Sports
Sports

Cutler shakes rust, has Bears' trust in big victory

CLEVELAND — Brandon Marshall hasn't even played two full seasons for the Bears, yet he knows how it works in Chicago.

The organization's decision this week to reinstall Jay Cutler as the starting quarterback despite backup Josh McCown's recent quality production polarized the fan base. And when Cutler threw two interceptions Sunday against the Browns before the midway point of the second quarter, a full-scale inquisition loomed.

"I can only imagine the commentators and the fans back at home after the first and second pick, what they were saying," Marshall said. "I'm sure they were ready to hang him."

And the Bears' playoff hopes were headed to the gallows too.

Cutler, though, did not capitulate. Instead, he responded by throwing three touchdown passes, including a go-head 4-yarder to Earl Bennett with less than six minutes remaining, and the resilient Bears summoned a season-saving comeback in a 38-31 victory at frosty FirstEnergy Field.

"I started off rusty," Cutler said. "I had some throws that were high. The guys rallied around me, though."

As a result, the Bears (8-6) headed home in sole possession of first place in the NFC North, leading the Lions by a half-game in the standings. The Lions host the Ravens on Monday night. The Bears also remained ahead of the Packers (7-6-1), who overcame a 23-point halftime deficit to beat the Cowboys.

By afternoon's end, Cutler wore a smile along with his suit, tie and scarf. He exuded relief, satisfaction and triumph as he introspectively answered questions about a week in which fans and media questioned whether he or McCown gave the Bears the best chance to win this season and beyond.

He sensed the magnitude of Sunday's game, not only with the Bears' playoff hopes at stake but also with uncertainty about whether the Bears will renew his expiring contract this offseason. With that came intense pressure.

"I'd be lying if I didn't say there was, with everything on the outside and as well as Josh played," Cutler said. "But this was the plan all along, and no one really flinched in our building."

Cutler didn't waver, either, after his two interceptions pushed the Bears' season to the brink.

After Tashaun Gipson returned his second interception 44 yards for a touchdown, he completed 14 of his final 18 passes for 161 yards, three touchdowns, no interceptions and a passer rating of 143.5.

"Jay had a plan going in all week," coach Marc Trestman said. "I really felt that (Saturday) night; his experience, his demeanor as we talked over the call sheet after they came back from dinner. There was a lot of noise about this. We addressed the team about it, but the team stood strong and through the adversity, he embraced it. He didn't stop playing."

Cutler remained confident despite the turnovers and inaccuracy because he believed his mistakes were physical, not mental.

"I saw things fine," he said. "I thought I was moving in the pocket well. It's just a few throws that I probably wasn't coming all the way through, and they were sailing a little bit on me."

Through it all, Cutler saved his best for third down. He completed 11 of 12 third-down passes for 152 yards, two touchdowns, seven conversions and a perfect passer rating of 158.3.

"They had a pretty good array of blitzes and fronts up front for us on third down," Cutler said. "I thought the guys did a good job sorting them out. Whenever we caught man (coverage), I think, today we made them pay."

Meanwhile, the Bears' defense helped the offense overcome the slow start, and overall it played one of its best games of the season. They held the Browns' short-handed rushing attack to 93 yards, the Bears' fourth-best total of the season.

"Our tackling was crisper," Trestman said. "We ran through guys to tackle them. It was a good day, a sunny day for our run defense."

The same applied to Cutler. He parted the clouds that hovered over him and warded off the executioner.

On this day, he was just as much the victor as his team.

"It was fun getting back out there with them," he said, "and we're looking forward to moving on from this week."

rcampbell@tribune.com

Twitter @Rich_Campbell

Copyright © 2015, RedEye
Related Content
  • Lollapalooza style portraits

    Lollapalooza style portraits

    Concertgoers pose at the three-day fest in Grant Park.

  • Lolla day 2: Best and worst, plus superlatives

    Lolla day 2: Best and worst, plus superlatives

    And just like that, there’s only one day left of Lolla. Here’s what stood out to us from day 2. Best: The Tallest Man on Earth: Maybe it was just a right-mood, right-set situation, but boy this was the perfect mid-day act to take a breather, sit in the sun, and just chill and listen to and enjoy....

  • 50 Cent at Parliament and Wyclef Jean at The Underground

    50 Cent at Parliament and Wyclef Jean at The Underground

    Shots in The Dark at Parliament Nightclub with 50 Cent and The Underground Nightclub with Wyclef Jean and Joey Fatone July 31st

  • Lolla day 1: Best and worst, plus superlatives

    Lolla day 1: Best and worst, plus superlatives

    One day down! Here’s the best and worst we saw at Lolla on Friday, plus a few superlatives from day 1. Best: Anyone who knows me knows I was bound to pick Paul McCartney as my favorite act of the day. The Beatle came out and gave it his all with more than two hours of hits, tributes and jokes about...

  • Lolla day 1: Let's just rename it Paul-apalooza

    Lolla day 1: Let's just rename it Paul-apalooza

    What can you really say about Sir Paul McCartney, the former Beatle, pop music pioneer, worldwide cultural icon, and all-around great guy, that hasn't already been said? I mean, seriously. With the Beatles changing music for the better, becoming a pop culture institution and being "more popular...

  • Aldermen looking to stop stores from getting around plastic bag ban

    Aldermen looking to stop stores from getting around plastic bag ban

    Chicago's ban on plastic bags starts to take effect at many big stores Saturday, but an alderman who helped craft the law already is talking about changing it in order to thwart a few large retail chains that he says are trying to skirt the new rules.

Comments
Loading
88°