Time for Bears' offense to lead way
This was going to be the year the Bears' offense would occasionally rescue an aging defense that might not be able to win games single-handedly.
That hasn't happened yet, but now would be a good time to start, what with leading tackler Brian Urlacher out and leading interceptor Tim Jennings doubtful.
It won't be easy for an offense that will be without wide receiver Earl Bennett (concussion) and may or may not get two other wide receivers — Alshon Jeffery (knee) and Devin Hester (concussion) — back from injuries.
"Some years are like that," quarterback Jay Cutler said. "Some years are not. This is one of those years. They've done a good job of building this team and preparing for the worst with guys being able to come in.
"Just roll with the punches. Offensively, we know what we have. Whoever is going to be out there, that's who we're going to have to go with."
The entire offensive line remains a (patch)work in progress, although the same five are expected to start for the second straight game, including converted tackle Gabe Carimi at right guard.
Injured guard Chris Spencer (knee) practiced on a limited basis Wednesday and could be available Sunday, at least to provide some backup depth.
"Right now we don't anticipate any changes up front," offensive coordinator Mike Tice said. "We felt like the line played solid football; not necessarily great football, but solid football. Anytime with the line you want to have the same guys in there.
"So there's no sense at this point of the week making any drastic changes. (We're) just trying to keep building on some of the things we've done the last two weeks."
The revamped line has allowed just 1 sack in each of the past two games, and neither one was its fault.
Part of the improved protection is the result of more conservative play-calling by Tice and more max-protect schemes, but Cutler appreciates the security.
"They're playing better," he said. "I don't know if it's because I'm yelling at them more or what's happening. But guys are playing well. We're getting rid of the ball quickly. I think we have good game plans going into it.
"I think Mike (Tice) is doing a great job of mixing it up and spinning the play-calling and keeping teams off balance."
Whatever it takes, the offense needs to continue to, at the very least, pull its weight Sunday at Minnesota.
"We've got to find a way," Cutler said. "We've got to score more points. We've got to be more efficient. Red zone, when we get in there, we've done a good job. We've just got to get more points. Whatever it takes."
Cutler and Alpha Male wide receiver Brandon Marshall have done their parts lately.
In his last three full games, not including the Houston Texans game when he suffered a concussion, Cutler's passer rating is 113.0. He has 6 touchdowns, just 1 interception and has completed 71.1 percent of his passes, most of them to Marshall.
Only once in the past six games has Marshall not caught at least 8 passes for at least 92 yards. During Cutler's three-game hot streak, Marshall has 31 catches for 379 yards and 3 touchdowns.
Marshall's 91 receptions are just 1 behind New England's Wes Welker for the NFL lead, and his 1,182 yards are second to Detroit's Calvin Johnson's 1,428.
Marshall gives kudos to Cutler and the O-line.
"I feel the past two weeks the offensive line has done an amazing job," Marshall said. "Jay is playing the position better than anyone right now, when you see how he's spinning it, the situations that he's getting us in and getting us out of.
"A lot of that is due to him being comfortable with the guys up front the past two weeks. They've really been getting after it, and it's promising."
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