It wasn’t pretty, but the Chicago Bears escaped with a win on Sunday against the Carolina Panthers to move to 6-1 on the season.
Actually, not pretty is a significant understatement. The Bears offense was boo-eliciting in the first half, allowing six sacks and just being generally out of sync.
Sooner or later, Jay Cutler will have to figure out that they film these games, as his halftime tirade about the “F____ Fans!” is just the latest incident in a long line of petulance from the talented, but irritable, signal-caller.
But, alas, two solid fourth-quarter drives sandwiched around another Tim Jennings pick-six, and all is forgiven in Chicago.
Cutler hit Brandon Marshall on slant after slant on the game’s final drive as the Bears put together a series that would have passed for championship-worthy had it not been prefaced by three and a half quarters of very bad. Whatever it is that maladies the Bears offense in first halves will eventually have to be remedied, but for now fans should be content with basking in the glow of first place in the NFC North.
Next week they’ll travel to Nashville to take on the Tennessee Titans, and — ideally — they’ll work out the kinks before they get to the gristle of a back-loaded schedule. If not, the defense can probably feast on Matt Hasselback’s carcass and deliver a victory, but that will be a little tougher back home against the Houston Texans and in Candlestick against the San Francisco 49ers.
They’ll also play in a virtual round robin against all the division foes in the last two months of the season, and if they hope to hold off the trending Green Bay Packers, they’re going to have to get it together offensively.
That means establishing a running game early that can alleviate some of the pressure on the vertical passing game. That means gameplanning around an offensive line that has had their struggles keeping the quarterback upright and out of harm’s way if you have to.
It also means continuing to involve Marshall as early and as often as possible, and finding creative ways to get Matt Forte the football in space. It means using Devin Hester the only way they know how, by continuing to stretch defenses and occasionally strike paydirt on a big strike while opening up things for guys like Earl Bennett in the slot.
It’s a lot easier to write it than do it, but the Bears have to grow offensively. Break out the rouge and the lipstick and pretty it up a little bit. That’s the best way to silence the boos from all those bleeping fans.
Though you never have the luxury to take any NFL opponent lightly, next week essentially amounts to a tuneup game as the Bears try to win the division and hopefully home-field advantage in the playoffs.
Wouldn’t that be pretty?
Ryan Wooden is a freelance sportswriter in Chicago. His work has been featured prominently on several national websites. Currently, he works as a correspondent for the Morris Daily Herald in addition to covering the Chicago Bears for quadrust.com. You can follow him on Twitter @ryan_wooden.