On the NFL
November 12, 2012
You could blame it on wet balls, a slick field, nasty Texans or foggy thoughts, but ultimately the Bears didn't have the quarterback play they needed to beat an elite team Sunday.
Brandon Marshall has nicknamed Jay Cutler "The Closer" because of his strong finishes in games this season. But Cutler never had a chance to be "The Closer" on Sunday after suffering a concussion.
Jason Campbell did. He closed better than Cutler started, but that didn't say much.
The Bears offense was good for all of three points before Cutler's injury prevented him from playing in the second half. He threw two interceptions and had a 16.7 passer rating.
The prospect of being without Cutler for more than one half is more daunting than the loss to the Texans. The Bears probably have five games on their schedule — Packers, Vikings twice, Lions and the 49ers next week — that will be more significant than this one.
And those are games in which the Bears will need Cutler. The good news is some of Cutler's concussion symptoms already were subsiding in the second half, according to coach Lovie Smith.
Still, no one could say with certainty when Cutler will be back. He will have to pass tests and be cleared by an independent doctor. We all know concussions can linger like a Chicago winter.
Campbell was given $3.5 million for times like these.
"I'm so glad we have him in situations like this," Marshall said. "He made some amazing throws and we let him down. ... There's going to be no difference in our offense."
On Campbell's third drive, he set up a 24-yard field goal by Robbie Gould with a beautiful 45-yard pass to Marshall. Campbell changed the play at the line, according to Marshall.
But those were the only points Campbell generated. In the Bears' final three possessions, he led drives of 1 yard, minus-1 yard and 2 yards.
"It's tough when you were sitting on the sideline," said Campbell who had not worked with the first team since preseason. "It's not like we were playing against the 31st-ranked defense. It's a tremendous football team on that side. They were doing some good things taking away the deep ball. We tried to dump some of them off to try to keep us on schedule."
Cutler, meanwhile, had a chance to make this a statement game. He could have served notice the Bears were a complete team, not a team whose best offense was its defense.
It did not start well for Cutler. Have you read that sentence before?
And he was not given much help from his teammates.
The Bears' first two possessions ended with fumbles, the first by tight end Kellen Davis and the second by running back Michael Bush.
It was Cutler's turn on the Bears' third possession.
He led Davis with a deep pass over the middle, and Davis had a step on linebacker Bradie James. But James gave Davis a bump and Davis never got to the ball. Texans safety Danieal Manning, the former Bear, came up with the interception.
In the final minutes before the half, Cutler threw another one.
This time, he was duped by cornerback Kareem Jackson. Cutler thought he had Marshall one-on-one with cornerback Johnathan Joseph, but Jackson came off his man late in what was a zone defense disguised as man. Jackson cut in front of Marshall for the pick.
There were opportunities missed that the Bears will curse when they watch the game tape Monday.
Marshall dropped what could have been a 33-yard touchdown pass in the end zone on third down in the second quarter.
"I didn't make the play in the end zone," Marshall said. "I let the team down. I take full responsibility."
Devin Hester dropped a deep pass down the left sideline that he should have caught on another third down later in the quarter.
There were drops by Davis and Matt Forte on the Bears' final drive of the half.
When Cutler appeared to connect with Hester for a short pass that Hester turned into a 42-yard gain, Cutler was called for an illegal forward pass because he crossed the line of scrimmage. The play was nullified.
Texans linebacker Tim Dobbins also was flagged on the play for a hit to Cutler's head, which likely was the hit that injured Cutler.
"He took a lot of hits," Smith said. "More than he needed to take, more than we wanted him to take."
Whether it's from a better prepared Campbell or a healed Cutler, the Bears will need more from their quarterback.
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