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Cutler has another strong outing in Bears’ comeback win

Updated: August 15, 2014 12:25AM



The Bears have their share of issues after an uneven-at-best performance in a 20-19 victory Thursday night against the Jacksonville Jaguars in their second preseason game at Soldier Field. But they looked good in one area where they can’t afford to fail — quarterback Jay Cutler was sharp again.

First-round draft pick Kyle Fuller suffered an ankle injury on the opening kickoff and did not return — he’s still being evaluated. Eric Weems lost a fumble on a kickoff return. Matt Forte lost two yards on four carries. And the Bears’ first-team defense allowed 134 yards and couldn’t solve Chad Henne (112.4 passer rating).

There were bright spots — Jon Bostic, Shea McClellin, Jared Allen and rookie Will Sutton each had a tackle for loss. Rookie Pat O’Donnell had a 57-yard punt and put two of three inside the 20. Jordan Palmer led the reserves to two touchdowns, including a seven-play, 86-yard drive in the final 2:52 to win it on Senorise Perry’s five-yard touchdown run.

But Cutler’s performance stood out, as he overcame a slow start to lead the Bears to their first touchdown. He finished 7-for-9 for 75 yards, one touchdown — a four-yarder to Brandon Marshall — and zero interceptions for a 138.4 passer rating.

“Jay has been incredible,” guard Matt Slauson said. “The way he has taken ownership in this offense and the way he leads us as a team has been great. And his play on the field has been really great.”

After a three-and-out on the Bears’ first series, Cutler used every key weapon in his arsenal — Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, Martellus Bennett and Forte — in leading a 10-play, 85-yard touchdown drive. Good protection played a key role in a 25-yard pass to Bennett on third down and the touchdown pass to Marshall.

“The offensive line is playing at a really high level,” Cutler said. “We want to get the running game [going] a little bit better than we did early on. We went three-and-out, and then we kind of had to wait around for a long time. That was tough. But we bounced back, converted some third downs. The offensive line gave me a lot of time. It wasn’t our cleanest drive, but we got the job done.”

In two preseason games, Cutler is 16-for-22 for 160 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions and a 123.3 rating.

“It all starts with the offensive line,” coach Marc Trestman said. “He had a long time [on the throw to Bennett]. He was very comfortable. The line did a great job. On the touchdown pass, the same thing — the buzzer had gone off.”

The battle for the No. 2 spot behind Cutler remained muddled as Jimmy Clausen struggled amid tough circumstances and Palmer led the Bears to the winning drive with third-teamers on both sides of the field.

Clausen was not as productive as last week, but he was mired in difficulty — head-set issues and unenviable down-and-distance situations because of three penalties and a sack (first-and-25, second-and-35, third-and-35, second-and-20 and third-and 17 among them). He was 11-for-15 for 94 yards and an interception on a tipped ball two plays after he was sacked.

Palmer was 6-for-9 for 73 yards and no touchdowns or interceptions for a 91.4 rating. He had a 23-yard pass play to tight end Matthew Mulligan on the 10-play, 57-yard scoring drive, capped by Ka’Deem Carey’s one-yard run that made it 19-14. Perry did much of the work on the winning drive with a 22-yard pass play and the touchdown run.

Email: mpotash@suntimes.com

Twitter: @MarkPotash



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