Notebook: Fire-Drill Offense won't Last

We discuss the issues on the offensive line and what can be done to fix them against the Vikings, as well as Bears player notes, matchups to watch for on Sunday night and more.

As well as Jay Cutler played in Monday night's loss while running for his life, he doesn't want to make a habit of it.

"I don't really want to be under pressure a lot," he said two days after completing 28 of 38 passes for a passer rating of 99.6.

But he may not have a choice. The offensive line isn't getting noticeably better, and offensive coordinator Mike Martz isn't calling plays that get the ball out of the quarterback's hand any quicker. Martz hasn't said anything to Cutler about that, as yet, but the quarterback would be happy to hear it.

"Whenever you talk to him, you can ask him," Cutler said. "I said, 'I'm hoping.' I'd like to see that happen."

The sooner the better, considering the 2-3 Bears Sunday night's matchup pits them against the NFL's No. 9 pass-rush team, the 1-4 Vikings, who feature NFL sack leader Jared Allen.

Monday night, the Lions sacked Cutler "just" three times, but they chased him from the pocket several times and forced him to elude pass rushers while remaining in the pocket at other times. He responded with 249 passing yards and one touchdown with no interceptions, and coach Lovie Smith says he's not concerned that Cutler will lose confidence in an offensive line that has struggled to keep him upright.

"Jay played the best game he's played in a long time," Smith said. "He was under the gun quite a bit. He hung in there and made play after play, so, no, (I'm) not concerned about that at all."

That's the kind of pressure Cutler has experienced frequently since the beginning of last season, and he's taken a physical beating on a regular basis. He says he can handle that, but having to deal with an omnipresent pass rush has adversely affected his timing and the rhythm of the offense.

"Physically it's not that big of a deal," he said. "Mentally it just speeds up my (internal) clock; just makes me uneasy in the pocket. You take your eyes away from downfield to check to see what's going on in front of you, so it's psychologically and mentally more than anything. I just don't want to take a sack, (so I) try to get rid of the ball as fast as possible."

Cutler was sacked a league-high 52 times last season, and he's on pace for 58 more this season. He can expect similar pressure from the Vikings' defense.

"They saw the game plan Detroit had," Cutler said. "We're going to have to find a way to block them."

That's been an ongoing problem, and no one knows it better than Cutler. The Bears ran the ball a season-high 31 times in the 34-29 victory over the Panthers, and they were able to slow down the pass rush, allowing just one sack. But in every other game, Cutler has been sacked at least three times.

"You can only keep running the ball so many times," Cutler said. "At a certain point, you're going to have to throw it, and at a certain point you're going to have to evaluate what you can do in the passing game and what you can't do. That's not up to me, though, that's up to those guys (the coaches)."

Smith was asked if the Bears need to evaluate things differently to put Cutler and the rest of the offense in a better position to succeed.

"Believe it or not, we're trying to put our guys in position to succeed every play," he said. "As far as evaluating, we evaluate every day, every play. So yes, we do and we are."

Cutler had success in Denver on planned rollouts, but he said Martz's offense doesn't lend itself to putting the quarterback on the move, although he's agreeable to anything at this point.

"I'll do anything they want me to do," Cutler said. "It doesn't matter to me. As long as everyone else is comfortable with it, as long as the offensive line's comfortable with it, as long as we can do it in the right, timely manner and fashion, then I'm cool with it."

SERIES HISTORY

100th regular-season meeting. Vikings lead series 52-45-2. Bears won the only postseason meeting, a 35-18 first-rounder at Minnesota after the 1994 season. Bears have won nine of the last 10 games at home.

PLAYER NOTES

--QB Jay Cutler has a 97.8 passer rating in five career starts vs. the Vikings with 13 touchdowns and six interceptions.

--WR Devin Hester has three punt-return touchdowns in seven games (22 attempts) vs. the Vikings, in addition to four receiving touchdowns.

--RB Matt Forte leads the NFL with 785 yards from scrimmage, but he has just one rushing TD and one receiving TD in six games vs. the Vikings.

--LB Brian Urlacher has eight sacks and three interceptions in 19 games vs. the Vikings.

--CB Charles Tillman has three interceptions and two forced fumbles in 13 games vs. the Vikings.

--S Chris Harris has four interceptions in just seven career games vs. the Vikings.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH

Bears LT J'Marcus Webb, who had three false-start penalties on Monday night, vs. Vikings DRE Jared Allen, who leads the NFL with 8.5 sacks.

Bears run defense, which is allowing 135.6 yards per game (No. 28) and is ranked No. 32 in average gain allowed per run, vs. Vikings RB Adrian Peterson, who is second in the NFL with 498 rushing yards.

Bears RB Matt Forte, who leads the NFL in yards from scrimmage with 785 (440 rushing, 345 receiving) and is averaging 5.4 yards per carry, vs. a Vikings defense that is tied for No. 4 in rushing yards allowed and No. 5 in average gain per run but only No. 25 in passing yards allowed.


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