The Detroit Lions defense prepared all week as if they would be facing a razor-sharp Jay Cutler. When the opposing quarterback marched the Bears offense down the field on the opening drive, completing three passes for 61 yards and a touchdown to Brandon Marshall, it was clear they took the right approach.
“We just knew that no matter what we couldn’t come in thinking that he was just going to be a sitting duck, which he wasn’t,” said Lions defensive tackle Nick Fairley. “We just went out there as a defensive line and we had to get back and get in his face and shut him up.”
As Sunday’s battle between the top two teams in the NFC North progressed, Fairley and his fellow Lions defenders sensed that something wasn’t quite right with Cutler.
“Cutler’s not going to show you he’s hurt,” Fairley said. “Every time we hit him he bounced back up. He’s just a strong individual and a competitor. We knew he was just going to keep bringing it and bringing it every time.”
Fairley along with Detroit’s “other” defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, combined for eight quarterback hits in the 21-19 win over Chicago. Each player also finished the game with a sack and tackle for loss, providing plenty of pressure on Cutler throughout.
“He’s just a tough guy,” Suh said of Cutler, who was pulled prior to the final drive. “He’s always going to continue to step up and make plays for his team. It’s unfortunate he couldn’t finish the game.”
Suh’s admiration for Cutler has continued to build over time. The All-Pro defender reflected on the previous meeting between the Lions and Bears at Soldier Field, when Suh held Cutler’s hand and threw him violently to the ground for a sack.
“I’ve always had respect for him,” Suh said. “Even the last time we played here I think he came out for a little bit and came back in. I mean that’s the type of guy he is.
Lions defensive end Willie Young remembered the hit Suh put on Cutler in 2012 quite well too.
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“That was a signature hit that he took,” Young recalled. “He got right back up and continued to play ball. Tough quarterback. He’s probably one of the toughest in the league.”
Young noticed the countless impacts seemed to be getting to Cutler as the game progressed, which is when he pondered if the Bears signal caller was able to compete at an effective level in the late stages of the game.
“[My] hat goes off for him to be able to fight through it and play through what he’s playing through right now. But, at the same time when you show up, man you got to be your best.”