Jay Cutler executed a by-design conservative game plan extremely effectively – zero turnovers for the first time this season – and delivered individual leadership moments that left teammates very impressed.
Cutler completed 22 of 33 passes for 211 yards, highlighted by a 21-yard touchdown to Alshon Jeffery shortly before halftime, which was an emotional turning point, topped only by his four-yard touchdown run to put the Bears ahead 20-13 midway through the fourth quarter.
Cutler lowered his head and went directly into Minnesota safety Harrison Smith, who met him at the goal line but could not prevent the score. “That’s what you want from a quarterback,” Jeffery said. “He played his [butt] off. In the end he gave it up for the team. He put it all on the line and scored the touchdown.”
Cutler appeared to be slightly woozy after the impact, but, “Do I remember it?” Cutler said, smiling. “Yeah, I remember it. Me on ‘22’ [Harrison]. I don’t know; he might’ve won that one… .
“I instantly regretted it. I’m thinking the shortest distance is a straight line. I knew the situation and wanted to get a score. It was me on him and ultimately we got the touchdown so I can’t regret it too much.”
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The effort was not lost on teammates: “Another ballsy effort by Jay,” said tackle Kyle Long. “Tremendous job finishing there at the goal line. Speaks to the kind of person he is and the kind of player he is."
Cutler’s fundamentals cut into some production opportunities. Throwing off his back foot caused a second-quarter underthrow of a wide-open Marquess Wilson, for example.
But his overall was solid, generally mistake-free and had the Bears in position to win late in the fourth quarter.
Moon's Grade: A-
Chicago Bears training camp is right around the corner with the first practice (non-padded) scheduled for July 21.
Bears veterans and rookies will report a few days ahead of that first session to acclimate themselves to their new (for some) surroundings. Rookies report on July 16, with veterans coming three days later on July 19.
All eyes will be on QB Mitch Trubisky and the potentially high-flying offense under coach Matt Nagy. Training camp will take on extra importance because of the plethora of new faces on the roster and coaching staff as well as the installation of a completely new offensive scheme. It's critical that Trubisky builds chemistry with wide receivers Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, Anthony Miller and Kevin White, all of whom he's never thrown a regular-season pass to. Add Trey Burton to that mix and a lot of miscues should be expected in the preseason.
The rookie class is led by linebacker Roquan Smith, who remains unsigned. With less than 30 days until rookies are required to report, a greater sense of urgency -- even if it's not quite a panic -- is certainly creeping in. Assuming he's signed in time, Smith should earn a starting role early in training camp and ascend to one of the defense's top all-around players.
The Bears have higher-than-usual expectations heading into the 2018 season making fans eager for summer practices to get underway.
The Chicago Bears need a big season from outside linebacker Leonard Floyd. He's the team's best pass-rush option and the only legitimate threat to post double-digit sacks this year.
Floyd joined the Bears as a first-round pick (No. 9 overall) in 2016 and has flashed freakish talent at times. The problem has been his health; he's appeared in only 22 games through his first two seasons.
Floyd's rookie year -- especially Weeks 5 through 9 -- showed a glimpse of the kind of disruptive force he's capable of becoming. He registered seven sacks and looked poised to breakout in 2017. Unfortunately, injuries limited him to only 10 games and four sacks.
Despite his disappointing sophomore season, NFL.com's Gil Brandt has high hopes for Floyd in 2018. The long-time NFL personnel executive named Floyd as the Bear with the best chance to earn a first-time trip to the Pro Bowl.
CHICAGO BEARS: Leonard Floyd, OLB, third NFL season. Floyd had seven sacks as a rookie in 2016, but missed six games last season due to a knee injury. He's a talented guy who can drop into coverage or rush with his hand on the ground and should play much better this season. He also has become much stronger since coming into the league.
The Bears will be in a heap of trouble if Floyd doesn't emerge as a Pro Bowl caliber player. There aren't many pass-rushing options on the roster outside of Floyd aside from Aaron Lynch and rookie Kylie Fitts. Neither edge defender has a resume strong enough to rely on as insurance.
It's a critical year for Floyd's future in Chicago, too. General manager Ryan Pace will decide whether to pick up Floyd's fifth-year option in his rookie contract next offseason. If he plays well, it's a no-brainer. If not, Pace could be looking at two straight first-round picks (see: Kevin White) that he's declined the extra year.
We're a long way from that decision. Until then, the Bears' season may sink or swim based on its pass rush. It begins -- and ends -- with Floyd.