Bears: 4 downs
With Hanie stepping in for Cutler, pressure mounts for other Bears
Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher and defensive end Julius Peppers. (Scott Strazzante, Tribune photo / November 13, 2011)
By Brad Biggs, Chicago Tribune reporter 7:55 p.m. CST, November 26, 2011
1. Confidence man
They say a team follows the lead of its head coach and if that's the case, the Bears were in a good position to move forward with Jay Cutler sidelined after Lovie Smith's Monday news conference. The coach took the issue head on and with confidence. Smith told the public not to feel sorry for the Bears and that's because he believes they're not built on one player. Coming off Cutler's best game of the season, it was difficult for some to see that. But Matt Forte has produced the bulk of the offense.
2. Lesson learned
The confidence the Bears have in Caleb Hanie can be traced to the eight-game winning streak and 10-5 record the team produced in 2005 when Kyle Orton was pushed into emergency service with Rex Grossman out. As much as things have changed in six seasons, the franchise and Lovie Smith still have the same recipe for success — defense, a solid running game and win the battle of field position with special teams. Hanie properly rejected the "game manager" label, but he needs to be a caretaker. Orton succeeded because he didn't lose games. In 13 of his 15 starts in 2005, he threw one or no interceptions.
3. Pressure on 'D'
There's no question the loss of Jay Cutler puts more pressure on the defense. Middle linebacker Brian Urlacher quickly acknowledged that Monday. It starts with more consistent play from the defensive line. The line struggled to bring pressure in the Bears' victory over the Chargers and the result was too much time for Philip Rivers to throw downfield. The Bears heralded their defensive line as one of the league's best before the season and it has been far from that. No player has consistently stepped up alongside Julius Peppers, or consistently benefited from the pressure created by Peppers. That's a legitimate concern.
4. Taking long view
The Bears' effort to land Kyle Orton after he was cut by the Broncos signaled a couple of things, most importantly that the team was committed to adding the top available player and wasn't relying on the personnel desires of offensive coordinator Mike Martz. The Bears won't catch the Packers in the regular season, but at Halas Hall the belief is they have an excellent chance to compete in the playoffs. To a lesser degree, it's why rookie long snapper Jake Laptad was cut after 48 hours for a veteran long snapper. Backup quarterback Josh McCown knows Martz's scheme, but he doesn't have the track record Orton does, and the Bears put that first.
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