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Bears Tue Nov 22 2011

Never Saw It Coming: Bears Lose Cutler

Thumbnail image for bears.gifWhen I heard about Jay Cutler's broken thumb after Sunday's win over San Diego, I thought of Joe Pesci getting whacked.

Like the Bears after five straight wins, Pesci's character in Goodfellas was living the high life, with everything going his way. He thought he was going to be a made man. Instead, he got shot in the back of the head.

For the Bears, the wound might not be fatal, but it's a serious blow after a month in which they had climbed into the ranks of serious NFL contenders.

Cutler hurt his thumb while trying to tackle the Chargers' Antoine Cason after an interception in the fourth quarter. He finished out the 31-20 win, completing both of his final two passes, but Cutler will need surgery soon.

Reports say Cutler might miss six to eight weeks, but head coach Lovie Smith is saying he will return before the end of the season.

Chicago will turn to Caleb Hanie, who relieved Cutler in last year's NFC championship game. Hanie had a solid, if not spectacular game, leading the Bears downfield twice for scores.

Hanie has some tremendous upside potential -- as Brian Urlacher said, "He's got some ability. He runs really well. He's going to be able to move around in the pocket a little bit, maybe do a little bit of things with that -- a little [Tim] Tebow offense maybe."

Yet it's very possible the 26-year old, a veteran of four NFL seasons and 34 passes, will struggle when defenses watch some film and get a read on him. There's probably a reason he's not already starting.

But then, Hanie's play might not make a huge difference. The Bears are entering the lull of their schedule, facing some below-average defenses (and offenses). Although they only have two more home games, versus the Chiefs and the Seahawks, their road games are not too daunting other than a trip to Green Bay on Christmas: trips to Oakland, Denver and Minnesota.

If Cutler only misses six weeks, then he should be back just in time for the playoffs.

As long as the defense keeps playing the way it has been (including Sunday, when they picked off two passes and recovered a fumble), Chicago should be fine going forward no matter what Hanie gives them. And if January's performance is repeatable, maybe Hanie can show us a few things.

 
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