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SportsMonday: Tiebreakers

Let's hear it for the defense!

The Bear D gave up some long drives on Sunday and some big plays right from the start. But in the end they held the Ravens to 20 points and tossed in a touchdown to boot. That was just good enough for a 23-20 overtime triumph.

And sure enough, the always reliable Lions dropped a winnable game (they scored 27 points in the second quarter alone!) versus Pittsburgh and the Midway Monsters moved right back into a tie for first place in the North Division.

Yes, I know Detroit owns the tie-breaker. And yes the Lions lost on the road while the Bears barely eked one out at home and now play four of their next five games on the road. I've got it, OK? There will be plenty of time to talk about that tomorrow, or whenever.

And on an even brighter side, the Packers lost again. This has been a delightful run of Packer ineptitude, has it not? Another ugly setback (27-13 to the Giants) dropped Green Bay to 5-5.

Oh, and if the Pats can knock off the Panthers this evening, the Bears will also be tied for the top NFC wild card spot. And yes, the potential tiebreakers there don't look so good either, but hey, when teams have the same record they are tied, OK?!

But back to the defense - it still seems as tough they are oftentimes playing without linebackers, like on the Ravens offense's second freaking play from scrimmage, when Ray Rice cut upfield through a hole untouched and traveled 47 yards before he was finally nudged out of bounds.

Coming into the game, Rice was struggling to average even two yards per carry and the near universal assessment was that he was on the downside of his run as a top NFL running back. Thanks to the Bears, for a week at least, his career trajectory has at least leveled off a bit.

Rookie linebacker Khaseem Greene in particular is completely lost out there, but fellow first-year man Jon Bostic seemed to make a few positive strides on Sunday, at least after the Ravens' first two possessions.

"Bostic says he's feeling more and more comfortable in pass coverage," Dan Wiederer reports for the Tribune, "and provided supporting evidence with his second-quarter interception on a Joe Flacco pass to Dallas Clark. Bostic ran right with Clark up the seam and made an athletic, twisting catch."

In the secondary, safety Chris Conte again put himself in position to make a play or two and when he does make a big play at some point (an interception of a brutal overthrow doesn't count), that will really be something.

Major Wright didn't embarrass himself, and I suppose we'll take that even though it seemed as though it was the case because he was usually playing even further off the line of scrimmage than usual despite the fact that the Raven receiving corps isn't exactly the fastest in the league.

And the wind helped, a lot. Way to go wind! The Ravens were seriously limited moving against it in the fourth quarter, until of course they drove 81 yards to the Bears' three until having to settle for a game-tying field goal.

A quick paragraph or three about the quarterbacks. I had a chance to listen to Mully and Hanley for a little while this morning on The Score and they were full-throated in their defense of Jay Cutler and their belief that he is absolutely the guy who should be the team's primary signal-caller going forward. And I would agree that when Cutler is healthy again, he should return to the lineup. But after this season is a very different story.

People talking about players' contracts ranks just above people talking about dental work on my list of conversational favorites, but banter about Cutler's free agent future is certainly more compelling than most such discussions. And if I'm the Bears, no way am I throwing the bank at this guy. He is brittle (in part because the line was so bad during his first four years here) and he is still prone to the monstrously stupid interceptions that lose games all by themselves.

In the off-season, the Bears should be looking to re-sign Josh McCown at least at the same time as Cutler and Cutler's deal has to be cap-friendly.

If you lose him because some other team throws goofy money at him, oh well. But that isn't likely to happen. Cutler knows he would be lucky to find as good an offensive situation (coaching, receivers and line) elsewhere. And he is, of course, the one who is always talking about the fact that this is again his first year in the current system (which has been the case each time the Bears have brought in new coordinators during the past five years). It will take a lot for him to give up another couple years with Trestman.

But there are still (at least) six more games to go this season and who knows what we will learn during that time. Thankfully the Bears have been just good enough, and the Lions and Packers just bad enough, that it all still matters.


Field Note:

Editor: Why did they start that game and then get caught not getting the field covered during the storm? Total lunacy . . .

Coffman: Because it wouldn't have been a true Bears season without at least one game featuring players ripping up giant clumps of turf.


See also:

* McCown: "I'm The Back-Up Quarterback On This Team."

* Hoge: Rookies Come Through On Defense.

* Potash: David Bass Was 'In Right Place At The Right Time' During Key Interception Return For TD.

* Campbell: Gould Kicks 11th Career Game-Winning Field Goal.

* Dickerson: Bears Guilty Of Season-High 13 Penalties.

* View From Baltimore: Weather Story Undercovered.


In Trestman We Trust, Man


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

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