Cutler Not Prepared for Prime Time?

Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler hasn't shined very brightly under the lights of prime-time football, and now he is scheduled for another evening affair against the Eagles in Week 11 at Soldier Field.

Jay Cutler is not afraid of the dark, even though 11 of his 17 interceptions have come in the Bears' three night games, and they'll be back in prime time Sunday night at Soldier Field against the Eagles.

"That's how it's rolled so far," he said. "I don't know. It doesn't really matter to me what time we play. A game is a game. It's just how it's gone this year."

Even worse, four of Cutler's five interceptions in the red zone have come in night games, including two last week in the 10-6 loss to the 49ers.

"They know that I'm aware of it," Cutler said when asked if coach Lovie Smith or offensive coordinator Ron Turner had spoken to him about the problem. "They know that I'm going to be more critical of myself than anybody else. It's something they don't have to say a lot [about] to me."

But it's something that has to change if the Bears hope to come away with just their second win in seven weeks. No one knows that better than Cutler.

He was asked if he's ever experienced a slump as severe as the current one that has seen him throw four more interceptions than any other quarterback in the league.

"Not that I can remember," he said.

The red-zone failures cost the Bears a victory in San Francisco last week and could have made the difference in the 6-point loss in Green Bay and the 7-point loss in Atlanta.

Turner has re-emphasized being smart in the red zone without robbing Cutler of his aggressiveness.

"If nothing's there, we have to throw it away," Turner said. "He's got to understand that there's nothing wrong with throwing it away. There's nothing wrong with getting three points. We have to come away with points.

"Obviously we want touchdowns, and we usually try to give him an opportunity to take a shot in the end zone if we get a right look. But if we don't get the look, then go to the check-down or throw the ball away if you have to. That's something that we have to continue to work on with him."

Considering that five of the Bears' nine games have been decided by seven points or less, coming away with a couple field goals as opposed to a couple turnovers has already been crucial.

"We've just got to be careful with it," Cutler said. "If we've got to take three points, we've got to take three points. [There are] certain situations where we have to get a touchdown and we're down, and we're trying to win a football game. At the end of the day, you get down there, you want to at least get away with three."

Smith believes the Bears and Cutler need to take better care of the football no matter where they are on the field, but not at the expense of eliminating aggressiveness.


QB Jay Cutler
Getty Images: Ezra Shaw

"We're always trying to be aggressive, but still you have to make good decisions no matter where you are on the field," Smith said. "It's not good having a turnover when you're backed up [either]. There's no good spot on the football field to turn the football over. We have to make better decisions on all areas of the field."

Unlike his passer rating, which has dipped to 76.0, at least Cutler's confidence remains at a high level.

"I'm not even concerned about that with Jay," Turner said. "Jay's got a lot of confidence, and he's a really good football player. His demeanor's great, his confidence level is high and I think he's going to go out and play well."

When Cutler was asked if, as a head coach, he would have sat himself down after the first four interceptions last Thursday, he said, "I'm not going to bench myself. No."

NOTES AND QUOTES
The Eagles defense is No. 4 in sack percentage, and it has a reputation for bringing the blitz more often and from more directions than any other team in the league.

"That's just what they are," Smith said. "Every team has a personality. Philly has taken that approach to playing defense since Andy Reid has been there (1999), so we're preparing for it. A lot of teams have blitzed us. We've seen just about all the different things you can, so hopefully we'll be ready for it."

Cutler was not sacked last week at San Francisco, but he was brought down four times in each of the two previous games.

"Their blitzing is very important for us to see and pick it up to protect Jay," center Olin Kreutz said. "It's a big part of what they do. We'll see what they have for us, and we'll be ready for it."

In the Bears' 24-20 victory over the Eagles last year, four different players sacked Kyle Orton, including defensive right end Trent Cole, who's tied for third in the NFC with 7.5 sacks this year. ...

The Bears are looking for someone, anyone, to make some big plays and end the current drought that has seen them lose four of five games after a 3-1 start.

Kreutz says it starts at the top.

"If your stars aren't making plays, it'll affect the whole team," Kreutz said. "We all have to make plays when they're there to be made, and when that happens we'll start winning games."

Kreutz said he doesn't care if the Bears offense does it by getting the disappointing run game back on track or by any other means.

"I'm just frustrated with losing," he said. "I don't care about running, passing. I don't care what we're doing. We just want to win." ...

Tight end Greg Olsen has become Cutler's closest friend on the team, and he says the interception-prone quarterback can handle the adversity that comes with the job.

"He's doing great," Olsen said. "He's a professional. He's a tough guy. He has a lot of confidence in himself and this team. No matter what happens, nothing's going to keep him down. There are a lot of things that we all need to do to take some of the pressure off him, and that's kind of what we've addressed." ...

It's not just a coincidence that in Cutler's three worst games, when he's thrown 12 of his 17 interceptions, the Bears have stumbled badly in the running game.

In those three games – losses to the Packers, Bengals and 49ers – the Bears had a total of 164 yards on 64 carries, a 2.6-yard average, while Cutler had passer ratings of 43.2, 64.1 and 33.6, respectively.

"A lot goes into when you turn the ball over with an interception," Smith said. "Of course, the quarterback will get blamed for it all. All of those [interceptions] weren't his fault. The running game will help that a lot. We need to get our running game going. We've said that all along.

"When you're a running team, the run will set up the pass. That hasn't happened for us yet, but we'll stay committed to it. Just like the weather's changing, hopefully some of that can change."

QUOTE TO NOTE
"It's been a while since we've really felt good about our play for more than one week." – Coach Lovie Smith, whose team has defeated only the 1-7 Browns in the past six weeks.


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