Larry Mayer and Eli Kaberon of ChicagoBears.com discuss the Bears players they'll be watching on both sides of the ball in Sunday's season finale against the Detroit Lions:
Offense: Quarterback Jay Cutler
The veteran quarterback looks for a strong finish Sunday to what has been arguably his best season since joining the Bears in 2009. Cutler is on pace to establish career bests with a 92.8 passer rating and a 1.7 interception percentage. This season he has continued to show a big-time arm and the ability to extend plays with his elusiveness, but he's also demonstrated improved decision-making, which has resulted in far fewer interceptions.
Cutler has passed for 3,414 yards with 19 touchdowns and eight interceptions in 14 starts, and is the only NFL quarterback with at least 10 starts who hasn't had a multi-interception game. Cutler's performance is even more impressive when you consider that his top four receivers (Alshon Jeffery, Eddie Royal, Kevin White and Marquess Wilson) and No. 1 tight end (Martellus Bennett) have all been hampered by injuries throughout the season.
Defense: Safety Jonathan Anderson
The undrafted rookie was benched after making two starts in mid-October and made the most of a second opportunity last Sunday in Tampa after waiting 10 weeks to get back into the starting lineup. Jones-Quartey generated two takeaways in the Bears' 26-21 win over the Buccaneers with a key interception near the goal line and a forced fumble.
"Being directly involved in two takeaways is huge in and of itself," said defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. "He had some other good plays, some he'd like to do over. But overall he played well."
Jones-Quartey will get a chance Sunday to build on last week's performance against a a dangerous Lions passing game that features quarterback Matthew Stafford and receivers Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate. The University of Findlay product will seek some revenge after being benched after failing to prevent Johnson from catching a 57-yard jump ball that set up Detroit's game-winning field goal in overtime Oct. 18 at Ford Field.
Offense: Running back Kyle Long
Last week in Tampa Bay, because of injuries to several receivers, the Bears looked for creative ways to get their running backs the ball. That meant playing multiple players at the position simultaneously, a strategy that led to great success. Running back Matt Forte was doing well in the offense—averaging 4.9 yards per run and 7.7 yards per reception—before a back injury forced him to the sideline in the second half.
The veteran runner should be good to go for the season finale, and the Bears will once again need his talent and versatility against the Lions on Sunday. Forte has fared well historically versus Detroit—his 1,135 rushing yards and 11 total touchdowns in 14 games versus the Lions are his most against any opponent. With the Chicago offense still without many of its established playmakers, Forte will be asked upon to have a big game in the new-look offensive attack.
Defense: Cornerback Tracy Porter
When facing the Lions, the top priority for the defense is always attempting to slow down wide receiver Calvin Johnson. That task is likely to fall on the shoulders of cornerback Tracy Porter. In Week 6 when the Bears and Lions played, Johnson was targeted nine times; he finished with six catches for 166 yards, including a touchdown.
Porter has strong cover skills and leads the Bears with 11 pass breakups on the season. However, Johnson may be the toughest matchup of the season, given the receiver's size, speed and leaping ability. An improved Chicago pass rush should help Porter, and there will be assistance from the team's safeties and linebackers. But Porter will need to play well to slow down the Detroit downfield passing attack and keep the Bears in the game.