1. Jay Cutler, QB: Jay Cutler didn’t exactly light it up against the Buffalo Bills, but the quarterback played a smart, efficient game, which is what the Bears will need in the second half of the season. For the most part, Cutler refrained from forcing passes in coverage, took what the Bills gave him on scrambles, and most importantly, threw the ball away when under duress, as opposed to trying to make a play. Cutler turned the ball over once, but the fumble came as a result of a sack, and not a mistake on the quarterback’s part. Cutler’s 97.6 passer rating against the Bills was his best performance in terms of efficiency since Week 2.
2. Mike Martz, OC:Finally, Martz actually put his own words into action with solid play calling against the Bills that featured an unpredictable mixture of runs and passes, in addition to a diverse set of formations. By achieving balance in the run-pass ratio, Chicago’s offense was able to convert third downs at a solid clip (58 percent). During the bye week, it’s clear Martz and the staff did an extensive self evaluation, and pulled from it what the club does best, which is what the Bears accentuated against the Bills. With the staff and the players becoming more comfortable with one another, look for even better performances in the second half of the season.
3. Israel Idonije, DE:Idonije is now just a sack away from equaling his combined production from 2008 and 2009, and attributes his vast improvement to concentrating on less. In the past, the Bears played Idonije in a variety of spots along the defensive line and on special teams. But this season, Idonije is concentrating solely on playing defensive end opposite Julius Peppers, and the Bears are reaping the benefits. Idonije posted three tackles and half a sack against Buffalo, and was officially credited with smacking Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick on three occasions. Between Idonije and Peppers, Fitzpatrick took eight hits. Although the Bears registered just one sack on the day, the constant pressure on Fitzpatrick contributed to errant throws and interceptions.
1. Tim Jennings, CB: It’s tough to put Jennings here, considering he made two game-defining plays against the Bills. But let’s not forget that Jennings was beat soundly by Buffalo receiver Steve Johnson on a double move just seconds before he picked off the pass that essentially won the game for the Bears. Jennings even admitted the gaffe in the minutes after the game. Luckily for Jennings though, a badly thrown ball by Fitzpatrick led to the INT. Johnson finished the game with 11 catches for 145 yards, with Jennings covering him for a good portion of the afternoon. Let’s be real here: Luck has erased two Jennings mistakes this season (remember his fumble recovery against Green Bay?) that could have cost the Bears games.
2. Devin Hester, WR/PR: The Bears appeared to make a smart move by limiting Hester’s snaps on offense in an attempt to keep him fresh for more contributions on special teams. The move initially worked. But for the past two games, Hester hasn’t made a significant impact on offense or special teams. On offense, Hester hasn’t contributed more than 30 yards receiving since Week 2. After a big day on returns (two punt returns for 93 yards and a touchdown) against Seattle on Oct. 17, Hester has returned two punts for 15 yards in his last two games, mainly because teams are trying to keep the ball away from him.
3. Robbie Gould, K: It’s probably too early to call this a full-fledged slump, but it’s tough to ignore the fact Gould pushed a 42-yard field-goal attempt against the Bills wide right (in an indoor stadium), in addition to putting the ball out of bounds on a kickoff in the second quarter. Going into Sunday’s game, Could was 6 for 6 on field-goal attempts on the road and 2 for 2 on attempts in domes while hitting on 3 of 4 from 40-49 yards. Given Gould’s standing as one of the most accurate kickers in NFL history, his miss Sunday and kick out of bounds are eye opening. But don’t expect that to be a regular occurrence. Gould is too good for that.