Jay Cutler at the head of a humiliating effort
BY RICK TELANDER Sports Columnist December 22, 2013 11:09PM
Jay Cutler wasn’t inaccurate as much as he was incapable of sustaining anything for the Bears’ offense Sunday. | Michael Perez/AP
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Updated: January 24, 2014 6:34AM
PHILADELPHIA — This was bad. This was ugly.
This was put-your-face-in-a-hole-and-cover-yourself-with-a-tarp bad.
This wasn’t all Jay Cutler’s fault.
Losing 54-11 to the Philadelphia Eagles was a team thing, like being packed with all your buddies on a toboggan that hits a culvert and explodes at the bottom of the hill.
But let’s say Cutler was the front guy on that detonating sled, with the ropes in his hands. Let’s say he did nothing much to make us believe he is the man who can lead the Bears to the Super Bowl and beyond.
Why, he and his mates were so terrible, they might not even make it to next Sunday, when they’re scheduled to play the Green Bay Packers at Soldier Field for the NFC North title. The NFL might call off the mismatch out of sympathy. Dr. Kevorkian might rise from his grave and put the Bears into permanent hibernation.
On Sunday night at warm-beyond-understanding Lincoln Financial Field, Cutler was there at the head of an offense that made impotent look like oakwood firm. (We’ll let somebody else at Team Sun-Times scorch the Bears’ invisible defense.)
It wasn’t that Cutler was wildly inaccurate. In fact, he completed some decent passes. For example, he threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Brandon Marshall in the third quarter and then completed a two-point-conversion pass to Earl Bennett. Whoop-ee. That made the score 33-11.
Cutler could sustain nothing. When the game was not yet a certifiable blowout — i.e., the first quarter — he completed 2 of 3 passes for 22 yards and the offense gained just 26 net yards. Cutler had been sacked for minus-8 yards.
By the end of the first quarter, the score was 21-0 Eagles. At the half, the Eagles led 24-3, and Cutler had completed just 10 of his 20 passes, had been sacked three times for 26 yards in losses and had a 70.2 passer rating.
‘‘That wasn’t good,’’ coach Marc Trestman said of the hits and sacks Cutler took on the night.
Eagles quarterback Nick Foles, a backup who replaced injured starter Michael Vick earlier this year, was smokin’ with 21 of 25 completions, two passing TDs and a 131.7 rating.
This looked like a mismatch from top to bottom.
Philly’s no-huddle offense not only blew the Bears defenders’ minds, it also clearly rattled the Bears’ offense, since every time Cutler and mates looked around, their mistakes had turned into Eagles scoring drives.
‘‘As a team offensively, we didn’t play as well as we wanted to,’’ Cutler said afterward. ‘‘The majority of that falls on my shoulders, and rightfully so.’’
So quickly we went from feeling good last week about Cutler’s return from a high ankle sprain to questioning everything about the Bears team. Backup quarterback Josh McCown came in to relieve Cutler with eight minutes to go, possibly to keep Cutler from digging a hole so deep that his brain wouldn’t be able to climb out of it.
On the previous series, Cutler had tossed a terrible, flat pass that Eagles cornerback Brandon Boykin intercepted and ran back 54 yards for a TD.
There are interceptions. And there are those like the one Boykin snared. One is a mistake. The other is a brain-lock of dangerous proportions. It’s funny, but in calculating a quarterback’s rating, all interceptions are considered equal. A Hail Mary picked off 50 yards downfield doesn’t subtract any more points than one run back 54 yards for a score.
Humiliating, dispiriting and sad don’t compute.
Maybe Cutler’s final rating of 73.8 should have been a 50.
Oh, well. His final numbers (20-for-35, 222 yards, a TD, a doozy interception, five sacks for minus-46 yards) are blah to bad.
Five-for-14 on third down conversions is not good, either. Whose fault is that?
The offensive line was wretched, as was running back Matt Forte and, of course, the entire defense. Nor was Trestman, last week’s quarterback Gandalf, in top form.
It’s civilized of the NFL to count this as only one loss for the Bears. It felt more like six losses and a woodshed.
Plus, it’s hard to say if it’s good news or bad that Cutler himself has lost no confidence.
‘‘None. None,’’ he said when asked about such a thing’s disappearance. ‘‘We had a great week of practice. We had a good plan. That just had our number. It’s going to happen across the NFL.’’
Once is enough.