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Across The Middle — Week 11

| November 16th, 2016

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The excuses are gone, but the results remain mostly the same.

As his career drags on the question of if Jay Cutler is the answer to the Bears century-long QB crisis appears to be getting answered and Sunday gave Ryan Pace enough ammunition to move on if he wants to.

This isn’t about one game, but holy shit was that a bad game. It wasn’t just the four lazy, careless turnovers the dude flat out could not make a throw. I charted him with 11 inaccurate passes — nearly 37 percent — including two horrendous interceptions.

I’ve always been willing to live with Cutler’s turnovers because they were offset by big plays. That hasn’t been the case this year. Cutler has twice as many turnovers as he does touchdowns. What’s worse is that he’s being beaten statistically by Brian Hoyer nearly across the board.

When Hoyer was throwing for 300 yards and two touchdowns every week, the argument was that he was going against bad defenses and was lucky to have a healthy and in sync offense around him. Last Sunday was a prime opportunity for Cutler to show he is the guy. He had all the parts he could want, going against a defense that couldn’t stop anybody. But he couldn’t get the job done.

It isn’t just that Hoyer threw for more yards and didn’t throw interceptions — or, really, even come close to throwing an interception — he threw touchdowns at a better rate than Cutler and his yards per attempt is nearly the same. As well as Hoyer played at times, this isn’t an argument for Hoyer, it’s a condemnation of Cutler.

But, this isn’t about one season.

We were all happy with Cutler and the Bears after the Halloween win over the Vikings. Just as we were with them after the Thanksgiving win over the Packers last year. We were kicked in the mouth last week, just as we were the week after Thanksgiving last year. The same thing happened in 2014 when they seemed to get on track with a win over Atlanta before a bad loss to Miami and consecutive blowouts to New England and Green Bay. Rewind another season, they beat the Browns in Week 15 and had a chance to clinch in Week 16 before the Philadelphia Debacle. In 2012, they started 7-1 and finished 3-5 to miss the playoffs.

Cutler wasn’t the sole reason they suffered those losses, but he didn’t do anything to prevent them either.

We saw Cutler at his best two weeks ago as he beat one of the best defenses in the league. Now, we’ve seen him at his worst. The problem is: We never know which we’re getting. The end result is still a good, productive quarterback. I don’t know if the Bears will have a high enough pick to grab one of the top quarterbacks, but, even if they don’t this might be the year to aggressively seek Cutler’s replacement.

Al$hon

Alshon Jeffery’s four-game suspension shouldn’t change how the Bears value him because it sure as hell won’t change how the open market values him.

The Bears are surely happy that Jeffery has played through bumps and bruises this year and the suspension will be viewed as a mistake, one he isn’t likely going to make again and one that isn’t really all that costly to the team given their win-loss record.

Where figuring out his value gets a bit fuzzy is with his production. Even without the suspension he was only on pace for about 70 catches, 1,100 yards and two touchdowns. His agent will use quarterback play as an excuse and the Bears will point to what DeAndre Hopkins did with Hoyer throwing passes his way.

With Kevin White missing most of this season, the Bears are surely going to do whatever they can to keep Jeffery so whoever the quarterback is next year has at least one sure thing. I hope they give in and overpay with a front-loaded contract just to get it out of the way, but I could see them using the franchise tag again. They’ll surely have the salary cap space to do whatever they like, especially if they get rid of Cutler.

A Familiar Replacement

My biggest issue with the talk of firing John Fox is finding an adequate replacement, but a really good, familiar option just might become available.

As bad as the Bears loss was, the Packers were just as embarrassed, getting blown out by the Titans. The problem there is simple: Mike McCarthy has been there too long and it’s time for both parties to move on. But McCarthy just might be an ideal replacement for Fox.

McCarthy’s biggest strength is his work with quarterbacks. Aaron Rodgers wouldn’t be who he is without McCarthy fixing his mechanics. He revived Brett Favre’s career, got Aaron Brooks to a Pro Bowl and made Jeff Blake relevant. He has won over 60 percent of his games as a head coach and a Super Bowl despite being asked to win with one of the youngest rosters in the league every year.

Maybe John Fox should get a pass for the team’s first eight games, but he can’t for the second half of the season. Sundays performance was as had as any of the Trestman games and should be treated as such. Furthermore, if the Bears are as interested in bringing in a young quarterback as they appear to be, they need a coach who can groom him. McCarthy has proven he can do that.

Furthermore, McCarthy and Pace surely have some familiarity with one another since they were in New Orleans together.

Don’t Let the D Off the Hook

A great defensive performance may not have been enough for the Bears, but what they ended up with last year wasn’t good enough.

They got off to a strong start, but Tampa Bay dominated the game from the middle of the second quarter on. The pass rush was good, but the Buccaneers abused safeties Adrian Amos and Harold Jones-Quartey.

The Bears had plenty of chances to come up with big plays to keep their team in the game and they didn’t make them. If they had played perfectly, it probably wouldn’t have been enough, but the performance they put out still wasn’t good enough.

Charting the Bears

• Jordan Howard is just tough to bring down. I credited him with nine more broken tackles last week and there were several other times when he nearly slipped a tackle before other defenders arrived to help.

• It wasn’t the best performance for the offensive line, but it wasn’t the worst either. I charted them with 10 QB disruptions, but three of the sacks were avoidable. The quarterback was just seeing ghosts.

• This was probably Leonard Floyd’s best game. I credited him with 5.5 QB disruptions, McPhee had four along with two holding penalties drawn and and Willie Young had four. Their pass rush was definitely good enough, but they were lacking in so many other areas.

• It’s hard to know when a safety is to blame for a completion, but I had Amos and HJQ as being responsible for 88 yards, a touchdown and a pass interference penalty that led to another touchdown. It was the worst game of both of their careers.

Bring On The Giants

This is the kind of game the Bears usually win, isn’t it?

The odds are stacked against them with a hot team coming in and the Bears being shorthanded. When Hoyer first started his run with the Bears I wrote that we knew Cutler could make chicken salad out of chicken shit (but whether or not he can still make chicken salad when given all the ingredients to do so remains in question). This is a chicken salad out of chicken shit kind of game.

The Giants struggle to protect their quarterback, who has a tendency to throw the ball up for grabs. I could see the Bears front seven dominating this game and them coming away with a defensive touchdown.

I could see the Bears winning this game for so many reasons. Which is why they won’t, right?

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