Despite win, offense disappoints

The Bears need more out of their quarterback and Smith must demand it

Minutes after chasing Bears receivers Sunday, Rams cornerback Cortland Finnegan covered the most compelling angle from his team's 23-6 loss as accurately as anybody carrying a notepad or pen.

Asked in the Rams locker room what he thought of Bears quarterback Jay Cutler's play, the feisty Finnegan delivered a late hit before boarding the team bus.

"Not much, not much,'' Finnegan said. "I think he had 190 (183) passing yards or something, no TDs. So, typical him.''

If this passes for typical Cutler, the Bears suddenly have a problem — and that explains why improving to 2-1 on a day Lovie Smith's defense dominated the Rams like the good ol' days felt so empty around Chicago.

Safety Major Wright scored on a 45-yard interception return, the defense sacked Rams quarterback Sam Bradford six times and Robbie Gould kicked a 54-yard field goal. But wasn't the formula of the Bears defense and special teams winning games in spite of their offense rendered obsolete in 2012?

This was supposed to be the season the offense carried the Bears into the playoffs, the year Cutler came into his own as an elite NFL quarterback after new GM Phil Emery surrounded him with his favorite receiver, coach and scheme. This isn't going so well, despite wins over two teams unlikely to combine for more than 10 victories. The Bears offense has produced two touchdowns in its last two games. Only the Dolphins have a lower-rated passing game and they have a rookie quarterback.

"Some days we may have to score 41 points to win (and) other days it may be about ball security and making plays when we have to,'' Smith said.

Sorry, but didn't game manager Kyle Orton leave town years ago?

The Bears need more out of their quarterback and Smith must demand it. They were built for Cutler to be the gate attraction, not gatekeeper. The Bears simply are better than they have shown offensively, as is Cutler, and everybody at Halas Hall must know it. Based on expectations, no offensive player has been more disappointing the past two games than the quarterback – and that refers to Cutler's execution, not his leadership.

Not every offensive problem revolves around left tackle J'Marcus Webb and pass protection, which was adequate against the Rams. Not every stalled drive relates to offensive coordinator Mike Tice's run-pass ratio; Sunday the Bears called 34 passes and 33 running plays. Not every incompletion can be attributed to a dropped pass, which the Bears had at least three.

"Hit and miss,'' Cutler said of a performance again missing command and consistency.

Forget the numbers, and goodness knows Cutler wishes he could: 17 of 31 for 183 yards with an interception and a passer rating of 58.9. When did Cutler stop looking deep? When did managing the game become enough for a quarterback with Marshall as an option? When did just winning the game against an inferior opponent become good enough for a team that reported to Bourbonnais thinking Super Bowl based on what Cutler could do in this offense?

For the record, Cutler included himself when he said every position must improve and accepted responsibility for missing "a few throws.''

"Offensively, there were some things we could make better but the idea is to win the game,'' Cutler said. "It's not a one-on-one tennis match.''

No, but three weeks into the season more people expected to watch Cutler run this offense and think: Advantage, Bears.

The Bears offense had 10 days to prepare for a Rams defense they praised effusively yet came out looking lackadaisical. Cutler has too much experience to lock into one receiver who is double-covered, even if it is Marshall on third down. His timing looked off, his accuracy was iffy.

When Marshall caught Cutler's 34-yard pass with 4:11 left, I wondered if the Bears dared to throw the football downfield with a 20-6 lead to build confidence for Cutler. When Cutler's best play comes on a 21-yard scramble, it suggests how far and fast the passing game has regressed.

Did the Colts game create an unrealistic standard for the Bears offense?

"That's fair,'' Cutler said. "Once you do that, expectations get raised. There is an outside perception and everyone buys into it. Then we have a dismal performance like we did in Green Bay, which set a little bit of a panic button. We just had to get back to playing a football game that we were comfortable with.''

Nothing about converting 4 of 14 third downs or gaining 274 total yards at home against a non-playoff team should make an offense with Super Bowl aspirations comfortable.

"A little of that had to do with St. Louis,'' Smith said.

Typical Lovie. A lot of it didn't.

dhaugh@tribune.com

Twitter@DavidHaugh

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