GLENDALE, Ariz. – In a must-win scenario Sunday, Jay Cutler faced yet another chance in a long line of chances to rise to the occasion in a big game for the Bears.
Up against the fourth-ranked pass defense in the NFL, the Bears’ quarterback had the opportunity to lead his team into next week’s do-or-die regular-season finale.
The Bears, however, didn’t need any of his heroics.
Behind a defense that scored two touchdowns and a running attack that paced an inconsistent air game, Cutler was able to fight through early struggles and come out the other side with a playoff berth still in reach.
“I know it wasn’t pretty, I knew we were missing and balls were hitting the ground but you can’t worry about it,” Cutler said. “It wasn’t the prettiest game, but we got it done.”
When the game’s outcome was still in question, Cutler and his wide receivers couldn’t find a rhythm.
He missed on his first six throws and didn’t record a completion until the third play of the second quarter.
Fortunately for the Bears’ quarterback, a Zack Bowman fumble recovery for a touchdown and a Matt Forte rushing score put the Bears up 14-3.
“I thought we were just trying to do too much,” Cutler said. “We were trying to make the big play every time. We came away from our fundamentals.”
Whether he felt more comfortable in the hurry-up or he started seeing the field better, Cutler’s afternoon improved when the Bears went into their two-minute drill near the end of the first half.
Taking over 18 seconds before the two-minute warning, Cutler led Chicago on a six-play, 80-yard touchdown drive, completing all five passes along the way.
“We had a little bit of trouble early on establishing ourselves but right before the half we were able to get it going,” Bears coach Lovie Smith said. “We didn’t expect to come in and score 50 points. I thought we made plays when we had to though, especially after the first quarter.”
Cutler couldn’t put his finger on what changed for him during the drive, but Marshall credited him completely for the 11-yard touchdown pass that capped the half off.
“That was all Jay, he called that route,” Marshall said. “Jay knew (Patrick Peterson) was going to jump (the slant) and he called the option and I was in the back of the endzone wide-open.”
Cutler finished Sunday 12-of-26 for a pedestrian 146 yards, but he acknowledged his biggest test will come next week, when the Bears need to beat Detroit to keep their playoffs hopes alive.
“I don’t think it’s anything too big for this team,” he said. “We have a lot of veterans and it’s a confident group. We knew we were going to get this one, and we’re going to be confident about next week too.”