A week ago against the Buffalo Bills, the Bears
’ $127 million quarterback
put up impressive numbers but made one big mistake . BY MARK POTASHStaff Reporter September 15, 2014 9:16PM Chicago Bears quarterback
Jay Cutler (6) passes against the San Francisco 49ers during the second quarter of an NFL
football game in Santa Clara, Calif., Sunday, Sept.
BY MARK POTASHStaff Reporter September 15, 2014 9:16PM
Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler (6) passes against the San Francisco 49ers during the second quarter of an NFL football game in Santa Clara, Calif., Sunday, Sept. 14, 2014. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar) ORG XMIT: FXN117
Updated: September 17, 2014 9:12AM
Will the real Jay Cutler please stand up?
A week ago against the Buffalo Bills, the Bears’ $127 million quarterback put up impressive numbers but made one big mistake ? committing a series of cardinal sins on one ill-fated play ? and punctuated another disappointing performance with a fit of petulance in his postgame interview. It was all too typical of Cutler’s star-crossed career (eight seasons with one playoff appearance).
He was almost the opposite Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers. He threw for only 176 yards but did what winning quarterbacks do. He maintained his focus, led his team through rough waters, made big plays and took advantage of the opportunities presented by a team that was asking to be beaten.
Suddenly, Cutler is a leader of men after the Bears rallied from a 17-0 deficit in the first half to win 28-20 at Levi’s Stadium.
‘‘Jay kept telling us we were still in it,’’ tight end Martellus Bennett said. ‘‘He did a great job of controlling the emotions of each player on offense. We have a fiery bunch, and everyone wants to make a play.
‘‘He did a great job with the coaches, worrying about the next drive and not what just happened. When your quarterback does that, then everyone does. He just gets you ready for the next drive. He did a great job with the next-play mentality.’’
It remains to be seen whether the gaffe against the Bills or the heady leadership and four touchdown passes without an interception against the 49ers is the defining moment of Cutler’s season. After two weeks, it doesn’t appear there is any such thing as a defining moment in the NFL. Every week is a new week. We have no idea which Bears team or which Cutler we’ll see Monday at the Meadowlands. But if Cutler’s poise and leadership were as big as they appeared to be in the stunning comeback against the 49ers, the Bears ultimately might become the team many of us thought they were.
? 2. The rest of this season will determine where the comeback against the 49ers ranks among the greatest escape acts in Bears history. If this sparks them to a
big season, it might be as big as any of them.
Though the ‘‘Miracle in the Desert’’ against the Arizona Cardinals in 2006 was more exciting and entertaining, the Bears were 5-0, had outscored their opponents 156-36 and were 121/2-point favorites at the time. They were going to be a playoff contender even if they had lost.
This presented a greater degree of difficulty, playing the 49ers on the road in a nationally televised game as seven-point underdogs. If this turns the Bears’ season around, it will be hard to argue the impact of the unlikeliest of comebacks as the best of recent Bears history.
? 3. Brandon Marshall, who is prone to getting carried away when it comes to his teammates, went a little overboard in saying rookie cornerback Kyle Fuller ‘‘needs to have Hall of Fame on his brain’’ after making two interceptions Sunday.
But he wasn’t totally off-base. Of all the plays the Bears made against the 49ers, Fuller’s first interception ? in which he defended a pass to receiver Michael Crabtree and took the ball from him in the same motion ? stands out as the kind of special play that portends greatness.
Fuller wasn’t just in the right spot at the right time; he got the ball because he wanted it more and had the skill to make it happen. It’s not quite the same as Charles Tillman’s end-zone takeaway from Randy Moss as a rookie in 2003, but it was similar ? a sign of good things to come from the first-round draft choice.
? 4. If we’re going to keep the microscope on 2012 first-round pick Shea McClellin at strong-side linebacker, we can’t ignore the impressive game he played against the 49ers. Playing a quarterback and running attack that could have exposed his biggest weaknesses, McClellin instead showed that he’s at least making progress.
McClellin had three tackles, including a sack of Colin Kaepernick for a five-yard loss with the Bears leading 21-20 with 11:01 left in the fourth quarter.
? 5. Maybe coordinator Mel Tucker knows what he’s doing after all. The Bears’ defense produced four takeaways and four sacks and picked up momentum as the game went on. The Bears allowed 129 rushing yards in the first half (6.3 per carry) but 54 on 15 carries (3.6 per carry) in the second.
? 6. The Bears had only 216 yards of offense (4.2 per play) against the 49ers. But unlike the disastrous game against them at Candlestick Park in 2012, when they gained 168 yards with Jason Campbell at quarterback and lost 32-7, the Bears didn’t fold.
The last time the Bears gained 216 yards or fewer and beat a playoff team on the road was in 1991, when the 5-2 Bears rallied to beat the 7-0 Saints 20-17 at the Superdome with only 178 total yards. Quarterback Jim Harbaugh was horrible that day ? 4-for-21 for 49 yards ? until the very end, when he threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to Tom Waddle with 54 seconds left to win it.
? 7. Fairness department: A sidebar to Cutler’s tough week against the Bills was former Bears receiver Devin Hester’s outstanding game for the Atlanta Falcons against the Saints (five receptions for 99 yards). Hester never really had a day like that with Cutler. For the record, Hester had one catch for two yards in the Falcons’ loss Sunday to the Cincinnati Bengals.
? 8. Highly recommend the perfectly charred Kansas City ribs at Lance Briggs’ Double Nickel Smokehouse in Elk Grove, California. With its 12 big-screen TVs, spacious sports-bar atmosphere and down-home Northern California feel, the Double Nickel is an inviting place to watch NFL games. Lots of Dallas Cowboys fans were there Sunday.
Good food, good atmosphere and easy to get to. Just take I-80 west 2,045 miles to South Sacramento Freeway South and take the Laguna Boulevard exit. You can’t miss it.
? 9. Ex-Bears player of the week: Bills cornerback Corey Graham followed up his impressive performance against his former team with another big game in a 29-10 victory against the Miami Dolphins. Graham had 10 tackles and three pass breakups as the Bills shut down a Dolphins offense that scored 33 points last week against the New England Patriots.
? 10. On paper, the Bears’ playoff chances took a huge jump with the victory against the 49ers. Since 1990, only 11.6 percent of teams that have started 0-2 have made the playoffs. But in the last 10 years, 40.1 percent of 1-1 teams have made it. So, mathematically at least, the Bears’ chances are better now than when they started the season 0-0. Only 37.5 percent of the NFL’s 32 teams make the postseason.
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