Cutler talks big, plays small vs. Packers

Bears QB loses cool during 4-interception, 7-sack debacle

GREEN BAY — Now would be a good time for Bears fans to tell their quarterback to please, please, please tone it down.

Like everybody else in Chicago, Jay Cutler got carried away by the Bears' 41-point performance against the Colts. When Cutler wasn't telling people when to cheer at Soldier Field, the cocky quarterback was offering the Packers "good luck'' in stopping the Bears wide receivers.

Turns out they didn't need it. Preparation met opportunity in a 23-10 loss Thursday night at Lambeau Field as the Packers made Cutler look like a quarterback who talked big and played small.

Nothing wrong with an NFL quarterback showing bravado. Confidence can be as important as a quick release. But Cutler's mouth wrote a check his body couldn't cash, going 11 of 27 for 126 yards and four interceptions. He dared the Packers defense to raise its game, and that is exactly what happened in a humbling loss.

"It's the same old Jay,'' Packers cornerback Charles Woodson told ESPN. "We don't need luck, Jay will throw us the ball ... proof is in the pudding."

The command Cutler displayed in the opener was nowhere to be found as his competition stiffened and the stakes increased. He lost his cool and let his mechanics lapse as often as his judgment. That wasn't a fiery quarterback showing leadership. That was a frustrated quarterback losing his grip. Left tackle J'Marcus Webb's ears still might be ringing from incurring the wrath of Cutler, who was unrepentant after emotionally unraveling.

"I care about this,'' Cutler said. "This isn't just a hobby. I'm not doing this for my health. I'm trying to win football games. When we're not doing the little things or things the right way consistently, I'm going to say something. If they want a quarterback that doesn't care, they can get someone else.''

Nothing symbolized a night of frustration more than Cutler's third-quarter pass that went through Brandon Marshall's fingertips in the end zone. Before that drop, I wondered if the Bears had left Marshall in Appleton. After being targeted 15 times in Week 1, Marshall caught two passes for 24 yards. Why? Cutler explained the Packers stayed in "two-man'' zone defense designed to prevent big plays. Is the Bears offense so unsophisticated it cannot find a way to free their biggest playmaker against a relatively simple coverage scheme?

Nothing better illustrated a quarterback trying too hard to make something happen than the way Cutler forced a pass Woodson intercepted on the pivotal series of the third quarter. On a fourth-quarter pick by Tramon Williams, intended for Marshall, Cutler made a similarly rash decision. Cutler dismissed the idea of his brash pregame comments motivating the Packers, but Williams didn't.

"It was funny to me,'' said Williams, who had two interceptions. "He was talking like a kid with new toys, a couple new receivers. At the end of the day, you have to be able to get the ball to those guys, and he didn't.''

Not surprisingly, the rest of the Bears offense regressed too. They say confidence is contagious, but so was Cutler's hysteria. Right tackle Gabe Carimi proved that with a dumb penalty to kill a promising second-quarter drive. Packers linebacker A.J. Hawk pushed Carimi, but Carimi drew the flag because he pushed back. Carimi should know better.

The missed-block party featured tackles Webb and Carimi along with guard Chris Spencer, who exacerbated Cutler's off night by giving up seven sacks. I know it was a short work week, but did the Bears watch videotape of the season opener in which the 49ers ran all over the Packers?

In contrast, the Packers came out determined to run, and Cedric Benson helped them do it against the team that drafted him in 2005. The Bears always said Benson would be a factor in football's oldest rivalry — but not like this. Benson ran with the sense of urgency obvious in a team desperate to avoid an 0-2 start.

Mike McCarthy simply had the Packers more ready for prime time than Lovie Smith did the Bears. That showed when the Bears were caught with 12 men on the field after a replay review, allowing the Packers to keep alive a drive that led to their first points. It showed when the Packers caught the Bears napping on a fake field-goal attempt as holder Tim Masthay tossed a shovel pass to tight end Tom Crabtree, who ran 27 yards untouched into the end zone.

When the Packers' backup tight end has more impact on the outcome than the Bears' Pro Bowl wide receiver, it shows how badly Cutler and the passing game struggled.

Now Cutler's challenge becomes forgetting the night his actions defied his words.

Good luck.

dhaugh@tribune.com

Twitter @DavidHaugh

 
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