Jay Cutler not afraid to sacrifice his body to lead Bears


Jay Cutler not afraid to sacrifice his body to lead Bears

Jay Cutler is a different quarterback in 2015.

Yes, he still throws off his back foot from time-to-time. Some things will never change.

But what has changed is Cutler's offensive coordinator, and it could be the best thing to happen to him since his arrival to Chicago from the Mile-High City in 2009.

Dialing it down to more of a conservative-based offensive attack which masks some of Cutler's flaws and relies more on game-management, Cutler is thriving in Year 1 of offensive coordinator Adam Gase's system.

And no further proof of that was more evident than in Sunday's loss to the Minnesota Vikings in which Cutler delivered his second-best passer rating of the year (94.4) by completing 22-of-33 passes for 211 yards and going turnover-free for the first time in 2015. In addition to his solid performance, Cutler matched Sid Luckman's franchise record of 137 touchdowns with a first half touchdown pass to Alshon Jeffery.

[BEARS GRADES: Cutler makes solid plays, team fails to finish

If it wasn't for a late-game collapse by the Bears defense, Cutler would have notched his third game-winning fourth quarter drive of the season, and while it didn't technically go down as another late-game comeback, Cutler once again showed his affinity for stepping up in crunch time as he continued to earn the respect from the coaching staff and the other 52 members of the locker room.

"Another ballsy effort by Jay," Bears starting right tackle Kyle Long said. "Some exceptional throws and catches by our guys on the back end. Tremendous job finishing there at the goal line. Speaks to the kind of person he is and the kind of player he is."

If playing behind an offensive line which only had one remaining Week 1 starter still in place (Long at RT) and left guard Matt Slauson making his first career NFL start at center wasn't enough of adjustment for Cutler, how about losing Pro Bowl running back Matt Forte to a knee injury in the second half?

Still, Cutler rolled with the punches and delivered for the Bears. Cutler led a 14-play, 74-yard scoring drive that he capped off by his first rushing touchdown of the season. Cutler appeared to have a myriad of running room toward the right pylon, but instead decided to cut his run inside and deliver a shoulder on Vikings safety Harrison Smith to plow into the end zone for the score.

The toughness Cutler showed on that play wasn't lost on his teammates.

"It's always exciting when Jake makes a run," Bears tight end Martellus Bennett said. "When he lowers the shoulder you get revved up, but at the same time you're like 'Dude, what's up?' I was like 'I think you can beat him to the pylon, but I think you caught him off guard when you cut it up because he thought you could beat him to the pylon too.'

"It was always fun seeing him. He plays at max effort every single week. You know, he catches a lot of flack all the time, but the guy just goes out there every single week and gives it every thing he has. That's the only thing you can ask for from your quarterback and he's making plays, making runs, making throws, making checks, he's doing everything. He's playing phenomenal for us right now and I'm very proud of him. It's very fun to be out there with him and watching the success that he's been having at quarterback."

[MORE BEARS: Bears blow fourth quarter lead, fall to Vikings in final seconds]

Cutler's touchdown also inspired one of the leaders of the Bears defense.

"That was awesome," said Bears outside linebacker Pernell McPhee, who followed up with a sack on the next play from scrimmage after Cutler's touchdown. "He sold out his body for the team. Jay is one of our leaders and everybody respects him. That's what leaders do. They sell out their body for the team."

Although his run had the sidelines buzzing, Cutler admitted afterward that he may seek a different angle on his next scramble.

"Do I remember it? Yeah. Me on 22, I don't know. He might have 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.

"I mean I felt fine. I'm not used to those types of collisions, let's be honest. That's not something I want to make a living doing but you get over it pretty quickly whenever you get the touchdown and you get some endorphins going so I was okay."

[SHOP BEARS: Get your Bears gear right here]

Following Cutler's go-ahead touchdown run, the Vikings immediately answered when Teddy Bridgewater connected with rookie wide receiver Stefon Diggs for a 40-yard score to tie the game.

The stage was set for Cutler to get the Bears in position for a second-straight Robbie Gould game-winning field goal at Soldier Field, but what didn't happen may have shown just how much Cutler has grown as a leader this season.

Filling in for the injured Forte, rookie running back Jeremy Langford got open for what looked like it was going to be an easy reception to move the chains on a crucial third-down play. Cutler hit Langford between the numbers, but the rookie looked up field before securing the catch and dropped the ball. The Bears were forced to punt and the Vikings were the ones celebrating a game-winning field goal just minutes later.

Dejected after not making the catch to extend the drive, Langford was consoled by Cutler.

"He's going to be a heck of player for us," Cutler said. "I told him that one play doesn't win or lose a football game. I don't care what game it is and that one didn't win or lose our game."

Which Saints player would you want on the Bears?

Which Saints player would you want on the Bears?

The Chicago Bears have a tough test ahead of them Sunday at home against the 5-1 New Orleans Saints. Not only is New Orleans rolling on offense, even without QB Drew Brees in the lineup, but their defense has ascended into near-elite territory over the last few games.

This shouldn't come as a surprise to NFL fans, either. The Saints are overflowing with talent on both sides of the ball and there are several players who would represent an upgrade on the Bears.

Let's start on offense, where the obvious pick is Brees. But since he won't take the field in Week 7, we'll look elsewhere. 

Running back Alvin Kamara is about as dynamic as it gets at the position in 2019. He offers an equally lethal skill set as a runner and receiver with the kind of contact balance and burst to flip the field in one play. Imagine him working in Matt Nagy's offense? Scary.

There's also wide receiver Michael Thomas, who may just be the game's best all-around player at the position. He can beat defensive backs on all three levels of the passing game and is off to an incredible start to the season with 53 catches, 632 yards and three touchdowns. I'll do the math for you: those numbers equate to a 141-catch, 1,685-yard season. Yup. He's going to be a tough assignment for cornerbacks Kyle Fuller and Prince Amukamara.

New Orleans' offense isn't limited to just talent at the skill positions, either. Tackles Terron Armstead and Ryan Ramczyk are two of their four highest-graded players on offense, per Pro Football Focus, and each would represent a potential upgrade over Charles Leno, Jr. and Bobby Massie. Armstead and Ramczyk each rank in PFF's top 15 at offensive tackle in 2019, while Leno, Jr. and Massie are both outside of the top 50.

On the defensive side of the ball, it's hard to find a player who the Bears would prefer over a current starter, but one candidate is cornerback Marshon Lattimore. 

Lattimore hasn't been great this season, but his incredible blend of long speed and ability to change directions quickly established him as one of the league's most talented cornerbacks during his rookie season. It's a volatile position where players go through peaks and valleys during their careers, but Lattimore's physical gifts are borderline rare.

Cameron Jordan, the Saints' premier edge rusher and most recognizable name on the defense, would be enticing as well. He leads the team with five sacks and has accumulated 31 pressures over six games, proof that he's a handful for opposing offensive linemen. He wouldn't be a perfect scheme fit for the Bears, but lining him up opposite Khalil Mack would be fun to watch (to say the least).

This is a tough call. What say you? Head over to Twitter and share your thoughts here.

Rams' trade for Jalen Ramsey will have a direct impact on Bears' season

Rams' trade for Jalen Ramsey will have a direct impact on Bears' season

The Los Angeles Rams pulled off a blockbuster trade for Jacksonville Jaguars CB Jalen Ramsey Tuesday night, sending two first-round picks (2020 and 2021) and a 2021 fourth-round pick for the superstar defender.

It's the second trade the Rams have accomplished in one day. Los Angeles shipped CB Marcus Peters to the Baltimore Ravens for LB Kenny Young and a 2020 fifth-round pick earlier on Tuesday, completing a makeover in their secondary that will have a direct impact the Chicago Bears this season.

The Bears travel to Los Angeles to face the Rams in Week 11 as part of a brutal five-game stretch coming off of their bye week. Ramsey makes it even worse.

The Rams had little choice but to pull off a mega-deal like this. They're entering Week 7 with the 19th ranked pass defense and an underwhelming 3-3 record, a far cry from the expectations for last year's Super Bowl runner-up.

Mitch Trubisky and the Bears offense will have their hands full on November 17. The combination of Aaron Donald on the defensive line and Ramsey in the secondary is as intimidating as any defensive duo in the NFL and is capable of destroying even the smartest and most efficient passing attacks. And that's not exactly Chicago's pass offense so far.

Trubisky, who's expected to return from a left shoulder injury Sunday against the Saints, hasn't proven this season that he's capable of staring down the barrel of a Donald-Ramsey alliance. It will be a ridiculously difficult challenge for a quarterback who's still finding his way as a pro.

Ramsey has missed the last three games for a variety of reasons, most of which appear as tricks to remain healthy in anticipation of a trade.  He's a two-time Pro Bowler and has nine interceptions from 2016-2018.

Now, Ramsey is an opponent on Chicago's 2019 schedule.