The Bears celebrate their win Sunday. (AP)
Updated: December 6, 2010 9:09AM
DETROIT -- Theoretically, at least, when a quarterback crosses the line of scrimmage with the ball, he becomes a running back.
Maybe a big, slow, running back with a funny number.
But a running back, nevertheless.
So when Bears quarterback Jay Cutler set sail with nine minutes to go in the fourth quarter at Ford Field, he was every bit as hittable as, say, Matt Forte or Chester Taylor or Devin Hester on an end-around.
But he was still -- if you know what I mean -- a quarterback.
That vague, perhaps subliminal distinction was critical in the Bears' 24-20 win, because Lions defensive end Ndamukong ''The Boy Named'' Suh blasted Cutler with a forearm from behind on the play and got hit with a half-the-distance-to-the-goal unnecessary roughness call.
On the next play Cutler threw a game-winning seven-yard touchdown pass to barrel-shaped tight end Brandon Manumaleuna, and that, except for some incidental back and forth, was that.'Unnecessary football act'
''I felt it was an unnecessary football act,'' explained referee Ed Hochuli after the game. ''A blow to the back of the runner's helmet in the process of him going down.''
That's what I thought, too.
A lot of fans and journalists did not.
Nor did Suh.
''I was just going out there to make a play, get the ball out,'' he said.
Get the ball bearings out is more like it.
If you saw the play live, you would have noticed that Suh, in the flow of pursuit, was cocking and unloading a forearm-elbow shiver that he intended with every ounce of his being to place on Cutler's polymer-covered brain pan.
Cutler had broken a tackle or two, but he was on his way down, and it was obvious Suh was looking for a gratuitous KO of one those NFL sissies who wears a skirt and rouge during down time.
''I was right there,'' said Bears tailback Matt Forte. ''It was [bull], really. He put his forearm in the back of [Cutler's] head. He should have gotten penalized for it.''
The Suh swat only partly landed. If it had hit as intended, we'd be talking to Cutler via sign language.
Lions coach Jim Schwartz was both upset and realistic about the game-changer.
''When you're in a close game like we were today,'' he said, ''there are a lot of plays that you can look at and say, 'That was the play of the game.'''
But it wasn't Suh's doing. Uh-uh.
''No, I think the league is looking after quarterbacks,'' said the 2-10 coach.
Well, duh. Hit a quarterback, get rooked
If the NFL were chess, a star quarterback would be worth five cornerbacks, three nose tackles or Julius Peppers in a pear tree.
Even though Hochuli acknowledged quarterbacks generally get more protection, he said Suh's blow was illegal and just happened to be aimed at a ''runner that happened to be a quarterback.''
And Cutler's No. 6 just happens to be as noticeable upfield as, say, XXX. Quarterback coming!
Trust me, Suh knew.
Up on the end zone Jumbo-Trons the short verse, ''My Name Is Suh -- How Do You Do- '' flashed periodically.
But no opponent wants to be introduced to this 307-pound rookie man-eater.
Cutler was seemingly ambivalent about the shot to the neck or helmet or wherever that whiplashed his head like a crash test dummy's.
Did the forearm smack his helmet-
''I don't know,'' Cutler said.
He said the scramble came out of ''courage or stupidity, I don't know which one yet.''
Cutler's numbers were terrific -- 21 completions in 26 attempts for 234 yards, one TD, no interceptions and a stellar 117.0 rating.
But that scramble.
And that penalty.
Those changed everything.
Some of the Bears defenders almost smirked at the call, even though it went the team's way.
''I guarantee you if it was a running back they wouldn't have called it,'' scoffed middle linebacker Brian Urlacher, who had 17 tackles and half a sack on the day.
The Hall of Famer-to-be did not say anything about skirts. Though such attire likely was on his mind.
Urlacher added that the call wasn't such a big deal.
''The offense would have scored, anyway,'' he declared.
See, these Bears are 9-3, winners of five straight, and they're feisty believers.
Bears defensive lineman Peppers said he didn't see Suh's foul in the scrum away from the Bears' bench. But he did note that Suh shouldn't have been so dumb.
''I just try to play it safe with quarterbacks,'' said Peppers, ''because [the refs] treat them differently.''
Even when they're running backs.
''It doesn't take much to get those guys down,'' concluded Peppers with a tiny hint of Urlacher-style contempt. ''Just run up and push 'em over.''