Bears 17, Rams 9

The way Jay Cutler started, the Chicago Bears looked as though

they were headed to a lopsided win. Instead, they had to hang on to

get by lowly St. Louis.

Even so, they’ll take this.

Cutler faded after a strong start, throwing for 143 yards and a

touchdown without an interception, and the Bears beat the Rams 17-9

Sunday after dropping four straight and six of seven.

“It feels like it’s been a long time,” he said. “It wasn’t

the prettiest game but we pulled it out. Defensively I thought we

did a great job.”

Cutler was 4 for 7 for 131 yards in the first quarter as the

Bears built a 10-0 lead. After that? Chicago went to the run, St.

Louis rallied and Bears receiver Devin Hester left the game with a

calf injury.

The Bears (5-7) gave up 112 yards rushing to Steven Jackson but

kept the Rams (1-11) out of the end zone for the fourth time this

season even though Pro Bowl linebacker Lance Briggs missed the game

with a sprained left knee. They did just enough after allowing 537

yards the previous week in a 36-10 loss at Minnesota, with a late

interception by Hunter Hillenmeyer – the second of his career –

helping preserve the win.

No matter how uninspired it was, the Bears needed this.

Mired in one of their worst slumps in years, they’re staring at

their third straight postseason miss since the 2006 team’s run to

their Super Bowl. Coach Lovie Smith and general manager Jerry

Angelo have come under heavy criticism along with Cutler, the man

whose arrival sparked a surge of optimism.

There is little of that around Chicago, after everything fell

apart following a 3-1 start. Things were particularly tense after

last week’s game, when the Vikings rolled up the most yards by a

Bears opponent in 27 years, but they had better luck against one of

the league’s worst teams.

“I don’t want us to get used to losing; that’s the most

important thing right now,” Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo said, even

though they’ve done little else. “I want us to be disappointed,

not discouraged.”

On Sunday, Jackson was as effective as usual for the Rams even

though it took a “lot of prayer” and “guttiness” to get on the

field after leaving last week’s game against Seattle because of

back spasms.

“There is no shortcut to it,” said Jackson, who missed several

days of practice. “I knew coming into this game, leaving last

week, I was going to face an eight- and nine-man box and I knew it

was going to be a rough one. So just try to gut it out.”

The problem was he had little help.

The Rams were 2 of 14 on third-down conversions, and Kyle Boller

threw for just 113 yards and got sacked three times.

Cutler, the league leader with 20 interceptions, was just 8 for

17 but kept the ball out of the opposition’s hands after getting

picked off 15 times in the previous seven games. His 3-yard TD

strike to Earl Bennett on third down with 1:23 left in the third

made it 17-6, but Cutler did most of his damage in the opening

quarter, connecting with Hester and Bennett for big gains.

“We haven’t really gotten to some of the deeper stuff as of

late either so to see Devin and the others catch and go up the

field was nice,” said Cutler, who “dinged” his throwing hand but

insisted he’s fine.

He hit Hester with a 48-yard pass that set up a 1-yard touchdown

run by Matt Forte and connected with Bennett on a season-long

71-yarder that led to a field goal by Robbie Gould, but things got

tense for the Bears after that.

A fake field goal at the 10 failed, with holder Brad Maynard

shoveling to Greg Olsen for no gain, and Josh Brown responded by

booting a 20-yarder with 1:14 left in the half to pull St. Louis

within 10-3.

Hester limped off the field following a 4-yard loss on an

end-around play early in the third quarter and headed to the locker

room a few minutes later after being checked out on the

sideline.

Brown booted a 48-yard field goal to pull St. Louis within 10-6

with 8:50 left in the third, but Cutler gave the Bears some room

when he hit Bennett with that TD pass late in the period.

Forte ran for 91 yards on 24 carries, and the Bears pulled this

one out after an eventful week that saw Smith acknowledge his job

scrutiny and Brian Urlacher sound off in a Yahoo! Sports article.

The injured linebacker took some shots at Cutler and Forte while

questioning the direction of the organization, specifically what he

saw as a switch from emphasizing the run and defense to the passing

game.

“I think there were a few runs where maybe if I make somebody

miss I could have some more yards,” said Forte, who lost a fumble

on the game’s second play from scrimmage. “I think I played OK

today.”

NOTES: Bears LT Orlando Pace was inactive after injuring his

groin and was not available to play against his former team, so

Chris Williams moved from the right side to his more natural

position. Kevin Shaffer started at right tackle. … With Briggs

out, Jamar Williams started at weakside linebacker. … Rams S

Oshiomogho Atogwe hurt his shoulder and will have an MRI.