Chicago Bears

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.

Under Center Podcast: Bears run strong in OT win against Steelers

howard-pod.jpg
USA TODAY

Under Center Podcast: Bears run strong in OT win against Steelers

Alex Brown and Jim Miller join Laurence Holmes to break down how the Bears got themselves in the win column on Sunday against the Steelers.

Jordan Howard was the game’s MVP but how well can the Bears run the ball going forward if he is banged up and the Bears continue to struggle throwing the ball?

Plus, Marcus Cooper’s fumble on the goal line nearly cost the Bears the game. What do the guys think about the effort level after a gaffe like that – especially on a short week heading into Thursday night’s matchup against the rival Packers?

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below:

Marcus Cooper's inexplicable screw-up didn't end up costing the Bears much

Marcus Cooper's inexplicable screw-up didn't end up costing the Bears much

The question “What was Marcus Cooper thinking?” perhaps wasn’t answered to the extent folks might have liked. But really, is an explanation even possible?

“That was just a mistake on my part,” Cooper said after Sunday’s overtime win at Soldier Field. “I didn’t think he was that close to me, slowed down.

“I thought I was in, but obviously I wasn’t. The guy came in and made a great play.”

Cooper was not in, something a video review confirmed after a jaw-droppingly unbeliavable play in which the Bears’ starting cornerback picked up a blocked field goal and dashed the length of the field before stopping inside the 10-yard line, allowing a defender to chop the ball out of his hands.

The stunned crowd — and a perhaps even more stunned press box — couldn’t possibly guess why Cooper did such a bone-headed thing, instantly becoming the new Leon Lett. He shrugged it off pretty calmly afterward, explaining that he thought he scored.

He did not score. But the Bears won. So the approach seems to be: Who cares?

“Regardless of that play or not, we’re in here for wins and losses,” Cooper said. “We stepped up today, and we did what we needed to do to get the ‘W.’”

It’s true that the play didn’t end up being as costly as it could have been. Because the Steelers batted the ball out of the end zone, they were flagged and the Bears got to run one more play before the half ran out. That play also included a Bears miscue, Charles Leno flagged for a false start, meaning a second crack at a touchdown was wiped out in favor of a field goal.

Those four points left on the board could’ve been seven if not for the officials sticking to the letter of the law. They had initially called the half over after Cooper’s screw up. The Steelers even went to the locker room and had to come back to the field.

And even when the Bears turned the ball over twice in the second half, both those giveaway leading to Steelers scores, they never trailed. The only difference that might’ve been made is that the game might not have spun into overtime. Had Cooper just scored the touchdown, the Bears would have had four more points.

Cooper, to his credit, also made a great, potentially game-saving play in the fourth quarter, defending a Ben Roethlisberger pass on third down that turned a potential go-ahead touchdown drive in the wake of Mike Glennon’s interception into a game-tying field goal.

“I couldn’t dwell on that play,” Cooper said. “You move forward. Especially as a corner, you have that next-play mentality. So after that occurred in the first half, let it go and just tried to make plays.”

So while Cooper’s play at the end of the second quarter still remains crazy, ghastly and unable to be properly explained, the result rendered it rather more forgettable.

The Bears won. So who cares?