Cutler leads Bears where it counts

Throwing 2 TD passes in big road victory overshadows QB's sideline blow-off of Tice

ARLINGTON, Texas — Leadership can be complicated.

So you could walk away from Cowboys Stadium on Monday night questioning Jay Cutler's leadership.

But you most certainly had to walk away from Cowboys Stadium on Monday night praising Jay Cutler's leadership.

Jay Cutler threw two touchdown passes Monday night, and he helped the Bears to their most impressive, significant victory of 2012.

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Cutler helped the Bears go up 17-7 in the third quarter with a pretty 34-yard scoring strike to Devin Hester.

He also took advantage of a busted coverage in the fourth quarter. When Cowboys safeties Danny McCray and Brandon Carr both got stuck on tight end Kellen Davis, Brandon Marshall was wide open in the middle of the field. Cutler hit him and Marshall had an easy run into the end zone for a 31-yard touchdown.

Throwing touchdowns isn't all Cutler did well. That 140.1 passer rating should tell you something.

He completed 75 percent of his passes. He spread the ball around well, hitting throws to six players. He threw with anticipation and touch. And he avoided costly mistakes.

It was an impressive performance against a fine defense in a hostile environment, and it kept the Bears in a tie for first place in the NFC North.

That makes Monday night the high point of the young season for Cutler.

Afterward, without prompting, he praised his offensive line, the running game and his defense.

It also was a turnaround game for the Bears quarterback. He performed abysmally in Green Bay and was only marginally better against the Rams. Ending that trend, and maybe starting another, was significant for a quarterback who frequently goes in streaks.

"Jay managed the huddle well," said Marshall, who had seven catches for 138 yards. "He was outstanding. He fired us up before the game. We fed off him."

Marshall also said Cutler challenged him throughout the week. Asked about it, Cutler said, "I just wanted him to play within the system and play a full game and not worry about the plays being called, not worry about balls coming to him or where they are going. Play Bears football. Play like you played in Denver with us and let it come to him. I thought he was patient. He got a little chippy in the first half, but he settled down."

And so Cutler had several examples of fine leadership, all of which overshadowed his latest YouTube moment.

Cutler walked away from current offensive coordinator Mike Tice twice on the sideline, including once when Tice sat next to Cutler on the bench. The incident occurred in the second quarter, when the Bears offense had not yet hit its stride.

Afterward, Cutler seemed surprised to be asked about it. He said he was never upset at Tice and downplayed it.

"I know you guys have to sell papers," he said. "It's hard out there. But you can't blow up every headline. Things happen during football games. Just because I walk off and go get water doesn't mean much."

He can chalk it up to heat-of-the-moment frustration, but quarterbacks need to be in control of their emotions, whether they are on the field or on the sideline. They also should be respectful to their superiors.

Cutler couldn't have been too upset about protection this time. Tice's game plan was partially responsible for keeping Cutler clean. The execution of the offensive line, tight ends and backs also was pretty good.

When Cutler was sacked and he fumbled in the third quarter, it appeared he held the ball too long.

Cutler actually praised Tice in his news conference.

"Mike did a great job of dialing plays up," he said. "It was the best rhythm we've had offensively in and out of the huddle all year in and out of the huddle."

Cutler's counterpart on the Cowboys had no rhythm this night, and Tony Romo was badly outplayed by Cutler. Romo was intercepted five times, though he had some tough luck.

Cutler was empathetic.

"I've thrown four," Cutler said. "I think I've thrown five before. It happens. He's been there, he's done it. He knows how to rebound. He'll come back next week and he'll play well."

Romo carried himself like the pro he is. But he didn't win.

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dpompei@tribune.com

Twitter @danpompei

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