Free Head Exam: Chicago Bears

After the Chicago Bears' 34-18 victory over Dallas Cowboys, here are three issues that merit further examination:

  1. I'll take a bigger-picture look at quarterback Jay Cutler later Tuesday afternoon, but for now let's consider a pretty significant assertion: Monday night might not have been Cutler's most prolific night as an NFL starter, but it was his most efficient. He completed 75 percent of his passes and finished with 275 yards, averaging 11.5 yards per attempt. Two of his 18 completions went for touchdowns. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Cutler had never before completed 75 percent of his passes while pushing the ball downfield enough to average even 10 yards per attempt. In Bears history, only two other players -- Vince Evans in 1980 and Jim Harbaugh in 1992 -- had reached such a difficult set of milestones to achieve. It means Cutler was extraordinarily accurate, even if he was throwing lower-percentage downfield passes.

  2. Raise your hand if you thought Lance Briggs was still that fast. Briggs, who will turn 32 in November, ran away from the field after intercepting Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo at 26-yard line in the third quarter. Among the Cowboys players who couldn't catch Briggs was tailback DeMarco Murray, who ran his 40-yard dash at the 2011 scouting combine in 4.37 seconds. Watching Briggs and cornerback Charles Tillman (31) both return interceptions for scores was a reminder that the Bears have some absolute freaks of athletic nature on their defense. It took Briggs a while to recover from his 74-yard sprint, which is to be expected, but it's nice to know he can still turn on the jets when needed.

  3. In discussing the Bears' offensive line last spring, Cutler noted there would be only so many times when tackles could get help against pass rushers. At some point, Cutler rightfully acknowledged, the Bears' tackles would have to win their one-on-one blocks. To that end, there were a number of occasions Monday night when the Bears had to leave left tackle J'Marcus Webb matched up along against Cowboys pass rusher DeMarcus Ware. And you know what? It wasn't a disaster. Ware did have a sack on a play Cutler held the ball too long by his own admission. But anecdotally there were at least a half dozen times when I watched the matchup and saw Webb, one way or the other, direct Ware around the pocket. Monday night, he did his job quite reasonably and earned some unsolicited kudos from Cutler afterwards.

And here is one issue I still don't get:

I'm wondering what it will take for people outside of the NFC North to realize that Henry Melton has become one of the league's best playmakers from the defensive tackle position. After sacking Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo once Monday night, Melton ranks second in the NFL among all defensive tackles with four sacks through four games. (Geno Atkins of the Cincinnati Bengals has five sacks.) Melton was also the player who collapsed the pocket on the play Briggs returned his interception for a touchdown. Sure, Melton benefits from having a dominant end like Julius Peppers playing alongside him. But at some point we should acknowledge that Melton, former college running back, has more than supported the Bears' decision to install him as an unknown starter in 2011. He has 11 sacks in 19 career starts.