For the first time in 2011, the Chicago Bears won a game because their franchise QB played like one.
Don't get me wrong, Jay had played very well in some blowouts (Atlanta, Minnesota) and had come up big late against Philly. He'd managed the game well a few times (Detroit 2, Carolina) and he'd been heroic in a losing effort in Detroit. He'd had a couple totally forgettable outings against Green Bay and New Orleans. All in all, he'd done just what he'd needed to do to get this team to 6-3 behind a great run game and a surging defense. But tonight, the Bears needed their guy to go toe-to-toe with San Diego's guy and light up the scoreboard, and he responded.
The Bears needed a showing like this on offense. They needed a game where the defense had shut down Matt Forte and Cutler proved to everyone that that wouldn't be enough to beat this team. Last week against Detroit the defense and Devin Hester had made any risk-taking on offense unnecessary. Tonight, Cutler had to drop back and sling the rock, and he put up a 31 point bomb while accounting for 3 total TDs and 297 yards of offense. Like a franchise quarterback would do.
Jay Cutler: I'll just post his statline here: 18/31 for 286 yds, 9.2 YPA, 2 TDs, 1 INT (that came when Knox fell down on a slant. Again.), 5 rushes for 11 yds and a TD. You're the man, Jay. The pass to Roy Williams on third down with a defender draped around him was sheer awesome, and the TD toss to Knox...Jesus. I didn't think throws like that were possible.
Johnny Knox: He's often a punching bag for me, so I'll give Johnny some credit for his 3 catches for 97 yds and a TD. All three catches were beautiful routes, and Johnny even came back for the ball and made a great adjustment on a 42 yard back shoulder throw. Good on ya, Johnny, I'll ignore the slip that caused the interception for now.
Roy Williams: Speaking of punching bags, what the hell got into Roy Williams tonight? 5 catches for 62 yards, all of them great catches showing off good hands. What the hell?
The offensive line: San Diego was keying on the run, much like Detroit, but the offensive line gave Jay all the time he needed, as they kept the sack column clean for the second time in three games. They eventually got the run going there at the end after they'd opened some lanes with the pass. Great effort.
Urlacher/Briggs: San Diego managed 52 yards rushing thanks to these guys. Briggs was a terror in the backfield on nearly every run play, and Urlacher was a force as well.
Major Wright: It's early, but we've seen some signs the last few weeks that Major Wright may be the Mike Brown-esque ball hawk we were told he was on draft day last year.
Charles Tillman: I love you, P'nut, but today was not your day, outside of yet another classic Tillman ball punch. I'm not sure when they're going to learn that Charles isn't the guy to cover a speedster like Vincent Jackson, Steve Smith, or Greg Jennings. Megatron? Randy Moss? No problem, but anybody who can just burn right past Tillman is going to have a big day.
Sloppy Play: Too many penalties, a couple of which called back some great Devin Hester returns. Need to be more disciplined.
Philip Rivers: Rivers is a talented guy. Smart enough to figure out how to throw the short passes and quick patterns that sometimes give the Lovie defense trouble, but he made the mistake most of the people who aren't Aaron Rodgers make against that D. He got impatient and it led to two key turnovers that sealed the game for the Bears. Also, he's a jag.
That's all for now. Every win at this point is a big one, and next week on the road against Oakland will be the toughest challenge left before the Green Bay game. I'm confident they'll keep rolling, since they showed tonight that even on a night where the two biggest reasons for their success so far (defense and Forte) are struggling, teams are going to have to account for #6. I don't think many teams have enough answers for what the Bears are doing right now. Lovie said that he thought this was the best and most talented team he's ever had in Chicago. I'm really starting to believe him.
(Also, my apologies for the technical difficulties in the SKOsbox this week. The shoutmix people have gotten some strongly worded e-mails. You know they're terrified of me.)