Bears

Bears Grades: Jay Cutler impressive vs. Lovie Smith’s defense

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Bears Grades: Jay Cutler impressive vs. Lovie Smith’s defense

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.

[MORE: Ka'Deem Carey scores two TDs as Bears top Buccaneers]

“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-

Under Center Podcast: Bears trounced by Saints, and questions abound

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USA Today Sports

Under Center Podcast: Bears trounced by Saints, and questions abound

Laurence Holmes is joined by Olin Kreutz, Matt Forte, Lance Briggs, and Alex Brown to break down the Bears' highly dispiriting 36-25 loss to the Saints at Soldier Field. The guys discuss why the loss was so disappointing and frustrating (2:00), the lack of progress for many players since last year (5:00), the possibility of somebody other than Nagy calling plays (10:00), whether the Bears can save their season and still make the playoffs (14:00), and the massive problems in the run game this season (22:00).

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Another lackluster return from Mitch Trubisky leaves the Bears offense in a state of panic

Another lackluster return from Mitch Trubisky leaves the Bears offense in a state of panic

Given Sunday’s parallels to the Bears’ 2018 clunker against the Rams, the spotlight on QB Mitch Trubisky may have been even brighter against the Saints than it usually is – which is saying something. 

Four quarters, 250 yards and one blowout loss later, the only thing that’s changed is that the Bears no longer have the luxury of hiding another subpar performance from their franchise quarterback behind a monstrous, game-changing defense. Trubisky’s numbers against New Orleans look better on paper, but the eye test told a much different – or similar, technically – story. 

“It's hard to pinpoint it,” he said after the 36-25 loss. “Just frustrating, ugly. Couldn't swing momentum in our way – couldn't really get going. Just sputtered out. We've just got to find ways to stay on the field, especially after 3rd down and move the chains and get going."

“I want to go back, watch and see like progression-wise [how he did],” Matt Nagy added. “I know there's one there early in the game where we missed a corner route on 3rd down, and Mitch knows -- he knows that he can connect on that. We've connected on it a lot in practice.” 

That specific miss sums up much of what’s plagued Trubisky through his time in Chicago. On 3rd-and-6, with Taylor Gabriel finding separation on a 20-yard corner route, the QB rushes through his throwing motion and misses an easy first down. 

“I'm going to go back and watch it because that's one of my favorite throws,” Trubisky said. “And I hit that every single time this week in practice, so why it didn't translate to the game is really frustrating for me. I felt like that's an easy throw that I make easily, and I just wasn't on the same page and didn't put it in the spot to give my guy a chance.” 

Another miss – this time overthrowing Anthony Miller on a seam route – provided a great example of the communication issues that have plagued the passing game. Miller had a step on two defenders, but according to Nagy and Trubisky, cut in on the route when the play directed that he cut out. 

“That's one of Anthony's really good routes that he runs,” Trubisky said. “And he separates and gets open, and I just felt like I had to get the ball out within that time because they created pressure up front. Someone slipped through, and from what I can remember, he just went inside, so I tried to throw a tight seam and give him a chance. But I was on the ground after that, so I'm going to have to go back on the film and watch it and correct it.” 

“Those are plays that you look at and you just -- you'd like to convert on those and connect.,” added Nagy.

The coach also conceded that Trubisky looked rusty on some throws, but was quick to credit the quarterback for making others (he didn’t specify which). Still, silver linings were little consolation to the Bears on Sunday night, and will continue to mean less and less as the season goes on. For being a team that supposedly has great weeks of practice, plenty of questions remain about where all that goes on Sundays. 

“Why it's not translating, I don't have a theory,” Trubisky added. “All I know is, go back to work and make sure that you put in all that work during the week to make sure it translates.”

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