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SportsMonday: The Gutsier Call

Others will gush about the fourth-and-a-foot call. Clearly the Matt Forte sweep behind rookie offensive linemen Jordan Mills and Kyle Long that gained eight yards, a key first down and immediately preceded the eventual game-winning, 19-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Marshall was not only the right move tactically, it was also the perfect play. But there was an even better call early in the drive that was most responsible for a Bear 24-21 victory over a very good, if mistake-prone at critical times, Cincinnati team on Sunday.

It was third-and-two at their own 26 and some sort of wide receiver slant or hitch or a toss to Forte in the flat were high-percentage options to at least gain a few yards and extend the drive. Instead, Cutler went over the top to Marshall with a beautiful pass down the right sideline for a 38-yard gain that put the Bears at the Cincy 36.

It was a gutsier call than the fourth-down call four plays later - and it was one of Cutler's most beautiful balls of the day.

Cutler is clearly at the top of his game as this season commences. He is throwing powerful spirals with the ball tilted down just a bit, making overthrow interceptions highly unlikely.

Other than a single mystery pick in which the culprit was probably a little bit of pressure that nudged the quarterback out of balance at the last second, the Bear signal-caller was sharp all day.

He also used his mobility particularly effectively at two critical junctures in the second half, first darting forward in the pocket to set up a big pass to Martellus Bennett during the team's first scoring drive of the second half, and then sprinting up the middle for a gain of 18 huge yards during the final touchdown march.

Cutler is in the best shape of his life and he will need to play better than he ever has to keep the Bears going in the right direction early in this season. It was disappointing when he again busted out the potential "year one in a new offense" excuse last week, but otherwise he has been confident and relaxed in just about all of his dealings with the media in the last month.

The rookie linemen were solid in their NFL debuts but a big reason they didn't look worse was Cutler's great instincts in the pocket.

Otherwise, the Bears benefited from just enough receiver size and strength, just enough star power (touchdowns from their three primary offensive weapons and a 58-yard field goal from one of the best kickers in NFL history) and just enough Cincinnati screw-ups.

There was also just enough ball-hawking cornerback defense (in between brutal breakdowns in the secondary - any time Major Wright actually wants to arrive on the outside in time to help defend a Bengal wide receiver instead of just trailing him into the end zone, that would be great) and just enough pass pressure at the very end (Shea McClellin's late sack).

Oh, and the Bengals lost this one more than the Bears won it. Not a good day for Marvin Lewis and his Cincinnati coaching staff. Whoever called that Bengals pass with the less than a minute to go in the first half, the one that went incomplete, stopping the clock at just under a minute remaining and ensuring the Bears would get the ball back, probably near midfield, should be fired.

Sure enough the home team gained just enough yards during the ensuing possession to set up Gould's field goal.

Finally, who is the assistant coach in charge of making sure Marc Trestman eats? The head coach looks almost frail at this point, doesn't he? Someone needs to play the ethnic grandma around Halas Hall and make sure Trestman's caloric intake stays high.

Plus, the weather was mild yesterday. The man will need to put on some pounds and then some if he is to survive the winter.


Jim "Coach" Coffman is our man on Mondays. He welcomes your comments.

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