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‘Trestman Effect’ evident in Jay Cutler’s stats

Updated: October 25, 2013 6:26AM

The Trestman-ization of Jay Cutler is far from complete. Nine plays after Henry Melton suffered a season-ending knee injury against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday night, Cutler lowered his precious throwing shoulder on a 13-yard scramble in the fourth quarter and gave Steelers safety Robert Golden a shot Golden probably didn’t expect from a quarterback — and one he probably won’t forget for a while.

It gave the Bears a critical first down, but it was ill-advised at least. We all know where the Bears are headed if Cutler goes the way of Melton. And considering he’s missed games twice because of concussions with the Bears, and missed six disastrous games in 2011 because of a broken thumb he suffered trying to make a tackle on an interception, Cutler’s first concern should be his health. Better to come up a yard short and put some faith in a defense that has scored as many touchdowns as the Jacksonville Jaguars this season.

‘‘We want him to slide whenever he can,’’ coach Marc Trestman said Monday. ‘‘We want him to give himself up.’’

Old habits die hard for the headstrong Cutler, but give Trestman time. In just three regular-season games, the ‘‘Trestman Effect’’ on Cutler’s performance, if not his persona, is obvious. By the numbers, Cutler’s 90.8 passer rating against the Steelers doesn’t even rank among the upper 25 percent of Cutler’s games with the Bears — 28th out of 98, if you’re scoring at home.

But it was another defining moment in what looks like a defining season for the 30-year-old Cutler. Playing in conditions that have overwhelmed him in the past — facing an upper-half 3-4 defense on the road at night in a nationally televised game, Cutler was far from his best but good when he had to be.

If you believe in the Trestman Effect, it wasn’t a coincidence. On the critical opening possession of the first road game of the season, the Bears needed a disciplined, steady drive and Cutler came through. His production in the 13-play, 51-yard drive was modest — Cutler was 8 of 10 for 45 yards. But the drive produced four first downs and a field goal for a 3-0 lead, and it used up 6:58 to get the Bears settled in and prevent the Heinz Field crowd from taking over the game.

And when things got tight in the fourth quarter — after the Steelers had whittled a 24-3 deficit to 27-23 — Cutler made his best throws of the night. He threw a 41-yard pass to Brandon Marshall on third-and-12, followed by a 17-yard touchdown pass to Earl Bennett to put a hammerlock on the game with 5:48 to play.

It marked the third consecutive game Cutler has come through in the fourth quarter. In fact, in his last five drop-backs of each of the Bears’ first three games, Cutler has a perfect 158.3 passer rating. He’s 12-for-14 for 208 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions, plus the 13-yard scramble. Not even Aaron Rodgers is that good at the end of most games.

Cutler is not Rodgers, but for the first time since he became a Bear, he’s getting closer. Last year, he led the NFL in passer rating when he was up by 14 or more points (123.6) — a fairly dubious distinction considering he was 33rd among NFL quarterbacks when the game was within two touchdowns (71.4).

But against the Steelers, it was just the opposite. Cutler struggled with a big lead (71.0 — 7 of 11, 42 yards) but was at his best when the game was tight (102.3 — 13 of 19, 117 yards and a touchdown).

All things considered, that’s progress you can believe in.

Trestman is definitely making inroads with a tough nut to crack. His toughest task, as it turns out, could be keeping Cutler healthy.


Twitter: @Mark Potash

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