Cutler's Protection Must Improve Now

The Chicago Bears waited more than half a century for a Pro Bowl QB to arrive. But now that Jay Cutler is here, he is not getting treated very well. Battered by the Browns, Cutler needs better protection.

Jay Cutler took a beating against the Browns, but he never missed a play.

It started when he was on the receiving end of a helmet-to-helmet hit from Browns linebacker Kamerion Wimbley that made Cutler bite his tongue and left him spitting blood. But the 15-yard penalty negated an incomplete pass on third-and-8 and led to the Bears' first touchdown and a 16-0 lead with 1:56 left before halftime.

"He hit me on the chin a little bit," Cutler said. "I bit my tongue. That happens. I'm just thankful we got the call."

Cutler getting buried under Browns defenders was a frequent sight. Late in the third quarter, nose tackle Shaun Rogers landed on top of the Bears quarterback with all of his 350 pounds after a 31-yard pass to Johnny Knox. Cutler threw his helmet to the ground but stayed in the game, and Matt Forte scored on the next play.

And those two plays were in addition to four sacks and a couple of other knockdowns, often by Rogers.

"Shaun Rogers is a big guy," Cutler said, "so every time he hits you, that counts as two."

Cutler's gutsy performance was no surprise to offensive coordinator Ron Turner.

"It says what we all know about him: he's a great player," Turner said. "He's extremely tough, and he's a great competitor."

Cutler completed 17 of 30 passes for 225 yards, but an interception left him with a mediocre passer rating of 66.7.

The Bears' leaky offensive line didn't show much improvement Sunday, despite a switch from Frank Omiyale to Josh Beekman at left guard. Cutler was asked if he could continue taking the punishment he's endured after 15 sacks.

QB Jay Cutler
Getty Images: Jonathan Daniel

"I hope we don't find out," he said, but at least he was smiling. "We've got to get better offensively. You can't depend on roughing-the-passer penalties to always be your momentum. You're not always going to get those. We've got to get some big runs. We've got to get some big passes and get the wheels going a little bit. If we're going to bank on a pass interference or roughing the passer, we're going to be in trouble."

No one more so than Cutler, who was asked if he'd ever been so beaten up in a 24-point win.

"I don't know," he said. "I'll have to go back and think about it."

The Bears need to think about it, too, because keeping Cutler healthy has to be Job 1.

Two days before Sunday's game, defensive tackle Tommie Harris said he had nothing to prove to coach Lovie Smith after missing the Bengals game a week earlier and the week of practice preceding it.

But after the 30-6 victory over the Browns, Harris said he meant that he didn't have to prove anything to "anybody."

"I have to prove it to myself," said an irked Harris, who started Sunday and was unofficially credited with two tackles. "That's who I play for. I proved all I had to do to get this job, my starting position. I have nothing to prove to anybody. They know what I can do, and it's just for me to get back to that level. You've seen it before.

"So if I go out there and have three sacks, [people say] it's not a great game. It's what he does. If I have one sack, that's not good enough for people. My standards are different than everybody else, and I know that. I just have to do it for myself." ...

Ron Turner was so frustrated after Sunday's inconsistent effort that he promised to take a hard look at scaling back the game plan.

"We'll come in [Monday] and look at it and make the corrections we need to make," Turner said. "I'll look at it, see what we need to do to give us a chance to get better and, if we're doing too much, we'll cut back. Obviously we are because we're making too many mistakes. We just have to figure out what we do well, and that's what we'll do.

"We're happy with the win. We'll take a win, but we know we have to play better." ...

Playing behind starters Charles Tillman and Zack Bowman, cornerback Nathan Vasher has rarely left the bench since the season opener, when Tillman was eased into the lineup after missing all of training camp and the preseason following offseason back surgery.

But on Sunday, Vasher was used as a free safety in passing situations, when the starting free safety, Danieal Manning, moved to nickel back. That provided Vasher, a Pro Bowl player after the 2005 season, with his most extensive playing time of the season, but he said he's not switching positions.

"I'm a corner that plays safety," Vasher said. "We just wanted to have a little more flexibility in what we like to do with our coverages and to give the offense some different looks as far as personnel. We enjoyed it. We did a good job getting turnovers, and that's the staple of our defense."

The Bears defense forced five turnovers, one more than it had in the previous three games combined.

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