With the defeat of the Detroit Lions—which was not nearly as close as the score indicated—the Bears are now in sole possession of first place in the NFC North, one game (or a half game I suppose) up on the surprising Minnesota Vikings and one-and-a-half games ahead of the Green Bay Packers.
The half games will sort themselves out when the other teams hit their bye weeks, but suffice to say the Bears hold their destiny in their own hands.
It's interesting to see how things have been shaping up in the last week or two.
Jay Cutler is One Tough S.O.B.
Some people will say this was put to rest over the last year, but it definitely came up nationally again when Cutler and J'Marcus Webb had their bump-and-run against the Green Bay Packers.
It's not just about physical toughness—mental toughness factors into it as well, and this Monday we saw Cutler has plenty of it.
Many Bears fans will respond to that with a resounding, 'Well Duh', and that's fine. However, I have been on the fence about a lot of aspects of Cutler's game since I started here.
There will be parts of Cutler's game and demeanor which will always bug people, myself included, but the way he fought through obvious pain after the hit/suplex by Ndamukong Suh on Monday night should allay a lot of the concerns anyone had to his mental toughness.
I wonder if we're seeing him take a step forward in the evolution of being a quarterback. He's always been very good with the talent to be truly great. He could be putting together that last piece.
Even the way he has calmly and evenly responded to questions about the hit have been great.
Let's also acknowledge that one of the issues people have with Cutler is how he reacts under intense pressure. Well, after being sacked five times Monday night, he threw zero interceptions. It seems like he reacted well under pressure, didn't he?
Cutler may not care whether we like or approve of him or his actions, but for what it's worth, I think he's really shown me a lot in the last few weeks and I am intrigued by what he can do the rest of the season.
Offensive Line: Are People Missing the Point?
We always talk about the offensive line, since it's so integral to Jay Cutler, and it takes it's fair share of criticism.
As with Cutler, I've been hard on the line—though less so in the last few weeks as I've come to see an interesting parallel between the offensive line and the defense.
The defense employs a 'bend but don't break' philosophy most years, and that's what the offensive line has done this year.
Do they give up pressure? Yes, they definitely do. However they have, for the most part, done a great job of protecting Cutler and preventing sacks.
Yes, the Lions were able to take the quarterback down five times on Monday—including the vicious hit we talked about earlier—but in previous games they had been allowing just a pair of sacks a game.
Don't get me wrong, 19 sacks in seven games is quite a bit. It's also less than the 49ers and Packers—teams generally accepted by many media to be better teams—and much of those sacks were against two teams.
However, if you discount the defenses of the Dallas Cowboys and St Louis Rams because their overall records are bad (and this is an argument I hear all the time from fans of other teams) then you're being foolish.
The Cowboys have the fourth-ranked defense in the league, though they don't have huge sack totals.
Meanwhile, the Rams are a top-10 defense and have the fifth most sacks in the league.
They got Cutler twice.
We haven't even gotten into the run-blocking. The Bears ground attack is ranked ninth in the league and they average 4.3 yards a carry, 10th best in the league.
For both Cutler and the offensive line, the spotlight will continue to be on them all season long. People will look at the incredible defense and say that if it weren't for that, this team would be in the basement.
The Bears have ample time to prove them wrong, and if you look at the last few weeks, the evidence is already very favorable.
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