Jay Cutler can help guide the Chicago Bears to the playoffs!
Before the start of the 2015 NFL season it was a preposterous notion that Jay Cutler would have the Bears in the hunt for a postseason berth. Here they stand at 5-6 on Week 13 of the 50th anniversary of the NFL. As one of the most storied franchises try to continue their winning ways, one cannot help but recall how terrible the Bears season was expected to be.
Most of the offseason predictions foresaw the realistic possibility that the Bears would scrap by with somewhere between two and four victories. The team was bad. Last year’s Bears’ squad was historically bad. They were nearly last in every defensive statistic. And the offense did not fare much better.
Last season was supposed to be the full breakout year for Cutler and his talented group of playmakers. There was even some chatter involving the Bears being a dark horse to win the Super Bowl. 2014 was billed as the year for them to return to the playoffs. That never came to fruition. Jay Cutler struggled with turnovers and overall inconsistency. After a couple of losses, infighting ensued, and eventually the team tuned out then-head coach Marc Trestman. The Chicago Bears became one of the laughing stock of the league.
How bad was it for the Bears last season? Last year they were 5-6 but the arrow was pointing downward. There were two games in particular where the Bears had given up 50 or more points. That 5-6 Bears team was not a warm and fuzzy bunch. Five consecutive losses closed the season out. Everybody wanted Jay Cutler out. Jay Cutler might be the reason why the Bears get in, in the playoffs that is.
Jay Cutler has thrown 14 touchdowns versus six interceptions this season, while passing for over 2,500 yards. His improvisational skills in the pocket has impacted greatly in him only being sacked 15 times. He is on pace to throw 20 scoring strikes, just around 10 interceptions and 3,900 yards.
Those numbers could lead the Bears to nine victories. That may not be enough to sneak into the postseason, but the improvements are evident.
Much of the improvements are due to coaching. Cutler is showing a strong grasp of the Bears’ offense. Offensive coordinator Adam Gase has put a scheme together, which suits his quarterback’s strengths. Head coach John Fox’s style of keeping things close and wait for the opposing team to make a mistake has fit the team well.
Throughout his Chicago Bears tenure, Jay Cutler had a penchant of forcing passes where he should not. It oftentimes resulted with interceptions. Teams could depend on him getting the ball to them versus his own teammates. That bad habit played into the low expectations for this season. The coaches have eased things for him. His progressions have been reduced, much of that is due to the injuries to his playmakers. Cutler is also playing as if he is taking the criticism he has received personally.
With the season into the month of December, running the football will be more of a priority. That will take the ball out of Cutler’s hands some. The coaches will unveil some new wrinkles, helping him out, limiting any mistakes. Mistake-free football is part of the culture the Bears are creating.
“We’re executing more now than ever. The offense is coming along, they’re steamrolling. The defense, we’re firing on all cylinders, and the kicking game’s starting to come around as well.”
Jay Cutler is not the only player having a renaissance season. Tracy Porter is rebuilding his career after being saddled with injuries.
Porter is helping a restructured secondary go into the opposite direction this season. Last year, the passing defense was abysmal; this year, the Bears have held teams under 200 passing yards – a league best – six times this season. The interceptions are not there, but the pass defended numbers (52 passes defended) is right up there with the better defenses of the NFL. Could it lead to an improbable playoff berth?
How Jay Cutler and the defense close out the year will determine that.
The schedule is not soft, but also not difficult. Neither of the remaining games are guaranteed wins or losses. Versus the San Francisco 49ers, the Bears are favorites for the first time of the season. A win gets them to an even 6-6 record. Three of the last four games are against teams who also have postseason aspirations. Can the Bears stick with their winning ways? Jay Cutler is playing like he wants it to happen.
[Photo by Mike McGinnis/Getty Images Sport]