"That's all we've been asking for is the opportunity," said Marty Booker, who caught a team-high five passes for 44 yards Sunday. "We finally got the opportunity and stepped up. I think the main thing was to get some early passes going. Getting Kordell comfortable throwing short and long passes really helped."
Stewart completed his first six passes against the Cardinals for 97 yards. The 5-7 Bears would love to clone that performance for Sunday's showdown against the second-place, 6-6 Packers.
"As long as we keep doing what we're doing, I think we'll be all right," Booker said. "The opportunity is there for us. We just have to take advantage of it."
The Bears do not have a player among the NFL's top 40 in receptions or receiving yardage, and no one on the team has more than three touchdown catches.
That doesn't have to be a terrible thing, especially if the ball is being evenly distributed to several players in the passing game, as it is in the Bears' case. After Sunday's most productive air show of the season, the Bears remain 31st in passing yardage, but with the continued development of rookies Justin Gage and Bobby Wade, they have several receivers capable of contributing. That was never more evident than in the victory over the Cardinals.
Eight players, including five wide receivers, caught passes in the 28-3 triumph, and the variety of participation was apparent from the first possession of the game, a 96-yard touchdown drive.
On third-and-6 from the Bears' eight-yard line, Wade caught a quick slant and turned it into a 24-yard gain. Two plays later, Gage displayed his outstanding "ups" to take a jump ball away from Cardinals cornerback David Barrett for a 57-yard gain. On the next snap, Booker laid out in the back of the end zone for a diving, 2-yard TD grab.
"I thought that Bobby Wade's play in the first quarter may have been as big a play as we made in the game," coach Dick Jauron said. "Then Justin makes the long play on the sideline, then 'Book' makes the touchdown." After a nearly 40-minute scoring drought, Dez White (four catches, 55 yards) gave the Bears breathing room early in the fourth quarter with a 10-yard TD catch, his team-best third of the season.
"They all have strengths, and they all have things they do better than the other guys, and we're trying to utilize that," Jauron said. "Dez shows up later with the slant and go, and David (Terrell showed up) with a critical first down."
With a 22.9-yard average gain per catch, Gage has made an impact as a big-play threat, and his six receptions of more than 20 yards lead the team. With White expected to sign elsewhere in the offseason as an unrestricted free agent, Gage is due for a promotion sooner or later.
"I don't feel differently coming out of that game than I felt going into that game about Justin Gage," Jauron said of the rookie's four catches for 100 yards. "I think he is just going to be a terrific player as long as he keeps working and pushing. He's a playmaker, and he's come so far in the pro game, from where we started, that he deserves a lot of credit. We have a lot of confidence in him. I like our situation at wide receiver."
Four different Bears have more than 30 catches this season, led by White with 44 and followed by tight end Desmond Clark (35), Booker (34) and Terrell (32). Only two players had more than 30 catches last season, when Booker had 97 and White 51. Booker had 1,189 receiving yards last season, and Booker had 656, but no one else had 250. Four players already have passed that mark, led by White (516), Booker (380), Clark (332) and Gage (252 on just 11 catches). Terrell has 208.
"They all do things well," Jauron said. "When we can keep the ball, then we can utilize them all. It's just hard to get enough plays to get them all involved, but we're going to try."