Trading a treasure-trove of draft picks for Jay Cutler was never about one year for the Chicago Bears, not even a year as promising as this one. So even if Cutler doesn’t return after breaking his right thumb Sunday – various reports have Cutler out for 6-8 weeks – Chicago’s future looks bright.
CHICAGO — Trading a treasure-trove of draft picks for Jay Cutler was never about one year for the Chicago Bears, not even a year as promising as this one. So even if Cutler doesn’t return after breaking his right thumb Sunday – various reports have Cutler out for 6-8 weeks – Chicago’s future looks bright.
On a day the Bears couldn’t run and their defense was torched for three quarters, Cutler carried Chicago to a 31-20 victory over San Diego.
Cutler threw for 286 yards and two touchdowns.
He ran for a touchdown.
And helped make the biggest tackle of the game.
The Bears led 31-20 with 10 minutes left when Cutler threw his lone interception. It wasn’t a mistake; Johnny Knox messed up a perfect pass by falling down.
“That play was my fault,” Knox said. “I slipped on my break. That pretty much can’t happen.”
Cutler pretty much made up for Knox’s mistake by fighting off a blocker and slowing San Diego’s Antoine Cason down enough that Matt Forte could push Cason out of bounds at the 16 after a 64-yard return.
Bears coach Lovie Smith called that the biggest play of the game – even though that was the play where Cutler broke his thumb, an injury the Bears (7-3) never mentioned but was first reported by Jay Glazer of Fox Sports.
“I had to do what I had to do,” Cutler said.
Three plays later, Major Wright intercepted Philip Rivers in the end zone.
Cutler then showed he can play defense in other ways. The defense gave up 328 yards through three quarters, but zero yards in the fourth.
“That says we’re doing a good job on offense,” defensive end Julius Peppers said. “We weren’t on the field too much.”
Not too much at all. Cutler protected a vulnerable defense by playing keep-away. The Chargers ran four plays from scrimmage to Chicago’s 26 in the fourth quarter.
“We stunk it up — or at least I stunk it up,” said cornerback Charles Tillman, who was burned for 165 yards on seven catches by Vincent Jackson. “But in the end, we all came together.”
The Bears came together because Cutler passed so well the Bears converted 57 percent of their third downs (8-for-14) on a day they averaged 2.9 yards per rush.
Several of Cutler’s biggest passes, including a 24-yard TD to Knox, came on improvised back-shoulder throws to well-covered receivers.
“They were playing man coverage, and Jay was throwing back-shoulder balls where only we could catch it,” Knox said.
Cutler also had a third-down completion to Roy Williams with a Charger wrapped around his leg.
“He will throw it 100 miles an hour when he’s falling down,” Williams said.
The Bears have never had a quarterback like that before. Or one who can squeeze passes into the smallest openings.
“He’s the best I’ve ever seen at it,” Williams said. “He throws it 100 miles an hour, maybe 101. You just have to be ready for it.”
The Bears were ready for Jay Cutler to be great when they traded for him two years ago. And when they paired him with offensive coordinator Mike Martz last year. He wasn’t then, but he’s on his way now.
“To be good at something, you’re going to take your lumps,” Cutler said, “but eventually if you keep at it, something good is going to happen.”
It’s happening now. And it will happen again whenever Cutler returns.
Matt Trowbridge can be reached at: 815-987-1383 or firstname.lastname@example.org.