Cutler healing, Bears hurting
Jay Cutler must be feeling better.
After all, Cutler was able to watch the Bears’ 32-7 loss to the San Francisco 49ers on TV until the final whistle without lunging for the power button on the remote.
Speaking publicly for the first time since his concussion, Cutler said Tuesday during his paid radio appearance on WMVP AM-1000 that he was feeling better more than a week after sustaining a helmet-to-helmet hit from Texans linebacker Tim Dobbins. Cutler promised that he would be back on the field soon, although he could not guarantee that it would be Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings.
“I can’t say that for sure,” said Cutler, who will require final clearance from an independent neurologist. “There’s still some things that we have to get done, and we’re going through the process. But I will play again this year. There’s no doubt about that.”
Whenever Cutler is cleared, the Bears will welcome his return. But unless he can play every position, his teammates have a lot of work to do for the Bears to be a playoff threat.
Jason Campbell (59 snaps) had a wonderful opportunity to audition for quarterback-starved teams as a 2013 free agent, and he blew his chance. He held on to the ball for too long on the Bears’ first pass play, which resulted in the first of 5 ½ sacks by Aldon Smith, and he locked in on Devin Hester for the first of two interceptions. Throw in a pair of fumbles and a check-down pass to Matt Forte for 0 yards on third-and-11, and you have an all-around dud.
Running backs: C
Forte (47 snaps) ran for a pair of first downs on the Bears’ second series, and it looked as if he might be able to pace the offense. But after picking up 19 yards on his first four carries, Forte managed only 2.6 yards a carry for the rest of the game. Michael Bush (10 snaps) remained a highly paid afterthought in the offense.
Wide receivers: D
Much like the Green Bay Packers’ blueprint in Week 2, the 49ers successfully silenced Brandon Marshall (54 snaps) with two-man coverage in the secondary. Sure, Marshall caught a 13-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter, but by that time the 49ers were well on their way to a win. Alshon Jeffery (26 snaps) caught two short passes, while Devin Hester (19 snaps) caught three passes with his longest reception going for 9 yards.
Tight ends: C
Kellen Davis (54 snaps) caught both passes that were thrown his direction and committed no penalties. In most other weeks, such a performance would have been a cause for celebration. When a lack of big mistakes by Davis and Matt Spaeth (nine snaps) is what stands out, you know it has been a rocky year for the Bears’ tight ends. Rookie Evan Rodriguez (16 snaps) dropped an easy pass in his hybrid role as an H-back.
Offensive line: F
ESPN analyst Jon Gruden’s take was sad but true: “I’ve never seen acts of dominance like this in the National Football League.” Those acts of dominance belonged to Aldon Smith, who looked as if he were competing against high school players as he blew past J’Marcus Webb (59 snaps) and Gabe Carimi (59 snaps) time and time again. Webb’s most comical-slash-depressing flub came late in the second quarter, when he and Campbell landed on their backs at the same time as part of yet another sack by Smith.
Defensive line: D
Many critics expected Colin Kaepernick to struggle in his starting debut because of Julius Peppers (39 snaps) and the Bears’ pass rush. Instead, the Bears’ defensive line provided zero pressure early in the game against Kaepernick and allowed him to play as if he were wearing shorts and shoulder pads in training camp. Not until Corey Wootton (38 snaps) and Israel Idonije (40 snaps) converged on Kaepernick late in the second quarter did the defensive line record a quarterback hit. The group’s only other highlight came when Stephen Paea (24 snaps) tore through the line and stuffed Frank Gore for a 6-yard loss.
Lance Briggs (55 snaps) has had a Pro Bowl-caliber season, but he struggled badly against the 49ers. He lost track of Gore for a 13-yard gain when the Bears had the 49ers pinned at their 4-yard line, and three plays later he could not keep pace with Vernon Davis for a 32-yard completion across midfield. Brian Urlacher (55 snaps) and Nick Roach (43 snaps) each missed tackles against Gore, who averaged 4.6 yards a carry.
The absence of a pass rush placed extra pressure on the Bears’ defensive backs to cover their receivers, and they failed in a big way. Nickelback Kelvin Hayden (12 snaps) was burned on a 57-yard completion from Kaepernick to Kyle Williams about halfway through the first quarter, which set up the 49ers’ first touchdown. Charles Tillman (55 snaps) lost track of Michael Crabtree on a 10-yard touchdown early in the third quarter. Tim Jennings (55 snaps) was burned down the left sideline for a 37-yard pass to Mario Manningham.
Ugly, ugly, ugly. A bad day for the Bears’ safeties started on the first play, when Chris Conte (55 snaps) was penalized 15 yards for a late hit against Manningham. Conte also was slow to provide help to Hayden on Williams’ deep reception. Major Wright (55 snaps) was worse. He could not keep pace with Vernon Davis on a 3-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter, and he whiffed on a tackle against Crabtree for a 20-yard gain in the second quarter.
Special teams: C
Devin Hester had three chances to end his punt-return scoring drought, but the closest he came to the end zone was when he sprinted backward toward the Bears’ goal line for a 9-yard loss. Adam Podlesh played well under pressure by averaging 46.8 yards a punt. Robbie Gould fared well on kickoffs but had no field goal opportunities.