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By John McMullen, NFL Editor - Archive - Email
Closing the door on Cutler
(L-R) Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall The Bears are 3-4 and looking up at both Green Bay and Detroit in the NFC North.
Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - Many are missing the point when trying to analyze what's going on with the Chicago Bears.

Brandon Marshall's emotional outburst after last Sunday's ugly 27-14 home loss to the Miami Dolphins has placed the focus on whether the enigmatic receiver's relationship with quarterback Jay Cutler is strained.

What should be spotlighted is that the Bears are 3-4 and looking up at both Green Bay and Detroit in the NFC North.

Those searching for drama put a lot of emphasis on the fact Marshall was heard ranting about all the talent the team has on the offensive side of the football without mentioning Cutler before adding that the "same mistakes" regarding protecting the football are holding the team back, perceived as a direct salvo across Cutler's bow.

The mouthy Marshall has tried to back off in the ensuing days.

"Listen, I have a really nice condo. And guess what? Jay Cutler built that condo," Marshall said on Showtime's "Inside The NFL" on Tuesday. "We're great, we're great. But you know, we're like brothers. I think coach (Marc) Trestman said it the best, you know, but if I have a problem with Jay Cutler, I'm gonna go to Jay Cutler. If Jay Cutler has a problem with me, he's going to come to me. We have that type of relationship."

Great, except when Marshall had a problem with Cutler, he didn't go to the quarterback ... he aired his grievances in public like it was Festivus.

Marshall also has been trying to have his cake and eat it, too, claiming he doesn't regret a word he said to his teammates, but wished that the doors were closed and the media assembled didn't here his version of a reality check.

"Oh, absolutely my voice was heard," the star receiver said. "The only thing I regret is that the door wasn't closed, you know, but I wouldn't change any of my reaction because it came from my heart, and that's how I felt, that's how I still feel.

"I think that we have all the coaches we need, I think we have all the players that we need to get that job done. And 3-4 is unacceptable, but we have everything that we need to turn this ship right now."

Part of all of this is that Marshall and a lot of the Bears think they are a lot better than they really are.

"We have too much talent on this team for one, to have the record that we have, and two, to not be producing the way we should," injured Pro Bowl linebacker Lance Briggs said on his weekly Comcast SportsNet show. "For me, it's hard to fathom."

It shouldn't be.

The Bears were 10-6 in Lovie Smith's last season as coach and fell back to 8-8 in Trestman's first try. In the five seasons before that, there was one playoff appearance. They never beat Aaron Rodgers and the Lions have certainly lapped Chicago in the talent department.

Just maybe the Bears are what they have looked like under Trestman, a mediocre team which is 11-12 during the coach's watch.

And a major part of that pedestrian reality is Cutler.

In a position that almost demands leadership by its very nature, the 31-year- old veteran has always been a pass-the-buck guy whose on-field antics and sideline pouting sessions when things are going bad are always front-page news in the Second City.

Cutler is definitely a guy with prodigious talent, most notably the arm strength to keep the football dry when throwing it through a car wash, and the athleticism to surprise even the most athletic of front-seven defenders in this league.

Those positives, however, are often diluted by a shoddy attention to detail, especially when it comes to the fundamentals and mechanics of playing the position.

Yet everyone tip-toes around all of that.

Trestman was sure to point out that Marshall's words were directed more generally, as if he had the ability to understand what a hot-head is thinking after the spigots have been turned on.

Briggs, meanwhile, actually admitted he left the locker room during the tirade.

"I just left because I could see where things were kinda going," he said. "And I knew that when you get emotional, there are moments when, you get in an argument and both people are emotional, you're not going to get anywhere."

And now Marshall himself is backpedaling with the skill of Deion Sanders in his prime.

"At the end I said Jay Cutler's our leader, he's our guy, he's a gunslinger," Marshall said. "Jay Cutler makes this thing go. This guy, he's the first one there, he puts in the work. What he knows and what he does for us is unbelievable."

What you say when you're at your most emotional may end up being right or wrong with the benefit of hindsight. What it unquestionably is, however, is what you believe.

And Marshall was pointing at his quarterback and calling him out for inconsistent play. Those who think anything differently can't see the forest for the trees.

It's not time to close on the door on those listening in Chicago, it's time to start thinking about closing it on Cutler.

WEEK 8 (All Times Eastern)

San Diego (5-2) at Denver (5-1) (-7 1/2), Thursday, 8:30 p.m.
- Peyton Manning didn't have much time to savor his latest NFL record. The reigning and five- time NFL MVP, who broke Brett Favre's record for most career touchdown passes against the San Francisco 49ers this past Sunday, and his Broncos will kick off Week 8 when they try to keep their penthouse view atop the AFC West against Philip Rivers and the Chargers.

Manning leads the league in passer rating with a 118.2 mark and Rivers is third at 113.0 Both QBs have generally excelled on short weeks. Manning will enter this matchup with a 9-2 record as a starter on Thursday, and is the all-time leader in passing yards (3,305) and touchdown passes (35) with less preparation time. Conversely Rivers, who is currently ranked second in the AFC with 1,961 passing yards and third with 17 TD passes, has compiled a 4-1 record on Thursday, including a 27-20 victory over Denver last season.

Broncos 31, Chargers 23

Detroit (5-2) (-3 1/2) vs. Atlanta (2-5) at London's Wembley Stadium, Sunday, 9:30 a.m. - The Lions and Falcons will meet in Wembley in the first regular- season game outside of North America for both teams. Both are headed in opposite directions, though. Detroit has won four of five and is tied with Green Bay atop the NFC North, while Atlanta has dropped four straight games. Falcons QB Matt Ryan, though, has never lost a game to the Lions (3-0).

Lions 28, Falcons 17

Seattle (3-3) (-4 1/2) at Carolina (3-3-1), Sunday, 1 p.m. - Two teams coming off bad losses square off in the Queen City. The reigning Super Bowl champs were done in by the special teams' prowess of the Rams in Week 7, while the Panthers were mauled by Aaron Rodgers. Seahawks signal caller Russell Wilson has won both of his career starts against Carolina, throwing for 320 yards with a 115.7 passer rating in the last meeting. His counterpart in this game, Cam Newton, has won nine of his past 10 home starts.

Seahawks 24, Panthers 20

Baltimore (5-2) at Cincinnati (3-2-1) (-1 1/2), Sunday, 1 p.m. - The Bengals have not won in over a calendar month after a 3-0 start but are 11-0-1 in their last 12 regular-season home games, the last of which was a 37-37 tie with Carolina in Week 6. The Ravens, on the other hand, have won two straight and five of six to seize control of the AFC North.

Bengals 27, Ravens 21

Miami (3-3) (-5 1/2) at Jacksonville (1-6), Sunday, 1 p.m. - Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill will try to build on a win in Chicago in which he became just the third player in NFL history with 275-plus passing yards (277), a 78-or-above completion percentage (78.1) and 45-or-more rushing yards (48). The Jags will try to keep their momentum after rookie QB Blake Bortles earned his first win as an NFL starter over Cleveland and running back Denard Robinson rushed for a career-high 127 yards.

Dolphins 21, Jaguars 13

St. Louis (2-4) at Kansas City (3-3) (-6 1/2), Sunday, 1 p.m. - Show Me State bragging rights are on the line in Kansas City. Both Missouri clubs come in off an upset with the Chiefs winning in San Diego behind Jamaal Charles' 95 rushing yards, a number which gives him 6,113 for his career, besting Priest Holmes (6,070) for the franchise record. The Rams stunned the Super Bowl champion Seahawks thanks to their nifty special teams work and a riverboat mentality from embattled coach Jeff Fisher.

Chiefs 27, Rams 16

Chicago (3-4) at New England (5-2) (-6), Sunday, 1 p.m. - The Patriots will be shooting for their 13th consecutive win at home behind the red-hot Tom Brady, who has thrown for 914 yards with nine TDs and no interceptions in his last three games. Bears QB Jay Cutler has won nine of his past 12 starts against AFC foes.

Patriots 23, Bears 20

Buffalo (4-3) at New York Jets (1-6) (-3), Sunday, 1 p.m. - The Jets hope the newly acquired Percy Harvin can give their moribund offense a lift while Buffalo will try to build on a last-second win over Minnesota despite injuries to running backs Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller.

Jets 20, Bills 14

Minnesota (2-5) at Tampa Bay (1-5) (-3), Sunday, 1 p.m. - The Bucs will be searching for their seventh straight win over Minnesota, which has never won in Raymond James Stadium.

Buccaneers 23, Vikings 16

Houston (3-4) (-1) at Tennessee (2-5), Sunday, 1 p.m. - Houston starting QB Ryan Fitzpatrick returns to Nashville, where he played in 11 games with nine starts for the Titans in 2013, passing for 2,454 yards and 14 TDs. Tennessee is hoping to get back oft-injured starter Jake Locker from a thumb sprain.

Titans 17, Texans 16

Philadelphia (5-1) at Arizona (5-1) (-2 1/2), Sunday, 4:05 p.m. - Two of the four remaining one-loss teams meet Sunday afternoon in the desert. The first-place Cardinals improved to 5-1 with a 24-13 win at Oakland last weekend, while the Eagles are fresh off their bye week, averaging an NFC-best 30.5 points per game. Arizona QB Carson Palmer has won 10 of his last 12 starts and Philadelphia is 12-3 over its last 15 contests.

Eagles 26, Cardinals 20

Oakland (0-6) at Cleveland (3-3) (-7), Sunday, 4:25 p.m. - The Raiders are the NFL's only winless team as they continue to grow with rookie QB Derek Carr, who leads all first-year signal callers with 1,189 passing yards and eight TD passes. The Browns, meanwhile, gave previously winless Jacksonville its first win in Week 7.

Browns 21, Raiders 13

Indianapolis (5-2) (-3) at Pittsburgh (4-3), Sunday, 4:25 p.m. - The Steelers come in after their record 16th straight "Monday Night Football" home win, while Indy posted its largest shutout win since 1997 (a 27-0 whitewash of Cincinnati), the 500th total victory in franchise history. Colts QB Andrew Luck has passed for 300-or-more yards in five consecutive games, tied with Peyton Manning (2009) for the longest streak in team history.

Colts 27, Steelers 20

Green Bay (5-2) at New Orleans (2-4) (- 1 1/2), Sunday 8:30 p.m. - The struggling Saints are banking on a return to the Superdome to get them back on track. New Orleans is 2-0 at home this season and has won 10 straight overall but is 0-4 on the road. The Packers have won four straight after a rocky start behind MVP candidate Aaron Rodgers, who has 13 TD passes with no picks and a stunning 137.9 passer rating over that span. A-Rod also generally excels indoors, having started 23 games under a roof with 56 TD passes versus only eight interceptions in those games.

Saints 37, Packers 33

Washington (2-5) at Dallas (6-1) (-9), Monday, 8:30 p.m. - The Redskins will turn to their third starting QB this season as Colt McCoy replaces the struggling Kirk Cousins. In his first action of the season in Week 7, McCoy completed 11-of-12 passes for 128 yards and a touchdown, orchestrating a 10- play, 76-yard drive that culminated with Kai Forbath's game-winning kick in a 19-17 win over Tennessee. The Cowboys improved to an NFL-best 6-1 with a 31-21 home win over the New York Giants in Week 7 behind MVP candidate DeMarco Murray (128 rushing yards, one touchdown), who has rushed for at least 100 yards in each of the team's seven games, surpassing Jim Brown (six games in 1958) for the longest such streak in NFL history to begin a season.

Cowboys 33, Redskins 16

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