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.