Jay Cutler is the master of the Ford pass
BY MARK POTASH Staff Reporter September 24, 2013 9:51PM
Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler (6) celebrates a first down in the fourth quarter of their NFL football game in Detroit, Sunday, Dec. 5, 2010. Chicago won 24-20. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
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Updated: September 25, 2013 11:58AM
For some reason, Jay Cutler is at peace at Ford Field.
He has struggled on the road. He has struggled in domes. And he has struggled when his protection breaks down and he’s running for his life.
But none of that seems to matter against the Lions at Ford Field. In four road games against Detroit, Cutler has completed 89 of 131 passes (67.9 percent) for 1,016 yards — 234 yards or more each time — with seven touchdown passes and no interceptions for a 108.8 passer rating.
It’s the one place where nothing bothers him. Even in 2011, when the Lions were flushing him out of the pocket with regularity and his main target was Dane Sanzenbacher, Cutler survived. He was sacked three times, avoided disaster with some nifty scrambling and went down swinging. He was 28-for-38 for 249 yards, one touchdown and a 99.6 passer rating in a 24-13 loss.
That’s his only loss in eight games against the Lions, home and away. In 2010, he was sacked four times but rallied the Bears with a fourth-quarter touchdown pass to Brandon Manumaleuna, then ran out the clock on the next possession to clinch the game. He was 8-for-8 for 87 yards in the fourth quarter of a 24-20 victory.
Now Cutler is going into Ford Field with the wind at his back. The Bears are 3-0, and Cutler is the 10th-ranked passer in the NFL (94.2). He’s 68-for-101 for 693 yards, six touchdowns and three interceptions. His 67.3 completion percentage is up from 58.8 last season.
He’s at his home away from home, facing a team that is struggling to get to the quarterback. The Lions, even with Ndamukong Suh, are tied for 24th in the NFL with six sacks in three games. Defensive end Cliff Avril, who had eight sacks in eight games against the Bears with Cutler at quarterback, is playing for the Seahawks. Cutler is in the right place at the right time.
‘‘He’s our leader,’’ said wide receiver Earl Bennett, who has had both of his 100-yard games against the Lions at Ford Field, including five catches for 109 yards and a 60-yard touchdown in a 26-24 victory last season.
‘‘Everybody looks up to him, and he’s playing hard. That play that he needed a couple more inches [on a 13-yard scramble against the Steelers for a key first down Sunday night], he lowered his shoulder pads and got the first down. He’s one of those guys who’s going to do whatever is needed for his team to win.’’
EX-BEAR OF THE WEEKSPENCER LANNING, P, BROWNS
Spencer Lanning, an undrafted free agent from South Carolina, had no chance of beating out veteran Adam Podlesh in 2011. But it was pretty clear in his brief stint with the Beras that he was more than just a ‘‘camp leg.’’
Lanning also was cut by the Jaguars and Jets and played for the Sacramento Mountain Lions of the United Football League in 2012 before earning a job with the Browns this season. On Sunday he not only averaged 46.4 net yards per punt against the Minnesota Vikings, but threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jordan Coleman on a fake field goal in the second quarter of the Browns 31-27 victory at the Metrodome.
The Browns used the ol’ snooker play to hoodwink the Vikings. Coleman ran toward the sideline after a third-down play, but stayed on the field. Lanning, the holder on the field-goal attempt, threw a wobbly pass to a wide-open Coleman who hit the pylon as he was knocked out of bounds to score a touchdown that gave the Browns a 24-14 lead, eliciting boos from the disappointed Vikings home crowd.
‘‘I wasn’t very excited about the way [the pass] came out — it had a little duck-tail to it,’’ Lanning told reporters. ‘‘Some guys I know around the league texted me, saying I threw it like a girl — no offense to all the women out there. It did seem like the ball hung up. But I ... didn’t want to be the guy throwing it in the stands.’’
Another former Bears training-camp punter, Ryan Quigley, was signed by the Jets last week and averaged 41.4 net yards on seven punts against the Bills.
GOOD START FOR BEARS
During the Lovie Smith era, the Bears were 23-2 when they led after one quarter with Jay Cutler at quarterback — how could we forget? But that oft-repeated statistic carries a little more weight now that the Bears have an offense that appears capable of actually scoring in the first quarter.
The Bears have scored a first-quarter touchdown in each of the first three games of the Marc Trestman era. In fact, through three games the Bears have five touchdowns and 38 points in the first quarter. In 2012, the Bears offense produced six touchdowns and a net 62 points in the first quater [ital] for the entire season [end ital] — with 13 sacks, 10 turnovers, 10 pre-snap penalties, a safety and a pick-6. Trestman’s concerted effort to stay clean early (no sacks, turnovers or pre-snap penalties) seems to be making a difference.
The Bears are now 25-2 (.926) when they lead after one quarter since acquiring Cutler in 2009. That’s the best mark in the NFL in that span — followed by he Ravens (26-4, .867), Ttians (19-3, .864), Giants (22-4, .846), Patriots (31-6, .838) and Packers (28-6, .824). The overall NFL mark is 589-248-1, a .703 winning percentage when leading after the first quarter.
◆ Thanks to a plus-5 turnover margin, the Bears beat the Steelers despite being outgained 459-258 on Sunday night. Heading into last week, NFL teams were 5-112 (.043) since 2000 when they allowed more than 450 yards and gained fewer than 260. The Bears were 0-4 in that span.
◆ The Bears have no false starts in three games this season. The last time they went three consecutive games without a false start was in 2001. They had 25 false starts last season, fifth most in the NFL.
◆ Troy Polamalu’s blocked point-after in the fourth quarter ended a streak of 279 successful PATs for Robbie Gould. He had not missed a point-after touchdown since his rookie year of 2005, also against the Steelers at Heinz Field. He hooked that one wide left.
◆ Matt Forte’s five-yard touchdown run against the Steelers, aided by a block from pulling guard Matt Slauson, was his first score from the 5-yard line in 10 tries in his five-plus seasons with the Bears. Prior to Sunday night, Forte averaged 1.8 yards on nine carries from the 5.
◆ D.J. Williams (two) and Lance Briggs (one) combined for as many sacks against the Steelers as the Bears had from linebackers in their previous 34 regular-season games. The last time Williams had two sacks in one game was against the Bears in 2011, when he sacked Caleb Hanie twice in the Broncos’ 13-10 overtime victory at Mile High Stadium.
◆ In the last 17 games, the Bears’ defense has scored 12 touchdowns. The Chiefs’ offense has scored 17.
◆ Julius Peppers Watch: According to ProFootballFocus.com, Peppers had a plus-2.7 grade with five quarterback hurries against the Steelers. That’s his first positive grade of the season and the highest among Bears defenders.
◆ It’s early, but ... the Bears are outscoring their opponents 65-23 in the first and fourth quarters. The Packers have been outscored 60-24 in the first and fourth quarters.
CUTTING THROUGH THE LIONS
Comp-Att Yds TD-INT Rating Result
Soldier Field 18-28 141 2-0 100.4 W, 48-24
Ford Field 22-36 276 4-0 122.0 W, 37-23
Soldier Field 23-35 372 2-1 108.3 W, 19-14
Ford Field 21-26 234 1-0 117.0 W, 24-20
Ford Field 28-38 249 1-0 99.6 L, 24-13
Soldier Field 9-19 123 0-0 68.5 W, 37-13
Soldier Field 16-31 150 1-0 76.0 W, 13-7
Ford Field 18-31 257 1-0 95.8 W, 26-24
Soldier Field 69-117 806 5-1 90.6 4-0
Ford Field 89-131 1,016 7-0 108.8 3-1
All 8 games 158-248 1,822 12-1 100.2 7-1
BEARS’ FIRST-QUARTER PRODUCTION
Games TD FG Points Sacks INT Fumbles QB rate
2013 3 5 1 38 0 0 0 117.0
2012 16 8 5 71 13 6 4 54.8