This article is part of our Team Previews series.
STATE OF THE FRANCHISE
After years of rooting their identity in a hard-nosed defense, the Bears flipped the script under first-year coach Marc Trestman in 2013, becoming one of the league's most dangerous offenses thanks to bevy of talent at the skill positions. Matt Forte was the greatest beneficiary of Trestman's running back-centric playbook, setting career-highs in rushing yardage, catches, receiving yards and total touchdowns. Meanwhile, Alshon Jeffery delivered a breakout sophomore season, combining with Brandon Marshall to give the Bears perhaps the most feared wideout pairing in the league. Tight end Martellus Bennett also fit in seamlessly as a short-yardage and red-zone target.
Behind the talented stable of playmakers, quarterback Jay Cutler posted a career-best 89.2 quarterback rating, yet remained a media lightning rod. A torn groin muscle and a high-ankle sprain cost Cutler five games, with the Bears forced to turn to backup Josh McCown in his stead. McCown proved to be an exceptional fill-in, amassing 13 touchdowns against just one interception and leading some to speculate that he might be a more optimal fit for Trestman's system than Cutler. Trestman ultimately quelled the controversy by turning the offense back over to a healthy Cutler for the final three games, with the NFC North title still in reach.
Cutler performed somewhat unevenly with the team's playoff hopes on the line, but it was the Bears' season-long defensive woes – particularly against the run – that were chiefly responsible for their 8-8 finish and third straight missed postseason. The