People don't like Jay Cutler, but you knew that already.
What many don't know is that most of that hatred is based on false assumptions about his toughness and his desire to win. In fact, most of it is based on his facial expressions, but that's neither here nor there.
Cutler isn't a perfect quarterback but there are many who still believe he just hasn't been put in a properly built offense. He's gone through five offensive coordinators in eight years with the Chicago Bears, a few of whom had no business running an NFL offense. He was poorly protected for years with Devin Hester as his top receiver. When you have Mike Tice calling plays and J'Marcus Webb protecting your blindside, it's tough to compete.
He deserves criticism for his poor mechanics and a maddening tendency to put the ball in harm's way, but he's still a big-armed, athletic quarterback with NFL-level passing traits. And now he has an offensive coordinator in Adam Gase who has committed to the run game and doesn't force Cutler to play hero ball every week.
Yet beyond that, Gase and quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains have also cleaned up some major flaws in Cutler's game, something that shows up on tape.
I went to the film room to analyze Cutler's newfound pocket presence.
Here we see dual pressure off the right side, with a strong block by C Hroniss Grasu (55), which opens up an area in which Cutler can step up.
Cutler moves up in the pocket and keeps his eyes down the field. Notice again the solid job by Grasu out in front.
As he's getting hit, Cutler finds Josh Bellamy on a crossing route.
Analysis: The key on this play is Cutler not only deftly working away from the pressure but that he continued to search for an open receiver as he maneuvered through the pocket. This is not something Cutler has done with consistency, as he typically loses all field vision once he gets happy feet. He then stands in and takes a hit, but not before he finds Bellamy for the first down.
Here the Bears are backed up near their own end zone and Grasu sends a low snap. Cutler has to literally pull the ball off the ground. Any bobbling here and the play might have ended up a touchdown for the Chiefs.
Cutler picks the ball, feels the pressure from his right and begins rolling left.
He then breaks one tackle ...
And another ...
Before being knocked out of bounds after an eight-yard gain.
Analysis: This is one of those plays you show the moron at the bar who thinks Cutler is a wimp. Not only does he handle the low snap but he has the presence to roll away from the pressure. Then, on a bad hamstring, he fights off two tackle attempts and tiptoes up the sideline for extra yards before he's pushed out of bounds. This was the opening play of the first fourth-quarter scoring drive, one that set the tone for what was to come.
This is Cutler's first touchdown pass to WR Marquess Wilson. From a bunch formation, Wilson will run a corner route to the front left pylon.
The Chiefs blitz and the middle linebacker comes free. This does not allow Cutler to step into his throw, which comes off his back foot.
The ball is just now leaving Cutler's hand. Wilson is still in his stem and has not even begun to break toward the corner.
Cutler drops in a beautiful touch pass over two defenders, hitting in stride Wilson, who keeps his feet in bounds for the touchdown.
Analysis: This pass really was a thing of beauty. Cutler had a defender flying in on him and lofted this pass off his back foot before Wilson had made his cut. This was a perfect throw with perfect timing while under duress. It doesn't get any better than this.
This is Cutler's second touchdown, the game winner. This is a pure pick play from start to finish. Matt Forte will run a wheel rout up the left sideline. At the same time, Wilson will cut inside and make contact with the defender covering Forte.
Look at Wilson actually extending his arms to make sure he gets a piece of the safety. Notice Cutler, who dropped the snap and is now trying to recover.
The pick allows Forte to create separation as he turns up the field. Cutler has a guy at his feet and quickly fires a pass over the top.
The pass is perfect again, right over the oustretched arm of the safety. Forte hauls in the reception for the game-winning touchdown.
Analysis: Cutler's poise came through again on this play. After bobbling the snap, he calmly reaches down and picks up the ball. Then, with a pass rusher barreling in on him, he sends an off-balanced throw to an area only Forte could catch it. Also notable is the pick play, which Gase loves to run in the red zone. Cutler was confident in the no-look pass because he knew the pick would create separation for Forte. He just needed to get him the ball. One day soon the NFL is going to crack down on these pick plays but, until then, Gase is going take advantage.
The following two plays come from the final drive of the game and feature WR Cameron Meredith. On this snap, he'll run a 12-yard out route to the right sideline.
Meredith creates separation immediately out of his break. At this point, Cutler has released the ball, which doesn't allow the cornerback time to close on the pass.
Look at that fingertip grab by Meredith.
After making the catch, Meredith extends the ball for the first down and gets out of bounds to stop the clock and save precious seconds.
Analysis: This is a strong play by the undrafted free agent out of Illinois State. In one of the game's biggest moments, the rookie runs a tight route, creates separation, snatches the ball an inch off the ground, picks up the first down and gets out of bounds. That's a veteran play from a 6-3 wideout with serious upside.
On this snap, Meredith will use a double move to set up the out route near the sideline.
Here again we see Cutler moving into an open area away from the pressure while keeping his eyes down the field.
Cutler creates just enough time to get the pass away. Notice Meredith at the bottom of the screen, using his hands to disengage from the corner as he makes his second break.
Meredith high-points the ball for a first down that brings the ball to midfield.
Analysis: This is the second of two plays in that final drive where Meredith came up big. He found ways to get open and made tough grabs. For a rookie to carry the team in the early stages of a game-winning scoring drive in the fourth quarter, that's extremely impressive.