Upon Further Review: Bears Week 13

A review of four hot issues from the Chicago Bears' 23-20 loss to the Minnesota Vikings:

Cutler’s return: Backup quarterback Josh McCown performed well in relief of Jay Cutler, completing 23 of 36 passes for 355 yards and two touchdowns. And while the team will gladly welcome back Cutler, there’s still got to be at least some concern about the potential for the starter returning to the lineup rusty next Monday night against the Dallas Cowboys. Cutler has played in just one game in the past five weeks, and hasn’t played an entire contest since Oct. 10. So in addition to the rust factor, there’s also got to be a little trepidation about the quarterback’s conditioning level. So if the plan for Cutler is to bring him back for the Dec. 9 game, the Bears need to work overtime repping the quarterback to knock off some of the rust while making sure he’s in condition to go all four quarters without any drop off, because fatigue causes mistakes. At this point, the Bears can’t afford many more.

Front four: What a difference a couple of players make on the defensive line. Recent addition Jeremiah Ratliff made his Bears debut, and the team also welcomed the return of defensive tackle Stephen Paea. The Bears started Sunday’s game with Paea and Corey Wootton inside at the tackles with Julius Peppers and Shea McClellin on the outside before bringing in Ratliff with 10:57 left in the first quarter. The addition of Ratliff allowed for some creativity with the lineup. At times, the Bears kicked Peppers inside to play alongside Ratliff with Wootton and McClellin outside at the ends. The Bears scored sacks on each of Minnesota’s first three drives, with two coming from Peppers and another one split behind Paea and nickel corner Isaiah Frey. Peppers finished the game with 2.5 sacks.

Run D: The Bears applied pressure to Christian Ponder on passing downs, but the defense’s futility in stopping the run emerged once again with Adrian Peterson and Cordarrelle Patterson shredding the unit. Peterson gained 60 yards on his first eight carries. With a 33-yard score on his first carry, Patterson became the second receiver to line up in the backfield against the Bears in two weeks and bust a long touchdown run. (St. Louis’ Tavon Austin scored on a 65-yard run on his first attempt of the game last week.) The coaching staff places the blame mostly on missed run fits, but in some cases, players are just being beaten physically by the opponent.

In addition, the staff constantly discusses the need to stop teams from hitting the Bears for large chunks of yardage, yet the defense hasn’t responded. In addition to Patterson’s 33-yard run, Peterson broke a 23-yard gain in the first quarter and finished with 211 yards, averaging 6 yards per attempt.

Jeffery a major factor: Second-year receiver Alshon Jeffery produced his fifth 100-yard outing of the season, hauling in 11 passes for 245 yards, including an 80-yard touchdown that made him the club’s first 1,000-yard receiver of the season. Jeffery finished with two touchdowns on the day.

The Bears fantasized in the past about owning a true pick-your-poison scenario with their receiving corps, and it appears they’ve finally made that a reality with Jeffery and Brandon Marshall. This should be an exciting duo for at least the next couple of years; especially if rookie Marquess Wilson blossoms the way the club expects he will, and provides a threat in the slot.