CHICAGO – Eventually, the Chicago Bears defense will need help.
The Bears hoped the running game and a diversified passing attack would come around to complement quarterback Jay Cutler's throws to Brandon Marshall on offense, but after four straight wins and a 13-7 victory over the Detroit Lions on Monday night they know they've got a ways to go to assist their ball-hawking defense.
"We're still trying to find our way on offense," Marshall said. "There's some chemistry missing there, but you've got to expect that in a first-year offense."
In a 41-3 win Oct. 7 over Jacksonville, the offense struggled through a poor first half. The offense started slow in a win over Dallas and against Detroit it started fast but bogged down and needed the defense to force four turnovers to preserve the win. With a difficult schedule coming up, the Bears know they'll need both aspects of the team functioning well.
"In the second quarter, we got a little stagnant but we adjusted well," Cutler said.
Cutler took a shot from Detroit defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh late in the first half and left briefly, but finished the game. He expects to play Sunday against Carolina when the Bears hope to be more productive against a defense ranked 24th overall and 20th in scoring.
The running game has shown signs of coming around after a slow start, but progress has been sporadic. Running back Matt Forte broke off a season-long 39-yard run in the first quarter to set up the only Bears touchdown. But the Bears were held to 62 rushing yards in the second half while protecting a 10-0 and then 13-0 lead.
The 171 rushing yards looked impressive, but 39 yards came from scrambles by Cutler and backup Jason Campbell as the offensive line had trouble protecting and opening consistent holes. The Bears put some of their inconsistency on Detroit's strong defensive front.
"We knew the front four was the strength of their team so we were going to have to basically beat them up up front so that we can get the running game going and the passing game," Forte said. "We're starting to improve each week in the running game."
Forte appeared to have injured his arm near the end of the game but the team said he'll be fine for the Carolina game.
"Hard fought game," coach Lovie Smith said. "Guys will have bumps and bruises. But I don't think anyone is hurt seriously where they are going to miss any time."
That included Cutler, who earned more respect for his toughness while surviving a strong Detroit pass rush.
"We all held our breath a little bit until he came back out there," linebacker Brian Urlacher said.
Cutler said he had trouble with his throwing motion after the injury and receiving a pain killer, and it's a problem the Bears will have to contend with against the Panthers.
"It was my right side, so trying to get my right side through was a little bit tough," he said. "I missed some throws. I wasn't feeling exactly 100 percent, but we had to fight through it. The way our defense was playing, we were just trying to drag out the game."