CHICAGO – Bears quarterback Jay Cutler says the offense needs to get better at every position, including his own, although he lauded the work of one teammate in particular.
“You can’t say enough about a guy like Michael Bush,” Cutler said after the Bears’ 23-6 victory over St. Louis on Sunday at Soldier Field. “He really didn’t miss a beat. He’s protection-savvy. He runs the ball hard and hits the holes. He does everything for us.”
Bush made his first Bears’ start Sunday in place of Matt Forte, who suffered a sprained right ankle at Green Bay on Sept. 13. Bush finished with 18 carries for 55 yards and a touchdown, although the offense as a whole was lacking.
Forte’s status is uncertain as the Bears head to Dallas next Monday night, then to Jacksonville on Oct. 7. Their bye week falls on Oct. 15, so it seems likely Forte will return by then.
Fullback Evan Rodriguez (knee) left Sunday’s game and didn’t return. His status is uncertain.
Until Forte’s ready, Bush should get the bulk of the work. Bush is 25 pounds heavier than Forte and offers more power in short yardage situations, although Forte is shiftier and one of the better receivers at his position in the NFL.
“To me, [the role] is the same,” Bush said. “I make sure to prepare to be ready when it’s my turn. I think I did a pretty good job. It was kind of ugly, but I got it done. It’s something I have to do. I know everybody’s depending on me. I just try to stay consistent, no turnovers and do the best I can.”
Together they are a formidable tandem, with Bush spelling Forte on some drives and used frequently near the goal line. Bush now has the starting role with Kahlil Bell, signed two days after Forte was injured, backing him up.
The offensive problems Sunday had little to do with Bush, who had 14 carries and 49 yards at halftime. He rushed four times for 6 yards in the second half while the defense harassed Rams quarterback Sam Bradford and consistently stopped St. Louis.
The passing game needed to be sharper, as Cutler finished with a 58.9 passer rating and threw for 183 yards. Bush’s 3.1-yards-a-carry average was not outstanding, but it was sufficient.
“We wanted to run the ball more to open up the passing game,” Bush said. “We know everybody’s going to try to double (WR Brandon) Marshall and things like that. We were trying to run the ball so they couldn’t do that.”
Bears coach Lovie Smith was just glad his team finished the job.
“Some games we are going to need to score 41 points and other games we’re not going to need to,” Smith said. “We’re going to have to play sound football and make the plays when required, and it was that type of day.”