Stock Watch: Ratliff explodes vs. Dolphins

DT Jeremiah Ratliff, who missed three consecutive games due to a concussion, played his best game in a Bears uniform Sunday against the Dolphins. Mike DiNovo/USA TODAY Sports


1. Jeremiah Ratliff, DT: Ratliff played the best game of his brief Bears career with 3.5 sacks in the 27-14 home defeat to Miami. On two separate instances, a Ratliff sack of Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill on third down prevented Miami from putting points on the board. It had been a slow start to the season for Ratliff, who missed three consecutive games due to a concussion, but he played like a man on a mission Sunday. A 10-year NFL veteran, Ratliff had 3.5 sacks combined over the previous three years before Week 7’s explosion.

2. Pat O'Donnell, P: The rookie punter is in a groove after averaging 53 yards per punt on three attempts with a net average of 45.7. That is the highest gross average by a Bears punter with a minimum of three punts in a game since Todd Sauerbrun in 1997. O’Donnell needed a couple of weeks in training camp to iron out the kinks, but the sixth-round pick has been outstanding since early in the regular season. O’Donnell looks to have serious staying power. He is likely to be punting footballs for the Bears for many years to come.

3. Coverage teams: Miami rookie sensation Jarvis Landry managed to return just two kickoffs for 55 yards and two punts for 22 yards. Landry’s dynamic ability on kickoff returns worried the Bears leading up to Sunday, but the coverage teams and kicker Robbie Gould answered the challenge. Covering kicks is a collective effort between the coverage men and the kicker. Gould forces return men to move around in the end zone before catching the football -- an exercise that can disrupt a return man’s rhythm.


1. Jay Cutler, QB: Cutler completed 21 of 34 pass attempts for 190 yards, one touchdown, one interception and one lost fumble for a quarterback rating of 74.4. Cutler has turned the ball over 10 times (seven interceptions, three lost fumbles) in seven games. The quarterback has played 74 regular-season games for the Bears since 2009. In the 74 games, Cutler has thrown 82 interceptions and lost 20 fumbles. Add it up: 102 turnovers. Many of those 74 games have featured multiple turnovers. How do you expect to sustain success in the NFL if the offense keeps giving the football away? The answer is simple: You can’t.

2. Jordan Mills, OT: Mills had another rough performance Sunday. He struggled in trying to block talented Dolphins defensive end Cameron Wake, a difficult matchup for any right tackle. But is Mills healthy? Keep in mind Mills skipped practice this past Wednesday due to a foot injury -- the same foot that required offseason surgery. Bears coach Marc Trestman hinted that Michael Ola could push Mills for playing time in New England. Maybe it’s not a bad idea. Mills might benefit from a week off followed by the bye.

3. Rest of the offense: This is not the kind of offensive output Bears fans envisioned. Fans expected to see growth and improvement in the second year of the offense. After all, the Bears returned all 16 starters from a group that finished second in the NFL in points per game in 2013. Instead, the Bears offense is the main culprit behind the rocky seven-game stretch to open the season. On all levels, the Bears are failing. For whatever reason, the Bears aren’t stringing together wins (with the exception of back-to-back victories over San Francisco and the New York Jets). The offense is wildly inconsistent; it’s always something with the offense. Actually, it’s always something with this team. Rarely do the three phases come together in harmony. The Bears have nine games -- minimum -- to figure it out. The Bears have missed the playoffs six of the past seven years. It would be seven of the past eight years if they fail to reach the postseason in 2014 (a very real possibility). Time for the offense to step up and save the day.