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Arkush: Cutler, Bears grade out well vs. Browns

Published: Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT
Caption
(H. Rick Bamman)
H. Rick Bamman - hbamman@shawmedia.com JBears quarterback Jay Cutler watches from the sideline late in the fourth quarter during the game agaist Baltimore Sunday, Nov. 17, 2013.

The idea that Jay Cutler had to knock the rust off against the Browns before settling in for his third most efficient passing day of the season – his 102.2 passer rating trailed only his 128.1 vs. New Orleans and 106.5 vs. the Giants – is wrong.

Cutler completed his first three passes and then five straight after his first interception to Tashaun Gipson ended the Bears' opening drive.

By the end of the day his performance was really just Jay being Jay and leading arguably one of the Bears best offensive performances of the season, considering the Browns, at least statistically, are the second-best defense they’ve faced.

Putting up 440 yards, 179 on the ground and 261 through the air, and balancing 31 rushes and 33 pass attempts, Cutler led an impressive show and I thought earned a B on the day.

Obviously, the bad picks have to stop, but hey, at least to this point in his career that’s Cutler.

I’ve got an A for the running backs. Matt Forte allowed the Bears to control the tempo of the game all afternoon and was the key to a 9 1/2-plus-minute advantage in time of possession while being  extremely productive with 24 carries for 127 yards.

And it was great to see Michael Bush finally bust out with a 40- yard touchdown run to seal the victory.

The receivers earned a B+. Martellus Bennett, Earl Bennett and Alshon Jeffery caught all 15 passes they were targeted with – Martellus six, Earl four and Jeffery five – for 164 yards. Brandon Marshall made big plays and showed leadership with how he handled the two Cutler picks, and Marshall and Jeffery both had very good days blocking.

But they can’t get an A with Martellus Bennett putting the ball on the ground and giving up a 51-yard T.J. Ward return for a touchdown.

I’m also going to give the offensive line a B+. They did allow Cutler to get sacked twice, but on a number of other throws he was able to relax for quite a while in the pocket against one of the league’s better pass rushes.

More importantly I thought the line had one of its best run-blocking days of the year.

For those of you who are ready to bench the Alshon Jeffery end around, they can’t. While teams now see Jeffery coming, the fake to Jeffery coming around and pitch back to Forte going the other way is one of the best misdirection run plays in the league.

The defensive line gets a C+. Jeremiah Ratliff was extremely active and disruptive, and the Bears held the Browns to 93 yards on the ground.

The flip side of that is there again were no quarterback sacks for the Bears, and holding a team to just 8 yards more than its average rushing yards a game isn’t a great win, but it was an upgrade for these guys.

The linebackers get a B-, but it’s a mixed bag. James Anderson was very good, Jon Bostic wasn’t and Khaseem Greene was mostly invisible.

I have to give the secondary a B+. Chris Conte and Major Wright were up and down, for the most part just kind of there, but Tim Jennings was very good and Zack Bowman was outstanding for the second week in a row.

Josh Gordon was the hottest player in the NFL coming into this game, and for 59 minutes the Bears held him to two catches on 10 targets for just 24 yards.

Finally, there is coach Marc Trestman and his staff, and from me it’s a B+. They were right about Cutler and steadfast in their resolve.

I still expect the defense will cost them a playoff spot, but they can’t go out and make plays, all they can do is coach them, and considering what they’re working with, they may be doing as much as they can.

• Hub Arkush covers the Bears for Shaw Media and HubArkush.com. Write to him at harkush@shawmedia.com.

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