The Chicago Bears have had their ups and downs in this young season.
Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler (6) throws a pass in front of San Francisco 49ers defense end Justin Smith (94) in the first half at Levis Stadium. (Lance Iversen-USA TODAY Sports)
(C+P) — While still a young season, the Chicago Bears have experienced their fair share of ups and down in their first two games.
In the first game, against a young Buffalo Bills team, the Bears lost in overtime, 23-20. The Bears were gashed in the running game giving up a total of 193 rushing yards on 5.8 yards per carry. The run defense that they displayed was terrible.
Quarterback Jay Cutler also struggled at some points. He threw two interceptions including one across his body. He also made some great throws but made some very poor decisions, proving to everyone that he still is a boom or bust player like he has been in the past. Sometimes he plays like an elite quarterback and other times he can be very mediocre.
Then, after there was tons of negative media after the Bills game, Cutler and the Bears dominated the second half on Sunday night in route to a 28-20 victory over the San Francisco 49ers. The Bears came back from a 17-0 deficit in the first half. Cutler was 10-for-20 for 64 yards in the first half but then caught fire, going 13-for-14 for 112 yards and three touchdowns, in the second half.
What is also very encouraging was that stud wide receivers Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery were expected to miss the game, but instead both played quite a bit, gathering 14 targets along the way. Marshall made more out of his, as he snagged five balls for 48 yards and three touchdowns.
Of course this wasn’t all on the offense as the defense came up big in this game. They picked off 49ers’ quarterback Collin Kaepernick three times and recovered his fumble. They also sacked him four times, putting a lot of pressure on him. This was especially impressive after they lost Charles Tillman, Jay Ratliff, and Chris Conte during the game. The Tillman injury is especially bad as he is most likely out for season after reinjuring his triceps injury from last season.
The run defense improved drastically in that one week as they limited the 49ers’ running backs to 3.5 yards per carry. The Bears closed off the running lanes and got into the backfield quite a bit. The 49ers did have a 54-yard rush brought back with a holding call, so it could have been quite different.
The Bears struggled running the ball themselves though. Running back Matt Forte was expected to see a lot of work but he couldn’t do anything with the carries he did receive. He rushed for 21 yards on 12 carries. He also caught five passes but only had 15 yards receiving.
So far we have seen two sides of the Bears this season. One is the Bears that were awful on defense and turnover prone on offense against Buffalo, the other side is the Bears that came back in the second half against the 49ers.
But which one are the real Bears? My guess is somewhere in between. Chicago can be a real offensive powerhouse when Cutler is on his game. They have possibly the best pair of wideouts in the NFL with Jeffery and Marshall and a great running back in Forte. So if Cutler is playing like he did in the second half against the 49ers this team can win a lot of games.
On the flip side, the defense probably isn’t as good as advertised against the 49ers. They have some good pieces but they get gashed too much in the running game. Right now they are 30th in the NFL in yards per carry allowed. Their secondary will take a step back with Tillman out for the rest of the season. As long as the defense remains as opportunistic as it was last game, the Bears will be a playoff contender and possibly more than that.