With the offense still trying to work out the kinks ahead of Sunday’s opener, Cutler is confident - and the Bears need him to be as they try to snap a three-year string of missing the playoffs.
Not known for having successful quarterbacks, the Bears acquired Cutler from Denver for Kyle Orton(notes) and three draft picks last April. In his third year as a full-time starter in 2009, Cutler had the second-most passing yards in franchise history with 3,666 and finished two shy of Erik Kramer’s club record of 29 touchdowns set in 1995.
However, Cutler also had a league-high 26 interceptions, the most for Chicago since Sid Luckman’s team-record 31 in 1947.
To correct that problem, the Bears (7-9) turned to Martz, the coordinator for the high-powered St. Louis Rams when they won the 2000 Super Bowl.
Martz spent the last three years refurbishing offenses in San Francisco and Detroit, but the Bears have struggled to get a handle on his system. They ranked near the bottom of the league in yards per game and points during the preseason, scoring on three of 16 possessions with Cutler at the helm and giving up a league-worst 19 sacks.
Cutler, though, doesn’t seem concerned.
“The guys had a great summer,” he said. “With Mike calling the plays and making sure every detail is taken care of, we’re going to be good.”
How soon until the offense starts clicking?
“First quarter,” Cutler said.
The Bears need their running game to take some of the pressure of Cutler. Matt Forte(notes) finished third in the league in total yards as a rookie with 1,238 on the ground and 477 through the air, but he wasn’t as good last year. He ran for 929 yards as the Bears finished 29th in rushing and 23rd in total offense.
To spur some competition, Chicago signed veteran Chester Taylor(notes) in March. After rushing for 1,216 yards with Minnesota in 2006, Taylor served as a second option behind Adrian Peterson with the Vikings the past three seasons.
The Bears looked to bolster their defense by signing end Julius Peppers(notes) to a six-year deal worth as much as $91.5 million. Peppers has the third-most sacks in the NFL with 81 over his eight seasons and recorded 10 1/2 in 2009 with Carolina.
In his Bears debut, he’ll look to get Stafford’s second season off to a rocky start.
The No. 1 overall draft pick last year completed just 53.3 percent of his attempts and had 20 interceptions to 13 touchdowns during 10 starts.
The Lions signed wide receiver Nate Burleson(notes) to complement top target Calvin Johnson(notes), and added first-round running back Jahvid Best(notes), tight end Tony Scheffler(notes) and guard Rob Sims(notes).
“We’re much improved on offense,” coach Jim Schwartz said. “We have a lot more weapons, and our quarterback has taken a big jump.”
The Lions are looking for Suh to provide an immediate boost to a team that ranked last in total defense at 392.1 yards per game, 25th against the run (126.6 ypg) and 29th in sacks (26) during a 2-14 season.
Detroit has lost a league-worst 111 games since the start of the 2001 season and 20 in a row on the road since a 16-7 win at Soldier Field on Oct. 28, 2007. The Lions set the NFL record with 24 consecutive road losses from 2001-03.
Chicago has won four straight matchups and eight of 10, and seven of the last nine home meetings.