The numbers say Jay Cutler played well with a 97.0 passer rating in Chicago’s 31-20 victory Sunday over San Diego. He didn’t. He played great.
CHICAGO – The numbers say Jay Cutler played well with a 97.0 passer rating in Chicago’s 31-20 victory Sunday over San Diego.
He played great.
Cutler threw for 286 yards and two touchdowns.
He also threw a block to help Marion Barber gain 3 yards on a busted play.
And 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.
“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, leading an eight-minute drive that ended only because Adam Podlesh underthrew a wide-open receiver on a fake punt.
No matter. Corey Graham intercepted Rivers on the next play and the Bears ran out the clock.
A defense torched for 328 yards the first three quarters allowed zero in the fourth quarter.
“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. The Chargers had the ball for 39 seconds in the fourth quarter, with Chicago running 26 plays to their four.
“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 defense came together because Cutler played keep-away. And the offense 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.
He did it with good protection; Chicago’s patchwork line gave up zero sacks and have given up only five in their last five games.
“Jay is an awesome quarterback,” guard Lance Louis said. “It’s awesome to protect him.”
Cutler helped his line by moving well in the pocket, and he helped his receivers even more. Several of Chicago’s biggest passes, including a 24-yard TD to Knox, came when Cutler to the opposite shoulder of a well-covered receiver.
“Everything isn’t going to be perfect every play, but Jay has the trust in us to adjust to balls,” Knox said. “They were playing man coverage, and Jay was throwing back-shoulder balls where only we could catch it. Back shoulder throws; there’s nobody that can stop it. We’re glad we have him as a quarterback to make those throws.”
Cutler also had a third-down completion to Roy Williams when a Charger was yanking him down for a would-be sack.
“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 regularly squeeze passes into the smallest openings to well-covered receivers.
“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.
Matt Trowbridge can be reached at 815-987-1383 or email@example.com.