The Chicago Bears have struggled mightily on offense all season, which ultimately led to the club's 0-3 start, but against the Detroit Lions on Sunday, QB Brian Hoyer was outstanding.
In Chicago's 17-14 victory, their first win at Soldier Field in 364 days, Hoyer completed 28 of 36 passes (78 percent) for 302 yards, 2 TDs and 0 INTs, good for a 120.1 QB rating.
Under Hoyer, the Bears had 408 yards of total offense and converted 5-of-13 opportunities on 3rd down.
“I thought he was very good, very efficient," head coach John Fox said. "It was our best third-down percentage of the season thus far. It was good early, which gave us confidence."
Hoyer threw for 317 yards in last week's loss to the Dallas Cowboys. He's the first Bears quarterback to throw for 300 or more yards in back-to-back contests since Josh McCown in 2012. Hoyer's 120.1 QB rating was the highest of any Bears passer this year, topping the 93.1 rating he posted last week.
"He's a pro," Fox said. "He works hard at it. He's been there before. He has a winning record as a starter. I think he's adapted well. Dowell Loggains and the offensive staff have done an outstanding job coaching him up for the first two outings, today being the best one because we got the W."
Hoyer was decisive and accurate for most of the game and appeared in complete control of the offense. The Bears struggled to post points consistently against the Lions, particularly in the first half, but Hoyer's judiciousness with the football never allowed Detroit to mount a comeback.
That included a crucial scoring drive in the third quarter after the Lions had cut the lead to just one point (7-6). Hoyer then led the offense on a six-play, 75-yard drive that culminated in a 6-yard TD pass to TE Zach Miller.
"[Hoyer] played great," said Eddie Royal, who caught Hoyer's first touchdown pass. "Being accurate with the ball, getting it out on time and doing all the little things. Converting on third down. Those things are key and he did a great job today."
With Hoyer's performance, coupled with Jay Cutler's struggles the first two weeks of the campaign, a quarterback controversy could be brewing in Chicago.
Cutler is the high-priced starter, yet the offense has been much more efficient under Hoyer, whose lack of arm strength has actually been a good thing for the passing attack. Gone are the risky deep passes into double coverage - which was the crux of the offense under Cutler - having been replaced by a dink-and-dunk short passing attack that leans on the run game and emphasizes ball security.
"He's played very well," Miller said. "His communication is very good. He's leading in the huddle, taking care of the football, getting the ball out. Everything that he can do, he's doing, so he's playing very well."
Yet before we get too caught up in Hoyer fever, remember that today's contest was against the Lions, a team that has struggled mightily this season. Hoyer was inconsistent and off-target last week in Dallas, so we've seen how low his floor can go.
Additionally, Chicago's offensive line has pass blocked much better that last two weeks. That's a huge change from the matador pass protection Cutler received.
"They've done a great job of protecting me," said Hoyer. "That's kind of coming along with them getting together and playing together. Really, that unit has been together for only four weeks, with Josh [Sitton] and Cody [Whitehair] moving over to center. I think they're coming together and there is proof in that."
At the end of the day, Cutler is the more talented quarterback, one whose arm strength opens up the playbook. He might be turnover prone and maddeningly inconsistent but his $17 million salary almost guarantees he'll be back under center once his thumb heals.
"We'll cross that bridge when we get to it," Fox said. "I'd like to enjoy this win at least for a few hours."
That said, Hoyer's performance the past two weeks may have proved to Bears brass that the offense can be successful without Cutler, who runs out of guaranteed money in his contract after this season.
If Hoyer continues to shine, he might give the team's decision makers confidence to drop Cutler after the season and use Hoyer as a placeholder for the club's early-round quarterback in next year's draft.null