Jay Cutler needs to be all-in if Bears want to lay down the Cards
BY ADAM L. JAHNS email@example.com December 19, 2012 10:12PM
Bears quarterback Jay Cutler might be under duress against the Arizona Cardinals, too. | Nam Y. Huh~AP
Updated: January 21, 2013 4:07PM
The Cardinals are 5-9 and have no playoff hopes, but that doesn’t mean the Bears will stroll into the desert and come away with their ninth victory this Sunday.
Not with the Bears unable to establish a running game.
Not with the way Jay Cutler has been playing.
And not if you go by what the Cardinals’ defense has done for most of the season.
Cutler’s struggles shouldn’t be overshadowed by talk of jeering fans and Brandon Marshall’s demands for more accountability. They might be the biggest issue. Cutler must perform well if the Bears are to prevail in what coach Lovie Smith rightfully deemed a must-win game.
Cutler has a combined 64.75 passer rating in the Bears’ last two losses. He has been sacked 36 times and has thrown 14 interceptions this season. What does the Cards’ underrated defense excel at?
Sacking the quarterback and getting picks.
“If we give Jay good time and he’s able to set his feet, he is extremely accurate,” said offensive coordinator Mike Tice, who took blame for the offense’s struggles Wednesday. “And I think we’ll be OK.”
There’s no guaranteeing that will happen with the Bears’ makeshift offensive line. The Cardinals also have held opposing QBs to a combined 68.0 passer rating, and that includes more efficient quarterbacks than Cutler. Take a look:
◆ The Packers’ Aaron Rodgers: They ended his streak of 130 passes without an interception and held him to a 46.7 completion percentage (the third-worst of his career).
◆ The Lions’ Matthew Stafford: Just last week, they intercepted him three times, returning two for touchdowns, and held him to a 37.6 passer rating (third-worst of his career).
◆ The Falcons’ Matt Ryan: They intercepted him a career-high five times.
“They show a lot of different looks,” Cutler said. “They’re not afraid to blitz you. They’ve got some talented guys in the secondary, linebackers and even up front. It’s challenging. They create turnovers. They’re really good on third down. They’re good in the red zone. We’ve got our hands full.”
The Cardinals run a 3-4 defense like the Packers, who have consistently flustered Cutler, but are statistically better.
The Cards rank 11th in total defense, lead the NFL with 22 interceptions and have 36 sacks (tied with the Bears).
Arizona has forced 16 takeaways (13 interceptions) in their last five games. The Cardinals also have a cornerback who can contend with Marshall in Patrick Peterson (seven interceptions).
So, like Cutler said, the Bears have their hands full.
“I told the guys that we can’t feel sorry for ourselves offensively,” Cutler said. “We’ve just got to do what we’ve got to do to win this game.”