For the past decade, the Bears were the team with great defense and special teams and juuuust enough offense to be competitive. This combo resulted in a couple of close calls, but no Super Bowl wins.
The recipe for NFL success changed, and we've bemoaned that fact on a yearly basis. We've bemoaned an offensive line that's given up 50 sacks per season for the past three. And Jay Cutler unfairly has taken much of the blame for the Bears' failures.
Then Phil Emery became general manager. Then Lovie Smith was shown the door. Then Marc Trestman was hired. Then Jermon Bushrod was signed, and Kyle Long and Jordan Mills were drafted. Then J'Marcus Webb was shot out of a cannon.
Now it appears the Bears are the team with a very good offense and juuuust enough defense and special teams. And it appears that the offensive line has been fixed.
That unit—Bushrod, Matt Slauson, Roberto Garza, Long, and Mills—has allowed only one sack in two games, having faced two of last season's top-five defensive lines. If they're able to keep Cutler off the ground Sunday night at Pittsburgh, it'll mark the first time in his career in Chicago in which he's been sacked a total of once in three consecutive games.
Read that again. IT HAS NEVER HAPPENED BEFORE.
Cutler's not perfect. He still makes one god-awful throw per game. But he also makes eight awesome ones. This is the same Cutler who's always been here.
This year's difference is he's not picking Soldier Field outta his face every five pass attempts. When he's given the protection Drew Brees, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning routinely enjoy … well, he's posted a 95.4 quarterback rating over two games. He's engineered two game-winning, fourth-quarter drives. He's SMILING, dammit.
It's been three years since we watched the N.Y. Giants pound Cutler into the turf nine times in one half. (I'm still not convinced he didn't actually die that night.) Finally, it feels like that won't happen again anytime soon.
RedEye special contributor Alex Quigley can be heard on WGN Radio 720.
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