Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler on Sunday afternoon started out slow but had a monster second half. Despite his efforts, the Bears ended up falling to the Green Bay Packers by a score of 33-28 and ending their season on the lakefront.
Overall on the day, Cutler went 15-for-24 passing for 226 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception on a last-second heave to the end zone to try to win the game for the Bears. His quarterback rating of 103.8 was over 40 points better than his previous career average against the Packers, but it wasn’t enough as Cutler dropped to 1-8 lifetime against Green Bay.
Despite the outcome of the game, Cutler’s performance showed several aspects of his game that should cause the Bears to seriously consider retaining his services. For starters, there were the variety of throws that he completed despite the blustery conditions. His deep throw along the sideline on a back-shoulder route by Brandon Marshall was a thing of beauty, slicing through the air and ending up in a spot where only Marshall could corral it.
Then there was his throw in the flat to a wide open Matt Forte. Yes, Green Bay completely blew the coverage on the play, but Cutler took full advantage of the time he was given in the pocket, analyzing the field and going through his read progression before looking to Forte. The result of the play put the Bears within striking distance of the end zone, and gave Cutler the opportunity to make arguably his best throw of the afternoon.
With the Packers showing an overloaded formation on the weak side of the Bears’ line, Cutler called an audible on the line to change the original play. He switched out of a run play and instead opted for a lofted pass to Marshall over the top of the defense to take advantage of some one on one coverage. Marshall, originally thinking he was going to have to go into run-blocking mode, instead found himself breaking off the line for the back of the end zone.
As soon as Cutler got the ball in his hands, he immediately threw the ball, putting a perfect amount of height and distance on the pass. Somehow, Marshall was able to make an adjustment as the ball was in the air, and while tumbling forward made the catch and gave the Bears a 28-20 lead.
It was a moment of perfect synchronicity between Cutler and Marshall, and put an exclamation point on the quarterback’s performance in the game.
The game also gave Cutler the opportunity to throw more water onto the fire surrounding his petulance and personality quirks that people seem to hate. Early in the game, Cutler got drilled a couple of times, and had to peel himself off the cold turf at Soldier Field. Despite the blows, Cutler came out of halftime ready for the kill, making several huge plays and really giving the Bears a genuine opportunity to win the game and make the playoffs for the first time since 2011.
Unfortunately, the team’s defense didn’t have the ability to stop the Packers on fourth down, so instead of talking about an impending matchup with the San Francisco 49’ers in the Windy City, we are left to discuss Cutler’s future with the organization.
Judging by his performance on Sunday, as well as the improved efficiency and grasp of the offense that Marc Trestman has put into place, Cutler has earned an extension with the Bears. Whether or not the team can afford the price will remain to be seen, but one thing is for certain: nothing that Cutler has done this season shows that he can’t be a successful quarterback in this offense.
He has fully bought into the system, and it’s time that the Bears buy into Cutler.