The Bounce-Back Kid
Since the Chicago Bears traded for him in 2009, Jay Cutler has shown a lot of resiliency. Few players have demonstrated an ability to put bad performances behind them better than Cutler – and there have been quite a few "Bad Jay" outings the past four-plus years.
One of those dismal games came last week in the team's 40-32 loss to the Detroit Lions. Cutler's final stat line wasn't awful (317 passing yards, 2 TDs) but most of that production came in garbage time. In the first half, Cutler was miserable, completing just eight of 15 pass attempts for 108 yards, two interceptions and no touchdowns. And in the third quarter, he fumbled a ball that was returned by the Lions for a touchdown.
It was a classic Cutler meltdown, something with which Bears fans are all too familiar.
"I missed some throws, some stuff I wish I had back," Cutler said yesterday. "I think it would have changed the complexion of the game."
The good news is that Cutler has historically bounced back quickly from such performances. Let's use his 65.6 passer rating last week as a benchmark to evaluate Cutler's ability to put forget about his mistakes.
Since 2009, Cutler has finished 16 games with a QB rating of 65 or less. One of those came in the 2010 season finale, leaving 15 games to consider. The Bears have gone 10-5 in those bounce-back games. Additionally, Cutler is 6-1 in his career when coming off a game in which he threw three interceptions. This bodes well for the club's odds of picking up a win against the undefeated New Orleans Saints this weekend.
"[Turnovers] are going to happen," said Cutler. "What you don't want to see is three turnovers, three turnovers, three turnovers, in consecutive weeks like that. If you can minimize those, you're going to be in a better place obviously.
"Going into this week it's just take care of the ball. You don't need to give the New Orleans Saints a better chance of scoring. They're already good enough on offense. Our defense is going to do everything possible to slow them down. Myself and the rest of the offense, we can't give them free opportunities."
The Saints boast the third-ranked offense in the league and have looked like a juggernaut at times this year. Chicago's defense is giving up a lot of yards and points, so Drew Brees and company are going to have some success. As a result the Bears are going to have to be aggressive on offense, which will force Cutler to walk a fine line.
"It's calculating. You got to take calculated risks out there," Cutler said. "There are going to be times where we definitely want to push the ball up the field and we're going to be making some tight throws. You more want to do that stuff versus man-to-man, whenever you've got man-to-man. Against zone defenses, whenever guys are just kind of floating around on defense, those are the times you want to check it down and make sure that you manage the football."
In Marc Trestman's book "Perseverance", he discusses the many different rules changes in the CFL to which he quickly had to adapt. One of the biggest difference revolves around the final three minutes of each half. Trestman discusses his first year as head coach of the Montreal Alouettes, when his team endured a three-game losing streak early in the season.
"One of the nuances of the CFL is clock management, which I didn't understand very well early on and it cost us," Trestman wrote. "We lost all three in the final three minutes after being ahead, and that really opened my eyes to one of the key differences between the NFL and CFL. Because the clock stopped after every play under three minutes in the first and second halves, the amount of possession changes can be enormous in a three-down game. As I would soon learn, the strategy was very different. It was like there was 57 of a game and then there were three more at the end. And believe me, those last three minutes can seem like a lifetime."
As a result, Trestman developed a 57+3 philosophy in which the game plans were totally different. The first 57 minutes of each half would follow one guideline, then everything would transition to a new strategy once those final three minutes began.
Lazy Chicago reporters, after hearing Bears players reference 58+2 on multiple occasions this year, are just now taking notice. As a result, Trestman reiterated yesterday his philosophy of finishing strong.
"Well, it really started up north and when you realize if you take care of the football and you are a disciplined football team, you are probably going to be in every game in the fourth quarter," said Trestman. "If you're on the plus side of the turnover ratio heading into the fourth quarter and you minimize your penalties, you are probably going to be in the game. Then it comes down to winning the fourth and lots of times winning the fourth is the last two minutes of the game. And so it's all based on finishing. We've got to finish the game. We can be up at the end, with two minutes to go, or we can be behind. But if we're in the game we've got a chance to win and that is where those last two really come into play. It's really focus on no matter where you are in the game to finish it."
Cutler echoed his head coach about the importance of the final two minutes.
"Other coaches talk about it. Those last two minutes are usually vital in most football games," Cutler said. "Very rarely are you going to be in a game where you're just cruising to victory or you're going to lose by 14 or 21 points. Most of the time some team is going to have to make a stop or some team is going to be driving for a touchdown or a field goal to tie it up or win it. That's just a four-quarter mentality of hey, those last two minutes are vital. They're very important."
Bennett not interested in Graham
By my unofficial count, 400 questions were asked about Saints tight end Jimmy Graham this week at Halas Hall. New Orleans has 52 other players on their active roster, yet Graham is all anyone wanted to talk about, over and over and over.
It didn't matter who the interviewee, Graham was inevitably brought up. It got so bad that Bears offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer basically walked out on in his weekly press conference after the third question about Graham.
Finally, someone put an end to the nonsense.
"I don't give a [expletive]," Martellus Bennett said yesterday when asked to slobber out a sound byte over Graham.
The follow up question: "But he plays your position."
"So, a lot of guys play my position," said Bennett. "I think he does a phenomenal job for the Saints but I'm not in competition with him. We have different roles on our team. He's the No. 1 target over there and I have different job from him. We're different athletes. I think a lot of times people try to compare us but we do a lot of things differently. He does a good job going up for the jump ball and making plays for them. He's the No. 1 choice over there. I'm a team guy. Whatever I've got to do, if I have to block a little bit more, whatever it is, I'll do that."
Bennett is dealing with a shoulder injury but he practiced in full yesterday and today and will be good to go on Sunday.
Bull by the Horns
Bear rookie guard Kyle Long said his focus this week is getting better against opposing bull rushes. After last week's performance, in which Ndamukong Suh ran him over on multiple occasions en route to his two-sack performance, that's probably a smart move by Long.
"Last week I tried to focus on sitting on the bull rush, because that's what I got a lot of this week," Long said. "I can apply that knowledge because there are a lot of bull rushes that we get from these guys. [John] Jenkins, the guy from Georgia, the rookie, he does a lot of bull rush. A lot of these guys are big powerful guys so they are going to try to push the pocket inside. So we're going to have to stick to our technique and stick to what we've learned."
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. He is in his third season covering the Chicago Bears full time. Follow Bear Report on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Bear Report Web site or magazine, click here.