The second-quarter interception of a pass toward Martellus Bennett will be the defining play of the Arizona game for Jay Cutler, who injured himself trying to make a tackle of safety Tony Jefferson. It shouldn’t be, with Bennett and Cutler appearing to have a communication problem that resulting in Cutler throwing to where Bennett was rather than where the tight end was going.
Cutler’s attempt to tackle Jefferson resulted in what the team reported to be a hamstring injury that took him out of the game. Initially Cutler appeared to land hardest on his throwing (right) shoulder but the team announced it as the hamstring.
The injury brought Jimmy Clausen on in relief, a tough act to follow with Cutler having completed all of his first eight passes, including one for a 48-yard touchdown to Josh Bellamy, a play worked out all week by Cutler.
But a never-before-seen Cutler appeared in the Bears’ offense Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals. In an offense missing its current No. 1 receiver (Alshon Jeffery), Cutler showed the diversity that his athleticism allows his coaches, taking off on three designed runs in the second quarter, all for positive yards, then using the threat of a fourth run to force the Arizona secondary into a completion to Eddie Royal.
Cutler’s composure under extreme pressure on a first-quarter third down led to a 27-yard last second dump off to Matt Forte. That was followed a couple snaps later by Cutler instantly recognizing that two Arizona defensive backs jumped to cover the same receiver, leaving Bellamy alone down the left sideline for a 48-yard touchdown.
The difficulty with analyzing Clausen’s performance is whether to grade on a curve – his only live snaps in the last four years came in Week 15 last season against the Detroit Lions – or in absolute terms.
“Anytime you put a quarterback in the game who has had backup reps during the week, I think it’s tough for any position but particularly for a quarterback,” said coach John Fox. “But I think all in all, he did the best he could, and that’s all you can ask for as a coach.”
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Clausen completed 14 of 23 passes for 121 yards, with one interception and taking two sacks in a situation with the game slipping away from the Bears in the second half.
Coming in cold “is pretty tough, but that’s my job,” said Clausen, who was an offseason priority re-sign for the Bears. “As a backup quarterback you’ve got to be ready when your name is called when the starter goes down.”
Meaning: As a starting quarterback, Clausen was just less than adequate. As a backup coming in cold, better than most.
“Jimmy did a great job of coming in and picking up the pace as he got more into the game,” said tight end Bennett.
Moon's Grade: C-