Lions attack 'new' offense, exploit Cutler tendencies

Lions attack 'new' offense, exploit Cutler tendencies
September 29, 2013, 6:00 pm
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DETROIT — What goes up generally comes back down, and it was the Bears’ turn to succumb to at least a little NFL gravity on Sunday. Actually, a lot of gravity and a bit of reality, as the Detroit Lions caught up with some of the “new” Bears offense and exploited it.

Indeed, the Lions used one of the Bears new offensive strengths against them, relying in the process on how they expected quarterback Jay Cutler to behave based on how he has played in the past.

The Bears (3-1) were crushed under an avalanche of plays, largely of their own doing, giving up 27 points in the second quarter of a 40-32 loss to the Detroit Lions (3-1), leaving themselves tied in the NFC North and needing to brace for the New Orleans Saints coming to Soldier Field next Sunday.

Cutler threw a pair of interceptions that led to 10 Detroit points in the second quarter. Lions defenders said they particularly worked to take away early reads in the knowledge that Cutler would hold the ball and contribute towards his own pressure.

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And it happened that way. The Lions got six hits on Cutler in addition to two sacks by defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. The second came when left defensive end Willie Young took an inside slant, held right tackle Jordan Mills and allowed Suh to loop all the way round to the outside and knock the ball out of Cutler’s hands.

Defensive tackle Nick Fairley gathered it up and ran four yards for the touchdown.

“Yeah, I was just waiting,” Cutler admitted. “They played zone coverage and just dropped them out of there, and I didn’t like the first look. (Brandon Marshall) was trying to work back out ... That’s on me.”

Cutler threw three interceptions in total, but two were right out of the Cutler book pre-Marc Trestman/Aaron Kromer/Matt Cavanaugh.

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The second was a back-foot floater in the tradition of his last four years in Chicago that was intended for Marshall but held up and was intercepted by Glover Quin. The Lions safety was simply playing loose in the deep middle, made the catch and returned it 42 yards.

The third was an overthrow of a wide-open Alshon Jeffery near midfield with the Bears still only down 14 points late in the third quarter.

“I felt good about the one to Alshon,” Cutler said. “It just sailed on me. I’ll have to look at it and be careful with the ball. Both (Marshall and Jeffery) were open.”

That interception was preceded with a series of mistakes. On a third-and-8, a 24-yard completion to Marshall was negated by Kyle Long holding Suh. Cutler followed that by over-throwing Jeffery and handing the Lions their third interception in less than three quarters.

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Trestman defended his quarterback’s decisions, even pointing to dropped passes as a problem.

“We can’t turn the ball over, we know that,” Trestman said. “But it wasn’t about decision-making. “I think it was more about fundamentals of finishing the two throws, which were high.”

It got away from more than just Cutler, however, and that was the particularly disturbing element. The defense did not pick up the offense, the offense didn’t pick up the defense and special teams contributed its own part in a setback coming at a time when early control of the NFC North division.

After the Bears took a 10-6 lead on a 53-yard Matt Forte run less than two minutes into the second quarter, pick a problem, any problem:

— Through the first three quarters the Bears gained 178 yards on five plays. They had 82 total on their other 36 snaps.

— In the debacle of a second quarter, the offense made nothing out of field position at the Chicago 42 and only a field goal out of a sack/strip by Julius Peppers recovered by Shea McClellin at the Detroit 46.

— The Forte TD run was one of six by him in the first half; he netted five yards on his other five. The offense totaled six first downs in the first half to 17 for the Lions, and Detroit out-gained the Bears 260-167 for the first two quarters.