Behind Enemy Lines: Going Inside the Bears

Bear Report beat writer Jeremy Stoltz offers his insight on the Bears ahead of Sunday's NFC North showdown in Chicago. Leading off: Can the Bears win a Super Bowl with Jay Cutler at quarterback?

Jeremy Stoltz of answers five questions about the Bears from Bill Huber of heading into Sunday's season-deciding NFC North contest.

Bill Huber: I might have asked you this at the start of the season but it's worth revisiting: Is Jay Cutler capable of leading the Bears to the Super Bowl? To me, he seems too prone to bad decisions at key times, though perhaps my thinking is jaded from his struggles against the Packers.

Jeremy Stoltz: There's no questioning Cutler's tendency toward the ill-advised throw. His decision-making, as well as fundamental breakdowns that happen all too often, are the main reasons a quarterback as talented as Cutler has yet to reach elite status. He's arguably the most hot-and-cold signal caller in the NFL. So if Cutler gets hot in the playoffs, he can definitely lead the team to a championship. The problem is, the Bears have only made the playoffs once since trading for Cutler in 2009 and are on the verge of another second-half collapse.

BH: Is Brandon Marshall that great or are the rest of the receivers that bad? I'm not sure I've ever seen one guy have as many catches as the next four combined.

JS: It's a combination of both. Marshall is the greatest receiver in the history of the Bears organization. It took him just 13 games to break the franchise's record for single-season receptions (101 and counting) and he needs just 59 more yards to break the single-season record in receiving yardage (1,400). He's one of the best in the league at using his body to shield defenders in going after 50/50 passes. When he's hot, he's nearly unstoppable. At the same time, the rest of Chicago's wideouts have been horrible. The three receivers just below Marshall on the depth chart have each dropped game-changing touchdowns the last two weeks. As far as Chicago's passing attack, it's Marshall or bust.

BH: How's the offensive line shaping up? I know there were some changes with Wisconsin's Gabe Carimi getting yanked at right tackle.

JS: Carimi moved inside to right guard, with Jonathan Scott taking over at right tackle. James Brown has been inserted at left guard, after Chilo Rachal, Chris Spencer and Edwin Williams all failed at the position. So far, the changes have resulted in improved pass protection for Jay Cutler – he's only been sacked three times the past three games. The run game struggled with the changes at first but the team averaged 6.6 yards per carry last week. Overall, the moves up front have resulted in a net positive.

BH: Never mind what Jermichael Finley said this week about Brian Urlacher – I asked the question and I'm not sure he was aware that Urlacher was even injured, hence, the "slow" comment – how badly do the Bears miss their veteran linebacker?

JS: I actually agree with Finley's assessment of Urlacher. He lost a step this year and never fully recovered from the knee sprain he suffered in the season finale last year. Yet 75 percent of Urlacher is better than 100 percent of most other linebackers. While he wasn't playing at a Pro Bowl level, he was still making plays. With him out, the team surrendered 154 yards to Minnesota's Adrian Peterson last week. The defense just isn't the same without him.

BH: Statistically, Hester is just a so-so returner this season. How much of that is teams game-planning to take him out of the equation?

JS: Teams have always tried to game plan for Hester. That hasn't changed this year. The difference is that Hester just hasn't shown his signature vision and burst this season. And he all too often chooses to run backward and sideways, hoping to take each return to the house, instead of just picking up positive yards. He may still have a return TD or two left in him but it appears his days as an elite returner are nearing an end.

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