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Cutler is the better choice at Bears’ QB

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THE LONGEST YARD

Maybe one yard would have made a difference for Robbie Gould on Sunday. In the last 10 seasons, NFL kickers are 6-for-6 on 46-yard field goals in overtime, but 2-for-6 from 47 yards. Here’s a chart of overtime field-goal success rates by distance since 2004, followed by Robbie Gould’s career totals:

Distance OT pct Gould pct

18-24 13-13 (1.000) 40-40 (1.000)

25-29 11-14 (.786) 34-34 (1.000)

30-34 30-31 (.968) 29-31 (.935)

35-39 30-32 (.938) 49-55 (.891)

40-44 12-14 (.857) 40-49 (.816)

45-49 13-20 (.650) 27-43 (.628)

50-54 4-13 (.308) 13-17 (.765)

55-59 1-3 (.333) 2-2 (1.000)

Bears GM Phil Emery on Jay Cutler's future
GRADING THE BEARS: Week 13 vs. Vikings
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Interactive graphic: Pro Football Focus rates Alshon Jeffery, Julius Peppers

Updated: December 4, 2013 11:54AM



Josh McCown or Jay Cutler? C’mon, man. It’s really not that close. As soon as Cutler is ready to go, he’s the Bears’ starting quarterback. At this point, the sooner the better.

McCown has been a revelation as the starter in place of Cutler. A journeyman with a career 71.2 passer rating coming into this season, he has a 103.6 rating in six games (four starts) that ranks him seventh in the NFL.

And he’s not dinking and dunking his way to that impressive rating. McCown’s 7.94 yards per attempt also is seventh in the NFL — ahead of Cutler (7.20) and a hair behind the great Drew Brees (7.95).

On paper, the clock has yet to strike midnight on McCown’s fairy-tale story. But his first ‘‘bad Jay’’ moment seems like a reminder that the clock is ticking. Maybe it was just a spur-of-the-moment lapse, but when McCown resorted to an ill-advised shovel pass that resulted in a turnover, it might also have been an indicator his effectiveness has reached its peak.

And that single play isn’t the only sign. McCown threw for 355 yards and two touchdowns and averaged 9.9 yards per attempt against the Minnesota Vikings; the Bears gained 480 yards, including 135 rushing — the first time since 1995 the Bears passed for more than 300 yards and rushed for 135 or more in the same game. Yet they scored 20 points in perfect conditions — albeit on the road — against the 30th-ranked defense in the NFL.

McCown has been everything the Bears could have hoped for and more in place of Cutler, but after four starts, a negative trend has emerged: with McCown, the Bears are gaining more yards and scoring fewer points. Over McCown’s last three starts, the Bears rank seventh in yards, fifth in yards per play but 21st in points.

It seems like Cutler might be the difference. The Bears averaged 369 yards and 24 offensive points per game in Cutler’s six complete games. They’ve averaged 416 yards and 21 offensive points in McCown’s four complete games. And don’t forget, most of Cutler’s games came when the offense was in a formative stage in Marc Trestman’s first season. McCown jumped on a horse in full stride.

Trestman said it’s a team problem — though, frankly, the question of whether Cutler is the difference puts Trestman on the spot. He’s not going to denigrate his starting quarterback, especially when he’s seventh in the NFL with a 103.6 passer rating.

‘‘I think it’s a collective effort by everybody,’’ Trestman said. ‘‘It wasn’t Josh’s fault that we didn’t convert on third-and-1 [against the Vikings]. We’re just not doing things collectively to get it done.’’

Still, the quarterback is going to be a target any time an offense is 2-for-11 on third-down conversions against an opponent that came in ranked 31st in third-down defense. McCown was 4-for-9 for 89 yards and a touchdown on third down, but with just two conversions.

McCown’s success in Trestman’s offense opens all sorts of future possibilities at quarterback for the Bears. But for now, Cutler is the best quarterback on their roster. With a defense struggling to a historic degree, the Bears don’t just need more offense. They need more points. With all due respect to McCown’s surprising success, a healthy Cutler gives them the best chance to get them.

Angelo sees kick from both angles

Everybody’s a critic. But Jerry Angelo, the subject of second-guessing for most of his 11 years as the Bears’ general manager, has earned the right.

Angelo, writing for Sulia.com, said he understands Bears coach Marc Trestman’s rationale in deciding to have Robbie Gould attempt a 47-yard field goal on second down against the Minnesota Vikings in overtime Sunday. But he also said the pressure of making a game-winning kick makes it imperative that you try to get as close as possible to give Gould the best chance to make the game-winner.

‘‘My thinking is, you do everything you can to make it as easy as you can on him,’’ Angelo wrote. ‘‘Not because you question his ability, but because of the pressure he’s under to make the game-winning kick.

‘‘You saw both kickers miss their opportunities to win it for their team. That tells you something about the pressure. They were in a dome. You can’t blame the elements. It’s all about pressure.

‘‘I know this is second-guessing, and I hate that, so I’ll go with the coach’s rationale, that a penalty or a fumble or a minus play would have put them in worse field position. Who knows?

‘‘The fact remains: if any of [those negative plays] happen, no one would have second-guessed your reasoning for continuing downfield and keeping the momentum you had going for yourself.’’

Jones irked by Ratliff as an opponent

Bears defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff, preparing to play against his former Dallas Cowboys teammates on Monday night, says he doesn’t get caught up in ‘‘all that silly rivalry stuff or payback.’’ But Cowboys owner Jerry Jones might.

Jones didn’t hide his frustration at having to face the player he signed to a five-year, $40 million extension in 2011 that included $18 million guaranteed.

After signing that deal, Ratliff — then known as Jay — had two sacks and 67 tackles in 22 games before suffering a season-ending groin injury last Nov. 18. He suffered a hamstring injury during a conditioning test in training camp this season and was put on the physically unable to play (PUP) list. When he was eligible to come off the PUP list, the Cowboys released him Oct. 16 — officially for failing a physical, but amid disputes about Ratliff’s health and rehabilitation.

Ratliff signed a one-year contract with the Bears on Nov. 3.

‘‘I’m sure he will, if he can, be inspired by playing his old team,’’ Jones said Tuesday on Dallas radio station KRLD-FM. ‘‘I wish him the best on an individual basis. [But] it would be very frustrating to see him get in there and play when most thought that he couldn’t play when he left us — as far as he was concerned and his approach to what he was going to be doing this year.

‘‘So with all of that in mind, I look at that and I have always thought a lot of him as a pro football player, and with the shape that we’re in on our defensive front, as far as I’m concerned, he needs to be over here helping the Dallas Cowboys.’’

Email: mpotash@suntimes.com

Twitter: @MarkPotash



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