Air and Space: Cutler and play-action

We've banged the drum all season for the Chicago Bears to maintain their commitment to rushing attempts, regardless of their actual production. Here is an updated illustration of why I think it is so important.

Quarterback Jay Cutler's production on play-action passes, which requires defenses to respect the possibility of a running play, has far exceeded the balance of his work. Cutler has thrown 49 play-action passes this season, completing 71.4 percent of them for six touchdowns. (Courtesy ESPN Stats & Information.) In other words, Cutler is averaging a touchdown pass on one of every 8.2 play-action passes. On all other throws, Cutler is averaging one touchdown for every 26.9 passes.

The Bears don't use the play-action as much as other teams -- Cutler ranks No. 21 in attempts -- but that could be part of the reason it has been so successful for them. But the biggest reason opponents must respect the fake is because the Bears have demonstrated their determination to run the ball with regularity. During their five-game winning streak, they have averaged 33 rushing attempts per game and have never had fewer than 28.

Overall, Cutler's 124.4 passer rating on play-action passes ranks No. 6 in the NFL. Of course, we probably don't have to tell you that New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady ranks second at 147.4. He has thrown almost double the number of play-action passes as Cutler, a total of 90, and completed 66 of them for 11 touchdowns and no interceptions.

So if you're a linebacker at Soldier Field on Sunday, you had better stay on your toes.