NFL Preview - Chicago (1-1) at NY Jets (1-1)
By John McMullen, NFL Editor
(SportsNetwork.com) - The New York Jets will continue a three-game stretch against NFC North foes when they welcome Jay Cutler and the Chicago Bears to MetLife Stadium for a "Monday Night Football" matchup.
A week ago, both the Bears and Jets were involved in dramatic comebacks. Chicago erased a 17-point deficit en route to ruining the San Francisco 49ers' regular-season debut at Levi's Stadium and ending a 30-year hex against the Niners in Northern California.
Jay Cutler tossed three of his four touchdown passes in the game to Brandon Marshall as the Bears rallied for a 28-20 victory.
San Francisco opened up a 17-0 second-quarter lead, but Chicago outscored the 49ers 28-3 from the one-minute mark of that second frame on to win its first game on the road against the 49ers since 1985. The Bears had dropped eight in a row in San Francisco's former home of Candlestick Park by an average margin of 34-6 prior to the Week 2 tilt.
"The defense did a great job giving us short fields, causing turnovers and keeping it close enough so that we could get back in it," Cutler said.
New York, meanwhile, was on the other end of a big comeback as it watched the Green Bay Packers storm back from a 21-3 hole en route to dropping a 31-24 decision at Lambeau Field.
Jets second-year QB Geno Smith finished 16-for-32 for 176 yards with a touchdown and an interception, and also had 26 yards and a touchdown on the ground for Rex Ryan's club, which opened its season with a home win over Oakland.
Eric Decker caught the touchdown pass before leaving with a sore hamstring while Chris Ivory ran in one touchdown in the loss.
"We did a lot of good things but it's all about winning," said Smith, who has two passing TDs and one rushing in 2014. "We've got to get better and we've got areas to improve on. I trust my teammates and coaches and know that we're going to prepare hard this week to go out and win on Monday night."
Perhaps the most disappointing part of the Jets' loss in the Badger State was the fact that Smith hooked up with Jeremy Kerley on what looked like a 36-yard TD pass with about five minutes left which would have deadlocked the game pending the extra point, a development rendered moot because offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg was signaling for timeout just before the snap.
"As a team, you go and you learn from this," Ryan said. "I've seen some teams that, when you have a game like this, it can turn your season on a positive note. That's certainly the way I hope we respond to this game."
Mornhinweg admitted he did yell for the timeout, prompting defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson to get the official's attention, something which shouldn't have happened because NFL rules state the head coach is the only one on the sideline who is allowed to call timeout.
Nevertheless Mornhinweg, perhaps best known for refusing the ball after winning an overtime coin toss while the head coach in Detroit during a 2002 game against Chicago, accepted blame for the fiasco.
"First of all, I want to make it crystal clear everything that goes on offensively is my responsibility, period," Mornhinweg said Monday. "I've got to do a better job of communicating and trusting 'Big Geno.' I've got to trust Geno to get everything fixed before the 40-second (play) clock. That's the scenario."
Mornhinweg also shielded Richardson, the 2013 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year.
"Sheldon needs to take no accountability for that," Mornhinweg said. "He was only trying to help. It's just that simple. And I want to make sure everything that goes on offensively is my responsibility, so I've got to do a better job with the communication."
Chicago leads its all-time series with the Jets by a 7-3 margin, including a 38-34 triumph the last time the two teams tangled back on Dec. 26, 2010. Bears running back Matt Forte rushed for 113 yards and a TD in that one while Cutler threw for 215 yards and three scores.
Both franchises are under water while appearing on "Monday Night Football," with Chicago amassing a 27-35 mark and New York compiling a 20-27 record over the years.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
On paper the Bears' passing game versus the Jets' secondary looks like a serious mismatch in Chicago's favor.
New York's defensive backfield allowed Aaron Rodgers and Co. 346 yards through the air and three touchdowns despite the return of perceived top cornerback Dee Milliner from a high ankle sprain.
Milliner, however, was burned, along with rookie safety Calvin Pryor, by Rodgers and Jordy Nelson for an 80-yard score and he remains hampered by the ankle which leaves converted safety Antonio Allen and the nondescript Darrin Walls as the top options to match up with All-Pro caliber talent like Marshall and Alshon Jeffery.
Helping matters a little bit is the fact that both Marshall (ankle) and Jeffery (hamstring) are playing with injuries and aren't nearly as explosive as they usually are, something that hampered the Bears mightily between the 20s against the 49ers.
Cutler figured out, though, that when he's in the red zone, he can just throw it up and his lengthy receivers, which also include 6-foot-6 tight end Martellus Bennett, can go up and get the football.
"This kid (Cutler) might have (one of) the strongest arms in the league and (as well as) the kid next week (Detroit's Matthew Stafford)," Ryan said. "He's got a feel for knowing how to step inside (the pocket). He'll drop back and step up and find passing lanes. That's more his thing, but he is athletic enough where he'll take off with it as well."
Limiting Cutler's chances means the Jets' Smith must play a clean game and not allow the Bears' plus field position at any time, a tactic which could be helped by the fact that big-play Chicago corner Charles Tillman was lost for the season in Week 2 after rupturing his right triceps. The 33-year-old, two- time Pro Bowler's 2013 campaign ended in similar fashion with a torn triceps.
"I know this feeling way too well, but this isn't the end of the road for me," Tillman said. "As I rehab my injury, my role will transition to helping coach and support my teammates."
For one week at least Tillman wasn't missed as his replacement, rookie first- round pick Kyle Fuller, came on and recorded six tackles and two interceptions against San Francisco, earning NFC Defensive Player of the Week honors.
As a whole though Chicago remains very banged up. In addition to Marshall and Jeffery playing hurt, the Bears were without two starters on the offensive in Week 2 -- center Roberto Garza (ankle) and left guard Matt Slauson (ankle) -- and the defense lost two other starters besides Tillman, tackle Jeremiah Ratliff (concussion) and safety Chris Conte (shoulder). Meanwhile, star pass rusher Jared Allen is dealing with a balky back.
The Jets are concerned that Milliner and Decker may not make it but having the extra day helps.
Another interesting storyline in this game is the return of receiver Santonio Holmes to north Jersey. The ex-Super Bowl MVP's stay with the Jets ended badly and he is currently trying to fit in as a backup behind Marshall and Jeffery in Chicago.
"He looks pretty good," Ryan said. "They've got him playing outside a little bit more (than) the slot. He comes in as their third receiver but they put that big dude inside most of the time, Brandon Marshall. So again, he does a lot of things. He gives you some flexibility to play outside and inside. He looks pretty good."
The Bears go as Cutler goes. He ended with a 119.2 passer rating against San Francisco, a sure sign of success. Cutler's teams are 29-3 when he crosses that 100.0 barrier so the Jets have to find a way to disrupt his rhythm, something that should be easier with the injuries hampering his offensive line and receivers.
That said, the Jets just don't have the horses in the secondary to keep this team down for a full 60 minutes.
Sports Network predicted outcome: Bears 28, Jets 23
09/22 12:56:53 ET