The Bears are heading to Motown for Sunday's game against the Lions with a full head of steam, riding a four-game winning streak that includes a 31-26 victory over the Eagles, arguably the most impressive win in what has been an extremely easy schedule.
But the Bears are starting to look like serious contenders rather than pretenders, mostly because they finally got a playoff-caliber performance from an offense that has, for most of the season, been a burden to the outstanding defense and special teams.
The offensive surge couldn't have come at a better time because the defense allowed 398 total yards against the Eagles. The offensive outburst helped give the Bears sole possession of first place in the NFC North at 8-3.
Quarterback Jay Cutler's 146.2 passer rating, the highest of his five-year NFL career, included four touchdown passes, 247 yards on 14 of 21 completions and no interceptions.
"Jay Cutler was outstanding throughout," coach Lovie Smith said. "Whether he was throwing the football or taking off running the ball, I just felt like he was in total control of our offense, distributing the ball around. With him playing like that, we're going to be hard to beat."
The Bears were undefeated in November for the first time since the 2005 team also went 4-0 en route to an 11-5 season.
"I would definitely say our arrow's pointed up, when you win four games in a row the way we have," Smith said. "We talked early about getting in position in October and making that run in November. That's exactly what the guys are doing."
The four-game win streak came at a critical time, on the heels of back-to-back home losses, said linebacker Brian Urlacher.
"We're where we want to be," Urlacher said. "We kind of stumbled there in the middle of the season with those two home games we lost. But we're leading our division. That's where we've wanted to be all season long."
The Bears' record has been questioned by doubters because of the relative ease of their early schedule, but Sunday's victory over the NFC East leaders made a statement.
"They were considered the best team," safety Chris Harris said. "Them and Atlanta were two of the best teams in the NFC. Nobody really talked about us. We don't care. We like it that way. We were picked to lose this game at home, which is kind of a slap in the face. But we have a great team, a resilient team."
QB Jay Cutler
The Bears have rushed for 130 or more yards in three straight games after doing it just once in the first eight. It helps that offensive coordinator Mike Martz has done more than pay lip service to the ground game. During the four-game win streak, the Bears have run the ball 31, 38, 40 and 38 times. In back-to-back home losses that preceded the win streak, the Bears ran a total of 30 times.
BY THE NUMBERS
During the four-game win streak, Cutler has thrown nine touchdown passes and just three interceptions. In the three games before that, he had one TD pass and five INTs.
WR Devin Hester's 86 receiving yards, on three catches, were a team high and the first time he has led the Bears in that category this season. ... WR Earl Bennett, who had just three career TD catches going into the Eagles game, scored two on Sunday and finished with 56 yards on a team-high four receptions. ... DE Julius Peppers got his sixth sack of the season and fourth in the last two games. ... DE Israel Idonije was credited with half a sack, giving him a team-best 6.5 for the season.
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