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MORRISSEY: Jay Cutler proves he’s tough & tumble QB

Bears quarterback Jay Cutler is injured while getting tackled late first half by Detroit tackle Ndamukong Suh. The Chicago Bears

Bears quarterback Jay Cutler is injured while getting tackled late in the first half by Detroit tackle Ndamukong Suh. The Chicago Bears took a 10-0 lead over the Detroit Lions into the locker room at halftime. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Updated: December 22, 2012 1:55AM



Ever heard true silence? A hard silence full of foreboding and dread and a few heartless souls thinking, “This could really screw up my fantasy football team’’?

That was Soldier Field at about 8:45 p.m. Monday. The Lions’ Ndamukong Suh, a movable beast, had gotten hold of Jay Cutler’s left arm in a very unnatural way, the way a Greco-Roman wrestler might. Then he pile-drove Cutler into the ground, the way a pro wrestler might. The problem for the Bears was that this was football and here was Cutler rolling on the ground, his ribs throbbing.

It was about the time Suh grabbed Cutler’s arm that the quarterback knew he was in trouble.

“At that point,’’ he said, “I knew it wasn’t going to end well.’’

A stadium went dead silent. No matter what you think of Cutler, whether you think he’s a talented quarterback or an immature human being or both, you wouldn’t wish 307 pounds of Suh on anyone, unless you were a Lions fan.

And you know that if Cutler looks hurt, it’s because he is. That’s why this was so scary for the Bears. Say what you want about the guy, but he’s tough. Forget about the idiots who had criticized him for not playing on a sprained medial collateral ligament in the second half of the NFC Championship Game in the 2010 season. They were clueless.

In came Jason Campbell to replace Cutler in the second quarter.

When Cutler got to the sideline, Bears personnel took away his helmet to prevent him from going back in the game. This upset him. They asked him to throw a pass to prove he was OK. He complied with a fastball not made for human reception.

Then he put his helmet back on and replaced Campbell. Soldier Field breathed a little easier. But it was short-lived. He threw an incomplete pass to Devin Hester on third down and went back to the sideline with the rest of the unit. When the Bears’ offense came back on the field with 1:22 left in the first half, Campbell was back in the game. Cutler had gone to the locker room to get his bruised ribs checked. He had X-rays and later wouldn’t say whether he took a pain shot, only that “we did some stuff back here with the doctors.’’

The thought bubble over Soldier Field after the first half read, “Uh-oh.’’ Another good season in trouble of going down the tubes?

When the Bears came out for the second half, Campbell was warming up on the sideline. Then out of the tunnel came Cutler, to the cheers of fans who had feared the worst, though I think we all know what the worst looks like: Caleb Hanie and Josh McCown replacing an injured Cutler last year.

Was Cutler himself when he started the second half? No, he wasn’t. He moved gingerly. He wasn’t the gunslinger he usually is. After Zack Bowman recovered a Lions muffed punt, the Bears had the ball at the Detroit 27 but had to settle for Robbie Gould’s 21-yard field goal and a 13-0 lead.

But Cutler played, and if he wasn’t risking further injury, there was value in it. He played like a guy who was trying to hide an injury, but he played. It made him someone you can count on, no small thing in the NFL, especially at quarterback.

“Jay, man, definitely gave us an emotional lift with his toughness,’’ wide receiver Brandon Marshall said after the Bears’ 13-7 victory.

“A gutsy effort,’’ coach Lovie Smith called it.

The Bears needed Cutler in a very real way. Even though the Lions weren’t offering much resistance, the Bears couldn’t seem to take advantage. When Cutler got hurt, the Bears led 10-0. There was a strange, bogged-down feel to the game. It should have been so much more. The Bears had scored a touchdown on a pretty Cutler-to-Marshall pass in the first quarter, but after that, there wasn’t much more.

The Bears did their usual thing, recovering three fumbles. In that category, they’ve gone from the ridiculous to the near-impossible. They needed every bit of that, too. As the second half wore on, Cutler began to look closer to his old self, but somebody needed to tell him to stay out of harm’s way.

He wouldn’t. He won’t.

The Bears took a big step, raised their record to 5-1 and were reminded again of how tough their quarterback is. All in all, a very good night, even if Cutler’s ribs might not agree Tuesday morning.



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