On the NFL
11:18 PM CDT, October 27, 2012
Jay Cutler ran a bootleg Monday and threw a touchdown pass.
And the crashing sound that followed was from Bears fans falling off their bar stools in taverns across the greater Chicago area.
Cutler has not been asked to bootleg much since he has been a Bear.
When he was with the Broncos, making plays outside the pocket is what he did best. According to STATS, Cutler made 127 throws outside the pocket in 37 games. He threw for 20 touchdowns on those plays and his passer rating outside the pocket was 136.7.
He has a 91.9 passer rating outside the pocket this year, but he has thrown only 11 such passes.
Jeremy Bates coached Cutler in Denver and this year was brought to Chicago to be the de facto passing game coordinator. You would think with his influence, Cutler would be outside the pocket more, and better outside the pocket.
Bates acknowledges Cutler is very effective on the move.
"Jay is very athletic," Bates said. "He was a shortstop in high school, and he can throw on the run."
Bates also expressed an appreciation of the bootleg, and indicated he would like to run five or six of them in some games.
"I think we are doing it more," he said. "We have it in the game plan. You move the quarterback's launching pad, it makes it tough on the defenses for pursuing the run. There are a lot of positives."
So why has Cutler thrown outside the pocket so rarely? Bates was a little evasive. He said bootlegs don't always make sense based on how defensive ends and linebackers are aligned.
It also probably made more sense to highlight them in Mike Shanahan's offense because defenses had to honor the stretch run plays Shanahan favors. That made the boot an effective counter.
But if the Bears don't emphasize moving the pocket and bootlegs with Cutler, they are ignoring low hanging fruit.
Numbers games: Penalty problem
The Bears have done so many things well this season that it has been easy to overlook the fact they have committed too many penalties.
They are averaging 7.67 penalties per game, which was fifth highest in the NFL through seven weeks. They have had a negative penalty yardage differential against every team they have played, and they are at minus-93 yards against opponents for the season.
You can't blame the defense for this problem. It has been hit with 10.33 penalty yards per game. That's the second fewest in the league.
Special teams have not been as efficient. That unit has given up 12.5 penalty yards per game — fourth most in the NFL.
Most of the problems have been on offense. It's giving up an average of 29.17 penalty yards. That ranks the Bears offense fourth worst.
Their most frequent transgression has been the false start. The Bears have had 15 — second to the Cowboys with 16.
What's puzzling about this is the Bears have played in a loud stadium with a hostile crowd only once all season.
Offensive linemen have committed 10 of the false starts. They also have been responsible for six of the Bears' seven offensive holding penalties.
The Bears' most penalized player, by a wide margin, has been right tackle Gabe Carimi (eight).None of his teammates has more than three penalties.
Front office chess: Good timing
It is one thing to sign the right veteran player. It is another thing to sign him at the right time.
The Bears appear to have done that with a few players this year with the latest example being Zack Bowman.
They let him go in the offseason as coaches were frustrated that he hadn't realized his potential. After the Vikings cut Bowman and he sat out the first five weeks of the season, the Bears re-signed him.
They may have acquired him at the perfect time because Bowman may be more focused and motivated than ever, given how the year went for him. Against the Lions, Bowman played wonderfully on special teams.
Chilo Rachal is another example of a player who may have come to the Bears at the right time in his career. A former second-round pick who struggled with the 49ers, Rachal has had a new lease on his career in Chicago. He clearly is happy to be here, and it shows in his dedication.
The ultimate example is Brandon Marshall. He has been a complete professional behind the scenes at Halas Hall and quickly has become a team leader who has raised the bar.
Marshall made a lot of waves in Denver and Miami, but since he has been undergoing treatment for borderline personality disorder he appears to be a different man.
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