Upon Further Review: Bears Week 2

September, 16, 2013
9/16/13
12:00
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An examination of four hot issues from the Bears’ 31-30 win over the Vikings:

[+] EnlargeJay Cutler
Jerry Lai/USA TODAY SportsKeeping his cool has helped Jay Cutler rally Chicago during critical times this season.
Cutler’s comebacks: In crunch time, Jay Cutler has been more composed than in past performances, which is why he was able to recover from three turnovers and rally the team for the second consecutive week. Cutler believes in the system and the coaches, and that’s paid dividends. It’s also a reason the normally fiery Cutler, according to teammates, has been the calmest player in the huddle during critical situations.

On the sideline, Cutler’s sounding board is quarterbacks coach Matt Cavanaugh.

“Nothing really rattles him,” Cutler said. “He just taps the bench and says come over and sit down. We talk it out. If I’ve got to vent, he lets me get it off my chest and moves straight to the pictures. He’s a calming influence.”

Pass rush still lacking: The Bears forced three turnovers, which is pretty standard for the defense, but the club still hasn’t generated consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks. The Bears go into Week 3 with just two sacks. At this point last season, the team had racked up eight.

“Early on last year, we started off with a bunch more sacks,” defensive end Corey Wootton said. “I don’t think we played up to our caliber with the arsenal we have up front.”

The front four’s highest-paid defenders, Julius Peppers and Henry Melton, have combined for five tackles with zero sacks. With them earning a combined $18.35 million in base salary this season, they’re making a combined $458,750 per tackle so far, by my math.

Dual-threat Forte: Matt Forte touched the ball 30 times and finished with 161 yards from scrimmage, way above his average of 102 yards per game going into the season. Forte has recorded 150 yards or more from scrimmage in 13 career games.

What’s more, Cutler targeted Forte more than go-to receiver Brandon Marshall for the first time since last season’s Week 2 loss at Green Bay. The change stems from the way the club now deploys Forte in the passing game, and provides Cutler another weapon when teams take away options such as Marshall, Alshon Jeffery and Martellus Bennett.

“We’ve got some guys that want the ball,” Cutler said. “Whenever we give them opportunities, they make plays.”

Cracks in special teams: Cordarrelle Patterson’s 105-yard TD return on the opening kickoff marked the first time the Bears gave up a kickoff-return touchdown since Sept. 30, 2007, against Detroit. Although the Bears immediately responded with a 76-yard return by Devin Hester, there appear to be weaknesses in Chicago’s coverage units.

“I saw a big hole. No way I could’ve missed it,” Patterson said.

In the opener, the punt-coverage unit surrendered a 50-yard return by Adam Jones on the team’s first punt of the day, but it was nullified by an illegal block above the waist.

“It’s hard to be minus-2 in turnovers and get a kick return for a touchdown and win the game,” Bears coach Marc Trestman said.

Michael C. Wright

ESPN Chicago Bears reporter

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