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JAHNS: BEARS’ MIDSEASON REPORT

RECEIVERS: A
BrandMarshall is all they needed. Marshall led way with 9 catches for 122 yards TD catches 39 13 5

RECEIVERS: A Brandon Marshall is all they needed. Marshall led the way with 9 catches for 122 yards and TD catches of 39, 13 and 5 yards. Earl Bennett had 4 catches for 22 yards. Devin Hester had 2 catches for 19 yards.

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MVP

Brandon Marshall, WR: While cornerback Charles Tillman is a legitimate candidate for defensive player of the year, there’s too many standouts on defense to pick one. Marshall’s impact on the offense has been immense. He’s the No. 1 receiver quarterback Jay Cutler needed. Marshall ranks second in the NFL in receiving yards (797), fourth in catches (59) and third in touchdowns (seven).

BIGGEST SURPRISE

Chris Conte, FS: The second-year pro has done very well limiting big plays, coming up to make tackles and covering players one-on-one. He also has been useful in blitz packages.

UNSUNG HERO

Stephen Paea, NT: Paea very quietly — and very productively — has gone about his business since winning the starting job in Week 2. By eating double-teams and plugging holes, Paea (five quarterback pressures, 11/2 sacks, two tackles for loss) is a big reason for the Bears’ success against the run.

BIGGEST
DISAPPOINTMENT

Pass protection: Every week, the coaches seemingly say “X-amount” of sacks is too much. While Cutler should be blamed for some of the 28 sacks, all those employed to block have to improve.

TOP CUTLER MOMENT

39-yard touchdown pass to Marshall vs. Titans: Give Cutler time, and he can make stellar passes, such as this one to Marshall down the sideline and between two Titans.

MOST TELLING STATISTIC

NFL-best plus-16 turnover ratio.

NO. 1 THING I LEARNED ABOUT THE BEARS

The Bears’ defensive line is deep, talented and aggressive. It’s an overused cliché to say, “Everything starts up front,” but what the Bears are doing is special.

THREE KEYS FOR THE SECOND HALF

1. Find different ways to get Cutler into rhythm. Whether it’s more play-action, more max protection, more swing passes to Matt Forte or more no-huddle, something has to work. The earlier Cutler gets going in games, the less pressure the defense will feel if the turnovers aren’t coming. Cutler is 15-0 in his Bears career when he has a 100-plus passer rating.

2. Continue to keep opponents’ big plays at a minimum. There have been some — Titans running back Chris Johnson has the longest with an 80-yard touchdown run against mainly backups — but not many, including on special teams.

3. Keep after the quarterback. Yes, the Bears’ second-half schedule is tougher, with their opponents’ records a combined 42-27, but they’ll face just one elite quarterback in the Packers’ Aaron Rodgers. The Texans’ Matt Schaub is the next-closest, and the 49ers’ Alex Smith is a game manager; the Seahawks’ Russell Wilson and the Vikings’ Christian Ponder are young; and the Lions’ Matthew Stafford still isn’t what he was last season. And who knows who the Cardinals will have at quarterback?

FINAL RECORD
PREDICTION: 12-4



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