Playoffs? Cutler, Bears thinking Super Bowl

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Playoffs? Cutler, Bears thinking Super Bowl

Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2010
5:03 PM

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

The Bears dont have the NFLs permission yet to start printing playoff tickets. They really dont have permission to start talking about playoffs, although thats going to happen anyway. Sometimes the talk is going to go beyond just making the playoffs.

As far as being good enough to win the Super Bowl, quarterback Jay Cutler gave a frank opinion. I think so, he said. Of course, he added, Youve got to believe that or theres no use playing right now.

Cutler has not been to the playoffs, or even had a winning season in his NFL career for that matter. So his sense of what a championship team at this level really looks like can be considered somewhat limited.

But Israel Idonije was on the 2006 team, which was dramatically different in many ways from this edition, but that same kind of energy, you kind of feel it around here, he said. Guys are excited, working hard, and theres a lot of rumbling throughout the city. It feels good.

We want to end up in Dallas this year, and just to get there is not enough. Weve been there. Weve got to get the ring.

The one individual most responsible for both getting them to think like a Super Bowl team without talking now about the Super Bowl is not concerned about a loss of focus and with that a loss to the Detroit Lions.

We wont look too far ahead, Lovie Smith said. You have to have long-term goals. When you start the season, we have three goals for our program and that last goal is to win the Super Bowl. So thats there. You cant run from it and we dont want them to run from it.

But you dont talk about that now. Theres no time to talk about that now. That wont change with our guys and Id be surprised if you heard anything else except for that. The guys know whats at stake.

Hurtin

The Bears were without linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa (knee) practicing Wednesday and receiver Rashied Davis was limited with a sore shoulder. The Detroit Lions were not nearly so healthy.

Quarterbacks Matthew Stafford (shoulder) and Shaun Hill (finger) were joined on the DNP list by defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch (neck) and kicker Jason Hanson (knee). Four other starters were limited in practice: running back Jahvid Best (toe), receiver Nate Burleson (hamstring), linebacker DeAndre Levy (groin), tight end Tony Scheffler (rib).

Distinguished gentlemen

The performances that were instrumental in the Bears being 4-0 in November have been noticed, and rewarded.

Defensive end Julius Peppers was named NFC defensive player of the month for November after recording 4 sacks, tied for second in the NFL. His 29 yards in losses off those sacks were tops in the NFC and tied for fourth in the NFL. Peppers added 13 tackles, deflected a pass that led to an interception and recorded 2 additional tackles for losses during the month.

The Bears defense held opponents to just 65 rushing yards in the month of November (lowest in the NFL) and held opponent quarterbacks to a 69.5 passer rating during the month (lowest in the NFL).

This is Peppers third NFC Defensive Player of the Month award (Nov. 2004, Oct. 2006). Peppers is the first Bears player to win the award since Trace Armstrong in Sept.1990 and the third overall since the award first started in 1986 (Wilber Marshall, Dec. 1986).

Quarterback Jay Cutler was named NFC offensive player of the Week after completing 14 of 21 passing attempts for 247 yards and four touchdowns en route to a career-high 146.2 passer rating in the Bears 31-26 victory over the Eagles. The four touchdown passes tied a career high for Cutler, who now has three such games as a member of the Bears, tied for second most in franchise history.

When you have a game like Philadelphia, you deserve to get an award like, as does Julius Peppers, Lovie Smith said. When you play the way he has this past month, were really pleased with the progress theyre making along with the team right now.

John "Moon" Mullin is CSNChicago.com's Bears Insider, and appears regularly on Bears Postgame Live and Chicago Tribune Live. Follow Moon on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bears information.

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.