The Bears didn't acquire Jay Cutler to watch him hand the ball off to Matt Forte, but that formula worked Sunday in their victory over the Panthers. Flip through the gallery for 10 more observations. | Tom Cruze/Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 4, 2011 3:20PM
The Bears’ 34-29 victory over the Carolina Panthers would be a lot easier to celebrate if the Bears looked like they could beat better teams than the Panthers with 224 rushing yards and Jay Cutler throwing 17 passes.
Unfortunately, there’s no way that was the formula Jerry Angelo and Lovie Smith had in mind when they acquired Cutler in a trade with Denver and signed Mike Martz as offensive coordinator.
The Bears did what they do best. They took advantage of an opponent’s weakness to win a game they couldn’t afford to lose. The pounded a Carolina defense with three starters missing — including Pro Bowl linebacker Jon Beason and cornerback Chris Gamble — and with two rookies starting at defensive tackle. The Cardinals (21 carries, 100 yards, 1 TD), Packers (16-111, 1 TD) and Jaguars (29-126) all had success with running backs against Carolina. The Bears did it better.
The Bears’ defense, expected to be among the NFL’s elite, has been a disappointment. But when Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs and Israel Idonije say they have ‘‘work to do’’ and will rely on their veteran leadership to ‘‘clean things up,’’ it’s not implausible to think they can do it.
But the focus is still on the unproven offense, which answered one question — Can the Bears run the ball? — but left way too much room for doubt Sunday. Cutler struggled to even manage the game. The Bears used three time outs to get the right personnel on the field. Matt Forte caught more passes than any of the wide receivers.
The Bears are 2-2 — not an unexpected result considering the difficult early schedule. But they’re not going anywhere without the offense they have spent nearly two years designing. The Bears still have work to do. But it’s Mike Martz’s offense that has the tougher job.