With this offense, Bears can play from ahead vs. Packers
BY MARK POTASH firstname.lastname@example.org September 12, 2012 11:43PM
Bears receiver Brandon Marshall said the NFL record for catches in a season (144) is “in the back of [my] head.” | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times
Updated: September 13, 2012 12:08AM
GREEN BAY, Wis. — Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall are chasing records set by Sid Luckman, Bill Wade, Johnny Lujack, Harlon Hill, Ken Kavanaugh and Johnny Morris — and people wonder why Bears fans don’t know you’re supposed to ‘‘tone it down’’ when the team is in the red zone?
Of course we don’t. Frankly, it’s never come up in the 20, 30, 40 or 50 years most Chicagoans have been following the Bears. The last time the Bears led the NFL in points and yards was 1956. The last time they were in the top five in both categories was 1965.
Football experts I respect looked at me like I had two heads when I offered that theory regarding Cutler’s plea for fans at Soldier Field to pipe down when the Bears are in the red zone. But I still believe there’s some merit to it.
In fact, the last week has produced further evidence of what a shock this 21st-century offensive football thing is to our system:
◆ The Bears’ offense scored 41 points against the Colts — as many as the offense has scored in a game since 1989.
◆ With 333 passing yards and 114 rushing yards, the game marked only the second time since 1997 the Bears have had 300 or more passing yards and 100 or more rushing yards in regulation in the same game. The Patriots did that seven times last season.
Cutler, Marshall and Tice sound like they’re just warming up. In fact, it’s their attitude that will take getting used to more than anything else.
Before Marshall showed up, Chicago was ‘‘a place where receivers go to die,’’ as Muhsin Muhammad famously told Sports Illustrated’s Peter King in 2007. On Tuesday, Marshall told us the NFL record for receptions in a season is 144 set by Marvin Harrison in 2002 and breaking it is ‘‘in the back of [my] head.’’ Nobody laughed.
This looks and sounds like the dawn of a new era. When Cutler was asked — almost reflexively during Packer Week — about the need for the Bears to control the ball and win time of possession against Aaron Rodgers, his response was deafening to those who still have ‘‘We come off the bus running’’ ringing in their ears: ‘‘We’re in the point-scoring business,’’ Cutler said. ‘‘Time of possession isn’t really something that’s on our mind.’’
We’re in the point-scoring business? Even if Cutler throws three or four pick-sixes Thursday night after throwing just one against the Colts, you have to like the sound of that. It means the Bears get it, and that better-late-than-never credo couldn’t come in more handy than Thursday against the Packers.
The Bears have spent years trying to outfox and confuse Rodgers. But their best chance to beat him is to apply pressure the new-fangled way: by making him chase them. The Bears have fallen behind early in eight of nine games against Rodgers: 14-3, 14-0, 14-0, 10-0, 13-0, 10-2, 14-3 and 17-3. When Rodgers is hitting with the infield pulled way in every time up, he’ll usually find a way to beat you no matter how good your defense is. Unlike Brett Favre, Rodgers rarely gives you a chance. He has thrown one pick-six in 77 NFL games and 2,377 pass attempts (including playoffs).
But last week, the 49ers — who took a 16-7 halftime lead — forced Rodgers to score 31 points, and he could produce only 14. He was chasing the Giants all day in the playoffs last year and withered. The Bears finally have found the formula. Thursday will be a good indication of how quickly it will take them to make it work.