Lions set up of Cutler works to perfection

Lions set up of Cutler works to perfection
September 29, 2013, 10:45 pm
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Scott Krinch

Jay Cutler entered the Bears' Week 3 NFC North showdown with the Lions with only three interceptions on the season.

Marc Trestman's magic, Aaron Kromer's guidance, a new offense and a revamped offensive line ... Chicago's expectations for the 2013 version of Cutler were sky high.

And then Sunday's debacle happened.

No. 6 was off from the opening whistle. He was overthrowing his receivers. Passes were sailing either too high or too short, and he went back to holding the ball in the pocket.

What had been working for Cutler and the offense had been the ability to get to ball out quickly. It didn't happen on Sunday because the Lions made sure they weren't going to get beat by the Bears in that area.

"This year, they’ve been getting the ball out of his hands quickly," Lions safety Glover Quin said. "We were able to take those quick reads away. We knew if we took those quick reads away he would hold the ball. We were able to get sacks and make him hold the ball."

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It seemed like Cutler was finally starting to shed that feast-or-famine label that's plagued him in eight seasons, but Cutler was all famine — excluding garbage time late in the game — against the Lions.

The miscues became even more magnified after the Lions scored 17 points off Cutler's turnovers.

A pass intended for a wide open Alshon Jeffery was badly overthrown and picked off by Louis Delmas late in the first quarter. Five plays later, David Akers drilled a 31-yard field goal.

With the Lions building momentum and the Ford Field faithful rocking, Cutler launched a pass downfield to Brandon Marshall that was underthrown.

A Calvin Johnson touchdown on the very next play had the Bears reeling after 17 unanswered points by Detroit.

And what's becoming a common theme among opposing NFC North safeties is if you sit back, Cutler is going to give you a chance.

"We knew we could get after him, we just had to hold up in coverage," Quin said. "You hope he could give you a few of them."

[RELATED: Week 4 Bears Grades: Quarterback]

It wouldn't get any better for Cutler in the third quarter.

After a Robbie Gould field goal made it a two possession game, the Bears defense came up with a big three-and-out.

On the offense's next series, Cutler had Jeffery wide open and tossed his third interception of the afternoon after severely overthrowing his target. But as the Lions were threatening to pull away, Major Wright was "Johnny on the spot" and corralled a ball that bounced off of Johnson's shoes.

Despite the Lions not putting the game out of the reach, Cutler would do that himself three plays later. On third down, the pocket collapsed and Ndamukong Suh came rumbling into the backfield and stripped the ball out of Cutler's hand. Nick Fairley scooped it up for the score and made it 37-16 Lions with under a minute remaining in the third quarter.

"I thought the offensive line battled all day long and did a great job, especially in the passing situations we were in," Cutler said. "We got slowed down due to my turnovers, and we just have to do a better job."

Despite Sunday's performance, it's just one game, and the Bears are sitting pretty at 3-1. Cutler has handled adversity in the past, and we'll find out in less than a week how this year's version of Cutler responds.