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updated: 11/20/2011 10:40 PM

Bears can only hope for the best

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  • Bears quarterback Jay Cutler looks for some running room in the fourth quarter during Sunday's game at Soldier Field in Chicago.

    Bears quarterback Jay Cutler looks for some running room in the fourth quarter during Sunday's game at Soldier Field in Chicago.
    Brian Hill | Staff Photographer


Things were going just a little too well for the Bears.

Where they go from here depends on whether quarterback Jay Cutler is about to get a thumbs-up or thumbs-down from doctors.

Initial speculation is that Cutler will miss 6-8 weeks after reports that he injured his thumb in the fourth quarter of Sunday's 31-20 victory over the Chargers.

If speculation turns into reality, the Bears will have to get by with backup quarterback Caleb Hanie, a relatively unknown quantity.

The Bears have won five straight games with an old formula of defense, special teams and a running game.

However, Cutler's passing was the piece that made the Bears a complete team and bolstered hopes of a charge to the playoffs and beyond.

The Bears' defense wasn't particularly effective against San Diego, but the offense was good enough to win the game with Cutler leading the way.

If the early injury report is accurate, Cutler broke the thumb on his throwing hand while trying to make a critical tackle after throwing a rare recent interception.

"Maybe Jay's biggest play of the game came on that interception," Bears head coach Lovie Smith said.

Cutler cleared the way for teammate Matt Forte to complete the tackle, prevent a San Diego touchdown and preserve the Bears' lead.

"Who would have thought we'd be talking about Matt Forte and Jay Cutler on the defensive play they made," Smith said.

That's all anybody will be talking about if Cutler's injury is as serious as feared. He threw only 2 more passes after the play in question, both short over the middle, before finishing the game by handing off and taking knees.

At their postgame news briefings, neither Cutler nor Smith mentioned a thumb injury. The quarterback's hand didn't appear to be wrapped and he didn't appear in any unusual discomfort.

At the time all appeared to be well with this team.

Cutler has been as responsible as anyone for the run the Bears have been on, symbolized by his play in the victory over the Chargers.

Playing behind a makeshift offensive line due to injuries, Cutler's mobility enabled him to avoid being sacked even once. He outplayed his longtime rival, maybe nemesis, Philip Rivers and then with class praised the San Diego quarterback.

"I told him good luck the rest of the way and stay healthy," said Cutler, which would be ironic if his thumb is as bad off as it seems.

Speaking of irony, how ironic would it be if Cutler misses time because of an injury like this?

Cutler takes as much punishment as any quarterback in the NFL, hits to the head, hits to the knees, hits to the shoulder, and keeps on getting up.

Then he hurts a thumb? On his throwing hand? Trying to make a tackle? After throwing an interception? How odd is that?

The watch will be on Monday at Halas Hall to find out the official diagnosis and prognosis of Cutler's thumb.

The Bears might survive without Cutler for a game or two, but it's doubtful they could for 6-8 weeks.

This was just starting to look like a really good football team in great part to Cutler's increasingly steady play.

"He deserves to play well with all the time he puts into his craft," Smith said.

The Bears can only hope that Jay Cutler doesn't have too much time to study the game instead of play it.

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