Jay Cutler has had bigger games –- 21-for-33 passing, 242 yards, 1 touchdown, 1 interception, 93.2 rating –- but few as impressive or important. Cutler shook free of a pedestrian first half that saw the Bears net just 97 yards and turned that around for 223 in the second.
Critical was demeanor and attitude, which had teammates talking afterwards. Cutler threw a poor ball at the outset of the fourth quarter that was intercepted. When the defense got him the ball back three plays later, he directed the offense on an 81-yard drive for what was a game-winning touchdown –- a 19-yard pass to Brandon Marshall.
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The offense had just three drives longer than that all last season. And Cutler’s composure and leadership under pressure has not always ranked among the game’s elite. There’s a reason why the Bears under him are 5-22 when trailing after three quarters.
But that was in the past on Sunday, and Cutler’s composure and efficiency were game-changers. He completed 11 of 14 passes in the second half for 172 yards and helped his offensive line with movement in the pocket without drawing out the play unnecessarily waiting for only Marshall to come free.
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“Jay had to sit in and wait on it two or three times,” said coach Marc Trestman. “I thought his confidence coming out of the first half was uncomfortable because we hadn’t moved the ball successfully in the first half overall.
“But there were signs that we could and I think he did a very good job, obviously, in the second half, not only throwing it against man-to-man coverage and making some very, very difficult throws, but also some runs. The two runs and the scrambles, on third down, were really as key plays.”