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Marshall takes pride in mental ability

Posted by Larry Mayer on October 31, 2012 – 3:20 pm

Watching 6-4, 230-pound receiver Brandon Marshall, it’s obvious that he possesses the size and strength to consistently win one-on-one battles. But that’s not the only reason he excels.

“Physically, we all know what he can do,” said quarterback Jay Cutler. “Behind the scenes, I don’t think people realize how smart and gifted he is mentally within the game of football.

“He knows my reads. He can call the plays in the huddle. He knows where everybody lines up. He could play [every receiver position]. He’s extremely smart. His ability to adjust in the middle of routes depending on coverages is extraordinary.”

Marshall takes pride in the mental aspect of the game.

“That started back in high school when I noticed the guys were faster than me, so I had to be a little crafty in my route running,” he said. “My father used to always teach me the game and how to run routes and be quarterback-friendly. So being with a quarterback who understands leverage and body position made it easy for me and it makes it easy on our offense.”

With 50 receptions for 675 yards through seven games, Marshall is on pace to set Bears single-season records with a career-high 114 catches and 1,542 yards.

Cutler believes that his long-time teammate—first in Denver and now in Chicago—has matured, saying: “He’s a different receiver. I would say better. He understands the game a lot better. He takes care of his body. He’s there every single day getting better.”

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Marshall says Cutler has ‘clutch gene’

Posted by Larry Mayer on October 31, 2012 – 2:39 pm

Receiver Brandon Marshall solicited nicknames from the Chicago media Wednesday to describe Jay Cutler’s ability to perform at a high level late in games.

The Bears quarterback leads the NFL with a fourth-quarter passer rating of 132.0, ahead of the Broncos’ Peyton Manning (119.6) and the Packers’ Aaron Rodgers (110.6).

“A couple weeks ago I was trying to figure out a name,” Marshall said. “I texted him over a few nicknames like ‘The Closer’ and ‘Ace.’ I’m trying to figure out a nickname for him, so if you guys can help me out, I’d appreciate it. Jay’s one of those guys where he has that clutch gene. You hear guys talk about it and some believe in it, some don’t. But Jay has it.”

Cutler demonstrated that gene last Sunday when he led the Bears to a 23-22 comeback win over the Carolina Panthers. Trailing 19-7 midway through the fourth quarter, he threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to tight end Kellen Davis and then set up Robbie Gould’s game-winning 41-yard field goal as time expired by engineering a nine-play, 55-yard drive.

In the first three quarters, Cutler completed only 7 of 14 passes for 80 yards with one interception, two lost fumbles and six sacks. In the fourth period, he connected on 12 of 14 passes for 106 yards with one touchdown and a 122.0 rating.

“We know what [Cutler] can do,” said center Roberto Garza. “If you give him time, he can connect with those big-time receivers that we have out there. We’ve been practicing that [two-minute drill] since we started training camp, getting the work in, and it obviously paid off.”

Part of Cutler’s success in the fourth quarter this season can be attributed to the Bears protecting leads against defenses that are stacking the box to try to stop the run.

“Our defense is putting us in positions where we’re leading games and [opponents] are trying to get the ball back, [playing] a lot of single high [safety], which makes it a lot easier on the outside throwing the ball,” Cutler said. “We’ve hit some big plays out there. The way our defense is playing and carrying leads into the fourth quarter makes my job easier.”

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Hasselbeck impressed with Bears defense

Posted by Larry Mayer on October 31, 2012 – 2:03 pm

Tennessee Titans quarterback Matt Hasselbeck has had some recent success against the Bears defense. But the 14-year NFL veteran knows that he’ll face a difficult test Sunday in Nashville.

In three starts versus the Bears since 2007-all with the Seattle Seahawks-Hasselbeck passed for 337, 242 and 258 yards with six touchdowns, no interceptions and a 96.2 passer rating.

“I don’t even know what those numbers are, but I know that they’re a great defense,” Hasselbeck said. “They have been for a long time. Shoot, for like the last 50 years they’ve been known for having a great defense. It’s one of those teams that you really have to study and understand.”

The Bears defense is ranked No. 1 in the Aikman Ratings, which combines seven different statistical categories. During the team’s current five-game winning streak, the unit has returned six interceptions for touchdowns while allowing opponents to score only four TDs.

“They’ve got All-Pro players, guys that are perennial Pro Bowlers, guys that are great at their positions,” Hasselbeck said. “It’s a defense that you not only know because you watch them on TV as a fan but you also study them, and you sort of raise your game in preparation in a sense to try to be successful.”

Hasselbeck has especially been impressed with cornerbacks Tim Jennings and Charles Tillman. Jennings leads the NFL with a career-high six interceptions and was named NFC defensive player of the month for September. Tillman returned interceptions for touchdowns in back-to-back games, earning NFC defensive player of the week honors after both contests.

“They are two very different styles of corners, but two guys you have a great amount of respect for,” Hasselbeck said. “In particular these last few weeks, Tillman has been playing really well. He’s well known for creating turnovers, stripping the ball and being a very smart player.

“[Jennings] on the other side is different. He’s quicker and more aggressive. He’s smart and he understands when to take chance and when not to take chances. It’s a good tandem. They match up well against all the different teams.”

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Bears increase first-place lead

Posted by Larry Mayer on October 25, 2012 – 10:52 pm

With Minnesota’s 36-17 loss to the visiting Buccaneers Thursday night, the Bears (5-1) extended their lead atop the NFC North to a full game over the Vikings (5-3). The Packers (4-3) remain third, followed by the Lions (2-4).

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Ground game has provided a boost

Posted by Larry Mayer on October 25, 2012 – 6:35 pm

After averaging 101 yards on the ground during their first four games, the Bears have rushed for 214 and 171 yards versus the Jaguars and Lions, respectively, in their last two contests.

“We’ve kept our commitment to it; you have to start with that,” said coach Lovie Smith. “It helps so much when you can run the ball, which we’ve been able to do the last couple weeks.

“When you have two running backs too like Michael Bush—the yards that he has given us—along with a special player in Matt Forte, why wouldn’t you run the ball?”

Forte has run the ball extremely well against Sunday’s opponent, the Carolina Panthers. In fact, the two most productive games of his five-year NFL career have both come against the Panthers with 205 yards on 25 carries last season and 166 yards on 22 attempts in 2010.

“Matt’s had exceptional days both times and made us look good,” said center Roberto Garza. “Up front we have to do a little bit better job than we did this past week. We left a lot of plays on the field technique-wise, so hopefully we can get better and move on.”

Offensive coordinator Mike Tice said that against the Jaguars and Lions the line played its two most physical games in his three seasons with the Bears.

“We’re coming along,” Garza said. “It’s been a focus for us, the rival game against Detroit, knowing what kind of front they are. But you want an offensive line to be physical every tine, create movement and get on those guys and stay on those guys.”

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Bears eager to get into regular routine

Posted by Larry Mayer on October 25, 2012 – 5:12 pm

Given their unorthodox schedule, getting into a regular routine hasn’t been easy for the Bears. That’s why they’re happy about playing back-to-back games at noon on Sunday the next two weeks for the first time this season.

The Bears’ first six games have been played on three different days of the week (Sunday, Monday and Thursday) and at four different times (noon, 3:05 p.m., 7:20 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.). They played their first two games in a five-day span and since have had breaks of 10 and 15 days between games.

“It does help that you can get into some kind of routine,” said offensive coordinator Mike Tice. “We had 15 days off [before Monday night’s win over the Lions] and it just didn’t feel as crisp as we wanted it to be. We felt a little off.

“So it is good to get into a real routine of a regular week and a regular day game where you go down and you have a meeting the night before the game and you have a regular Friday and maybe I can see my wife Diane when she’s awake and different things like that.”

Quarterback Jay Cutler is also looking forward to playing the Bears’ next two games at noon on Sunday at home against the Panthers and in Tennessee versus the Titans.

“Whenever we take three or four days off practice and then come back it’s always kind of a feel-it-out kind of sloppy practice, and then the next day we come back sharp,” Cutler said.

“We had 15 days off without playing a game. It’s hard to do. I think it’s good for us to go Sunday-Sunday and kind of get in a little bit of a routine and get back in schedule.”

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Cutler appreciates fan support

Posted by Larry Mayer on October 25, 2012 – 3:22 pm

Bears fans no doubt will be happy to hear that quarterback Jay Cutler practiced without restrictions Thursday in preparation for Sunday’s home game against the Carolina Panthers.

Cutler suffered bruised ribs on a vicious but legal sack by Ndamukong Suh in Monday night’s win over the Lions. The quarterback appreciated the ovations he received from Bears fans when he jogged off the field and later when he returned to the game after missing only one play.

Asked about his fan support, Cutler said: “That was good to hear. It hasn’t always been great around here. But they’re coming around slowly but surely.”

Cutler has been hosting a weekly one-hour radio show on ESPN this season. Asked if he feels whether fans are warming up to him because of the show, Cutler said: “Winning helps too. Anytime you win, that’s going to be a cure-all. After the Packers week, we were back at DEFCON 5.

“The radio show doesn’t hurt, though, by any means. It’s a fun hour. The guys I’m working with (Tom Waddle and Marc Silverman) are doing a good job and the fans seem to like it as well.”

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Rivera impressed with Bears defense

Posted by Larry Mayer on October 25, 2012 – 2:06 pm

Panthers coach Ron Rivera, who served as defensive coordinator with the Bears in 2006 when they reached the Super Bowl, is impressed with what he’s seen of his former team on tape.

“As you watch these guys, you watch a team that’s very opportunistic,” Rivera said in advance of Sunday’s game at Soldier Field. “They go out and they attack the ball and they get the football. It’s almost reminiscent of 2006. In fact, I think this group could be better, I really do.”

The Bears defense leads the NFL in points allowed per game (13.0), takeaways (21) and sacks per game (3.5). The unit has fueled a four-game winning streak by scoring five touchdowns while only allowing three TDs in wins over the Rams, Cowboys, Jaguars and Lions.

“Their front four can rush as well as anybody in the league and they can get after the quarterback with just four guys,” Rivera said. “Then, you watch the way the linebackers attack. These guys are downhill football players. They are physical, they are playmakers.

“And then I think their DBs are opportunistic. You look at what Charles Tillman does and the way he is redefining stripping and knocking the football out I think is really a true testament to that defensive philosophy that has been there for quite some time.”

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Bears not looking past Panthers

Posted by Larry Mayer on October 24, 2012 – 4:53 pm

Although it’s a mismatch on paper, the red-hot Bears don’t intend to take the struggling Carolina Panthers lightly Sunday at Soldier Field, especially after what transpired last season.

The Bears edged the Panthers 34-29 last Oct. 2 in Chicago, but not before they had allowed 543 total yards, the most in a game since Mike Ditka’s first season as coach in 1982.

“Last year Carolina gave us all we wanted,” said coach Lovie Smith. “It was a tough game. I think they had an onside kick at the end of the game, so that tells you what type of football game it was.

“Our defense has been playing good football throughout the year. But Carolina put over 500 yards on us last year, so it will be a big test. I know what their record is, 1-5, and they haven’t played as well as they would like. But they are definitely capable.”

That’s certainly true of quarterback Cam Newton, who has struggled in his second season after excelling as a rookie in 2011. In last year’s game against the Bears, Newton passed for 374 yards and one touchdown and rushed for 35 yards and two TDs without being sacked.

“[He presents] all types of problems,” Smith said. “First off, just raw ability. He’s fast. He’s big. He’s got a strong arm. He’s mobile in the pocket. He can make all the throws.

“And then they do a good job of letting him display all of those talents. They’ll have some option plays that normally are reserved for quarterbacks that can run. When things break down, just him taking off in the pocket. That gives defenses as much of a problem as anything.”

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Cutler not concerned with sore ribs

Posted by Larry Mayer on October 24, 2012 – 2:18 pm

The bruised ribs he suffered in Monday night’s win over the Lions are still sore, but Bears quarterback Jay Cutler is confident that he won’t be limited Sunday against the Panthers.

“I’m not concerned at all,” said Cutler, who will continue to use the same rib pads he wears in every game. “I think by Sunday it’ll all be cleared up. I’ll be fine.”

Because they played Monday night, the Bears won’t practice for the first time this week until Thursday. Had they worked out Wednesday, Cutler would have been limited.

The Bears quarterback was injured midway through the second quarter on a vicious but legal sack by defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. After being evaluated in the locker room, Cutler returned to the game and played the entire second half.

“I’m very proud of our quarterback, Jay Cutler, a tough SOB,” said offensive coordinator Mike Tice. “He takes the bad hit. In football, they finish the plays and they take you to the ground. That’s part of the game. For him to come back and suck it up, he probably was a little sore but I’m very proud of him. I feel he played well.”

While he had to alter his play-calling in the second half against the Lions because Cutler was hindered by the injury, Tice doesn’t anticipate any restrictions on Sunday.

“He’s sore, but we’re going to go,” Tice said. “I was a little cautious once he got hurt and didn’t want to expose him and really throw down the field except for when we were getting pressed. But he’s ready to go. I’m very, very pleased with Jay.”

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