1. Bradshaw has to be re-thinking his most recent list
Hall of famer Terry Bradshaw, who has been a studio analyst on FOX for quite some time, made a top-10 list of quarterbacks in the NFL under the age of 30, and, despite having every physical tool a signal caller may ever need to succeed, Jay Cutler didn't get the nod. But Cutler made Bradshaw's list look flawed Sunday, completing 14 of 21 passes for 247 yards with four touchdowns and no incompletions, which amounted to a career-high single-game passer rating of 146.2. It's understandable why he would be left on the cutting-room floor when Bradshaw was putting together his list, as Cutler has single-handedly lost games in the past because of his penchant for turnovers, plus he is yet to play in the postseason, but the Bears' starter thoroughly outplayed Michael Vick, who is supposedly the frontrunner for MVP honors.
Based on what he did to the Eagles in Week 12, would Bears fans rather have Cutler for the next three years – his current contract runs through 2013 – or Mark Sanchez? Josh Freeman? Even Eli Manning?
2. Three-man rotation at the safety positions is working
It makes sense to rotate players along the defensive line, as rushing the passer down after down is tough on the stamina of any 300-pounder, but teams usually don't do a whole lot of substituting at safety since they don't take the play-to-play pounding and there is a certain rhythm involved when covering receivers in the secondary. However, the Bears have bucked that trend in an effort to get third-round pick Major Wright on the field, as he saw a fair share of playing time Sunday in place of either free safety Chris Harris – Harris would then shift to strong – or strong safety Danieal Manning. It's hard to argue with the results Chicago's defense got against a big-play offense, as the explosive duo of DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin combined to catch only six passes for 73 yards, although Maclin did find the end zone.
The Midway Monsters have only surrendered two pass plays all year long of 40-plus yards, which is tied for second best in the league behind New England's one.
3. Martz getting rewarded with long runs here and there
The Bears have moved up to 18th in the league in rushing attempts with an average of 26.5 per game, but they're still just 21st in yards per game (101.9) and only tied for 23rd in average yards per carry (3.8). That being said, because offensive coordinator Mike Martz is sticking with the ground attack and pushing aside his tendency to air it out whenever possible, Chicago is tied for 15th with seven runs of 20-plus yards and one of only nine teams with at least two runs of 40-plus yards. Matt Forte got the second one Sunday at Soldier Field, breaking free for a 61-yard scamper en route to a 117-yard performance despite just 14 carries.
DT Tommie Harris
Ronald C. Modra/Getty
Forte and Chester Taylor – especially Taylor – still have too many runs that fail to make it back to the line of scrimmage, but Cutler's recent streak of being able to convert on third-and-long, coupled with the every-now-and-then big gainers, has made Martz's surprising commitment to the running game worthwhile.
4. Harris is getting more comfortable with being a role player
Looking at the stats for Tommie Harris, his output heading into December has hardly been worthy of a three-time Pro Bowl pick: five solo tackles, four assists, half a sack and one pass defensed. No longer capable of being the every-down penetrator he was the first few years of his career, before his knee got shredded and his hamstring was ripped clear off the bone toward the end 2006, Harris lost his starting job to the unheralded Matt Toeaina and is now nothing more than a rotation player at tackle. But the enigmatic Harris seems to have grown more accepting of his current situation week in and week out, and he was involved in the play Sunday that turned the game around for the Bears – he tipped the Vick pass that was intercepted in the Chicago end zone and led to a 14-point swing in the closing minutes of the second quarter.
Don't expect Harris to return to the Windy City in 2011, as his $2.5 million roster bonus and $1.3 million salary are too much based on this level of production, but at least the former first-round choice is contributing and no longer a distraction.
5. It's time for naysayers to start becoming believers
Leading up to the matchup with Philadelphia, Chicago's seven wins had come against the 2-8 Lions, the 3-7 Cowboys, the 7-3 Packers, the 1-9 Panthers, the 2-8 Bills, the 3-7 Vikings and the 5-5 Dolphins. Only Green Bay can legitimately be called a playoff contender at this point, and the Bears were fortunate to win that game since their most bitter rivals from the NFC North did everything possible to give it away – including committing a franchise record 18 penalties for 152 yards. But the 7-3 Eagles had been everyone's darlings for a month, alone atop the NFC East and Vick doing things that had never been done before under center, yet the Bears defeated them in all three phases before some fourth-quarter desperation made the final score look closer than the competition truly indicated.
The Monsters of the Midway have a lot to prove down the stretch, with home dates against the 9-2 Patriots and the 9-2 Jets falling between three division games on the road, but any fan not taking them at least somewhat seriously now needn't be taken seriously himself.
John Crist is the Publisher of BearReport.com, a Heisman Trophy voter and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.