- Michael C. Wright, ESPN Staff Writer
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Run defense: It’s still a significant issue, and it’s unlikely to get resolved anytime soon given the injury-ravaged state of the defensive line. Injuries to linebackers James Anderson and D.J. Williams further deplete the front seven. New York’s Brandon Jacobs became the third running back to gash the Bears for 100 yards or more, and the Giants averaged 4.7 yards per rush, which put them in manageable situations on third downs. That’s part of the reason New York converted 64 percent of third downs.
Jay Cutler's growth: Cutler came 38 yards short of throwing for 300 yards in three consecutive games for the first time in his career, and the first time in franchise history. But the quarterback broke his own career best, with two scoring strikes, to give him a touchdown pass in 12 straight games.
It’s not all about passing for Cutler, though. The quarterback’s decision-making is markedly better than in the past, and he’s scorching opponents with sneaky athleticism when the situation calls for it. Cutler has generated a passer rating of 100 or better in two straight games, and he’s now 27-2 (including the postseason) when his passer rating is 100 or better.
Third-down conversions: On the flip side of Cutler’s improved play is the fact the Bears struggled with consistency on third down against a horrid Giants defense. Make no mistake about it: a 45 percent conversion rate for the game is winning football. But the Bears moved the chains on 2-of-3 third-down attempts in the first half. Then, nursing a 24-14 lead to start the second half, they converted just 3-of-8.
Injuries: Let’s face it, the Bears lack the cap space to try to fix the injury situation by adding or making trades for players. So they’ve got to work with what they’ve got, which won’t be an easy feat and might require some creativity on the part of the coaching staff. In addition to the injuries to Anderson and Williams, the Bears played without cornerback Charles Tillman (groin and knee) and nose tackle Stephen Paea (turf toe). It’s likely all but Williams (who will miss the rest of the season with a torn pectoral muscle) will be available for next Sunday’s game against the Redskins. But all the replacement players such as defensive tackles Landon Cohen and David Bass and linebacker Jonathan Bostic need to step up, as do struggling starters such as Julius Peppers and Shea McClellin.
Bears coach Marc Trestman said he speaks every day with general manager Phil Emery about potential additions, but the truth is there’s not much they can do.
“We talk every day at some point in time about where we are, where we're going, how we're going, in terms of improving our football team,” Trestman said. “So that's always a part of really the daily process. We meet twice a week. I stick my head in the door, he does, once a day just to check in and see what we can do to help each other do their jobs.”