LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) Finding a way to continue one of the most efficient stretches of his career could become more difficult for Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler because of another injury to wide receiver Alshon Jeffery.
Jeffery has a streak of three straight games with 100 yards receiving. He suffered a groin injury in Wednesday's practice and on Thursday the Bears were left pondering whether their quarterback could continue to be as effective Sunday against St. Louis without his chief deep option.
''If he can't go, we've had life without him and we'll figure it out with the guys we've got,'' Cutler said.
Jeffery missed Thursday's practice, and another of Cutler's options, running back Matt Forte, continued practicing only on a limited basis with a knee injury.
A calf injury kept Jeffery out of preseason and a hamstring injury knocked him out from Weeks 2 to 5. Since Jeffery returned against Detroit on Oct. 18, he has had games of eight catches for 147 yards against Detroit, 10 catches for 116 yards against Minnesota and 10 catches for 151 yards last week against San Diego.
''He just makes things easier,'' Cutler said. ''Whenever you have one-on-ones you know you have a guy that's going to win and that's kind of the world we've lived in the past three games - if we have one-on-one matchups more than likely the ball's going to head his way because we feel comfortable he's going to win.''
The Bears ran a more conservative offense when Jeffery sat out against Arizona, Seattle, Kansas City and Oakland.
Jeffery's status could be a game-time decision.
''Well, most games I've known whether or not he's been up or down going into the game, so I've been able to prepare for it and we just kind of shift some things around, put some guys in different spots,'' Bears offensive coordinator Adam Gase said. ''I mean, you just adjust. That's what the NFL is. Nobody is going to feel sorry for you.
''So you figure out a way to move a few pieces around, try to figure out who's feeling it that day and find a way to get him the ball.''
Cutler has completed 75 of 114 for 909 yards with four touchdowns, two interceptions and a passer rating of 94.5 since Jeffery returned from his hamstring injury.
Jeffery's contract expires after this season and concerns over his history of injuries have to be weighed before signing him.
Coach John Fox isn't about to call him injury-prone.
''We're in a very physical, combative game,'' Fox said. ''I've heard medical people say `Well he needs some rest.' I'm like, `Well, no kidding.'
''That's a little better for you than going out and playing 60 minutes of football on a Sunday. That's not very restful. But it's just a physical game, really, no matter what position you play.''
Even with Jeffery missing a big chunk of the season, Cutler has proven more effective in Gase's offense. His passer rating of 89.6 is above his single-season career high of 89.2 and he has thrown just five interceptions.
Russell Wilson, Ben Roethlisberger, Matt Ryan, Drew Brees and Joe Flacco are among the quarterbacks with more interceptions thrown than Cutler.
Besides having Jeffery available along with tight end Martellus Bennett as an option, Cutler credits the coaching of Gase.
''Last year things were different,'' Cutler said. ''Whenever you lose a bunch of games in a row, it gets hard. That's any business. Things aren't going well, it's going to get pretty tough.
''With these (coaches), things didn't go well (initially). We were lucky enough to win two more and kind of get out of that hole and we've been kind of back and forth from there. Coach Fox hasn't backed down from his message one time and I think the players haven't lost any confidence in that either.''
Cutler isn't in the mood for evaluating his improvement.
''At this point I'm just trying to get better from week to week,'' Cutler said. ''That's kind of an end-of-the-year summary, whenever we go back and look at everything of seeing where we start to where we finish.
''At this point, Week 1 seems like it was light years away right now. You look at the past week and right now we're looking at the Rams, so it's a week-to-week thing.''
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