RedEye

Want to protect Cutler? Run the stinkin' ball

One good thing about Jay Cutler’s near-Super-Bowl-dream-ending injury: The Super Bowl dream remains alive, even if it now might be wrapped in Kevlar and popping Vicodin.

Just because Jason Campbell is not Caleb Hanie -- I believe he’s legally changing his name to Not Caleb Hanie -- doesn’t mean anyone thinks he’s a championship quarterback. He’s an insurance policy, not a lottery ticket.

Another good thing about Cutler’s near-Super-Bowl-dream-ending injury: It should clear the room of idiots who still want to question the guy’s toughness.

As if 94 sacks in his last 31 games, which is less than two full seasons, isn’t explanation enough.

Another good thing about Cutler’s near-Super-Bowl-dream-ending injury: It might finally force the Bears to get off the bus running.

Look, the Bears are not the explosive offense we expected. It might grow up to become that offense some day, but not today. And now the offense certainly is limited by Cutler’s injury.

So, milk the patient game plan. That means running the ball against the dogbreath Panthers.

The way the Bears' defense is playing, the offense can only help itself by eating clock and yards on the ground. Get an aggressive defense more rest, get the ball back more.

Or congratulate the defense after it reaches the end zone.

This strategy is not just the answer for minimizing danger to Cutler’s ribs. It’s also necessary to avoid having the defense fade later in the season.

In the win over the Lions, Matt Forte gained 96 yards on 22 carries, an average of 4.4 a carry. Michael Bush picked up 36 yards on six carries for a nice, even average of six. Combined, that’s an average of 4.7 yards per rush. Hel-lo.

Nobody has said anything official, but Forte left Monday night’s game with an injury to either his right elbow or upper arm. Bears coach Lovie Smith called such things bumps and bruises. He would’ve called Cutler’s near-Super-Bowl-dream-ending injury a bump or a bruise if it wasn’t so public. Smith offers injury details only at gunpoint. Your wallet or your running back’s health.

But let’s presume Forte is healthy, and even if the Bears have to start Bush, when you look at their production, you wonder why you’d expose Cutler to more risk than necessary.

When you look at the Panthers defense, you conclude that someone should be fired if the Bears do it any other way.

Ron Rivera’s bunch allows an average of 24 points a game, about the middle of the NFL rankings. Good victim there. Carolina has allowed 366.2 yards per game, ranking among the bottom half of the league. Better victim there.

But most inviting is a defense that surrenders an average of 120.3 rushing yards a game and 4.1 per carry, along with allowing a pathetic 45-percent conversion rate on third down, ranking among the bottom five.

The Panthers can’t get off the field. The Bears offense needs to stay on the field. The Bears offense needs to get better at running the ball, and the way to do that is to commit to it. For all kinds of reasons, this seems to be the perfect week to do it.

Copyright © 2015, RedEye
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