Just because a football field is 53 yards wide doesn’t mean you have to go sideways on every pass play.

Just because a football field is 53 yards wide doesn’t mean you have to go sideways on every pass play.


The most vulnerable spots in most pass defenses are in the middle of the field. But for two decades, the Bears have seemed to understand this only when they had quarterbacks who weren’t strong enough to throw a sideline out pattern (Brian Griese, Shane Matthews, etc.). Others were perhaps too short to see over the middle (most notably Rex Grossman and Erik Kramer).


It’s hard to put too much stock in Chicago’s 39-10 rout of the Vikings, but the No. 1 reason it can truly be a sign of things to come is that Jay Cutler posted his 115.9 passer rating by throwing for both of his touchdowns, and most of his 267 yards, in the middle third of the field. From his 17-yard crossing pattern to Roy Williams on his first pass, to his 48-yard bomb to Devin Hester on the next play, even to his six dump-off passes to Matt Forte, Cutler made his living between the numbers.


That’s the same way Aaron Rodgers carved up Pittsburgh in the Super Bowl and how Tom Brady has risen from a sixth-round draft pick to a two-time MVP.


Packers can be historic


With Aaron Rodgers pulling the levers, the Packers look as good as last year’s Patriots, who swept all of the final four playoff teams during the regular season. Even their No. 26 defensive ranking can be excused because they lead the NFL with 11 interceptions. The only word of caution is that neither last year’s Patriots nor the 16-0 team in 2007 won the Super Bowl.


The NFL used to rival the NBA as the sport where the best team almost always won. Not anymore. But these Packers have a chance to become one of the most special NFL teams ever.


First one to 30 wins


Bears GM Jerry Angelo has always drafted for defense, but admitted in Detroit last week that’s no longer the way to win.


“That old adage doesn’t apply anymore,” he told reporters. “Defense keeps you in games, offenses have to win games for you, and you’ve got to help the defense.”


Maybe this stat convinced him of that: Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune pointed out Monday that in Chicago’s past 12 games, counting the playoffs, the Bears are 6-0 when they score at least 30 points and 0-6 when they don’t.


Gore an underrated back


If the Bears don’t sign Matt Forte, blame DeAngelo Williams, who signed a five-year, $43 million extension. Forte (3,763 yards, 4.1 per carry) may be better than Williams (4,513 yards, 5.0 average) because he’s a better receiver, but he’s not as good as Frank Gore, who signed for three years and $21 million.


The Bears offered Forte more than Gore, even though Gore has 6,955 rushing yards, a 4.7 average and 2,354 receiving yards. Gore is a two-time Pro Bowler (Forte has zero Pro Bowls) who ranks fifth in the NFL in rushing this year and will soon become the 49ers’ all-time leading rusher.


Matt Trowbridge’s Quick Shots on the NFL appear Tuesdays. He can be reached at: 815-987-1383 or mtrowbridge@rrstar.com.