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QB Jay Cutler could help Bears’ O-line by getting rid of ball sooner

Updated: November 30, 2011 12:18AM



The Bears could’ve created a haunting anti-bullying ad campaign last year using Jay Cutler’s battered image from the Giants game after he was sacked nine times in the first half, suffered a concussion and was relieved of his milk money.

They could’ve come up with a slogan for it, something heart-wrenching along the lines of “He’d Like to Live Long Enough to See His Grandchildren Someday. Is It Asking Too Much?’’

That was Week 4 of the 2010 season, and the Bears slowly, eventually, sort of got things right on the offensive line, which is one way of saying Cutler made it through the year with most of his limbs, muscles, ligaments and brain cells intact.

The Saints beat the Bears 30-13 on Sunday in a game that was eerily similar to the ugliness on display almost 12 months ago inside New Meadowlands Stadium. New Orleans sacked Cutler six times in the second half, and he was hit hard on numerous occasions throughout the game.

He looked like the hapless store security guard who has been given the unenviable task of unlocking the front door on the day of the 70-percent-off wedding-gown sale. On one particularly brutal hit in the first half, Cutler was on all fours and holding his head. He got up before the Bears felt the need to make a well-being check.

What happened here? And more to the point, weren’t the Bears supposed to be beyond this sort of thing?

The immediate impulse is to say the offensive line looks less like a work in progress than a wreck in progress. But what happened inside the Superdome falls on the entire offense, including Cutler. Maybe especially Cutler.

The Saints brought pressure much of the time. The Bears already were without guard Lance Louis, who didn’t suit up because of an ankle injury. The offensive line was further depleted when right tackle Gabe Carimi left with a knee injury just before halftime.

But nobody — the line, the tight ends or the running backs — did a good job of picking up the blitzes. That had nothing to do with the wall of noise inside the Superdome. It had everything to do with the confusion inside the Bears’ heads.

Cutler failed to get rid of the ball when he noticed that the Saints’ rushers were foaming at the mouth. The best way to consistently beat pressure, especially defensive-back blitzes, is for a quarterback to throw the ball quickly to wide receivers. It tends to make a defense think twice about the rampaging-horde approach.

Too much Forte

After the game, some of the Bears receivers said they had run their hot routes correctly. In other words, they were saying they were open on the blitzes. Or, more to the point, they were saying Cutler needs to stop staring at Matt Forte.

The Bears aren’t going to win many games when Cutler throws the ball 14 times to his running back, as he did against New Orleans. Forte is an excellent receiver out of the backfield, but there’s no element of surprise when that many passes come his way.

Coach Lovie Smith said Forte’s high number of receptions, 10, meant that Forte played better than all the Bears in the passing game. Please. It meant that Cutler was locked in on one guy. It meant that Cutler was discombobulated. And it meant the Saints didn’t have much to fear as they sent wave after wave of rushers at the quarterback.

Comparing Cutler and Drew Brees is silly. The Saints protected Brees, and he had time to pick apart a listless Bears defense. It’s hard to shake the feeling that if Brees had been under the constant pressure Cutler was, he would’ve found a way to get rid of the football quickly. And he would’ve spread the wealth. It’s what experienced, unflappable quarterbacks do.

Expect the Packers, this week’s opponents, and everybody else on the schedule to bring similar pressure until Cutler proves he can handle it.

“Jay and the rest of our team didn’t play well,’’ Smith said. “There are a lot of things that happened that we can’t let continue throughout the season. But we won’t. We’ll go back to work.’’

Still plenty of time

Smith was correct about at least one thing: There is time to get this right. After that Giants game last year, did anyone truly believe Cutler would last 16 games? How about 10? He started 15 games in the regular season, the concussion from the New York game forcing him to miss one week.

If the Bears were able to bounce back from that disaster, anything is possible.

Tight end Kellen Davis could’ve been treated for windburn after Saints defensive end Turk McBride blew past him and crushed Cutler, causing a fumble. The scariest part? It’s that offensive coordinator Mike Martz prefers tight ends who can block.

Still, like a lot of things with the Bears, this ends up at Cutler’s feet, as unfair as that might be. He received very little help from his teammates. But sometimes a quarterback has to help himself, if for no other reason than to save his own life.



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