Clausen good but not good enough

Jimmy Clausen gave the Chicago Bears a spark today but it’s clear he’s not the team’s long-term answer at quarterback.

Chicago Bears head coach Marc Trestman said the offense needed a spark, which is the reason he benched Jay Cutler in favor of Jimmy Clausen.

Despite 1-9 record as an NFL starter and having thrown three career touchdowns compared to nine interceptions, Clausen had a strong outing against the best defense in the NFL.

During today’s 20-14 loss to the Detroit Lions, he completed 23 of 39 passes for 181 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Clausen showed decent accuracy and didn’t make the types of head-scratching throws for which Cutler is known.

“[Clausen] was the reason we were in this game,” Roberto Garza said. “He was out there playing football, having a good time and making some plays. He was in the game trying to make plays all game.”

Clausen demonstrated good mobility and freelance ability, and took shots down the field. He also showed toughness after taking a shot to the head from Lions defensive end Ezekiel Ansah, after which Clausen got in the defender’s face.

“You could see him getting really fired up. It was good to see,” Garza said. “He’s a fiery guy.”

Clausen also wasn’t helped by his teammates, who dropped roughly six passes in the game, four by Pro Bowler Alshon Jeffery.

“Jimmy played excellent,” Jeffery said. “He played well enough to win. We’ve just got to catch the ball. I had too many drops, four or five drops, that’s too many, especially on 3rd and 10 in a two-minute drive.”

Clausen, who hasn’t started a game since Week 17 of the 2010 season, said it took him until the third drive to finally find his groove.

“I think the first two drives were three-and-outs but then I settled in a bit,” said Clausen. “I think overall we moved the ball like we wanted to but at the end of the day we didn’t come up with the victory and that’s the ultimate goal. That’s the thing we’re worried about.”

Clausen is right, despite his decent outing, the Bears still lost their 10th game of the season. The defense played better than most expected, giving up just 20 points. Special teams were also solid, yet the offense finished with just 234 total yards.

Clausen’s 77.0 QB rating is sub-par as well and if it weren’t for a muffed punt and a questionable roughing the punter penalty by the Lions, it’s conceivable the Bears would have been shut out today.

“At the end of the day, we lost the football game,” said Garza. “We need to score more.”

Clausen showed grit, mobility and good accuracy, but at the end of the day, the Bears scored just 14 points. Rarely is that enough to win an NFL contest.

Cutler may have played his last snap in Chicago. These final two weeks are Clausen’s audition, for not only the Bears but also the other 31 NFL teams, to show he’s starter-caliber. He did some good things today but by no means is he the answer.

Even if the Bears invest one season in Clausen as the starter – while at the same time grooming the high-round quarterback they’re likely to take in this year’s draft – it won’t be a fruitful season with the “Eight Ball” under center.

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Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. He is in his fourth season covering the Chicago Bears full time. Follow Bear Report on Twitter.

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