The Chicago Bears' gauntlet

Jay Cutler getting comfortable is as much an issue as a scary schedule

Updated: November 9, 2012, 1:58 PM ET
By Chris Sprow | ESPN Insider
Jay CutlerMike Ehrmann/Getty ImagesDespite the Bears' 7-1 start, QB Jay Cutler has not been at his best this season.

Over the past week, there have been a lot of comparisons between the 2012 Chicago Bears and the 1985 version of the team that won the Super Bowl.

I suppose you could see it, as colleague Adam Schefter did. Some of the numbers are uncanny. This team is 7-1, while the '85 team started 8-0; this team allows 15 points per game and has 28 takeaways at the midway point, while that team allowed 14.3 points per game and had 28 takeaways at the midway point; Lance Briggs and Brian Urlacher are similar to Wilber Marshall and Mike Singletary, respectively; and Peanut Tillman can be Dave Duerson, while Julius Peppers is basically Richard Dent.

Sure, you can quilt together the comparison. But there's a better one.

This Bears team is an awful lot like the 2006 team that also reached the Super Bowl. I remember that team well, because I covered them. They started 7-1 and did other things almost identically. They had a defense that practically served as an offense, had 26 defensive takeaways after eight games, were great on special teams and didn't allow teams to run the ball. The comparison is also easier because that '06 team had the same head coach and starred some of the same players; Urlacher, Briggs, Tillman and Devin Hester were all there.

That team also won a couple of games that didn't make any sense, such as a visit to Arizona where it turned the ball over six times, had 168 total yards and still won 24-23. That's similar to this year's Bears. Two weeks ago, they had 210 total yards, turned it over three times and miraculously beat Carolina 23-22.

The other big similarity: uneven quarterback play. Yes, Jay Cutler is far better than Rex Grossman, but it's absolutely fair to say a similar feeling permeates. Fans worried then that unless the QB play was more consistent, a Super Bowl might be out of reach for an otherwise capable team. "Good Rex, bad Rex" became a storyline. In 2012, while a comparison to Grossman seems harsh, it's actually pretty fair. Cutler has not been his best, and there are real questions about whether he could carry this team if the defense was less prolific.

While the second half of the season has been labeled a gauntlet for the Bears, it's also a test for whether this team can build more trust in its quarterback.


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