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updated: 10/24/2011 8:02 PM

Just trying to help as Bears enjoy bye week

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  • Jay Cutler would be better off if he stopped the habit of throwing off his back foot.

    Jay Cutler would be better off if he stopped the habit of throwing off his back foot.
    Associated Press


Sunday's 24-18 victory over Tampa Bay catapulted the Bears back into the playoff picture, which they had been cropped out of after a 2-3 start.

Not only did the win allow the Bears (4-3) to close within 1 game of the Detroit Lions (5-2) for second place in the NFC North, it gave them the first tiebreaker advantage over the 4-3 Bucs should those two teams wind up fighting for a wild-card spot.

The Bears have the same advantage over the Atlanta Falcons (4-3), whom they defeated in the season opener.

If the season ended today, the Bears, Bucs and Falcons would all be tied for the sixth and last NFC playoff berth, with Dallas and Washington, both 3-3, a half-game back.

In that scenario, the Bears would be playoff bound.

But there remains much work to be done at Halas Hall in the two weeks before the Bears' next game (Nov. 7), a Monday Night Football appearance against the Eagles in Philadelphia.

Despite the two-game winning streak, there still is a lengthy to-do list for general manager Jerry Angelo, coach Lovie Smith and his staff.

1. Get Matt Forte's name on a contract extension now.

What more does the guy need to do to prove his value to the team. He already has piled up 1,091 yards from scrimmage, the first NFL player to do so in seven games since 2004.

Forte is having a season for the ages. There isn't another player on the roster who can do what he does, and there might only be two or three running backs in the entire NFL capable of making the contributions he has made to an offense that is otherwise ordinary.

2. Cure Jay Cutler of his habit of throwing off his back foot while he's falling away from the throw.

That cost Cutler an interception against the Bucs, when he underthrew tight end Kellen Davis and was picked off at the Bears' 35-yard line. The 14-yard return gave the Bucs a short field, and they capitalized with a touchdown.

Just because Cutler's arm is strong enough to enable him to complete some passes with horrible mechanics, it doesn't mean he should.

Cutler has improved in each of his three seasons with the Bears, but he will never be in the same category with Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and Tom Brady if he doesn't become more accurate.

That means better mechanics.

3. Instruct Devin Hester to catch every ball he can get to.

Hester is the best there has ever been as a return specialist, but he has a maddening habit of allowing punts that won't be returned to hit the ground and bounce backward for large chunks of negative yardage.

It happened Sunday, when the Bears' defense forced a Bucs punt from the Tampa 20. Hester could easily have fair caught Michael Koenen's punt at the Bears' 35, but he didn't, and it rolled all the way to the Bears' 15.

Catching a football on the run should be child's play for one of the greatest athletes in the game.

4. Get Earl Bennett involved in the offense.

Cutler's security blanket is expected to be 100 percent recovered from the chest injury he suffered in Week 2.

Bennett is the team's most sure-handed receiver and the best option on third down, especially when it requires making a tough catch over the middle in traffic.

5. Make a decision on how the right side of the offensive line should look for the remainder of the season.

Rookie right tackle Gabe Carimi is expected back from the partially dislocated knee that interrupted his season after two games.

Offensive line coach Mike Tice has called Carimi an "elite run blocker," and he probably should get his job back if he's healthy.

But Lance Louis has performed well at right tackle since moving over from right guard, and Chris Spencer has filled in admirably at right guard while playing with a fractured hand.

It might end up being a choice between Spencer and Louis at right guard.

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