Bears needing next step from Cutler

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Bears needing next step from Cutler

A mantra of the Bears is their focus on cleaning some things up, whether assignments, procedures, techniques or whatever.

With the offense, some things have been reasonably clean or at least getting cleaner. The line has settled since Chilo Rachal took over at left guard. The five sacks and six penalties vs. Detroit notwithstanding, the group has allowed no more than two sacks in four of six games.

Brandon Marshall is seventh in the NFL in receptions (41) and receiving yardage (577).

Setting aside Jay Cutler's rushing yardage because his scrambles are basically broken plays, running backs combined are averaging 135 rushing yards the past three games and Matt Forte is averaging 100-plus on the ground the past two games.

The area that has not taken a true performance step forward so far is the most important one: quarterback.

Cutler is not playing to the level he was last season when he injured his thumb in game 10. Through the first six games last season he had eight TD passes vs. four interceptions. This year, hes again got eight but has thrown seven interceptions.

His passer rating is 78.3. Last year, without Marshall and with a struggling JMarcus Webb guarding his left edge, it was 85.7.

Cutler has improved to become the NFLs top-ranked passer in the fourth quarter. ESPN places him among the top quarterbacks in fourth-quarter situations of a touchdown difference or less.

But the Bears have never trailed in a fourth quarter other than at Green Bay the one time this season they needed him to direct a come-from-behind performance. With the Bears trailing 13-3 in that fourth quarter, he threw two interceptions and was sacked four times, not all the fault of his line.

After his display of resiliency following the Ndamukong Suh hit last Monday, Cutler has earned the respect of his coordinator.

For him to come back and suck it up, you could tell he was a little sore, but Im very, very proud of him, Mike Tice said. I thought he played well.

Carolina on his mind

Still, Cutler may be learning to win without being great and this may be the ultimate tipping point in his career. He didnt win anything in his first four years relying on his magic arm.

Of his seven interceptions, four were at Green Bay, legitimately classing that game as perhaps an aberration. Defenses like Houstons and San Franciscos will be better indicators.

The Bears are 23-9 since the start of 2010 with him as their starter. They crushed the Carolina Panthers in 2010 with him missing a game with a concussion and won 34-29 last year with him. He has shown signs of being more of a student of the game, something that channels talent rather than simply relying on it alone.

I have a lot of respect for Panthers head coach Ron Rivera, Cutler said. I played him when he was here and down in San Diego. Theyre going to be well-prepared.

President Obama on Joe Maddon: 'Not a lot of coaches or managers who are as cool as this guy'

President Obama on Joe Maddon: 'Not a lot of coaches or managers who are as cool as this guy'

As one of the cooler presidents ever, President Obama knows cool when he sees it.

The president talked about numerous members of the Cubs during the team's visit to the White House on Monday, but he only offered the "cool" label to manager Joe Maddon, who most folks can agree is probably the coolest person to ever manage the Cubs.

"Let's face it, there are not a lot of coaches or managers who are as cool as this guy. Look how he looks right now," Obama said, pointing out Maddon's non-traditional suit. "That's cool."

The president also praised Maddon's unique style, with his themed road trips and visits from zoo animals, as well as his on-field prowess, throwing in a joke about something the skipper couldn't control during the World Series.

"He's got a lot tricks to motivate. But he's also a master of tactics and knows how to make the right move at the right time: when to pinch hit, when to pinch run, when to make it rain in Game 7 of the World Series. It was masterful."

Maybe President Obama really does admire Maddon's style. Or maybe he's just extending his bromance with Vice President Biden to other famous Joes.

Check out the video above for more from the president.

At Cubs' White House visit, President Obama touts Michelle Obama's Cubs fandom, shouts out Jose Cardenal

At Cubs' White House visit, President Obama touts Michelle Obama's Cubs fandom, shouts out Jose Cardenal

Unlike her husband, Michelle Obama hasn't made a big deal out of her baseball fandom over the past eight years.

But as President Obama mentioned while he honored the World Series champion Cubs on Monday at the White House, it turns out the First Lady is a pretty big Cubs fan and watching the Cubs win the World Series meant an awful lot to her.

"It is no secret that there's a certain South Side team that has my loyalty," the president said. "So I can't claim that I have the same visceral joy of some in this White House. But FLOTUS is a lifelong Cubs fan, and I will tell you ... in the eight years that I've been here, we've hosted at least 50 teams. Football, baseball, basketball, soccer, you name it. Michelle has never come to a single event celebrating a champion until today. She came and shook hands and met with every one of these members of the Cubs organization and told a story about what it meant for her to be able to see them win. She remembers coming home from school, and her dad would be watching a Cubs game, and the bond and the family, the meaning that the Cubs had for her in terms of connecting with her father and why it meant so much to her. And I almost choked up listening to it. And it spoke, I think, to how people feel about this organization and that it's been passed on generation after generation. It's more than just sports."

And one ex-Cub even got a special invite to the White House so the First Lady could meet her all-time favorite player. That was former pitcher Jose Cardenal, once famous for his large afro. According to President Obama, his wife used to try and wear her hat over her afro just like Cardenal did.

So while President Obama was presented with a lifetime pass to Wrigley Field, perhaps it's Michelle who will get more use out of it.

Check out more from the president in the video above.