Cutler says offense 'not where we want to be'
The good news is that only two teams in the NFL are averaging more points per game than the Bears. The better news is that none of the principals believe the offense is functioning as efficiently as it could.
"We're still not where we want to be," quarterback Jay Cutler said. "It's a process. I think we're getting better and better. It takes the whole team. We haven't put together four quarters yet. (But) we've made some plays when we had to."
The Bears are on pace to score 459 points, which would eclipse the franchise record of 456 set by the 1985 Super Bowl champions. In a departure from the norm in years past, the offense has been able to carry the Bears to a 4-2 record, even though the defense has yet to hold an opponent under 21 points. The Bears have won when allowing 30 points, 23 and 21 (twice).
Heading into this afternoon's clash with 1-4 Washington, the Bears are averaging 28.7 points per game. In Cutler's previous four years as the triggerman, the Bears have never averaged more than 23.4 points per game. That was last season when the point total was padded with 9 touchdowns from the defense and 1 from special teams. In Cutler's first season with the Bears (2009), they averaged 20.4 points per game and 20.9 the following year.
"We didn't do enough on our part to help win games," Cutler said. "We put the defense in a lot of bad spots."
The offense still has episodes in which it barely treads water and needs a lifesaver, as when it managed just 3 second-half points against a struggling Giants defense in Week 6.
"We leaned on the defense in the fourth quarter, and they came through for us," Cutler said. "It's give and take. But I think we can be happy with the progress we've made offensively and the strides that we're (making)."
The biggest stride Cutler and Co. have made since last season is in developing a diversified attack. Brandon Marshall, while he's having another monster season, hasn't been the only viable option in the passing game as he was last season when he had more than 40 percent of the Bears' catches and receiving yards.
Tight end Martellus Bennett is on pace for 83 receptions and 928 yards, both of which would be career bests. Running back Matt Forte is on track for 88 receptions, which would obliterate his career high and exactly double his total from last season. Wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, if he maintains the same pace, would finish with 77 receptions and 1,216 yards. He had 24 catches for 367 yards last year as a rookie while playing in 10 games.
Each of the four primary targets is averaging about what he has previously in yards per catch career-wise, and the Bears are No. 7 in the league in average gain per pass play. The Bears are 15th in passing attempts, but they have moved the ball more methodically than dynamically. Asked late in the week if his offense was producing enough big-chunk plays, coach Marc Trestman had a somewhat surprising response.
"I haven't counted or looked at anything relative to that," the offensive guru said. "We've had some big plays and we've taken our shots. I don't get too caught up in that.
"I get more caught up in why didn't we finish drives. How we get down the field isn't quite as important. It certainly helps to use the entire field vertically and horizontally, and our offense is put together to do that. I'm not sure where we are. It's another good question to answer after the bye week (after the Washington game) and see where we are."
All things considered, Cutler seems pleased that the offense has produced encouraging early results, even though he admits there's much work to be done.
"We're getting there," he said. "We've got a lot of good guys on the outside. We've just got to keep it simple and get the ball to those guys efficiently because the way we're blocking, it's making things easy for me."
If Cutler is protected from a Washington pass rush that is No. 6 in sack percentage, he could find easy pickings against the league's No. 27 defense that allows 28.6 points per game.
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