Bears face 'Cutler Time' vs. Packers


Bears face 'Cutler Time' vs. Packers

In the wake of the Bears loss to the Minnesota Vikings, coach Lovie Smith indirectly explained the biggest single reason why the Green Bay Packers have dominated his Bears since Aaron Rodgers succeeded Brett Favre.

Their defense out-performed our defense yesterday, Smith said last Monday.

He wasnt talking about the Packers. And defenses dont face defenses, obviously.

But the simplest reason why the Packers have been better than the Bears for the past several years is that their quarterback out-performs the Bears quarterback.

The Packers have survived and even flourished this year and in 2010 despite an avalanche of injuries. The reason has been that Rodgers has established himself in the echelon of quarterbacks like Favre, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and other elites who are not only great in their own right, but makes others around them better.

Jay Cutler does not. The opposite; he makes himself worse in games against his organizations foremost opponent.

In the six and a half games Cutler has played against Green Bay (he was out for the second half of the NFC Championship game and all of game 15 last season), the Bears have scored a total of seven touchdowns.

Cutler has never had a game against the Packers in which he has not thrown at least one interception. Counting the 2010 NFC title game, he has thrown 17 interceptions vs. eight touchdown passes.

His regular-season passer rating against the Packers is 60.5. Rodgers isnot.

Indeed, Rodgers posted a 99.8 rating in the teams first 2012 game despite taking five sacks. Cutlers rating, with seven sacks and four interceptions, was 28.2. That was his lowest against the Packers and carries more concerning significance because he at last had the precise No. 1 receiver he wanted. And Green Bay cornerback Tramon Williams caught exactly as many of Cutlers passes (two) as that No. 1 receiver, Brandon Marshall did.

We missed some opportunities with Brandon last time; I think hed be the first to tell you that, Cutler said. But theyre going to do a good job of taking him away so for us to be successful down the road, were going to have to have other guys make plays for us.

That first other guy needs to be Cutler. Because against Rodgers and the Packers, he rarely has been:

YrGm Cutler Rodgers

09, 1 43.2 92.0
2 74.9 88.9

10, 1 82.5 92.5
2 43.5 89.7
NFC Ch. 31.8 55.4

11, 1 78.9 111.4
2 (out) 142.7

12, 1 28.2 99.8

Passer rating is not the sole measure of a quarterback and a criticism is that its formula is structured in a way that weights interceptions disproportionately. But in a game so often determined by turnovers, it is perhaps an apt standard to use in comparing Bears-Packers quarterbacks.

I often find myself quoting a great teacher of mine, Chuck Knox, said offensive coordinator Mike Tice. And he used to say all the time constantly, you have to make the plays youre afforded the opportunity to make.

Sometime on Sunday, maybe on the first or second possession to answer a Green Bay score, maybe in the fourth quarter to help save a season, Cutler will have to make the plays he too often hasnt.

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After loss to Mavs, Wade says Bulls 'keep putting (their) hand on the hot stove every day'

After loss to Mavs, Wade says Bulls 'keep putting (their) hand on the hot stove every day'

Dwyane Wade sounded every bit like a frustrated 35-year old father when talking about the repeated ills and so-called growing pains of his Bulls, as they surrendered yet another game against a sub-.500 team.

Sometimes it's the New York Knicks whom the Bulls are offering temporary refuge. Or maybe the Minnesota Timberwolves as they are all-too-generous to roll out the welcome mat for returning figures to Chicago.

Tuesday it was the Dallas Mavericks, the second-worst team in the Western Conference, who stormed into the United Center and escaped with a 99-98 win, courtesy of Wesley Matthews' triple with 11.7 seconds left followed by him locking down Jimmy Butler on the ensuing possession.

Wade was forced to take a contested 21-footer that went awry, but the Bulls' ills went far beyond the last two possessions, when the Mavericks exploited their strategy yet again.

"Either you learn the lesson or figure out," Wade said. "Keep putting your hand on the hot stove every day.

"We just gotta figure out not to put our hands on that stove. And understand when we come in the kitchen, that stove is hot, don't touch it. As I continue to say, this is a very young team and they have to play in these games and have to go through these moments. The one thing you want, whether it's this year or next year, is to not make the same mistakes."

The Bulls are apparently insistent on touching the stove and keep burning themselves, the most recent time with the confusion or the bad strategy in defending the Mavericks' final offensive possession.

Deron Williams found himself with Nikola Mirotic defending him off a switch from Jimmy Butler. Not the quickest afoot, Mirotic gave Williams an easy path to the basket and Wade was the backside help, not wanting to leave Matthews on the wing for a triple.

But with the bench commanding Wade to help, Williams easily found Matthews for an open 3 as Wade had no help for his man. With the Bulls up two, one could see how Wade didn't want to leave Matthews.

"I'll have to go back and watch, but it looks like Deron got downcourt, Wade went over to help and we didn’t rotate accordingly," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. "We obviously need to do a better job of staying in front of the other end."

Mirotic was supposed to be brought back slowly in his return from strep throat, but he played the entire fourth quarter and 22 minutes overall, having lost eight pounds with his illness that had him miss four games.

[SHOP BULLS: Get your Bulls gear right here]

Their issues were game-long and have been seasonlong as the Mavericks were supposed to absorb a shellacking from a Bulls team that felt a 25-point beatdown in Texas last month.

Instead, they would've been happy with settling for an escape when Butler rose up over his college teammate Matthews for a 20-foot wing jumper with 22.8 seconds left.

Butler nearly added a triple-double and clutch moment to his growing resume with 24 points, 12 assists and nine rebounds but was dogged by Matthews all night, the defender who wouldn't give him airspace, went chest-to-chest and even earned a technical foul when he felt Butler exaggerated some contact in the third quarter.

"He took away my space, wouldn't let me get to my spot," Butler said of Matthews. "Good for him. I should've did something different."

Wade missed 13 of his 21 shots, scoring 17 with five rebounds on his 35th birthday

With scoring at a premium, Robin Lopez had a season-high 21 points being guarded by Dirk Nowitzki — and they were necessary considering the Bulls were without Taj Gibson (ankle injury) and Doug McDermott couldn't repeat his 30-point showing from Sunday in Memphis.

Rick Carlisle has long been regarded as one of the top strategic coaches, and though he doesn't have the usual personnel from the Mavericks' salad days, he had enough tricks up his sleeve to throw the Bulls off.

Six Mavericks scored in double figures, led by Harrison Barnes' 20 points and Seth Curry's 18, as Barnes, Matthews and Curry combined for eight triples — spreading the Bulls out and picking them apart defensively.

The Mavericks started Nowitzki at center, going to an almost all-small lineup. And though Lopez scored 14 points in the first half, trying to feed him seemed to take the Bulls out of it in the second half.

The energy was tardy to the party, as they shot just 41 percent in the first half but woke up a little in the third quarter — continuing their all-too familiar trend of half-hearted efforts against lesser teams.

And it looks like the ever-optimistic Wade is dishing out some realism, probably something that comes with the perspective of turning 35.

"You can't keep getting stressed out or frustrated. We've been going through this all year. We'll get back in in the morning.

"Once you realize who you are, you're better off. I sleep better at night. Once we want to be a better team and start winning games, we will. I'm not mad, I'm not frustrated, I'm not stressed. Just taking the hits."