By Nate Johnson
Following an 0-3 start that saw the Chicago Bears come close in a season-opening loss at home to Green Bay, fall apart after the loss of their starting quarterback in a blowout against Arizona, and never get going against Seattle, an 80-yard scoring drive helmed by returning QB Jay Cutler was a very pleasant sight.
The drive, which resulted in a seven-yard touchdown pass from Cutler to Eddie Royal, was the first strike in a 22-20 win over the Oakland Raiders that finally put the Bears in the win column. Martellus Bennett hauled in a second touchdown from Cutler, and Robbie Gould added three field goals, including a 49-yarder to seal the comeback win, the 12th game-winner in his 11-year career.
While not a perfect game, several positives that had shone through during the difficult start to the season were again visible. Despite losing their center, Will Montgomery, early in the game, the revamped offensive line gave Cutler and Matt Forte plenty of protection after overcoming miscues on a couple first-half snaps.
Cutler continued to show the spark that new offensive coordinator Adam Gase has added with more outside-the-pocket play and moved the offense well. The defensive line, which showed up for their strongest performance of the year in the loss to Seattle, kept up the pace with another solid performance, including second-round pick Eddie Goldman recording his first pro sack. Linemate Pernell McPhee continued to impress, picking up seven tackles and an interception in the flat off the pads of running back Latavius Murray.
With his 91 yards on the ground and 64 yards through the air, Forte became the 14th player in league history to reach 8,000 rushing yards and 3,500 receiving yards, joining Walter Payton as the only two Bears players to hit that mark. Sunday’s overall performance put Forte atop the league standings in total yards from scrimmage and second in rushing yardage, trailing only division rival Adrian Peterson.
Montgomery, who suffered a broken fibula in the first quarter, was placed on injured reserve on Monday and will miss the remainder of the season. Starting left guard Matt Slauson, who moved into the middle after the injury, and third-round draft pick Hroniss Grasu are the apparent options moving forward. Safety Antrel Rolle joined Montgomery on the sidelines Sunday with an ankle injury but appears to be a less severe situation as initial x-rays were negative.
The team made a couple moves for cover: Safety Sherrod Martin was signed to the 53-man roster, and offensive tackle Nick Becton was promoted from the practice squad. Martin has 72 career appearances during his six years in the league, grabbing eight interceptions in 38 starts for the Panters and Jaguars. Becton was last (and only ever) seen in a regular season game in 2013, lining up for the Chargers.
The Bears continue their AFC Central slate at noon this Sunday (FOX) as they visit Arrowhead Stadium to face the 1-3 Kansas City Chiefs. The Chiefs are coming off a 36-21 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, their third in a row after starting the season with a win in Houston, although their wideouts are actually catching touchdown passes again.
Record aside, the Chiefs are averaging 25 points and over 385 total yards per game, so scoring has not been a problem, but the defense has been an issue. If the Bears can continue to accentuate the positives they’ve shown and keep mistakes to a minimum, they stand a solid chance to keep the tick marks coming on the left side of the ledger.