Those have been popular complaints about a Bears team that suddenly will catch national attention, not that it matters to them. A 3½-point underdog to the Philadelphia Eagles Sunday at Soldier Field, the Bears dominated the NFC East leader in the most impressive performance by Jay Cutler since he was brought in as the final piece.
Michael Vick entered as the quarterback touted as an MVP candidate, and while Cutler's name won't be entered in that discussion, he was superior. It was his signature game as a Bear as he threw four touchdown passes and had only one mistake — jawing at an official too long after it looked like his receiver Matt Forte was mugged. In a marquee matchup, Cutler rose and carried his team.
"I take every game personally," he said. "Every game is very important to me. The later we get the bigger the games are going to be. The stakes are going to be raised."
The Bears claimed a 31-13 lead with 16 minutes, 26 seconds remaining in the game and then hung on, securing the win when Johnny Knox cradled an onside kick attempt after Vick's 30-yard touchdown pass to Brent Celek with 1:48 remaining gave the Eagles (7-4) one final gasp.
Cutler completed 14 of 21 passes for 247 yards and wasn't intercepted, posting a career-best 146.2 passer rating. His improvisation was superb. Pressured near the line of scrimmage, he lobbed a pass to Devin Hester that went for 34 yards, setting up a nine-yard touchdown pass to Greg Olsen 1:24 into the second half. On the next drive, with Darryl Tapp bringing him down, he completed a left-handed pass to Forte to convert a third-and-five.
Like it or not, Cutler has been one of the other targets for critics of this team. The way he's performed since the Bears balanced Mike Martz's play-calling is another reason for the Bears to enter December brimming with confidence.
"We'd seen signs of our offense making progress," coach Lovie Smith said. "With him playing like that, we're going to be hard to beat."
The game turned at the two-minute warning of the first half. The Eagles were trailing 14-13 and had second-and-goal from the 4-yard line when Tommie Harris deflected Vick's pass for Jeremy Maclin. Chris Harris intercepted and returned 39 yards, setting up a drive that culminated on Cutler's six-yard touchdown pass to Earl Bennett. Instead of trailing at halftime, the Bears led 21-13. The red zone was the Eagles' undoing as they were 1 for 5, bottled up by the quick defense.
Although the Eagles held the ball nearly nine minutes more in the first half, the game was blown open with the Olsen touchdown catch followed by a 17-play, 83-yard drive that took 10:05 off the clock and ended on a 23-yard Robbie Gould field goal.
Forte rushed for 117 yards on 14 carries and his season average is suddenly 4.2 per carry. His 61-yard run in the first quarter led to Bennett's first touchdown, a 10-yard pass that Cutler fired into a small window ahead of safety Nate Allen. In the third quarter, Forte had a 28-yard gain as the offensive line continues to show signs of improvement.
Vick's final numbers — 29 of 44 for 333 yards and two touchdowns — are impressive, but the defense accomplished two major goals. LeSean McCoy was limited to 53 yards rushing and the big play the Eagles had been winning with wasn't there. They forced Vick to hit underneath targets and DeSean Jackson was limited to two catches for 26 yards while Maclin had four catches for 47 yards. The Bears had five plays of 30 yards or more, the Eagles just one.
It was a complete effort, one that will finally get the Bears noticed. That doesn't mean doubters will disappear.
"As bad as we played, we lost by five and they know we're a better team," Eagles left tackle Jason Peters said.
Maybe they'll meet again in January.