For an offense and a team stuck in a downward spiral but still harboring playoff hopes, Bears quarterback Jay Cutler believes it’s best to keep the mission simple.
“We just have to get to 9 wins,” Cutler said, as the Bears (8-6) began preparations for Sunday’s game against the Arizona Cardinals (5-9).
“We can’t go anywhere unless we get to 9, and then if we get to 9 we can talk about 10. Right now 8 isn’t good enough, and 9 might not be good enough either.”
While losing three straight and five of their last six, the offense has become one of the NFL’s worst, at least statistically.
Offensively, the Bears are 30th in sacks and interceptions allowed, 29th in total yards, 28th in passing yards, 27th in average gain per pass and 25th in first downs.
“I told the guys, ‘We can’t feel sorry for ourselves offensively,’” Cutler said. “We just have to do whatever we have to do to win this game.
“You’re not going to fix every problem in one week, so we just have to focus on ourselves and what we have to do internally, offensively, to win one game and we’ll move on from there.”
Expecting to remedy all the maladies that have befallen the Bears is especially unrealistic this week against a Cardinals defense that has played very well at times in an otherwise disastrous season.
The Arizona defense is No. 1 in interception percentage, No. 4 in passing yards allowed, third-down efficiency and sack percentage and No. 11 in points and yards allowed.
“They show a lot of different looks,” Cutler said. “They’re not afraid to blitz, and they have a lot of talented guys in the secondary, linebackers and even up front, so it’s challenging.
“They create turnovers, they’re really good on third down, and they’re good in the red zone, so we have our hands full.”
The most spectacular of the Cardinals is cornerback Patrick Peterson, who leads the NFL with 5 fumble recoveries and is tied for second with 7 interceptions, 1 behind Bears cornerback Tim Jennings. Peterson returned 4 punts for touchdowns last season as a rookie.
The 6-foot-1, 219-pound Peterson also possesses sub-4.4 speed over 40 yards. He’s expected to match up with the Bears’ 6-4, 230-pound wide receiver Brandon Marshall, who leads the NFL with 107 receptions, is second with 1,398 yards and is tied for third with 10 TD catches.
“The kid is talented,” Marshall said. “I got a text message from my college coach who also coached at LSU when (Peterson) was there. He said, ‘This is the best athlete you’re going to go against this year.’
“So I’ve got my hands full. I know he’ll follow me around a little bit.”
Marshall, the only consistent producer on the Bears’ offense, was “held” to 6 catches for 56 yards last week by Green Bay after catching 32 passes for 417 yards in the previous three games.
The Packers used cornerback Tramon Williams and safety help to limit Marshall, but the Cardinals might not have to give Peterson as much assistance.
“I heard some comments he made a week or two ago about how he’s playing the best at that position, and I agree with him,” Marshall said of Peterson. “Watching film, he really is backing it up.
“Unfortunately, their record doesn’t show that, so that kind of put a damper on his play. But he’s playing at a high level, and this guy’s going to be another Pro Bowler.”
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