Jay Cutler again kept the football away from wrong-color laundry and that ultimately was an accomplishment against a defense with a handful of Pro Bowl talent.
Cutler finished with 20-of-27 passing for 153 yards and a touchdown, but more important, no interceptions. The result was a passer rating of 100.2, the eighth time in 14 games that Cutler has posted a rating of 90 or higher after nine NFL seasons with no year above 89. It may have helped that Cutler had a sense of Lovie Smith’s defense from his four Chicago seasons playing for Smith. But knowing and executing are two different things and Cutler did what he did without Alshon Jeffery and with a sick Eddie Royal.
“I practiced against this defense enough, [so] you kind of just have to have that going into it, and a play caller has to do a good job of putting us into that position,” Cutler said. “I think Adam [Gase, offensive coordinator] did all day long, not getting greedy at all and just saying, ‘Hey, we’re going to be methodical and just kind of, if it’s boring, it’s boring.’ That’s how we have to do it.”
Cutler started the game completing 11 of his first 12 passes. But a measure of the Bears’ offensive futility was reflected in the Bears netting just 72 yards. Still, the Bears stayed “methodical” and were able to drive 63 yards for a tying touchdown when Cutler was spared the ignominy of a second interception by a defensive line in the span of three quarters when defensive end William Gholston’s grab of a tipped screen pass was nullified by a Tampa Bay personal foul.
“I came off [the field] and I was like, ‘Yeah I’m not throwing a screen until 2016, I’m done with screens,’” Cutler said, smiling, mostly. “You got to laugh at that, then you see the flag and you don’t really know what it’s for. Usually you don’t get that break, so to get that turned around, I think we went down and scored after that, that’s a huge break for us.”
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Cutler was sacked once in the first half, by defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, but Cutler appeared hold the football too long with Eddie Royal breaking across the middle with two steps on his defender. The blame will fall on the offensive line but the combination of Cutler not getting rid of the ball and receivers not getting separation out of breaks have combined too often to throw plays off schedule, which is not when Cutler is effective.
But Cutler was effective even without receivers capable of stretching the field (the Bears had only one pass longer than 18 yards).
“Jay has done a great job,” said coach John Fox. “He doesn’t care who’s out there.”
Moon's Grade: A-