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Jay Cutler’s doubt meter spikes after rocky performance

Updated: November 1, 2013 10:09AM



DETROIT — Jay, we were beginning to love ye!

More mature, more reasonable, at the peak of your powers, ready to lead the team, you were our guy.

And then this.

Three interceptions — could have been four — in a sloppy 40-32 loss to the Detroit Lions.

Balls thrown low, high, short, long. And perhaps most deflating was a reload and held ball that allowed the Lions’ vicious Ndamukong Suh to sack you, knock the ball from your hand and create a fumble return by another lumbering defensive tackle for a touchdown that, well, just wasn’t needed.

That made the score 37-16 Lions at the end of the third quarter. That was the point when some of us at deafening Ford Field looked down the Bears’ depth chart and thought, ‘‘Hmm, wonder how much rust Josh McCown has accumulated.’’

Coach Marc Trestman didn’t fall for any subbing. He stayed with Cutler, even though the quarterback’s rating was 38.2 after one quarter, 35.0 after two and 30.0 ­after three. Nor does that rating take into account things like fumbles given away for an opponent’s TD.

“I like the direction we’re going,’’ Cutler said postgame when asked if the team was upbeat. That was a nice thing to say, possibly true, since he and Trestman do appear to have a bond of mutual trust. But three interceptions means something is wrong. Plus three sacks. Plus that fumble giveaway.

Yes, Alshon Jeffery dropped a sure touchdown pass late in the fourth quarter, but he caught a TD pass on the next play. But it was all over by then. Had been for a long time.

That’s the main thing. You can’t mess around and fall behind 30-13 at halftime, 40-16 midway through the fourth quarter — as the Bears did — and expect to come back.

This is pro football, not pro wrestling.

Jeffery’s 14-yard catch and a two-point conversion, plus wideout Earl Bennett’s 10-yard TD catch and Brandon Marshall’s two-point conversion made the final score that deceptive 40-32. Sounds almost close. It wasn’t.

“Three picks and a fumble, it’s hard to come back from that,’’ said Cutler, who gave us a ludicrous third-quarter segment in which he threw an interception, got the ball back and fumbled it for that Lions score — in just nine plays.

So the question that strikes potential Cutler believers is: Were the screw-ups mental or physical or something in between? Because not understanding what the ­defense is doing is one thing; being a bad passer is another.

Trestman rushed in to discredit the bad decisions possibility. And the physical indiscretions were just, mmm, human mistakes.

“I don’t think [the three interceptions] were about decisions,’’ Trestman said. “The first throw was right where it was meant to be, and the safety made a very good play. The second throw was an underthrow, he just didn’t get his feet set, had one-on-one coverage outside and underthrew Alshon. The third one, to my recollection, he scrambled to the right, threw down the middle, and again didn’t have his feet set, and the ball went high.’’

The fumble?

“He held the ball a little too long on the blind-side pursuit. He was trying to give Brandon just a little more time.’’

Reasonable.

Except things happen so quickly in NFL games that you never know when a teensy mistake such as a foot planted this way or that is ­going to lead to disaster.

“I thought he threw the ball well today,’’ Trestman continued, “if you take those three [interceptions] out of the game.’’

And Michael Myers’ Halloween victims wouldn’t have bellyaches if they could just get those knives out of their guts.

OK, it was just one game. The Bears are 3-1. Almost predictably, Cutler started a crazy comeback that was interesting, even if doomed. He’s good at the end, it seems.

As left tackle Jermon Bushrod said, “It just got too lopsided.’’

But away Cutler went, anyway. His passer rating in the fourth quarter — when he was 16-for-23 for 148 yards, two TDs and no interceptions — was an excellent 115.9.

Too little, too late? Yep. On a day when the Bears defense let speedy Reggie Bush run free for 173 rushing and receiving yards, Cutler had already dug too deep a hole for all. The paydirt flying at the end was entertaining but irrelevant. Half the screeching crowd had left before the Bears scored their last touchdown with 47 seconds left.

We’ll assume, for now, that Cutler’s mechanics can be fixed.

But we’ll wonder about that man we thought we knew.

Email: rtelander@suntimes.com

Twitter: @ricktelander



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