15 on 6: Sunday could build confidence for Cutler

15 on 6: Sunday could build confidence for Cutler

Saturday, Dec. 25, 2010
8:15 PM
By Jim Miller
CSNChicago.com

Protect the Passer

Tomorrow's game presents a good challenge for Jay Cutler and company. The Jets have multiple sacks in six of their seven road games this season. The pass protection of Jay will be paramount for the Bears to keep their No. 2 seeding for the playoffs. There is a lot on the line for both teams as the Jets come to town attempting to earn a playoff berth.

Third Downs

When playing against a Rex Ryan-led defense, it always comes down to winning on third down. The Bears must convert at a minimum of 40 percent tomorrow, which is a big challenge vs a Rex Ryan-run defense. Defensively, the Jets run what they call "Chaos" on third downs. It looks like chaos to a fan or the opponent, but it is very coordinated and well schemed. Simply, it is multiple blitzers overloadingoutnumbering one side of the offensive line. Rex will attack protection schemes, which have been faulty for the Bears most of the season. He wants to to obliterate what the Bears have been doing well, which is playaction pass protection. Therefore, Cutler's pass production must be on first and second down, not third downs! Third down and medium situations need to be a run down for the Bears where as Martz gets a feel for Rex after the first two series calls the right run call away from the Blitz.

This will be a low scoring game, unless special teams can blow it open. Expect a 14-13 game. Defense will rule the day on both sides. This is a huge test for Jay to be patient and throw the ball away. He must understand one bad decision decides the outcome. The Jets are not a juggernaut of a team offensively, even though their skill position players dictate they should be. If Jay plays his cards smartly by having a turnover free game, the Bears win.

Importance

Not only is this game important for earning a No. 2 seed for the playoffs, it also would provide a jolt for the confidence of Jay and the offense. If the Bears can pass this test versus a quality opponent which they were unable to accomplish against New England, they would be difficult to stop in the playoffs.

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 numbers don't indicate 3-13, yet still lie

Bears numbers don't indicate 3-13, yet still lie

In doing some post-season wrapping up of my Nerdy NFL Notebook as we begin turning the page to the 2017 season, part of it involves compiling where each team finished in big-picture team offensive and defensive categories: overall ranking (total yards), as well as team rushing and passing ranks on both sides of the ball.

So if the Bears wound up ranked 15th overall in total yards gained and allowed, they should've finished…oh, 8-8, right? It adds to the deception of some of the deeper issues that focus on a lack of playmakers, which tied into their inability to make plays when it matters most. In John Fox's 9-23 start, 18 of those games have been decided by six points or less. They've won just six of those games. 

Offensively, the Bears ranked higher in total offense than five playoff teams: Kansas City (20), Detroit (21), Miami (24), New York Giants (25) and Houston (29). They wound up 17th in rushing offense, better than four teams who advanced: Seattle (25), Green Bay (26), New York Giants (29) and Detroit (30). And their 14th-ranked passing offense ranked better than the Giants (17), Kansas City (19), Dallas (23), Miami (26), Houston (29).

On the other side of the ball, they'd be even better off before allowing 109 points over the final three losses. Their total defense ranked better than Detroit (18), Green Bay (22), Kansas City (24), Atlanta (25), Oakland (26) and Miami (29). After being gashed for 558 rushing yards the last three games, they fell to 27th in the NFL against the run (better than only 30th-ranked Miami). But the seventh-ranked pass defense, despite collecting a measly eight interceptions (among only 11 turnovers), was better than nine playoff teams: Miami (15), Pittsburgh (16), Kansas City (18), Detroit (19), the Giants (23), Oakland (24), Dallas (26), Atlanta (28) and Green Bay (31).

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

What do all the hollow numbers indicate? A lack of complementary, opportunistic football, playmakers on both sides of the ball, a minus-20 turnover ratio, and a lack of quality and continuity at the quarterback position — to name a few. All of those playoff teams have more impact players (or kept more of their impact players healthy) than the Bears in 2016.

While some of the numbers aren't that bad to look at, and some even raise an eyebrow, there's still a deep climb from the most significant numbers: 3-13.

Bears' best rookies will have another learning curve

Bears' best rookies will have another learning curve

There's a sense of irony and, to a certain degree, concern about what changes the Bears' coaching staff has undergone.

Think of the best of Ryan Pace's 2016 rookie class: Leonard Floyd, Cody Whitehair, and Jordan Howard. They were brought along under the position group tutelage of outside linebackers coach Clint Hurtt, offensive line coach Dave Magazu and running backs coach Stan Drayton. The latter was the first to depart, shortly after the season ended, to return to the collegiate ranks on Texas' new staff.

He's been replaced with former 49ers and Bills offensive coordinator Curtis Modkins (also serving as that position coach in Detroit, Buffalo, Arizona and Kansas City). Howard certainly adapted to the NFL game well, more than anyone expected, as the NFL's second-leading rusher. One would think Drayton played a part in that.

Longtime John Fox assistant Magazu was also let go after the season despite the impressive move of second-round pick Whitehair to center the week of the season opener after Josh Sitton was signed following his release by Green Bay. Whitehair was sold as a "quick study" following his selection out of Kansas State, where he was a four-year starter at three different positions (but not center).

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

Like Howard, he wound up making the All-Rookie team, but whether he remains in the middle of the line or not, he'll be getting his orders now from Jeremiah Washburn.

Rounding out the trio of All-Rookie selections was Floyd, who was brought along by Hurtt. He impressed Fox enough to be kept around from Marc Trestman's staff, and moved from defensive line to outside linebackers.

That's where he assisted Willie Young in morphing to a foreign role, yet still managing 14 sacks over the last two seasons. The Bears have yet to name a replacement for Hurtt, who's joined the Seahawks in taking over one of their strengths in recent years, the defensive line.

These three were already good, and the jewels of last year's draft. But if they're to grow and ascend into impact contributors if and when this team becomes a regular playoff contender, it'll come from new faces, new voices in their respective classrooms and position groups.