After a loss to the Detroit Lions last week, the Chicago Bears are now in a position where the team needs to focus on the wild-card race as the chances of winning the NFC North division appear to be unlikely.
As the Chicago Bears take the field to play the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday, the team must now keep pace with other NFC North teams such as the Carolina Panthers, San Francisco 49ers, and Arizona Cardinals as the team attempts to secure one of the two wild-card spots in the NFC.
This week, Da Windy City staff takes a look at one team that poses the biggest threat to the Bears playoff chances as well as discussing head coach Marc Trestman, starting safety Chris Conte, Jay Cutler’s contract status and more.
1. Marc Trestman admitted that he left Jay Cutler in the game for too long after Cutler suffered an ankle injury in the second quarter. Do you appreciate the hindsight from the Bears head coach or does that add to your disappointment from the Bears loss to the Detroit Lions?
- Dylan Burn: Obviously there is still some disappointment in the loss to the Lions, but you have to appreciate what Trestman did. He took responsibility for leaving Cutler in to long and he’ll learn from it.
- Brandon Bender: Trestman’s keeping Cutler in too long was a sign of immaturity and lacked common sense. Yes, it was a big divisional game, but if you’re going to err, err on the side of caution. We don’t know if the Bears would’ve fared any better with McCown; nonetheless, Trestman played to win by keeping Cutler in and still lost.
- Brandon Cain: The disappoint is with Patrick Mannelley missing a game and the play calling. Matt Forte should have been used on the questionable fourth down play call.
- Jordan Campbell: It’s not like Cutler did not put the Bears in a position to win. In the drive early in the fourth quarter, two touchdowns were negated–a Matt Forte touchdown was erased by a penalty, and a touchdown pass to Alsho Jeffery was erased by Jeffery’s inability to come down with the ball. The reason why Cutler was left in the game for so long was because he was making plays that only he could make. When Cutler opted not to scramble for the first down on a third down play late in the fourth quarter, that is when Trestman needed to pull him out of the game.
2. The Bears offensive line has been praised this season for their ability to keep the quarterbacks clean. What hasn’t been said, though, is the struggles when it comes to run blocking. Those struggles were magnified on Sunday against the Lions as Forte had the worst game of his career. Is the Bears run-blocking a concern as the season progresses?
- Dylan Burn: The Lions have a tough defensive line, but if this team has aspirations to play deep into the playoffs, they will be playing teams that have good defensive lines and if you can’t get Forte going with the run you’re going to have trouble keeping Cutler on his feet too.
- Brandon Bender: The inability to run-block was magnified when Forte was stuffed on the two-point conversion. Granted, Detroit knew what was coming with two of the best defensive linemen in the game (Nick Fairley and Ndamokung Suh). Going up against them is often not a recipe for success.
- Brandon Cain: Specifically, run blocking outside the tackles is a concern. Jermon Bushrod has been the worse with pulling and blocking linebackers.
- Jordan Campbell: The Bears run blocking has not been inspiring this season. But, having said that, the Bears running backs need to do a better job at finding holes. On the fourth down play, a hole opened up for Michael Bush had the running back cut back instead Bush was stuffed on the play.
3. Chris Conte had himself a nice rebound game after struggling in previous weeks at the safety position. Many have said that Conte’s play has fallen off this season, but saying that would admit that Conte was something he hasn’t been his entire career–a high-performing safety. Who is the real Chris Conte?
- Dylan Burn: Conte had a good game, yes, but we shouldn’t be overreacting here. Conte is a decent safety that had himself a nice ball game, nothing more.
- Brandon Bender: Chris Conte is an average player who once in a while will have a great game. That’s all he is.
- Brandon Cain: Conte is an average safety in what use to be a prolific defense in the NFL.
- Jordan Campbell: Conte is a cornerback being exposed at the safety position because of a poor defensive line.
4. With the Bears chances at winning the division on life support after being swept by the Lions this season, what is the one team in the NFC Wild-Card picture that poses the biggest threat to the Bears chances at making the playoffs?
- Dylan Burn: The Lions look like they are running away with the division. I’d say that the Carolina Panthers look like a real threat to the Bears if they want to get into the playoffs.
- Brandon Bender: There’s more than just one team; the games with Philly and Dallas are looming large and will go a long way in determining the playoff fate of each team. The Bears have already won at Green Bay but that’s always a rivalry too.
- Brandon Cain: The Carolina Panthers are the biggest threat. A Panthers win over the New England Patriots this week will give them a boost to challenge the New Orleans Saints or take control in the Wild Card race.
- Jordan Campbell: The NFC East will beat themselves up. The San Francisco 49ers will be on wild-card team. That leaves the second wild-card spot between the Bears and Carolina Panthers. Panthers are playing inspired football right now.
5. Many Bears fans are trying to draw a connection between Cutler’s injuries and his contract status. Is there a connection there or are Bears fans shooting blanks?
- Dylan Burn: There is no connection between the two. He’s having a rough year with injuries it doesn’t have anything to do with the contract extension.
- Brandon Bender: Fans will use any ammunition to distract a quarterback regardless of how he plays. Cutler’s injuries have nothing to do with his contract situation and vice versa.
- Brandon Cain: Shooting blanks.
- Jordan Campbell: Shooting blanks. Can’t wait to hear what ridiculous criticism fans will have for Cutler next week.