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Sports

The Bears season in a splint

Jay CutlerFootballSan Diego ChargersMatt FortePhilip RiversAntoine CasonJohnny Knox

It’s not a question of whether Jay Cutler’s thumb is broken. It’s a question of how badly the Bears’ season is broken.

Maybe it’s me, but I don’t see Caleb Hanie winning games the way Cutler did Sunday against San Diego.

Cutler was the biggest reason the Bears beat the Chargers. Biggest reason offensively and defensively, in fact.

And doesn’t it figure that his gutty effort to keep Antoine Cason out of the end zone on an interception return was the killer play?

Cutler refused to stay blocked on the pick that came after intended receiver Johnny Knox fell on his cut. Cutler chased Cason long enough to give Matt Forte a chance to run Cason out of bounds, the hustle play of the game, the Bears’ offensive star making the defensive play of the game.

And now missing who knows how many games.

If Cutler was somehow going to be out for only a couple weeks, then whew. But it sounds like it’ll be 6-8 weeks, right through the end of the regular season, so, uh-oh.

First thing is, Forte ought to consider coming back from the vacation he’s been on recently. The Bears will need him now. Need the former him, anyway, to earn that big payday he’s been yammering about.

Forte wasn’t much use for most of the game against the Chargers, gaining only 59 yards on 21 carries. The running game was so bad that offensive coordinator Mike Martz called for Cutler to air it out, and the quarterback won his video game.

But now the Bears have to find a different way to win while we hold our breath. This forces the offense to change after if it changed to play to Cutler’s assets, moving the pocket and letting him make plays on the run. He was taking shorter drops and getting rid of the ball while getting the best protection since he joined the Bears.

I don’t know if it’s possible, but the line will need to be even better in front of Hanie. Teams will put eight men in the box, at least, and dare Hanie to beat them. That’s the way they Bears beat all those backup quarterbacks last season.

Nobody’s sure what Hanie will give the Bears, although the bet is he’ll give them big plays and bigger mistakes. See the NFC Championship Game for details.

The greatest pressure, perhaps, falls on the defense and special teams. Those units have won a lot of games deodorizing some putrid Bears offensive efforts. See last week against Detroit for details. So, those units will absolutely have to lead now.

The Bears can’t afford a defensive effort like the one they got Sunday, when Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers was untouched and almost never pressured. This, mind you, despite the Chargers’ starting three new offensive linemen.

That lack of pressure was compounded by Charles Tillman’s futile day against Vincent Jackson (seven catches, 165 yards, one touchdown). And until Major Wright intercepted Rivers in the end zone, I thought it looked as if the Bears had forfeited the safety position.

The Hanie Bears have no chance if that stuff continues. They still might not. It’s too early in this whole mess of bad news to say the Bears’ season is officially over, but you can see it from here.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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Jay CutlerFootballSan Diego ChargersMatt FortePhilip RiversAntoine CasonJohnny Knox
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