With the Bears’ defense continuing to be unable to prevent opponents from scoring 21 or more points, the burden remains on Jay Cutler to direct an offense that can “carry” the defense, at least until issues on that side of the ball, like pass rush and a new middle linebacker, can be worked through.
For now, Cutler is looking more and more capable of doing that.
Through six games Cutler has a combined passer rating higher than any first-six stretch in his career other than 2008, his one Pro Bowl season. More relevant recently:
Year: Six-game rating
Indeed, the Bears finally may have a legitimate “Top 10” quarterback, with Cutler currently eighth in passer rating – and trending higher based on throwing zero interceptions in three of his last four games.
Only twice in his career, and only once a Bear, has Cutler had four-game stretches so INT-free. In 2011 when he had four no-pick games in five, only to throw one interception in the sixth – the pick in the San Diego game on which Cutler fractured his thumb trying to make the ensuing tackle.
[OL Viewers Guide: Stopping the Redskins rush]
Cutler has 1,630 passing yards through six games, which is a high for the franchise and tops Cutler’s previous Bears record of 1,427 in 2011. Related to that and even more impressive because of what it means, Cutler is completing 65.9 percent of his passes, significantly ahead of his previous career high of 63.6 set his first full NFL season, 2007.
Factor in that Cutler’s passer rating through six games is a career-best 95.2 and a Washington defense that ranks 29th allowing opposing quarterbacks an average rating of 105.0, and the Bears are arguably going against a team ideally vulnerable to being dominated by an offense.
Washington is not especially good at anything defensively right now, ranking in the 20s for virtually every defensive category other than sacks per pass play, where the Redskins stand No. 6, which is possibly misleading: Only Pittsburgh and Houston have seen fewer pass attempts against them than Washington’s 171.
The Washington pass rush has gotten home at a solid rate but Cutler is not the same quarterback he was the last time he faced it. That last time. cornerback DeAngelo Hall was intercepting him four times on the way to the Pro Bowl, which obscured another flaw in Cutler’s game at the time.
Cutler took four sacks at Washington hands, coming off disasters of nine sacks (New York Giants) and six (Seattle Seahawks).
Cutler was sacked three times by both the Lions and the Saints and the Bears lost both games. He took just three combined sacks in the Bears’ four wins.
“It’s a team deal,” said offensive coordinator/line coach Aaron Kromer. “The receivers have been doing a good job of getting open. We’ve been protecting. He has been getting the ball off quickly.
“And so that’s when everybody looks good. When guys aren’t getting open or guys aren’t getting picked up in a blitz, that’s when he doesn’t look good. It’s an offensive thing, not a Jay thing.”