all your stories this offseason, I think that should be the headline or that should be the story written this year: ‘Oh, how we love Jay Cutler,’ because it’s been so long. His first few years here he hadn’t gotten it done, and I think that’s not all on him. There’s some on him, but then you look around and he’s one of the most beat-up quarterbacks around; didn’t have adequate coaching on the offensive side of the ball. Every year I think he had a different offensive coordinator. Now that you have continuity, not only upstairs, but in the locker room or the room with the wide receivers, offensive line, running back position, it’s set up for him to be successful. The steps he’s taken this year in leadership, and even growing as a quarterback, mentally and physically, we saw those things.”

[+] EnlargeJay Cutler
AP Photo/Nam Y. HuhQuarterback Jay Cutler thrived this season under head coach Marc Trestman.
Despite Cutler’s record of futility against the Packers continuing on Sunday, the quarterback performed well in the loss. Cutler passed for 226 yards and two touchdowns to go with a passer rating of 103.8. In doing so, Cutler completed three passes for 30-plus yards, including a 67-yard connection to Alshon Jeffery, a 37-yarder to Marshall, and a 33-yarder to Matt Forte.

In eight previous games against the Packers, Cutler completed 142 of 257 passes for 1,702 yards, nine touchdowns, 16 interceptions and a passer rating of 61.5. Against the rest of the NFC North over that same span, he had thrown for 33 TDs and 16 INTs.

So despite a season hindered by Cutler missing time due to injuries, there’s no doubt that the quarterback showed growth under first-year Bears coach Marc Trestman and offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer. In four seasons with the Bears prior to this season, Cutler had generated a passer rating of 81.9. In 2013, Cutler produced a career-high passer rating of 89.2, the quarterback’s best since his rookie season (2006).

“The man’s 30. Jay’s like 30 years old, ain’t he?” tight end Martellus Bennett asked. “How much development do y’all expect him to do? I haven’t really talked to him too much today. But he’s been an awesome teammate since day one for me. So I don’t know the Jay you guys [keep] talking about and all the [expletive] you guys write all the time, talking about Jay [has] changed. I only met one Jay Cutler, and he’s been awesome from day one.”

But center Roberto Garza senses a change in Cutler.

“It’s unbelievable,” Garza said. “To put up the numbers we did with that offense we had, and the playmakers we had week in and week out, it was a great thing to be a part of. To see Jay go out there and play like we know he can was good to see. It’s definitely something they are going to build on for the future.”

But will Cutler be back in 2014?

“There’s a lot of uncertainties,” Garza said. “But he’s a great quarterback. He deserves to be here and I’m sure that will all work out.”

Marshall admitted his input ultimately won’t sway general manager Phil Emery's decision. But Emery has mentioned on multiple occasions that he considers Cutler a franchise-level quarterback, and it’s unlikely the season-ending loss to the Packers changed that.

“Phil is smart. He’ll get it done. He’ll do what’s best for the team, and I think Jay is what’s best for the team,” Marshall said. “When was the last time you had a Jay Cutler? When was the last time you had Jay Cutler with Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, Martellus Bennett, Matt Forte, [Matt] Slauson, [Jermon] Bushrod, [Kyle] Long, Garza, Trestman, Kromer, [receivers coach] Mike Groh, Phil Emery? The pieces are there.”
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The situation looks dire, but Chicago Bears cornerback Tim Jennings says “he’s seen it done before” and “if we get that one spark,” perhaps the club’s dying postseason hopes can spring back to life.

That’s the mentality the Bears take into Monday night’s game against the Dallas Cowboys.

“This month of December, that’s when it really starts counting. That’s when teams catch fire,” Jennings said. “We’ve got to continue with an upbeat attitude and realize we just need that one big spark. I think it’s going to start Monday with a prime-time game.”

That could wind up being the case, but the club’s recent history doesn’t inspire much optimism about the last four games of the season. The Bears clearly own the home-field advantage for Monday’s game, but the club hasn’t won a home contest in the month of December since the day after Christmas in 2010, when it defeated the New York Jets.

Let’s not forget the Bears blew a 7-3 start in 2011 and lost five of six down the stretch when quarterback Jay Cutler suffered a broken thumb that knocked him out for the last month and a half of the season. Then in 2012 the Bears cruised to a 7-1 start before losing five of the final eight.

This time around, perhaps it’s better to be at the bottom looking up than in the advantageous spots the Bears found themselves in the two prior seasons.

“We set our goal that we've got one game to play, and that's on Monday night,” coach Marc Trestman said. “It's a prime-time game. We've done very well in prime time this year. We did it against Pittsburgh. We did it against Green Bay, and we did it against the Giants.”

The truth is the Bears "did it" against three teams with a combined record of 15-20-1.

“I really can’t speak for anyone else’s emotions, and I try not to,” tight end Martellus Bennett said. “But for me, I’m super-excited about this week’s challenge, and you never know what’s going to happen. It takes a lot for us to be able to get to where we need to be. But the only thing we can do is take care of what we have to take care of, and that’s win the games that we have to win one game at a time, and see what happens then. Sometimes you have to travel the road and see where you end up.”

Josh McCown keeps Bears winning

November, 17, 2013
11/17/13
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CHICAGO -- As strong winds whipped debris around Soldier Field and rain plummeted in sheets, Josh McCown scanned the stadium, and allowed himself a brief moment to feel envy.

"You look across the field at [Baltimore Ravens quarterback] Joe Flacco, and look on the sideline and Jay [Cutler] is over there, and I'm like, 'Can I borrow somebody's arm?'"

[+] EnlargeJosh McCown
Dennis Wierzbicki/USA TODAY SportsJosh McCown won't entertain the notion of becoming the Bears' full-time starter beyond Jay Cutler's return to health.
No need to. As it turns out, McCown's arm worked just fine Sunday in leading the Chicago Bears to a 23-20 overtime victory over the Ravens to stay right in the thick of the fight for the NFC North crown. In just his second start of the season, McCown was 19-of-31 for 216 yards and a touchdown to finish with a passer rating of 92.9.

During the decisive drive in overtime, McCown completed two of three passes for 57 yards to engineer a 60-yard drive spanning seven plays capped by Robbie Gould's game-winning 38-yard field goal. The Bears gained the largest chunk on that drive with 43-yard completion to Martellus Bennett to give Chicago a first down at the Baltimore 22.

"Obviously [Bennett] won the game for us with that," receiver Brandon Marshall said. "It doesn't come down to one play, but that was huge for us. [McCown] has been awesome for us. You can't ask for a better guy to lead the huddle."

Just before the offense took the field in overtime, McCown gathered the team in the huddle and gave them an impassioned speech, telling the players about the situation being one of those "rare opportunities to do some special things." Some of McCown's teammates joked about the quarterback being "geeked up" in the huddle for the final drive.

"[He was like,] 'You're gonna be able to tell your grand kids about this one,'" Bennett said, laughing. 'Finish strong and you're gonna make a play. It's gonna be a story.' I don't know if I want to talk to my grandkids about football."

McCown admits he doesn't "know if I'm talking to them as much as I'm talking to myself" when making such a speech in a key moment. Doing that, McCown said, "puts me at ease" because it reminds the quarterback, 'Hey, Josh, you don't have to press. That's Brandon Marshall right there. That's Roberto Garza. That's Jermon Bushrod. That's Martellus Bennett.' It's just a reminder to myself to try to keep everything calm and allow those guys to work."

That's precisely what McCown did after a rocky start. The Bears moved the ball just 15 yards in their first drive with McCown completing one of two passes, in addition to taking a sack. McCown completed one of two in Chicago's second drive for only 1 yard. Then, at the 4:51 mark, game officials delayed the game due to inclement weather.

The delay lasted 1 hour, 53 minutes. Although it helped the Bears regroup, McCown missed on both of his attempts on Chicago's next drive once play resumed.

McCown completed 10 of 20 passes for 84 yards in the first half with a passer rating of 61.2. Then, in the third quarter, the Bears didn't throw the ball at all because of the windy conditions.

"[Bears coach Marc Trestman] and I got together and talked about it, and then just said, 'Let's be smart with the way we approach this quarter, and if we can find a way to pound the rock a little bit, get through this quarter and let things flip, maybe we can then take our shots,'" McCown said.

Once the Bears switched sides in the fourth quarter where McCown could throw with the wind, the quarterback completed five of six passes for 68 yards and a 14-yard touchdown to Matt Forte on a screen pass. On the play, Baltimore gave the Bears a look they had hoped to see during the week of preparation for Sunday's game. So McCown checked to the screen pass, and Forte did his part by making linebacker Daryl Smith and cornerback Corey Graham miss. He dragged a helmetless James Ihedigbo on the way to the end zone.

"I'm just really proud of the way our football team rallied around Josh today," Trestman said. "The way Josh handled the huddle, took care of the football and did his job, that was important."

Filling in for starter Jay Cutler, McCown has now thrown for 754 yards, completing 60 percent of his passes for five touchdowns, no interceptions and a passer rating of 100.0. For McCown, that's how a backup quarterback should perform when the starter is out of commission.

So while it may be tempting to ponder how the Bears might fare with McCown as the full-time starter, that's not something he's even remotely considering.

Does McCown now feel like the starter?

"No. I've said this over and over again. I'm the backup quarterback on this team. The way that I serve my team is to play when the starter is not healthy," McCown said. "Jay's our starting quarterback. There's no doubt about that. Hopefully whenever Jay's healthy, we're still in the position to get everything we want to accomplish done when he takes back over. That's my mindset."

Rapid Reaction: Chicago Bears

November, 17, 2013
11/17/13
6:18
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CHICAGO -- A few thoughts on the Chicago Bears' 23-20 overtime win over the Baltimore Ravens at Soldier Field:

What it means: Only the tiebreaker from Detroit sweeping Chicago keeps the Bears from leading the division. So Chicago's win over the Ravens coupled with Detroit's loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers puts the Bears back in serious contention for a legitimate shot at winning the NFC North.

Second-guessing Marc Trestman: With possession at the Baltimore 2-yard line thanks to a defensive holding penalty on Jimmy Smith in the second quarter, Chicago called three consecutive passes that fell incomplete, leading to the Bears settling for a 20-yard field goal that made the score 10-3 in favor of the visitors. The calls seemed a little questionable given where the Bears were on the field. After throwing incomplete to Brandon Marshall and Tony Fiammetta on first and second down, Josh McCown tossed another incompletion to Marshall. On the play, it appeared McCown could have taken advantage of a mismatch on the outside with tight end Martellus Bennett lined up against a Baltimore cornerback.

In the fourth quarter, the Bears elected to punt instead of trying to convert a fourth-and-1 at the Baltimore 44 that would've allowed them to run more time off the clock to preserve a win in regulation. With a little more than a minute to play and the Ravens in the red zone, Trestman also elected not to burn any of his timeouts. Had he called a couple, the Bears may have had time to mount a potentially game-winning drive after Justin Tucker's tying 21-yard field goal.

Bass bailout: Despite the squandered opportunity from the 2 in the second quarter, Bears reserve defensive end David Bass bailed out the offense on the first play of Baltimore's ensuing possession just 12 seconds later. Midway through his rush, Bass tipped a Joe Flacco pass intended for Vonta Leach back into his own hands and romped 24 yards for the touchdown to tie the score at 10.

Coming into the game, the Bears held a 24-2 record since 2005 when they've scored a defensive touchdown, including 10 consecutive wins under those circumstances. Now they're 25-2 with 11 in a row.

Defensive letdown: Even after Bass' potentially game-defining play, the defense slumped on Baltimore's next possession, allowing Flacco to go 5-for-5 for 47 yards on a drive capped by a touchdown pass to Torrey Smith. Defensive end Julius Peppers added to the letdown with a 15-yard penalty for hitting Flacco as the quarterback attempted to slide on a play during the drive. Peppers appeared to slip on the play, which led to the contact.

Season high in a half: The Bears committed seven penalties for 61 yards in the first half alone, which was enough to set a season high for penalties and penalty yardage. The most the Bears had been penalized before Sunday was six times for 43 yards in an Oct. 6 loss to New Orleans.

The Bears only topped that by finishing with 13 penalties for 111 yards. Normally, that gets you beat.

What's next: The Bears review film of Sunday's game on Monday before taking the day off Tuesday and beginning preparations Wednesday for the first of back-to-back road games starting with the St. Louis Rams.
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears tight end Martellus Bennett reiterated the team’s confidence in Josh McCown's ability to successfully fill in for Jay Cutler on Monday night against the Green Bay Packers, and compared the quarterbacks to cereal.

In relaying that both Cutler and McCown are capable of moving the offense efficiently, Bennett said, “It’s just like eating Cheerios and having Corn Flakes. They’re pretty much the same.”

“They both get the job done,” he added. “You’ve got to add sugar to both though.”

[+] EnlargeChicago's Josh McCown
AP Photo/Nick WassIt doesn't matter if you start Josh McCown, above, or Jay Cutler, "you've got to add sugar to both," according to Martellus Bennett.
Bennett explained the sugar “and the flavor of the offense” is the supporting cast of weapons, which include the tight end, receivers Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery and running back Matt Forte. Bears coach Marc Trestman made it clear Monday the team doesn’t plan to scale back the playbook or become more reliant on specific players to compensate for the loss of Cutler because of his faith in the McCown’s experience as a starter, not to mention his performance in a little more than a half of action on Oct. 20 at Washington.

Besides, Trestman wouldn’t any more of McCown than he does of Cutler.

“We don’t expect anybody to put the weight of our football team on their shoulders,” Trestman said. “We’ve got plenty of guys to do that. We don’t ask Jay to do it. We’re not going to ask Josh to carry the weight of the offense on his shoulders. We’ve got good players at skill-level positions and Jay said it: we’ve got a line that is evolving and getting better, and we feel confident we should be able to go out and move the football. We think we can do that with Josh. We think we’ve got the players to do it.”

Obviously, Forte would be a sensible choice to take on a more hefty workload with Cutler out of commission for Monday night’s game, but he echoed Trestman’s sentiments that the coaching staff isn’t asking any of the players to do more than usual.

“No extra load; none at all,” Forte said. “Everybody on offense has a load on their shoulders to continue to try to get better because we haven’t played to our ability, and we’ve lost a couple games. There’s no extra load put on us. We do have to step up.”

McCown included, and the Bears don’t plan on scaling back the playbook for the backup quarterback, who has proven more than capable of handling the full breadth of Trestman’s system. With virtually no prep time going into the game at Washington, McCown entered the game during Chicago’s third possession of the first half, and finished with a passer rating of 119.6, in addition to completing 14 of 20 passes for 204 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions.

“When we talk about putting our offense together, putting the game plan together, we’re not saying we have to minimize this or that because Josh doesn’t have that skill set, or we can do more because Josh has that skill set,” Trestman said. “We think we have a guy that can function as he did a week ago in the framework of the offense that we have.”

As for Bennett, the hope for the Cheerios or Cornflakes -- the tight end didn’t identify which quarterback was which brand of cereal -- is "they don’t get soggy.” Similar to the way Bennett conducts business with Cutler, he’s already campaigning to become what he called McCown’s “BFF” (best friend forever) in a bid for more passes thrown his way.

“I was joking with the guys because I was like, ‘Hey Josh, want to go to dinner this week?’ I was like, ‘Cutty’s not my BFF for a couple of weeks. So I’m going to make friends and Josh is my new BFF,’” Bennett said, laughing. “I’ll invite him to the house, see if he wants to play some video games, hang out, things like that. I’ve got a new BFF for a couple weeks.”
An offensive specialist, Chicago Bears coach Marc Trestman admitted that mistakes and a slow start on his side of the ball affected the defense’s ability to effectively stop the New Orleans Saints on Sunday during a 26-18 loss at Soldier Field.

Chicago’s first five drives resulted in four punts and a fumble that New Orleans turned into a field goal. That ineptitude on offense, led to New Orleans possessing the ball for nearly a quarter (12 minutes) longer than the Bears.

“The big thing on the defense was the time they were on the field,” Trestman said. “As I told the team afterwards, the residual effect of being on the field that long is we didn’t have enough to stop them long enough to have the ball 11 minutes in the third quarter and that really held us back. Offense only had the ball three legitimate drives in the second half, and I attribute that to the time they were on the field in the first half and our inability to move the football early in the game. So that’s where the connectivity comes between offense and defense particularly.”

Trestman described the “offense’s inability to move the ball” as “unacceptable.”

Quarterback Jay Cutler agreed.

“It’s hard to beat them whenever you’re minus-one on the turnover ratio,” Cutler said Monday during “The Jay Cutler Show” on ESPN 1000. “We gave them one. We had three sacks, got kicked off the field on those three. So it’s tough to battle back against a team like that whenever they’re playing as good of football as they’re playing.”

New Orleans ran twice as many plays as the Bears in the third quarter (20 to 10). Chicago was able to achieve a more equitable distribution of offensive snaps in the third quarter (17 to 16), and outscored the Saints 8-3.

“It all came down to how we started this game,” Trestman said. “You can’t start that way and give (Saints quarterback) Drew Brees 36 minutes with the ball and expect to win.”

Locker Room Buzz: Chicago Bears

October, 6, 2013
10/06/13
5:23
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CHICAGO -- Observed in the locker room after the Chicago Bears' 26-18 loss to the New Orleans Saints:

Bushrod
Lamenting the loss: Bears left tackle Jermon Bushrod sat alone at his locker after all the other players had left. As he pulled on one of his black and pink LeBron James sneakers, the question was posed as to whether losing to his former team hurt more than a defeat to another team. “Would’ve liked to get the W; would have been nice,” Bushrod said. “But at this point, I just want to win, period.”

Blocking schemes tossed: Strewn across a bench in front of a locker was a bundle of papers detailing blocking schemes drawn up for the game plan against the Saints. It appeared as if a player had been studying them prior to the team coming out for the game. But early on, those schemes didn’t seem to work. Jay Cutler suffered three sacks in the first half, including one on a corner blitz by Malcolm Jenkins that caused the quarterback to fumble, with Cameron Jordan scooping up the loose ball. New Orleans turned that turnover into a Garrett Hartley field goal.

Bennett keeps sense of humor: Wearing an ice bag on his left knee, tight end Martellus Bennett stopped in front of the doors leading out of the locker room and stared at a table that usually contains postgame snacks for the players. “Where’s a Rice Krispies treat when you need one?" he asked.
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- While complimentary of his accomplishments, Chicago Bears tight end Martellus Bennett refused to indulge in comparisons with New Orleans tight end Jimmy Graham.

Asked if Graham was a pretty good player, Bennett deadpanned: “I don’t give a [expletive].”

Graham
Bennett
Graham was named the NFC’s Offensive Player of the Month on Thursday, marking the first time a tight end had received such an honor in either conference since 1986 when the NFL started the award. Graham hauled in 27 passes for 458 yards and six touchdowns in his team’s first four games, and according to ESPN Stats & Information is one TD away from tying the league record for touchdown catches by a tight end over a team’s first five games.

Antonio Gates (2010) and Mike Ditka (1963) currently share that record.

“A lot of guys play my position. I think (Graham) does a phenomenal job for the Saints, but I’m not in competition with him,” Bennett said. “We have different roles on our team. He’s the No. 1 target over there and I have different job from him. We’re different athletes. I think a lot of times people try to compare us but we do a lot of things differently. He does a good job going up for the jump ball, and making plays for them. He’s the No. 1 choice over there. I’m a team guy. Whatever I’ve got to do, if I have to block a little bit more, whatever it is, I’ll do that.”

Bennett appears to assume more responsibilities as a blocker in Chicago’s system than Graham in the scheme of the Saints, but the Bears have definitely incorporated him heavily in the passing game. Bennett is currently tied for fourth in the NFL among tight ends for touchdown receptions (3), tied for sixth in receptions (20) and eighth among players at his position with 225 receiving yards.

Bennett led the Bears with eight receptions last week in the loss to the Lions, and gained 90 yards.

“Everybody impacts differently. I don’t compare myself to (Graham). I don’t care what he does for his team. My role on my team, I make a different impact on this team. I have a different job,” Bennett said. “I don’t care if I catch 10 balls or two balls. As long as I make an impact, in the run game or whether it’s helping out in pass protection, whatever it may be. Just like everything else in life. Everybody makes an impact doing different things. Some of us make charitable donations, other people donate their time. There’s no wrong way to make an impact. There’s no wrong way to eat a Reese’s.”
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The old quarterback showed off his arm after practice Thursday as Chicago Bears head coach Marc Trestman played catch with tight end Martellus Bennett.

Bennett
Actually, it isn’t uncommon for Trestman, the former signal caller at the University of Minnesota and Minnesota State-Moorhead, to pick up the ball on occasion and fling it around, even at the age of 57.

“We play catch every day after practice and talk a little bit; a little father-son time,” Bennett said. “It’s always good to get to talk to him while we play catch. He’ll ask me what I thought about practice or different things like that, and I will tell him different things I do to get better and how I think I can help the team in the game plan this week, the plays I like. It’s just like our quiet time with one another at the end of the day.”

Quiet time and Bennett don’t always go hand in hand, although the 26-year old begged to differ, saying he only turns on the charm once the television cameras start rolling.

Told about Bennett’s father-son comment, Trestman bowed his head and laughed.

“It’s not the first time I’ve played catch with another player on the team,” Trestman said. “And I’ve met Martellus’ father. I appreciate the kind words, but he’s a father who is a heck of a man as the father of two great kids. I’ve spent time with them and he doesn’t need me to spend time as a father (figure), but I appreciate the compliment.”

As it turns out, the games of catch started out as more of necessity than an attempt to have a bonding moment.

“Early on, we didn’t have a Juggs machine and I said ‘I’ll be your Juggs machine after practice,’” Trestman said of the device that uses two spinning wheels to thrust footballs forward. “‘I’ll make sure you get the 23 to 30 balls you need to finish your day.’ I’ve done that with other guys and I enjoy doing that. You get to go outside and play catch with the football. Who doesn’t want to do that?”

So how is Trestman’s arm after all these years?

“It’s pretty good,” Bennett said.

QB Watch: Bears' Jay Cutler

September, 18, 2013
9/18/13
1:30
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A weekly analysis of the Bears’ quarterback play:

Rewind: Jay Cutler started much faster this week, completing as many passes (19) in the first half as he had thrown through the first two quarters of the opener against Cincinnati (19), while generating a passer rating of 106. Cutler fumbled on a sack from Jared Allen, and the loose ball was returned for a touchdown. Cutler also forced a pass on the goal line that was tipped by Everson Griffen and intercepted. Still, Cutler shook off the mistakes to rally the Bears to their second come-from-behind victory, firing the game-winning TD to Martellus Bennett with 10 seconds remaining. Cutler finished with two touchdown passes and a rating of 97.2.

Cutler
Fast-forward: Pittsburgh’s 3-4 front presents a challenge the offensive line hasn’t yet seen. So Cutler needs to be patient and maintain confidence in the unit if it struggles early. The Steelers failed to get to Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton on Monday night, and could possibly experience similar struggles against Chicago’s revamped offensive line. If that happens, expect a confident Cutler to light up the Steelers. Pittsburgh struggled against Cincinnati’s tight ends, so Cutler should be looking Bennett’s way often on Sunday.

Reduce the turnovers: Cutler was responsible for three turnovers: two interceptions and a fumble returned for a touchdown. He needs to practice better judgment and ball security. Cutler needlessly forced a pass (although I have no problem with him taking that chance) on the goal line, and another of his picks came as the result of a miscommunication with Brandon Marshall.

Prediction: Cutler’s passer rating should be in the high 90s to low 100s, and he’ll reduce the turnovers, too. He’ll get Marshall another 100-yard receiving day, but expect the main targets to be Bennett and Matt Forte.

Bennett has a bruised shoulder

September, 16, 2013
9/16/13
5:03
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LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears tight end Martellus Bennett revealed Sunday he’s playing with a shoulder injury, but coach Marc Trestman said Monday that he’s “scheduled to play this week.”

“He was negative in terms of his… he had a bruise, but nothing significant,” Trestman said. “He had a full range of motion today.”

Bennett caught nine passes for 76 yards and a career-high two touchdowns, including the game-winning score from 16 yards out with just 10 seconds left in the game. Bennett caught a 23-yard pass three plays before the game winner, and shook Vikings linebacker Erin Henderson to gain extra yardage.

Bennett sustained the injury in the second quarter, and said, “probably so” when asked whether he expected the shoulder to be an issue as the season progresses.

“It was an issue today,” Bennett said. "But I was still able to play. There’s nothing I can do about it. If it hurts, it hurts. If it doesn’t, that’s a great thing.”

Through two games, Bennett ranks as the club’s third-leading receiver behind Brandon Marshall and Matt Forte, with 10 catches for 125 yards and three touchdowns. By comparison, 2012 starting tight end Kellen Davis finished all of last season with 19 catches for 229 yards and two TDs.

Bennett’s 76 yards ranked as the third-best receiving day of his career, and his seven catches tied a career-high set on Sept. 19, interestingly, against the Bears. Having caught touchdown passes through the first two games, Bennett is the first Bears tight end to haul in TD receptions in each of the first two games since Earl Thomas in 1972.

“We’re fortunate to come out of this thing in two games,” Trestman said. “We’re relatively healthy, which is a good thing going on the road next week.”

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