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New Orleans Saints at Chicago Bears Game Preview

| December 11th, 2014

Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip never amounted to much of a show but this is one of my favorite five minutes in TV history.

The Saints are horrible. The Bears are slightly more horrible. So why do I like the Chicago Bears this week?

I always like the Chicago Bears.

WHY ELSE?

  • If the Saints didn’t win a Super Bowl a half decade ago they’d be the Chicago Bears. Their sideline is lousy with coaches shouting at one another, their defense is in the tank and now will have 2013 first-rounder Kenny Vaccaro on the bench, their offense shows up every other month and they are coming off a humiliating thrashing at the hands of the also-terrible Carolina Panthers. That was remarkably their fourth consecutive loss at home – a place where they’ve dominated the sport in the Sean Payton/Drew Brees era. It’s bad in New Orleans but…
  • …if you are miserable in New Orleans, you must not like drinking or eating or music or joy.
  • 40 carries, 271 yards, 6.8 yards a clip, 2 touchdowns. That is what the Panthers did to the Saints with a wasteland of an offensive line and a combination of Jonathan Stewart, Cam Newton, Mike Tolbert & Fozzy Whittaker.
  • Cam Newton is the fifth most sacked quarterback in the NFL. The Saints didn’t get near him.

2014 Draws Comparisons to 2009

The 2009 Chicago Bears were 3-1 heading into their early-season bye week. They came out of the bye and lost 8 of their next 10 games, including defensive embarrassments against Cincinnati, Arizona and Minnesota. The team was dead and buried.

Then on a Week 16 Monday night, against the heavily-favored Vikings, the Bears showed up and played arguably their best game of the year. With yours truly in attendance the Bears beat the Vikings in overtime on a Cutler-audibled go route touchdown pass to Devin Aromashodu.

The play is at the 3:50 mark.

So if there is going to be an anomaly this season, Monday night sets up to be that game.

For Those Wanting Cutler Out the Door…

(The below discussion began as a series of Tweets yesterday.)

Here are some facts.

  • Right now Jay Cutler has 26 touchdown passes. Only one player drafted AFTER Cutler – Andrew Luck – has more.
  • Right now Jay Cutler completes 66.8% of his passes. No players drafted after Cutler have a better completion percentage.
  • Right now Jay Cutler has 3,446 yards passing. Only three players drafted after Cutler have more – Andrew Luck (1st pick overall), Matt Ryan (3rd pick overall) and Matt Stafford (1st pick overall).

Here are some other facts:

  • Cutler is second in the NFL in picks.
  • Cutler has fumbled 6 times, equaled only by Andrew Luck.
  • Cutler has threw crippling interceptions in both the Buffalo and Carolina games, without which an argument can be made the Bears season would look vastly different.
  • While the news rules have allowed for a freedom in the passing game unseen in NFL history the Bears – with their quarterback and weapons – are unable to mount anything resembling a charge once put down in a ball game.

Two words define Cutler: production and disruption. Both side of the Cutler debate have ample ammunition to defend their arguments. But one point that should not be forgotten: Jay Cutler has yet to have a well-built team during his Bears tenure. The front half of his time in Chicago featured no offensive line or weapons. The second half fortified the line, added the weapons and fielded the worst defense in franchise history.

Jay Cutler is 9-6 over the last two seasons when the game is decided by less than 10 points. (I don’t count his 8 throw Redskins performance.) In those games the Bears are allowing 24.33 points per game.

Cutler is 1-7 over those same two season in games decided by more than ten points.  In those games the Bears are allowing 39.13 points per game.

BEARS WITHOUT BRANDON MARSHALL

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Apologies to Rich Campbell for pasting a large portion of his recent Tribune piece (CLICK HERE to read the entire worth-your-time piece) but I thought it all needed to be here in order for my comments to register:

1. The relationship between Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall is strained.

Marshall was crystal clear on Oct. 9 when he said to reporters: “Everything I do is strategic.”

So it was no accident Monday night when he said on his radio show that the businessman in him would have buyer’s remorse about Cutler’s $126.7 million contract.

And when Marshall publicly thanked those that visited him in the hospital, a list that included the Bears’ chairman, general manager, head coach, star running back and tight end — but not Cutler — that was no accident, either.

Marshall’s frustration about his lack of production this season surfaced during that interview on WMVP-AM 1000 Monday night. Does Marshall blame Cutler for that, at least partially? You have to read between the lines. Marshall said his injured right ankle affected three games, and he left the rest open-ended.

Cutler, as we know, has been terribly inconsistent. Inaccuracy has been one of his problems. And for what it’s worth, Cutler did Marshall no favors Thursday with a high throw on fourth-and-7. Marshall had to jump for the catch and, as a result, was exposed to contact as he came down. He absorbed a knee to the back and suffered two fractured ribs and what he said was a collapsed lung.

With Marshall on injured reserve for the final three games of the season, it’s difficult to know how tension between Cutler and him would affect the team and the offense. Then again, depending on how long it has existed, one might argue this season provides sufficient evidence.

Marshall had a shelf life in Denver and Miami, and if his has expired in Chicago, that would be a significant problem. He and Cutler each are guaranteed money in 2015, so their co-existence is critical to the Bears’ chances to improve.

Two things are certain: 1) the situation warrants close monitoring going forward, and 2) this offseason requires more than just physical healing for these two vital components of the team.

It will be very interesting to see how Cutler and the wide receivers perform with Marshall – who outside of his brilliance against San Francisco has been a disappointment – on the shelf. As many have mentioned this is a prime opportunity for Marquess Wilson to emerge but I have been far more impressed with Josh Bellamy’s work in preseason than anything I’ve seen from Wilson during his tenure.

Either way, to this point the Bears have looked poor without Marshall and Jeffery both at full strength.

FINAL SCORE PREDICTION

Bears finally have a decent moment in front of a national audience and take advantage of the only team in the NFL perhaps more dysfunctional than themselves. This win gives the locker room enough energy to casually lose the final two games of the year in convincing fashion.

Chicago Bears 29, New Orleans Saints 28

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