Cutler helps himself with fancy footwork

Bears quarterback stays upright against Vikings by moving in the pocket, rolling out

The player most responsible for keeping Jay Cutler clean Sunday was Jay Cutler.

The quarterback did a number of things well. What he did best was avoid pressure.

Cutler moved in the pocket before throwing six times. Cutler also rolled out four times. And he took off and ran two times. That added up to movement on 34 percent of his dropbacks.

The eight plays in which he moved or ran on his own could have been sacks.

But he was a moving target for Jared Allen and the Vikings' other pass rushers, and they didn't catch him once. The only time he was sacked was when he tripped over his center's foot.

And get this — every time Cutler moved, something good happened, or should have happened.

On the 10 times he threw after moving, he completed eight passes and drew a pass-interference penalty that set up a touchdown. His only incompletion should have been a 42-yard touchdown pass, but Brandon Marshall let a perfectly placed ball slip through his hands in the end zone.

The focus on Cutler's 13-yard touchdown pass to Matt Spaeth has understandably been on his superb throw and Spaeth's fine catch. But neither would have been possible had Cutler not avoided Allen first by rolling left.

One of my favorite Cutler plays from Sunday was a loss of 1 yard on a screen play to Michael Bush. It easily could have been a loss of 6. But it wasn't because Cutler avoided the blitzing Antoine Winfield by taking five quick steps back after his initial drop and then got the pass off.

Here is what else we learned after a second look.

Grading key: Grades are between 0 and 10 with 0 being complete failure and 10 being perfect.


Grade: 7.5

Cutler didn't make many NFL highlight reels, but he gets high marks for composure (except for tossing the football at A.J. Jefferson and drawing an unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty), poise and savvy. His longest completion of the day was 20 yards.

He avoided mistakes well. Even his one interception probably should not have been an interception. Marshall reached up and tipped it with one hand, and the pass could have been caught.

Offensive line

Grade: 6

J'Marcus Webb bounced back in a big way after a terrible performance six days earlier. Webb was one-on-one with Allen 40 percent of the time, and he kept the four-time All-Pro at bay by using sound technique.

Webb had help on other plays, mostly from tight ends Spaeth and Kellen Davis, but also from backs and other linemen.

Offensive coordinator Mike Tice did a nice job of giving Webb help early to see how he was playing, and then letting him handle Allen alone more as the game went on. Tice also helped the linemen by calling for only one deep pass in the game.