Cutler can't get a (boot)leg up

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.

CHICAGO

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