By Shane Nicholson
Jay Cutler very good. Jay Cutler very bad. Jay Cutler injured trying to make a play following an interception.
You couldn’t help but feel some tinges of Groundhog Day as the Bears were undone by Bruce Arians’ Arizona Cardinals 48-23 Sunday at Solider Field, the most points allowed in a home game in franchise history.
And you couldn’t help the notice the manner in which the Cardinals went about their business in light of Arians’ comments last week. The Arizona supremo said he was stunned when the Bears passed on him as head coach back in 2013 in favor of Marc Trestman. New regime in place or not, he had a point to prove to the Chicago brass, and boy did he ever.
Cards’ wideout Larry Fitzgerald hauled in three touchdowns for the first time in his career and absolutely tormented second-year cornerback Kyle Fuller on the way to doing it. Last year’s number-1 pick was benched in the 4th quarter in favor of Terrance Mitchell, a seventh-round pick of the Cowboys in 2014. He similarly felt the wrath of Fitzgerald, with the wide receiver laying a vicious stiff arm to his face on the way to his third score.
The Bears did nearly as much to harm their chances as the Cards’ offense on the afternoon, racking up 14 penalties for 170 yards, tying the franchise mark for a single game.
A 108 yard opening kickoff return from David Johnson certainly did little to ease fears over the Bears’ special teams game, a lingering after-effect of years of bad drafting. “I hold myself responsible,” said running back and special teams player Jeremy Langford of Johnson’s return. “That play was right in front of me. I have to do a better job. I have to beat that single block and force him to run sideways more.”
If it was in fact down to just a single player then Langford’s hands-up explanation could be more palatable, but after two returns of of over 40 yards last week it’s clear that a lack of depth is hurting the Bears in the kick coverage game.
Maybe the toughest pill to swallow for Bears fans will be that Cutler actually came out hot prior to the interception. Whether his hamstring injury that will keep him out for 2 weeks came before or after the throw is still unknown as head coach John Fox has remained as tight-lipped.
What is known is that he was 8-for-8 to that point with 120 yards and a touchdown, and looked the better of the two passers on field. The Bears, despite the setback on the opening kick, looked like they just may build on some of the positives seen in Week 1 against Green Bay and give Arizona a game.
But it all came unraveled when Cutler was led back to the dressing room to be replaced by alsoran backup Jimmy Clausen. The former Notre Dame quarterback completed 61 percent of his passes, but saw one intercepted and two more batted down at the line. Whatever hope the Bears offense had went out the window when Cutler walked down the tunnel.
Barring a 27 yard gain, running back Matt Forte found little room to operate as the Cardinals defensive front overpowered the Bears O-line for much of the afternoon. He finished with just 61 yards on 15 carries, while grabbing another four receptions for 44 yards.
For the Bears to have any chance of a bounce back this week against an 0-2 Seattle Seahawks side the mistakes will have to be cut out, and Clausen – or newly activated David Fales – will have to become a mix between Tom Brady, Joe Montana and prime-Colts-era Peyton Manning. None of that looks likely as the bookies have made the reigning NFC champions 14 point favorites on the opening line for Sunday’s 3:25 p.m. kickoff (on FOX), the first time the Bears have been two-touchdown underdogs since Dave Wannstedt was coach.
And Seattle will be looking to claw back out of the early-season hole they’ve dug after a pair of tough road losses to St. Louis and Green Bay. All signs point to another trip out behind the woodshed for the Bears–fans can only hope they’re able to stay out of the record books for all the wrong reasons this week.