By Brad Biggs, Chicago Tribune reporter
12:45 AM CST, November 12, 2012
The Bears made Jason Campbell one of the highest-paid backup quarterbacks in the NFL for situations just like this.
They have to be hoping they won't need Campbell's services for an extended period after starter Jay Cutler was knocked out of Sunday night's game with a concussion on a vicious hit to the head/neck area from Texans linebacker Tim Dobbins.
As the Bears found out last season, life without Cutler isn't pretty.
Campbell was more in control than last year's bargain-basement backup, Caleb Hanie, who lost four straight games after Cutler was sidelined by a broken hand to squander a 7-3 start. But Campbell wasn't able to rally the Bears as the Texans (8-1) won 13-6, ending the Bears' six-game winning streak at soggy Soldier Field and dropping them to 7-2.
Only one Bears victory — the season opener against the Colts — has come against a team with a winning record.
It's premature to determine if Cutler will be available for next Monday's game at San Francisco. The 49ers (6-2-1) also could be without their starter, Alex Smith, who left in the first half of a tie with the Rams with a concussion. Both players must be cleared to return by an independent neurological consultant. Bears defensive end Shea McClellin also was knocked out with a concussion.
Cutler missed one week in 2010 after he was knocked out of a Week 4 road loss to the Giants, who sacked him nine times in the first half. This is either the fourth or sixth concussion of Cutler's career, depending on which history you go by. In 2010, team sources said the Bears had documentation of one concussion during Cutler's college career at Vanderbilt and one when he was with the Broncos. A 2004 Tennessean story reported Cutler suffered three concussions in college.
Cutler, who was 7 of 14 for 40 yards with two interceptions, was injured late in the second quarter when he stepped up in the pocket to throw to Devin Hester. Dobbins appeared to hit Cutler in the helmet, and referee Gene Steratore called it a hit above the shoulders. The 42-yard pass to Hester was erased, though, as officials ruled Cutler had crossed the line of scrimmage.
"It was good that he was out," Dobbins said. "You always want to take the quarterback out of the game. I hit him in his chest. I did not hit him in his head. Nowhere near."
Bears players disagreed.
"That was ridiculous," center Roberto Garza said. "You shouldn't hit players in the head."
Campbell, signed to a one-year, $3.5 million contract, made some plays, including a 45-yard pass to Brandon Marshall, but it's hard for a backup to come in cold. He finished 11 of 19 for 94 yards.
"I'll be more comfortable," Campbell said when asked if he will be better prepared next week if needed. "Just because tonight was my first reps of the season. I'll compete my butt off."
Three plays after Cutler was hit by Dobbins, he stared down Marshall and was intercepted by Kareem Jackson at the Texans 27.
The Texans went ahead 10-3 on the series before Cutler was injured, getting a 2-yard touchdown pass from Matt Schaub to Arian Foster. The Texans remained committed to Foster, who gained 102 yards on 29 carries.
Earlier in the quarter, what would have been a 33-yard touchdown pass slipped off the hands of Marshall, forcing the Bears to settle for a 51-yard field goal from Robbie Gould. Marshall had eight receptions for 107 yards, but running back Matt Forte never got rolling. He carried 16 times for 39 yards.
The Bears offensive line held up against a fierce pass rush led by J.J. Watt, who entered with an NFL-high 10 1/2 sacks. The Texans didn't have a sack but did get four takeaways with help from former Bears safety Danieal Manning, who forced a Kellen Davis fumble and intercepted Cutler.
The Bears pulled to 10-6 late in the third quarter when Campbell's 45-yard pass to Marshall set them up at the 10-yard line before they settled for Gould's 24-yard field goal. Gould's 48-yard try in the fourth quarter banged off the left upright. The Texans added a 42-yard field goal by Shayne Graham with 4:49 to play.
Now the Bears continue into the toughest part of their schedule with Cutler's status unknown.
"That's why we got Jason," linebacker Brian Urlacher said. "We're better off now than we were last year at this time."
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