It didn’t take long on Saturday night for Bears fans to collectively call, text, tweet or scream about the myriad of possibilities for an offense that looked to be in mid-season form. From the moment Jay Cutler dropped back on the team’s first play from scrimmage and lofted a perfect 41-yard pass into the hands of Brandon Marshall, it was obvious a clinic was being performed at the expense of the hapless Redskins. After sitting out last week’s meaningless glorified practice, Cutler led three scoring drives in his four possessions that included spreading the ball around to his now numerous weapons.
Cutler again connected with Marshall on a 17-yard 3rd down pass, followed by a 16-yard strike to the ever developing Alshon Jeffery. Those plays were punctuated by a Mike Bush TD run (he had two get out of my way beast mode TD’s). It was a statement and a reason for optimism for a fan base that’s been subjected to offensive futility for far too long.
“We have a lot of guys who can play football,” Cutler said. “You bring in the second-team running back and he’s making guys miss in the hole and scoring touchdowns. We have rookie wide receivers out here playing and we have our regular guys, so we have some guys who can play. The offensive [linemen] know it starts with them and if they play well, we’ll take care of the rest.”
As sexy as the Cutler to Marshall connection is, it all starts with the O-line and Cuts know this. Want more good news? The Bears rushed for 52 yards behind the first-team line on 13 carries. The much maligned group (thanks to J Webb Nation and Chris Spencer particularly) definitely got Mike Tice’s not so subtle message this week. It was fun to watch Cutler have a clean pocket to throw in instead of having a bunch of arms and legs surrounding him as if he had two strippers all over him at a bachelor party. The left tackle situation remains a concern, but perhaps Webb is done tweeting everyone that mentions him and is actually focused on his job. We’ll see. He still did get beat on a Matt Forte run early.
After Izzy Idonije (who looks motivated in a contract year and better physically) forced a RGIII fumble (welcome to the league, Robbert), the Bears marched and scored again on another Bush TD run (8 yards).
Cutler’s night was done after going 7 of 13 for 122 yards. We didn’t need to see anymore. And if Lovie wanted to flip the script and not play the starters into the 3rd quarter which is customary for the 3rd practice game, it’d be fine with me. The skill position guys look ready. But if Smith and Tice want to keep the O-line against a fierce Giants front next week, you can’t blame them.
Back to Jeffery for a second… The rookie uses his body like Bane to shield off defenders and must be a bitch to cover. He caught all three passes that went his way and showcased his sick after the catch ability on a 34-yard gain in the 2nd quarter. I know Devin Hester’s improved, but the guess here is that fans won’t have to wait long to see Jeffery starting opposite Marshall. 15, 17 & 80 are going to cause a lot of problems for DB’s all year, especially that banged up group up in Green Bay.
I know he fumbled, but Chris Summers looked the part as well. I’ve seen enough of Dane Sanzenshitty (regardless of his special teams ability), so if the Bears go all in on the big receiver thing, keeping Summers would make perfect sense. The same can be said for Evan Rodriguez (three catches), who gives the Bears the ability to go two tight ends in certain situations. Flexibility on an offense is refreshing, isn’t it?
The D-line dominated an over-matched Redskins line when the starters were in. If RGIII played the entire game, he’d be eating out of syringe today. Idonije had 2 & 1/2 sacks, and a front of Peppers, rookie Shea McClellin (who looked comfortable dropping in coverage on a zone blitz), Matt Toeaina (who will hopefully be replaced by a healthy Stephen Paea if 92 can ever stay on the field) & Idonije will be a force for O-line’s to deal with in obvious passing situations. Sure the Skins made it close in garbage time, but they only managed 101 yards in the first half.
They could also keep Henry Melton in instead of Paea or Toeaina in pass rush situations. Melton continues to push the pocket and put himself in position to make plays in the backfield. He isn’t ’05 Tommy Harris, but he is showing steady improvement and becoming more consistent. If he can ever develop Harris’ feel for snap counts, lineman, QB’s cadences & an overall feel for the 3-technique position, he’ll be a 3-down disruptive force and he’ll ease the burden on the secondary.
There were some injury concerns out of this 33-31 win, most notably to the safety position. Chris Conte (who I like) left in the 2nd quarter with a right shoulder injury, rookie Brandon Hardin was carted off with a neck (Wanny reference) & punter Adam Podlesh showed his athleticism by tweaking a hip or everything else when he came up lame on a big Skins return. And big ups to former Noles recruit Lorenzo Booker on his 105-yard kickoff return to start the 3rd quarter. I swear, Dave Toub could find some drunk schmuck in the 400 level to return kicks and we wouldn’t know the difference.
It was a tantalizing night for fans, but a statement to the Packers, Lions & everyone else in a loaded NFC. You can’t just plan to stop Matt Forte anymore. The Bears have a plethora of skill guys for Cutler to get the ball to, and ones that teams will finally have to spend time during the week worrying about needing to stop in order to beat this squad.