Cutler draws fire after turnovers contribute to 31-24 loss at Carolina

By Brandon Reid
Senior Assistant Editor

Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler is again under fire after turning the ball over three times — twice in the fourth quarter — in a 31-24 loss at Carolina Sunday, Oct. 5.

In his Oct. 6 column “Jay Cutler just can’t cut it,” Chicago Sun-Times Sports Columnist Rick Morrissey wrote: “Go ahead and analyze Sunday’s debacle all you want, but this was about the ability to thrive in the clutch. When the Bears needed Cutler to deliver in the fourth quarter, he delivered to the Panthers.”

Cutler’s first interception of the game came on the Bears’ second drive of the first quarter with the Bears already trailing 7-0. The second interception was much more costly, coming with 6:08 left in the fourth quarter and the Bears leading 24-21. That interception set up a 44-yard game-tying Graham Gano field goal with 4:33 left.

On the Bears’ first play following the Gano field goal, running back Matt Forte was stripped of the ball by Panthers cornerback Antoine Cason, and the ball was recovered by Panthers defensive tackle Kawann Short at the Chicago 23. That turnover led to the go-ahead 6-yard touchdown pass from Panthers quarterback Cam Newton to Panthers tight end Greg Olsen. The touchdown and extra point put the Panthers ahead 31-24.

On the next possession, with 1:14 left in the game, Cutler was sacked by Short and lost the ball, which was recovered by Panthers defensive end Charles Johnson. A couple of kneel-downs later, the Panthers advanced to 3-2, holding on to the 31-24 win.

The loss — the second consecutive for Chicago — dropped the Bears to 2-3, tied with Minnesota for last in the NFC North.

While often easy to point the finger at quarterbacks following a loss such as the one the Bears endured Sunday, Oct. 5, the Bears’ woes this season are mostly a group effort. The Bears rank 25th in the NFL this season in total points allowed with 131. Only Philadelphia (132), Washington (136), Tennessee (139), New Orleans (141), Atlanta (143), Tampa Bay (156) and Jacksonville (169) are worse. Of those seven teams, only one — Philadelphia, at 4-1 — has a winning record.

The Bears have created the second-most turnovers in the NFL (11) this season, behind only Houston (12). However, they also rank among the worst in giveaways this season, tied with Jacksonville with 10. Only Atlanta (11) and Philadelphia (12) have more giveaways. With six interceptions and two fumbles lost, Cutler accounts for eight of Chicago’s 10 giveaways. The other two were the Forte fumble against Carolina Oct. 5 and a fumble earlier this season by wide receiver Alshon Jeffery.

Cutler — who is 41-31 as a starter in six seasons in Chicago — has thrown for 1,295 yards (eighth in NFL), 12 touchdowns (tied for second in NFL), has a 68.1 completion percentage (sixth best in NFL), has a passer rating of 94.9 (13th best in NFL) and a Total Quarterback Rating (QBR) of 67.2 (11th best in NFL) this season.

QBR measures the degree to which a quarterback contributes to scoring points for a team, and also to a win by a team. In that regard, Cutler ranks ahead of the following in 2014: Joe Flacco, Drew Brees, Nick Foles, Russell Wilson, Ben Roethlisberger, Andy Dalton, Colin Kaepernick, Tom Brady, Newton, Alex Smith, Ryan Fitzpatrick and E.J. Manuel.

At times such as this, it seems appropriate to reminisce about the other quarterbacks the Bears have had under center in recent decades, including Josh McCown, Jason Campbell, Caleb Hanie, Todd Collins, Rex Grossman, Brian Griese, Kyle Orton, Jeff Blake, Chad Hutchinson, Craig Krenzel, Jonathan Quinn, Kordell Stewart, Chris Chandler, Jim Miller, Henry Burris, Cory Sauter, Shane Matthews, Cade McNown, Erik Kramer, Steve Stenstrom, Moses Moreno, Rick Mirer, Dave Krieg, Steve Walsh, Jim Harbaugh, Peter Tom Willis and Will Furrer.

Put simply, anyone who has observed the Bears over the past couple of decades would be insane to complain about having Cutler under center.

Cutler is talented, and he does give his team a chance to win. In the remaining 11 games, fans can only hope he is smarter with the ball.

In addition to a smarter Cutler, the Bears will also need a more stingy defense. The unit that gave up 31 points to Carolina last week and 38 to Green Bay the previous week will not get the job done. The goal should be to keep opponents to 20 or fewer points — as the Bears did in their two wins this season.

Next up for the Bears is a 3:25 p.m. (Central) match-up at Atlanta Sunday, Oct. 12. The Falcons have lost two straight and are 2-3 this season. They are undefeated at home, while the Bears are 2-1 on the road.

The game also marks the first time the Bears will face former kick returner and receiver Devin Hester. The former Bear signed with Atlanta in March. During Week 3, Hester broke the record for the most non-offensive touchdowns in a career when he returned a punt 62 yards. The return was his 20th career touchdown return, breaking a tie with Hall of Famer Deion Sanders, who had 19 career touchdown returns.

Posted Oct. 7, 2014

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