Undefeated Bears don't feign perfection
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Bears coach Marc Trestman and quarterback Jay Cutler are off to a much faster start than most expected.
Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer
Bears management didn't have to articulate the plan.
Their actions said "rebuilding year," stocking the roster with young players and an eye toward bigger goals than making the playoffs one season.
With a new coaching staff, system changes and rebuilt line, there figured to be growing pains on offense and a slide on defense.
Add it up and the Bears seemed headed for something in the neighborhood of a .500 season, the perfect opportunity for Marc Trestman to teach Jay Cutler how to use his considerable skills and become something more than a mediocre NFL quarterback.
And then Cincinnati happened.
The Bengals were down to the Bears' 17 in the fourth quarter with a chance to go up 11 points when Tim Jennings forced a fumble. Cutler led the Bears the other way and they had the opener in their pocket.
And then Minnesota happened.
Tied in the fourth quarter, the Vikings twice had drives stall in the red zone with a perfect mixture of mistakes and bizarre play calls, leading to a pair of field goals, and giving Cutler another chance to win the game on the final drive.
And then Pittsburgh happened.
Well, the Steelers are going to happen a lot this year, shamelessly handing the ball to opponents and giving away games. But even though Pittsburgh tried to make it a game in the fourth, the Bears deserved to win this one and easily moved to 3-0.
Could they be 2-1 or 1-2? Sure, but this is the NFL, where you don't apologize for victories any more than you take credit for tough defeats.
Still, as confident as the Bears look on the field, they are speaking in appropriately measured tones off it, not considering what this means for their playoff chances but instead remaining acutely aware of the process.
"Every game is independent of the next," Trestman said. "We're going to go next week and play one of 13 and see where we are. We're still in the evolutionary process of trying to find out who we are.
"Things came up (Sunday night) when the guys came to the sideline and we talked and said we can get better at this. There's things we can do structurally to help us get better and get people in the right places.
"We're kind of a work in process. It's exciting, but at the same time I know our guys are going to come back on Wednesday and their feet will be on the ground.
"We'll be focused in on just trying to get better again. There are certainly ways in all three phases that we can improve our football team. We'll have a laundry list again (this) week (for) our guys."
No hint of arrogance, no suggestion that 3-0 is precisely where they're supposed to be on the road to the Super Bowl. No pretending that every play works to perfection, and that everything happens exactly as expected.
No, there's a genuine sense of humility, happy to be 3-0 but aware their record could be flipped and understanding there's a long way to go before the Bears are considered great.
Thing is, you don't have to be great to win a Super Bowl, but you do have to have a great offense, and the Bears aren't there yet. They do have more weapons than at any time in recent memory, the line is giving Cutler time and security, and Cutler is showing signs of maturity.
His mechanics have improved, his demeanor is more consistent, and his decision-making is the best it's ever been, all a result of Trestman's coaching, but Cutler is hardly a finished product and when the offense goes through some adversity we'll see just how much Cutler has changed.
Nevertheless, it appears he's headed for a very big payday and he will owe Trestman a large percentage when that happens.
In the meantime, there is much to enjoy about the 2013 Bears as they cruise into Detroit undefeated and headed for what looked like a serious showdown after the Lions (2-1) won in Washington on Sunday.
Then came the news early Tuesday that Detroit receiver Nate Burleson -- who had 6 catches for 116 yards against the Skins -- wrecked his car overnight while trying to save a pizza box from falling off the seat, breaking his arm in two places.
Yeah, Detroit happened.
The Lions' misfortune is the Bears' good luck, the kind you need a lot of to make the playoffs and ponder a deep run.
Much will happen between now and then, including injuries, poor performance and temper tantrums. As breaks even out and teams get tape on the Bears' offense, there will be ample opportunity for the tide to turn.
If it happens, Trestman, Cutler and the many egos on offense will be tested.
In the meantime, there's no harm in riding the tide.
•Hear Barry Rozner on WSCR 670-AM and follow him @BarryRozner on Twitter.
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