Durkin: Cutler's Finest (Half) Hour
By Dan Durkin-
(CBS) Entering Sunday night's game, the Bears really weren't sure what they were going to look like offensively. They took every available minute before deciding to activate their star wide receivers, but even in doing so, coach Marc Trestman wasn't sure how they were going to hold up during the course of the game.
"We didn't know how much they were going to play or if they were going to play," Trestman said. "Even at the start of the game we didn't know how much they would be able to play, so we didn't worry ourselves about it. We just called plays and tried to continue to probe the defense as the game went on."
The Bears initially tried to establish the running game and and attempted short, controlled passes, but the 49ers smothered them, and the offense sputtered. Four of Chicago's first six drives went three-and-out, with half of those six drives going for negative yardage. The Bears didn't run a play in 49ers' territory until the second quarter.
Down 17-0 and staring an 0-2 start straight in the eyes, the Bears started a two-minute drive just before halftime. With an already bleak outlook, quarterback Jay Cutler took a helmet dead to the chest on a vicious hit from Quinton Dial that drew a flag for unnecessary roughness. And then when Chicago needed its leader, its franchise quarterback the most, Cutler stood up and delivered.
Cutler had the wind knocked out of him, but he breathed life into the team. As he has 38 times during his career, Cutler found Brandon Marshall in the end zone, threading the ball to Marshall's back shoulder, who made a spectacular one-handed snare of the ball.
Whether that hit from Dial had something to do with it or not, from that point of the game on, Cutler went 15-for-16 for 138 yards, four touchdowns and a 142.2 passer rating, and he led the Bears to an improbable comeback over the 49ers.
As much as the Bears needed a win Sunday night, Cutler needed it even more.
Just a week prior, Bears fans were left crestfallen, stunned and silenced as they watched the team they invest emotional energy in drop its season opener to the Bills on an errant decision and throw made by Cutler. But an NFL season is a marathon, not a sprint, and Cutler put that play behind him and led the team through a challenging week.
"Jay has really had an excellent start to the season minus one play," Trestman said. "I think he's played really well, and he led the way this whole week. He did it through his demeanor right after the game, he did it throughout the week in our building with the way he carried himself, the way he supported his teammates, the way he prepared for this game. We all looked to him this week to see how he would handle the adversity of last week and he stood tall throughout the week and our players followed."
In today's NFL, more often than not, games are put squarely on the shoulder of the starting quarterback. When the Bears made the financial investment in Cutler that they did this past January, it was a calculated risk. Cutler has every requisite physical skill to succeed in this league, he's just been maddeningly inconsistent.
On Sunday night, Cutler was poised in the noise both on and off the field, keeping his composure and taking what the defense gave to him, which had a positive effect on his teammates.
"Jay kept telling us we were still in it," tight end Martellus Bennett said. "He did a great job of controlling the emotions of each player on offense. We have a fiery bunch, and everyone wants to make a play. He did a great job with the coaches worrying about the next drive and not what just happened. When your quarterback does that, then everyone does. He just gets you ready for the next drive. He did a great job with the next play mentality."
Just as he shook off the loss to the Bills, Cutler can't savor the victory over the 49ers for too long, as he has to quickly turn the page and shift his focus to another primetime matchup on the road against a stingy Jets' defense on Monday night.
"It's hard to win every week, especially on the road," Cutler said. "We knew they were going to be amped up with opening up the new stadium and all of the Hall of Fame guys coming back. We just kind of had to weather the storm, and we have to take a look at this film on Tuesday, break it down, and then we have to move on. We can't really dwell on this. There's a lot of football left, so we just have to kind of keep building on this and get better and better each week."
Dan Durkin covers the Bears for CBSChicago.com and is a frequent contributor to 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter at @djdurkin.Dan Durkin covers the Bears for CBSChicago.com and is a frequent contributor to 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter at @djdurkin.
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