Are the Bears and Jets’ defenses overrated?

Here are five quick-hit thoughts on the Bears’ wild 38-34 win over the Jets in Week 16.

1. Are the Bears and Jets’ defenses overrated?
Not to take anything away from Jay Cutler (who has played well for most of the season) or Mark Sanchez (who has played well for most of his last two games), but what happened to the defenses for these two teams? The Bears came into this game with the 30th-ranked offense and Sanchez was playing with torn cartilage in his shoulder. Yet you would have sworn that this was an Arena League game with the way both teams went up and down the field. In the Jets’ embarrassing loss to the Patriots on Monday night a few weeks ago, their pass rush was non-existent. It was the same case on Sunday, as their front seven failed to lay a hand on Cutler in most situations. New York’s vaunted secondary was brutal in coverage as well, and the entire defense had a poor day tackling. In the past two games, the Jets have allowed 700 total yards, which is a concern to say the least (especially now that they’ve managed to back into the playoffs again). The Bears defense was no better, as it allowed Sanchez to complete 24-for-37 pass attempts for 269 yards and a touchdown. Granted, Chris Harris came up with a huge interception to seal the game for the Bears late in the fourth quarter, but Lovie Smith can’t be too pleased that his defense gave up 393 total yards of offense. With the way both teams played on Sunday, it makes you wonder whether these defenses are living off past reputations.

2. Teams still haven’t learned not to kick to Hester.
It’s amazing how teams foolishly believe week after week that they’ll be the ones to negate what Devin Hester can do in the return game. And I blame the kickers, because no coach that wants to retain his job is ordering his team to kick to the former Miami product. Jets coach Rex Ryan said earlier in the week that the Jets wouldn’t punt to Hester, but Steve Weatherford did it anyway. After successfully playing keep-away in the first half, Weatherford booted a line drive right to Hester in the third quarter, who returned the gift 32 yards to New York’s 32-yard-line. He caught a 25-yard touchdown three plays later to give the Bears a 31-24 lead. Later in the third quarter, he returned a kickoff 40 yards to set up a Cutler touchdown pass to Johnny Knox. The impact that Hester is having this year is eerily similar to the one he had when they went to the Super Bowl in 2006. Given how much more explosive the Bears are offensively than they were back then, teams that could play Chicago in the postseason better figure out a way to keep it out of his hands.

3. Cutler continues to impress.
Both quarterbacks played extremely well but only one walked away with a victory. Cutler completed 13-of-25 passes for 215 yards and while those numbers don’t jump off the page, his three touchdowns certainly do. What was most impressive about Cutler’s performance is that he bounced back after starting off slow. He failed to hit receivers in stride, he threw a pick six in the second quarter to give the Jets a 14-10 lead (after the Bears had taken a 10-0 lead to start the game) and he generally looked like the ’09 version of himself. But then he took charge after halftime, delivering three scores of 25-plus yards in the third quarter alone. Every time the Jets would answer one of the Bears’ scores, Cutler and the Chicago offense responded.

4. Jets back into playoffs for the second straight year.
For the second time in two years, the Jets have backed into the playoffs under Rex Ryan. Even though they lost on Sunday, the Jets made the postseason when the Jaguars lost to the Redskins in overtime. With the way things are shaping up, it looks like the Jets could be traveling to Kansas City in two weeks to play the Chiefs, who also won on Sunday. The good news for New York is that Sanchez is playing better now than he was at this point last year, but Ryan’s defense is playing much, much worse. Ryan won’t make any apologizes for backing into the postseason, but he must feel a little uneasy about the situation because last year, it seemed as though the Jets were playing with house money. You don’t get that same feeling this year.

5. Martz learning to stay balanced.
Matt Forte gained 100 yards on 14 carries against the Jets, which makes him just the third running back to accomplish that feat this season. That’s a good sign not only for Forte that he’s having a big impact for the Bears, but also Mike Martz – the architect of Chicago’s offense. Martz has often been criticized for the way he doesn’t stick with the run during games, but he’s definitely changed his approach this season. Cutler is throwing more short-to-intermediate passes (which is what he’s comfortable with) and Martz is staying relatively balanced (for him, anyway). That’s important with the playoffs approaching, especially since the Bears’ offense has struggled in the red zone at times this year. Being able to run the ball near the goal line helps when Martz can’t spread the defense out like he usually wants to.

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