In Monday's edition of Grizzly Details, we take a deeper look at the Chicago Bears' 31-30 victory over the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday afternoon at Soldier Field.
Cutler's Day a Microcosm of His Career
In the victory over the Vikings, Jay Cutler went 28-for-39 for 290 yards, and had three touchdowns and two interceptions on the afternoon.
As is often the case, however, his statistics don't tell the whole story. If Cutler hadn't led the Bears on the late drive that ultimately won the Bears the game, Bears fans' perspectives on his play would have fallen mostly on the negative side of the ledger.
He made some poor decisions during the course of the game, with none looming larger than the throw that he made at the goal line that resulted in an interception and a critical blown opportunity. Cutler had a good amount of time in the pocket to survey the field on the first-and-goal play, and when he looked to Martellus Bennett, his checkdown receiver, over the middle of the field, he ended up firing a low bullet that was deflected at the line and picked off.
Head coach Marc Trestman does deserve some criticism for the play call (after all, the Bears had been driving down the field with their running game leading the way), but Cutler has to know better than to force the ball into traffic in that situation, and the interception could have proven costly if the Bears had ended up dropping the game.
Cutler also did a poor job of ball protection about halfway through the second quarter, when he had the ball stripped from his arms by veteran defensive end Jared Allen, and Brian Robison ran it back 61 yards for a touchdown to tie the game at 14-14. In that situation, Cutler needs to feel the pressure coming, and either get rid of the ball (which he could have done with impunity because he was outside of the tackle box) or accept the sack. Either outcome is preferable to losing the ball
the way he did, and Cutler has to keep that in mind next time.
Despite those two errors, Cutler did have several good moments in the game. His execution on first touchdown pass to Bennett in the first quarter was spot on, as he placed the ball in the perfect spot for Bennett to catch in stride at the goal line. His second TD pass to his tight end was also excellent, as he threw the ball at Bennett's back shoulder, which was a location that only he could catch it.
It was the kind of throw that few NFL quarterbacks are capable of making, and it's the type of play that makes all of the other mental gaffes that Cutler makes fade into the background when looking back at Bears victories.
Defensive Pressure Still Lacking Up Front
One of the biggest complaints that observers of the Bears' victory over the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 1 had about the team's performance was that the defensive line didn't generate any pressure on QB Andy Dalton. Despite that failure still being fresh in their minds, the Bears' line once again
was unable to get any type of rush going against Christian Ponder in Week 2, and despite the narrow margin of victory for Chicago, this ongoing area of concern keeps growing by the week.
In fairness to the Bears, the line did a solid job in terms of containing the running game of the Vikings. Adrian Peterson thrives on missed gap assignments, and it seemed as though Stephen Paea and company did a good job in sealing off those gaps for the most part.
What also helped in that area, and ultimately helped save the team from having no pass rush at all, were the Bears' linebackers. Lance Briggs was all over the field for the Bears, especially in the first half, and did a great job of not only holding Peterson in check, but also in getting pressure on Ponder when others failed to do so.
In addition to Briggs' effort, James Anderson once again came up big time in pass defense, deflecting a pass and keeping Kyle Rudolph on a short leash over the middle of the field for the most part.
While most of the attention in terms of the Bears' effort will be focused on Julius Peppers and Henry Melton once again having a rough go of it this week, the play of the linebackers should be the bigger story.
Special Teams Play A Nice Boost to Bears' Chances
Going into the season, there were questions surrounding the Bears' special teams unit, and whether it would suffer in the absence of Dave Toub, who left the team to join his former boss Andy Reid in Kansas City.
Those questions have largely been answered in the Bears' first two games of the season, with the punting unit doing a very solid job in pinning opponents deep in their own territory and the boot of Robbie Gould being an accurate one in the early going.
Today saw it's unique challenges, with the Bears coughing up a long kickoff return for a touchdown on the game's opening play, but it was the play that Eric Weems made that generated the most buzz.
On a punt in the second quarter of the game, the Bears were going to let the ball land near the goal line in an attempt to get a touchback. The ball checked up nicely for the Vikings, but their first man down the field was only able to keep the ball in play instead of gaining possession of it and downing it short of the goal line.
The ball then skipped towards the 1-yard line, and Weems came in and shocked Bears fans when he hit the ball into the end zone. Reaction on the Twitterverse was one of instant shock, as fans are quick to know that if a player on the receiving team touches the ball, then it becomes live.
The only problem with that assumption is that the ball is no longer an issue once a kicking team player touches it. Once that happened, the Bears had free reign to basically do whatever they wanted with it, and Weems' instinct was to knock the ball a couple of yards backward into the end zone so that the Bears would end up starting at the 20-yard line, not the three.
It was a tremendous play that appeared to be a blindly lucky one at the moment it occurred, and Weems is owed an apology by many fans who jumped the gun and called for his head after the "misstep."