15 on 6: Cutler's consistency crucial for Bears

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15 on 6: Cutler's consistency crucial for Bears

Sunday, Dec. 5, 2010
6:23 PM

By Jim Miller
CSNChicago.com

Jay Cutler now has two very solid performances the last couple of weeks, and the Bears need this recent trend to continue as tough opponents await in the near future.

Specifically the New England Patriots next week at Soldier field. Before looking ahead, lets dive into Sunday's game in Detroit, as Jay subtly may have won a minor battle with Mike Martz in having more flexibility at the line of scrimmage.

Check Down Charlie

Nobody should have a problem with Jay checking down the ball to the running backs. It was the difference in the game and led to key first downs that extended drives on third down.

Chester Taylor was targeted five times and Matt Forte three times on the day, but no check down on the day was bigger than Jay finding Brandon Manumaleuna in the flat for the go-ahead score late in the fourth quarter.

These check downs speak volumes about Jay getting through his progression, or foregoing his progression due to the pass rush to find his open outlet. There were four sacks on the day given up by the offensive line, all of which were physical mistakes by the tight ends and offensive lineman, not mental mistakes which were the root of the problem earlier in the season.

When Jay started to sense the offensive line was a little overmatched by the Lions defensive line, checkdowns were the key. He anticipated and felt the pressure, then quickly found his dump off. His growth in this area has been staggering after the bye week, along with tucking and running with the ball.

Keep the pressure on the defense! That is good football and heady quarterback play by Jay.

L O S

Everyone has anguished over the Bears not audibling at the line of scrimmage, which actually contributed to some of the sack issues earlier in the year when Jay could not check out of a bad play versus a certain defense. We witnessed some flexibility against the Lions as Jay utilized the "No Look Pass" against Detroit.

The "No Look Pass" is the quarterback and receiver communicating non-verbally at the line. Run plays were called in the huddle, but Jay communicated to the receivers at the line of scrimmage with either a signal - like grabbing his facemask or just making eye contact - giving them the heads up of the "No Look" situation.

As a QB, you execute it when numbers are against you and the defense stacks the box to stop the run. This took place early and often for the Bears as their commitment to running the football continues to be impressive.

Early in the second quarter, Jay hit Earl Bennett on a "No Look" pass when Earl was in the slot and Detroit tried to fudge their defense by playing the WLB half way in the box, yet walking out somewhat on Earl in the slot. The receiver just takes two steps off the line and the QB hits him on the move quickly with a one-step drop.

Stand up and throw it! Those can be gashing type of plays and they were today for the Bears. Johnny Knox and Jay gashed Detroit in the second half with a 20-yarder in another no-look situation. Jay also utilized it against the blitz, which is encouraging.

There must have been a lot of back and forth between Jay and Mike Martz during the week in order for Mike to relent and trust Jay and the Bears' young receivers.

Another offensive performance that is encouraging and proves these Bears are capable of more, which they are going to need as they start a critical home stretch against quality AFC opponents.

Jim Miller, an 11-year former NFL quarterback, is a Comcast SportsNet Bears analyst who can be seen each week on U.S. Cellular Bears Postgame Live. Miller, who spent five seasons with the Bears, analyzes current Chicago QB Jay Cutler in his "15 on 6" blog on CSNChicago.com and can be followed on Twitter @15miller.

Bears-49ers: And the winner is?

Bears-49ers: And the winner is?

Both teams are on track to be drafting in the top five, and the inevitable “the loser is the winner” talk has made its rounds, meaning that a defeat moves the loser higher in the draft order. The reality is that neither team will tank the game for draft position.

But the chances of two woeful teams playing well are slim. The 49ers won in Week 1 and then have lost 10 straight. The Bears are trying to avoid losing four straight for the first time under John Fox.

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Quarterback Colin Kaepernick burst upon the NFL scene in 2012 with a blowout of the Bears in his first start. He has regained his starting job in San Francisco and is still one of the prototypical mobile quarterbacks.

But the 49ers are the NFL’s worst defense in both points and yardage allowed, and they are the worst rushing defense in the league. Expect the Bears to try exploiting that and give quarterback Matt Barkley a balanced run-pass game plan.

Prediction: Bears 24, 49ers 20

Bears hoping to get Kyle Fuller back in DB mix sooner rather than later

Bears hoping to get Kyle Fuller back in DB mix sooner rather than later

Kyle Fuller was one of the seeming fixtures in the Bears’ defense as it transitioned from the 4-3 of old to the 3-4 of Vic Fangio. And he may be again, the Bears hope very soon, as he has begun practicing after months on injured reserve following knee surgery in August.

The Bears could place Fuller on the active roster as late as Saturday after he practiced all three days this week. “He made it three days in practice, no setbacks,” said coach John Fox. “He seems to be adapting pretty well. He has another practice [Saturday] and we don’t have to make a decision until 3 p.m. because of where he is on the roster. We’ll evaluate that after tomorrow.”

Were Fuller to return — restoring one projected 2016 starter to a defense that has been forced to field five different starting secondaries in the span of 11 games — he may be phased back in with a managed number of snaps, as other certain other players returning from injury have been.

But getting Fuller back projects to be an instant upgrade for a defensive backfield among the NFL’s worst at producing takeaways.

“We all play different positions so we’re kind of used to it, people moving in and out over the year,” said Bryce Callahan, who was initially ticketed for nickel duty as the No. 3 cornerback this season but has been pressed into service starting at cornerback in four games.

“It’s always good to get someone like Kyle back.”

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The Bears would need to weigh what workload Fuller could handle vs. roster needs based on only having 46 players active on game day.

“You’re always a little bit cautious because it does affect your roster,” Fox said. “But if you feel like he makes you better, that’s a move you make. Now we’re just working through him medically, durability-wise, and how much he can play.”

Jay Cutler (shoulder) was officially declared out and is headed for surgery on Saturday, ultimately to injured reserve.

Other availability questions include receiver Eddie Royal (toe), guard Josh Sitton (ankle) and safety Adrian Amos (ankle), all questionable. Linebacker Willie Young (knee) did not practice but linebacker Leonard Floyd was able to practice on a limited basis although his status in the concussion protocol will not be known until closer to game time.