Bears believe offense can still get better
LAKE FOREST, Ill. – Tight end Greg Olsen sprinted past Lawyer Milloy, hauled in the pass from Jay Cutler and didn't stop running until he hit the end zone with a 58-yard touchdown.
The Chicago Bears kept going, too.
They gained 473 yards and raced past the Seattle Seahawks 35-24 in a divisional playoff game last week, showing that even with a simpler offense, they can still be pretty crafty.
When the Bears face the Packers for the NFC championship, they'll need another big effort to get by their old rivals, similar the one they delivered against the Seahawks.
As good as they looked against Seattle, Olsen said they're "not even close" to where they can be.
"We're still kind of going up," he said. "I still think we have a lot of untapped potential that we're still kind of trying to get to. ... Even going into next year and the future, the young guys that we have and the experience that this season has given us, going through the ups and downs that we had earlier in the year — I think this year has been good for us on a lot of different fronts. We still have our chance this year ... to reach the ultimate goal. One more game away from putting ourselves in that position, that's where all our focus is."
They'll need to be sharp on Sunday against Green Bay if they're going to make it to Dallas for the Super Bowl.
It's one thing to roll over a team with a losing record and one of the league's worst defenses. Cutler and the rest of the offense expect to have their hands full against the Packers defense.
"After last year, the disappointment, the struggles we had offensively and we're kind of rebuilding this year and with Mike (Martz)," Cutler said. "It's been fun, but it's not over yet. We still have some business to take care of."
It hasn't been easy for the Bears, who struggled early while their quarterback was getting pounded. They committed to the run at midseason and had a big turnaround that led to the NFC North title and a first-round playoff bye.
They kept rolling against Seattle, pulling out a few surprises to keep the Seahawks off balance right from the start.
The Bears handed off to Matt Forte on their first two plays from scrimmage and then the quarterback and tight end made the first big strike.
On his first career playoff attempt, Cutler found Olsen deep downfield when he beat Milloy for that 58-yarder, setting the tone for the victory.
When he wasn't beating the Seahawks with his arm, Cutler was doing it with his legs. There was a 6-yard scoring run off a draw play in the second quarter, and with a shovel-pass option in the third, he kept it and rolled to his right for a 9-yard touchdown that made it 28-0.
He was making the right decisions, and the Bears kept it going when Kellen Davis caught a 39-yard TD off a play-action play in the fourth. Considering he had only one catch in the regular season, that play was a surprise, but it was another example of the way the Bears were keeping Seattle off balance.
Cutler became just the second quarterback in NFL history to throw for two touchdowns and run for two in a postseason game, joining Cleveland's Otto Graham. He threw for 274 yards and finished with a 111.3 rating, the third highest among Bears QBs with at least 20 attempts in a playoff game.
"We feel real good about where he is," coach Lovie Smith said. "He's come a long way. He's capable of making plays like that. I really like the decisions he's making."
Olsen also had a career day, catching three passes for a personal-best 113 yards. It showed just how valuable he can be in the passing game after seeing his statistics decline in his first year in Mike Martz's system.
Olsen's 41 catches and 404 yards were the fewest for him since his rookie year in 2007, when he finished with 39 receptions and 391 yards. He has one more year left on his contract, and although he's a favorite target of Cutler, there are fewer opportunities in a system where a pass-catching tight end isn't a priority.
Martz values blocking at that position, and although Olsen has improved somewhat in that area, it's far from his strength.
"I have been comfortable with Greg since I got here," Cutler said. "He is a really friendly target. He works the middle of the field really well, he knows zones, he knows when to sit down, he knows when to go, he's got a really good football feel. It isn't anything new. A lot of teams try to take him away because they know he is good."