Are you ready for some prime-time football? The Bears look as if they are, based on their performance in a 27-20 upset road victory over the Cowboys.
They'll have the opportunity to play under an even brighter spotlight Monday night at home against the Green Bay Packers, their NFC North nemesis. Both teams are 2-0, which comes as a surprise to observers of the Bears, who entered the season with question marks along the offensive line and then lost starting left tackle Chris Williams to a left hamstring injury on the first series of the Cowboys game.
At first, backup Kevin Shaffer replaced Williams on the second series, but that didn't work very well at keeping the Cowboys' aggressive pass rush at bay. So offensive line coach Mike Tice switched right tackle Frank Omiyale over to the left side and moved Shaffer to right tackle. The reconfigured front seemed to get better as the game went on.
Quarterback Jay Cutler was sacked once on the first series and pressured constantly on the Bears' first three possessions, but the Cowboys never sacked him a second time.
There is no word yet on Williams' status for the Monday nighter, but he appears doubtful.
Lack of protection appears to be the only thing that can stop Cutler in Mike Martz's offense. He has five TD passes and just one interception this season with passer ratings of 108.3 and, most recently, 136.7, which is his best as a Bear.
The Bears don't appear to have a go-to receiver. Devin Aromashodu was the leading wide receiver in the opener with five catches for 71 yards, but running back Matt Forte caught seven balls for 151 yards. Against the Cowboys, wide receivers led the way, as Johnny Knox had four catches for 86 yards and Devin Hester had four receptions for 77 yards and a TD. Aromashodu did not catch a pass vs. the Cowboys. Hester was targeted just once in the opener.
Cutler says that might be an advantage.
"When Mike got here with this offense, I don't think you need a No. 1," Cutler said. "I don't think you need that guy because the ball is going in so many directions."
UNDER THE RADAR
BY THE NUMBERS
In those four games, Cutler has thrown 13 touchdown passes and just two interceptions. More importantly, the Bears have won all four games. His teams are now 17-0 when Cutler has a passer rating of 100 or higher.
"I'm looking forward to seeing exactly how far he can go," Bears coach Lovie Smith said of Cutler. "This is how Jay's been playing. We have weapons, and he's doing a great job with them."
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
Williams left the game at Dallas with a hamstring injury. His status for this week's game, Monday night against Green Bay, is unknown. Williams was replaced by a surprisingly effective Frank Omiyale, a ridiculed right tackle who was ineffective last season at guard. ...
Cutler has a cumulative passer rating of 121.2 this season. He has completed 68.6 percent of his passes, averaged 10.1 yards per attempt and has only one INT. ...
Hester, targeted one time in the opener, caught four for 77 yards and one spectacular one-handed TD. He averaged 19.3 yards per catch.
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