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Inconsistency contributes to Bears’ poor start

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LAKE FOREST, Ill. — When quarterback Jay Cutler is among the most dependable contributors to date, it’s easy to see how the Chicago Bears are 2-4 at the bye.

A rebuilding season, already expected to be a struggle, has been a roller coaster ride of inconsistency due to numerous injuries and lack of talent at key positions. The talent shortage was expected considering the poor job of drafting done by former general managers Jerry Angelo and Phil Emery. The injuries were not.

So the bye week to the Bears represents a chance to return most of their injured players to health.

“It’s a bunch of different things,” Bears coach John Fox said about the bye week. “But I think it’s getting guys healthy, getting them rested. It (the bye) comes at a time when we could use the rest to get some guys healed up.

“We’ll self-scout some things; I’m not going to go into what those are, we’re working on that as we speak. Some things we want to present to the players and what we want to do to improve it, in all three phases.”

Cutler actually started out throwing key interceptions against Green Bay and Arizona before suffering a pulled hamstring that cost him a game and a half. He returned with just two interceptions in his next 129 throws, has thrown at least one touchdown pass in every game and led two comeback wins and a last-second drive to tie Detroit in regulation before an overtime defeat.

Cutler’s ability to recover quickly from a hamstring injury and lead two wins surprised even the coaching staff.

“I didn’t know how competitive he was,” offensive coordinator Adam Gase said. “That’s something that has really jumped out at me, the toughness of coming back from this injury and playing as well as he has, that’s something that I love to see.

“I know our coaching staff really loved it and I think his teammates appreciated the fact that he battled back to help our team try to pull some victories out.”

That Cutler did this in a conservative, low-risk attack made it all the more out of character — or at least perceived character. The Bears had to go this route after losing Alshon Jeffery four games due to a hamstring injury, Eddie Royal for a game with an ankle injury and rookie Kevin White for the entire season to date after shin surgery.

When center Will Montgomery was lost for the season with a broken leg and left tackle Jermon Bushrod went out with a shoulder injury for two games, a running game that looked improved early had suddenly vanished to the point where the Bears couldn’t gain critical rushing yards in a loss Sunday to Detroit.

Alshon’s return promises to make for a more open approach and higher scores.

“That down-the-field threat, we’ve been dinking and dunking a little bit when (Jeffery) wasn’t in there,” running back Matt Forte said. “(Marquess Wilson) was able to stretch the field a little bit, too.

“But Alshon being in there, he was able to catch the ball down the field a lot and open up some of the other guys, too, in the passing game. So they couldn’t just double him and the passing game got away.”

Defensive production swung wildly through the first six games, as well. Usually the same reason could be blames.

While Pernell McPhee stepped forward as the leader they needed on the field, the loss of defensive signal caller Shea McClellin to a knee injury and safety Antrel Rolle to led to players starting who weren’t even on the roster coming out of training camp. The results were as predictable, as allowing 48 points to Arizona and 37 to Detroit while shutting down Kansas City and Oakland showed.

“I feel like for the most part of the season we’ve been doing the right things,” linebacker Christian Jones said. “We just have to refine some of our techniques and things and just finish better.”

It’s what the entire second part of the schedule will be about for a team in transition. If Rolle, McClellin, Jeffery, Royal and Bushrod return to health, they’ll have a better chance to build momentum and consistency in the final 10 games.

“I’ve been pleased with the way our guys have gone about it,” Fox said. “I think we’ve been in most of the contests to this point and now it’s just figuring out how to win consistently. And we’re not there yet by any stretch, but I tink we’re moving in the right direction.”


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