Bears stake claim for NFC's best team, Jay Cutler eliminates any questions about toughness

Try questioning Jay Cutler's toughness now. (US Presswire)

The Bears didn't destroy the Lions on Monday night in Chicago. In fact, they didn't even cover the 6½-point spread thanks to a late Detroit touchdown that gave Chicago a 13-7 victory against their division rival.

With the victory the Bears, now 5-1, can at least stake a claim for best team in the NFC (and maybe the NFL). Oh, and you can never question Jay Cutler's toughness again.

The second part of that is a no-brainer: Cutler got absolutely destroyed on a sack by Ndamukong Suh and only needed to sit out a single play before returning to the game. He would head to the locker room early before halftime. But Cutler returned for the second half and, as he admitted after the game, grinded his way through the second half with the rib injury.

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"Yeah, getting to the ball, throwing to the ball, it was on my right side so trying to get my right side through was a little bit tough so I missed some throws," Cutler said. "Wasn't feeling exactly 100 percent but we kind of had to fight through it and the way our defense was playing we were just trying to drag out the game."

Cutler got killed during the 2010 NFC Championship Game against the Packers for being "soft" when he was sidelined with an injury. That's clearly a fallacy and it was proven again on Monday night, when he fought through the rib problem.

As for the first notion, that the Bears could be the best team in the NFC, well, it's not a hard argument to make.

Detroit played a strong defensive game considering that they have no secondary. And despite the score, this game never really even got close even though the Lions got the ball back, down two scores, with six minutes left; that's where they've done their damage this season.

Instead of scoring, Matthew Stafford got torched by the turf monster (via

And that's where the Bears hang their hat, as they always have under Lovie Smith (and before he got there): on defense. Chicago is the number one defense in points allowed per game this season at 13 points per game on the season, and they're capable of scoring on defense as well.

Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings might be the best corner combo in the league. Brian Urlacher's playing up shockingly high standards. Julius Peppers and that defensive line are a terror for opposing quarterbacks.

What's different about the Bears this year is that the offense though. Cutler laid a huge egg against Green Bay in Week 2, but take that game out of the mix and he's playing well, having thrown just three interceptions -- against eight touchdowns -- outside the loss to the Packers.

His offensive line is problematic, but that's not breaking news. Chicago just has to keep Cutler upright and keep him healthy and he's going to produce. Adding Brandon Marshall gives the Bears a tremendous advantage over previous iterations of this squad, as he's finally a true No. 1 wideout for the franchise. Matt Forte and Michael Bush have been an impressive one-two punch thus far in the season.

Chicago won't always win pretty. Monday night was a good example of that and Cutler admitted as much. But they're not a one-sided team incapable of scoring points as long as Cutler's under center. It's easy to forget how strong they looked before he went down in 2011.

And with Carolina and Tennessee on the docket over the next two weeks, 7-1 seems like a pretty good bet. That's right there would be enough ammo to put them in the conversation for the NFC's top team, if not the best team in the league.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter, subscribe to our RSS Feed watch Pro Football 360 daily at 3 p.m. ET and NFL newsletter. You can follow Will Brinson on Twitter here: @willbrinson.

CBS Sports Senior Writer

Will Brinson joined CBS Sports in 2010 and enters his seventh season covering the NFL for CBS. He previously wrote for FanHouse along with myriad other Internet sites. A North Carolina native who lives... Full Bio

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