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Martz ‘very pleased’ with Cutler’s progress

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM



INDIANAPOLIS — Mike Martz didn’t realize there was a controversy brewing over Jay Cutler’s knee injury until the day after the NFC Championship Game loss when he was briefed by coach Lovie Smith.

The offensive coordinator was surprised by the criticism, saying Cutler’s injury was no different than those of Charles Woodson or Donald Driver during the Green Bay Packers’ victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Super Bowl.

“He has got to keep getting better at what he’s doing, and we have to continue to get better around him,” Martz said when asked what Cutler must do to take the next step in his maturation process. “We need to protect him better, the receivers need to get better. All those things are tied together. That’s when he gets better, and he will. He was getting better throughout the season. I was very pleased with his progress. He’s not where he needs to be, but he’s making good progress.”

Many questioned Martz’s decision to send veteran backup Todd Collins onto the field in the third quarter of the title game. Collins threw four interceptions in his only start of the season against the Carolina Panthers and was eventually replaced by Caleb Hanie.

Hanie replaced Collins — after Collins failed to complete a pass in four attempts — and led the offense to two fourth-quarter touchdown drives.

“We had seen Todd since the Carolina game in a number of practice situations and felt like at that point that he had a much better grasp of what was going on,” Martz said. “But I’ll qualify that by saying I wasn’t sure, either. That’s why we went into that game having him throw on every snap. To win that game, he’s got to make some throws. We had to find out if he could do that.”

Martz believes Hanie can develop into the primary backup next season if he can avoid making throws like the ones that resulted in two interceptions against the Packers.

“Caleb still threw two picks,” Martz said. “It’s not like he had a great game or anything. But at least he moved the team and they responded to him. I thought he competed very well. You have to remember, he didn’t take a snap all year since July. This was all from the classroom. That part of it was pretty remarkable.

“He’s still got a ways to go. Let’s temper it. He’s still got a chance, but there’s still some questions about Caleb we need to find out.”

It’s important for the offense to play better against the Packers. The Bears averaged 208 passing yards and quarterbacks threw five interceptions in three games against Green Bay. The offense scored only three touchdowns in those games.

“There [have] a good defense,” Martz said. “Give them credit. But we had opportunities and we didn’t make the plays. If you want to be a championship team you’ve got to make those plays. Against the Jets, against Seattle, we made those plays. All it takes is one or two and you catch fire. It’s a very young team on offense and they were in a stressful situation. They’re learning how to win.”



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