Going through the release that Chicago Bears send out to visiting media this week, I came across some odd facts.
For a team that has been in the NFL since 1919, the Bears as a franchise have taken a long time to figure out the vertical passing game. On their list of all-time receptions leaders, four of the top seven are running backs or tight ends. Hall of Fame running back Walter Payton ranks first with 492. Mike Ditka, a tight end, ranks fifth and he is followed by running back Neal Anderson and fullback Matt Suhey. Not exactly an Air Coryell-type offense over the years in the Windy City. One of the few receivers on the top end of the list is Falcons' wide receiver Marty Booker, who ranks third with 329.
My colleague J. Michael Moore, a Nashville native and Commodores supporter, will appreciate this one. The Bears have five players who played their college ball at Vanderbilt: quarterback Jay Cutler, cornerback D.J. Moore, linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer, wide receiver Earl Bennett and tackle Chris Williams.
How is that possible? Especially on a team as good as the Bears. I can understand having five guys from, say, the University of Miami, or Southern California or Florida State or the University of Florida. But Vandy?
This one I owe to Falcons Head Coach Mike Smith. In only three seasons in the NFL entering this one, the Bears' Devin Hester has returned seven punts and four kickoffs for touchdowns. That total of 11 returns for a touchdown ranks him third all-time in league history. That's pretty amazing. The Falcons have to be very careful this Sunday when covering kicks.
Cutler is the only quarterback to lead an opposing team to victory over the Falcons at the Georgia Dome in the Mike Smith Era (where the Birds are 9-1). Can Cutler, who did it with Denver last year, duplicate that feat?