Some Bears players might be tempted to snack on popcorn today at Halas Hall as they watch highlights of their win against the Detroit Lions.
As for quarterback Jay Cutler, he probably will opt for a couple of painkillers instead.
Cutler has five days to recover from bruised ribs before the Bears’ next game Sunday against the Carolina Panthers. He said Tuesday on his radio show on WMVP-AM 1000 that he expected to be fully healthy against the Panthers despite a short week of practice.
“I know I’m not going to have any problems,” Cutler said.
The Bears (5-1) have to hope Cutler is telling the truth. He absorbed a punishing hit from Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, who chased after him and slammed him on to his right side during a play late in the second quarter.
Although teammate Brandon Marshall took exception to the play and publicized his frustration on his Twitter page, Cutler reiterated Tuesday that Suh’s hit was hard but clean.
“There are certain guys that just kind of know how to take you down,” Cutler said. “They wrap you up and they get you on the ground. With this team, their intentions are to drive you into the ground. That’s what it is. We know that going into it. Is it against the rules? No, not by any means.
“That’s just how they play football, and you’ve got to respect it. I’m fine with it. I knew going into the game that if they had a chance like that on me they were going to take it.”
The Bears bounced back from every hit, as a review of the game confirmed.
Cutler (67 snaps) was off target before and after his rib injury, missing high on a pair of throws to Devin Hester and missing low on a pass to Kyle Adams. Yet his toughness lifted his teammates, and his athleticism led to the Bears’ lone touchdown. On third-and-8 from the Bears’ 43-yard line, he scrambled for 11 yards to extend the drive, and he improvised with Marshall on a rollout to his right for a 7-yard touchdown pass three plays later. Backup Jason Campbell (five snaps) babysat the offense while Cutler was sidelined.
Running backs: C
Matt Forte (51 snaps) expertly followed lead blocks by Adams and Lance Louis for a 39-yard run down the left sideline on his third carry. A big day seemed to be in store, but Forte found little running room afterward with 19 more carries for 55 yards. Michael Bush (24 snaps) played well in limited duty, outrunning Lions linebacker Justin Durant for a 12-yard gain in the third quarter and bouncing off of a tackle for an extra yard one play later.
Wide receivers: B
Marshall (70 snaps) easily outplayed Pro Bowl counterpart Calvin Johnson, although it should be mentioned that the Lions’ injury-riddled secondary is much more vulnerable than that of the Bears. Although Marshall’s 7-yard touchdown reception might have seemed easy at first glance, it came with a high degree of difficulty because Cutler’s pass was tipped and changed trajectory. Earl Bennett (38 snaps) found a soft spot in the defense to convert a third-and-10 in the first quarter, but Devin Hester (59 snaps) was a disappointment as he watched a pass bounce off his hands and fall to the turf late in the second quarter.
Tight ends: D
Kellen Davis (71 snaps) continues to underwhelm. He whiffed on a block against Lions defensive end Cliff Avril, who raced around the left side to stuff Matt Forte at the line of scrimmage in the first quarter. Davis also dropped an easy pass for what should have been a first down in the second quarter, and the Bears were forced to punt two plays later.
Offensive line: D
Every offensive lineman knows that one mistake can undo a game filled with good blocks. Louis (72 snaps) doesn’t need to be reminded of that lesson today, but he will be anyway. He was beat on a bull rush by Suh that led to Cutler’s bruised ribs several seconds later. The offensive line allowed five sacks and combined for a half-dozen penalties, including two apiece by Gabe Carimi (72 snaps) and Roberto Garza (72 snaps).
Defensive line: A
Henry Melton (49 snaps) earned the most playing time on the defensive line, and he rewarded his coaches with another strong performance. In the third quarter, Melton forced a fumble at the goal line to keep a double-digit lead in tact. Julius Peppers (48 snaps) continued his dominance against Detroit with a sack and a forced fumble, while Israel Idonije (46 snaps), Stephen Paea (43 snaps) and Shea McClellin (29 snaps) also hit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford in the pocket at least once apiece.
Brian Urlacher (68 snaps), 34, continues to improve after a rusty start to the season, while 31-year-old teammate Lance Briggs (68 snaps) might be having the best season of his career. Briggs was everywhere against the Lions as he knocked a pass out of receiver Nate Burleson’s hands to force a punt on one series, and he forced a fumble by running back Mikel Leshoure to ruin another scoring drive for Detroit.
Charles Tillman (67 snaps) used the word “greatness” to describe Johnson during practice last week. If Johnson is great, which he has been throughout his career, then Tillman was extra-great Monday. Tillman played most of the game in single coverage against Johnson, who managed only three catches for 34 yards on 11 passes thrown his way. Tillman also forced two fumbles, both of which bounced out of bounds to save Detroit from turnovers.
Major Wright (68 snaps) and Chris Conte (68 snaps) allowed several mid-range receptions, but in every instance they kept the play in front of them and were not beat deep downfield. Wright lucked out when Johnson dropped a pass that hit him in the hands on the Lions’ first series. Wright was late to help Tillman on the play, which left Johnson wide open for what would have been a gain of 20-plus yards to set up a possible scoring drive.
Special teams: D
It’s one thing to sputter in the return game, which the Bears did Monday with only 34 yards on kick returns (seven punt, 27 kickoff). It’s another thing to allow a blocked field goal, which the Bears did when Lions defensive end Lawrence Jackson batted down a 47-yard attempt by Robbie Gould in the second quarter. Jackson split between Louis and J’Marcus Webb on the line of scrimmage and lifted his left hand for the Bears’ first blocked kick since 2010.