Week 14 Recap: “Hope Floaters”

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I couldn’t even write one of these last week. After the Vikings tried continuously to hand the game to the Bears last weekend, and the Bears continuously kept handing it back like they were playing hot potato, I just couldn’t muster the energy. Should Trestman have called the field goal unit in on second down? How could the Bears blow a 10 point lead in the 4th quarter? Against the VIKINGS!? Why, when the Bears’ only strength is their offense, weren’t they more aggressive? How can they keep allowing 200+ yards to opposing running backs? And most importantly, would anything change?

Well, a few things have and a few have not. But hope has floated back to the surface here in Chicago and its not completely due to the Bears’ inspired win against the Cowboys on Monday night – its because the Detroit Lions refuse to run away with this division. And the Bears had a chance to deflate that hope on Monday Night, against an aggressive offense, on a night when there would be a lot of pressure on them on the big stage. A team that has barely been able to muster up more than 20 points per game against a team that can flat out score against one of the worst defenses in the league. But the Bears did what I most feared – re-instilled hope in me. Damn them!!

The offense looked amazing. They scored on every drive. Did not punt once. Scored 45 points. McCown threw for 5 TDs. Alshon Jeffrey made another couple of catches that left me speechless. And yes, the defense still blew. Gave up 200 yards rushing AGAIN – BUT – played their best offensive game of the year. So, I am left wondering, is this for real? Or the false sense of hope that Chicago fans have felt in many forms for years? Its hard not to get excited though. What we witnessed on Monday Night was fun to watch. We’re getting all excited about Josh McCown, with national analysts questioning whether Jay Cutler should even return to the lineup once he is healthy. Lets put a few things in perspective.

What McCown did on Monday night was awesome – BUT – it was against the worst defense in the NFL. His other two wins came against the Ravens in overtime and Green Bay without Aaron Rogers. His losses came against the Rams and the Vikings. So, while he deserves a lot of credit for keeping their playoff hopes alive and doing more than just clock management with this offense, its important to remember that he is not beating any elite teams or defenses. And until this last week, he had failed to score more than 23 points. His stats have been AMAZING – but the bottom line is at the end of the day you need to win games. And he has won enough to keep the Bears alive in the NFC North, but only because Aaron Rogers has been out and because Detroit is Detroit. We can all agree, had Rogers not been injured that night against the Bears, they would be running away with this division.

So, sure, the Bears could sneak into the playoffs – but only because of their weak division. I’m more interested in the long term implications of the next couple weeks. The great play of Josh McCown has made us all forget that before he got injured, Jay Cutler was having his best season as a Bear. And you have to assume that had he remained healthy, he would be growing and improving along with the rest of the offense the way McCown is. As Bears fans, we should know better than anyone how rare it is to have a great quarterback. To think that we could just find one in the draft and develop him into a franchise QB, given our history, is crazy! We have a great quarterback in Jay Cutler. Not elite by todays standards, but without question the best we have ever had. And now he finally has the weapons, he has the coach, he has the protection. Honestly, my biggest concern is about his ability to stay healthy. But I still think that if he is 100% and ready to go on Sunday, he should be the guy. And if he isn’t 100% – and I mean, if he is 90%, 95%, let him rest one more week because the Bears are fortunate enough to have a backup who is playing as well as anyone right now. And that is a pretty good place to be.

The Bears can win out, but as long as the Lions win out as well, they will miss the playoffs again. And even if they make it, I don’t see them winning a playoff game with that defense. So what I want to see is this offense, under Jay Cutler, continue to develop and give us something to look forward to going into the offseason. If Cutler can come back and answer the quarterback question this season, then management can put all of its focus on rebuilding the rusty old defense to match our shiny new offense.

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