Just as Jay Cutler’s leading a couple of fourth-quarter comebacks were zero reason for some of the hyperbole that accompanied the 3-0 Bears start, neither was the debacle in Detroit cause for real concern.
First, the ‘13 Cutler is simply not the ’06-’12 Cutler. Where a year ago he would have talked about a game like Sunday’s four-turnover nightmare in terms of how “we” have to play better, Cutler now talks about how “I” need to do this or that. Be in no doubt: This is a significant step.
Second, so is the fact that Cutler’s decision-making did not break down on Sunday, and neither did his composure. A lot of other things were catastrophic – holding the ball too long and too low, leading to a sack, strip and TD; underthrowing Brandon Marshall for one interception, overthrowing Alshon Jeffery for another – but those were the right throws.
[More: Lions' setup of Cutler works to perfection]
Cutler has reverted to Bad Jay with his “Where’s Brandon?” mindset but with less and less frequency. A different Bear has led in receptions in each of the four games – Marshall, Matt Forte, Jeffery and then Martellus Bennett on Sunday. Cutler has been given major weaponry and he is using all of it.
Best guess: Cutler was learning as he went, a huge takeaway from a game like this. Not that he needed to have graphic evidence of the validity in what Marc Trestman, Aaron Kromer and Matt Cavanaugh have been drilling into him, but this was an exquisite case study in what can happen. The “old” Cutler doesn’t necessarily get that.
[More: Moon grades out Cutler's game vs. Detroit]
Cutler completed nine of 10 passes on the Bears’ first TD drive of the fourth quarter. He completed six of nine on the second. He completed passes for two two-point conversions.
“I thought he played tough and courageous and he played to the end and he made some tremendous throws that are going to get lost in all this because of the turnovers,” Trestman said. “We got to go back to doing those kinds of things.”
This was going to happen sometime
And here’s perhaps the biggest point:
With a quarterback who has had seven seasons to work on doing a lot of things the wrong ways – decision-making, footwork, where to hold the football, release and so forth – it is not unreasonable that he will have a day like Cutler did on Sunday.
[More: Lions attack 'new' offense, exploit Bears' tendencies]
There is a big difference between true backsliding and simply having a bad game, and Cutler had a really bad game. He exhibited some of the flawed form he fell into under a succession of coordinators and position coaches.
This was inevitable.
Trestman didn’t exactly agree with this kind of Cutler game being “inevitable,” but he seemed to be talking about the likelihood of it happening again. Of course he doesn’t accept inevitable; he’s a football coach.
“Jay didn't play the way he's capable of playing and he readily admits it,” Trestman said. “But I don't think what happened yesterday means that it has to happen next week or the week after. It could, but we're working to prevent those situations from happening.”