Favre and Cutler: Gunslingers in arms

Brett Favre has gotten away from the risk-taking of his younger NFL days, but he had encouraging words for Bears QB Jay Cutler as they meet for the first time as division rivals. Cutler appreciated the shot of confidence.

Despite the rocky start, Jay Cutler will work out fine as the Bears' quarterback. Brett Favre says so.

But Cutler will probably have to be a whole lot better than fine for the 4-6 Bears to challenge Favre's 9-1 Vikings on Sunday at the Metrodome.

Whether it's adapting to a new team, a new scheme or just growing pains, Cutler's 15-18 TD-interception ratio is not that of a future Hall of Fame quarterback like Favre. Cutler's current numbers are a drop-off from his first three seasons, when he threw 54 TD passes and 37 interceptions. In Favre's first three seasons, he threw 37 TD passes and 39 interceptions and was characterized as reckless and undisciplined, criticisms that Cutler has heard.

So Favre was asked if Cutler reminds him of himself at a similar stage of development.

"I think he's better," Favre said. "I do. It would be easy to point to how he hasn't performed this year. I don't look at it that way. I think my Achilles' heel throughout my career is that I never wanted to concede a play. Did that get me in trouble at times? Sure. But I wouldn't be here today sitting in this chair talking to you guys if I didn't play the way I played.

"I think at this stage (Cutler) is way more advanced. Physically he's got all the tools. But mentally he's way more advanced and able to see defenses and read things. I don't think it's a bad thing to want to put it all on your shoulders. And I know that's what he's thinking."

Especially after throwing 13 interceptions in his last six games, five of which were Bears losses, Cutler has seldom heard an encouraging word, so he appreciated Favre's comments.

"It means a lot," Cutler said. "He's been through ups and downs. He's been very successful for the most part. But he's been down the road a few times. And came back. And went down it again and came back."

After an injury-marred season with the Jets last year, the un-retiring Favre has enjoyed a rebirth with the talent-laden Vikings, compiling an NFL-best 112.1 passer rating. But he's known some tough times, too, like his last six games against the Bears, when he was picked off 13 times while throwing just two TD passes. Cutler knows what that's like.

"I haven't played up to my expectations," he said. "I can play better, I know that. It's a process, though. I think everyone in the offense knows what we're trying to get done. We're dressing young guys, we've got some new guys, and we're still trying to jell a little bit. It's going to come, though."

Cutler has frequently been compared to Favre because of his superior arm strength and big-play capability. He says that doesn't bother him, but it's premature.

"I've still got a long ways to go to even be in the same league as him," Cutler said.

Also like Favre, Cutler is a risk taker who finds it difficult not to try for the big play no matter the odds.

"I know that Jay and the coaching staff and the fans there would say, ‘Yeah, I wish I had this play back or that play,' " Favre said. "But it's the next play, (when) he makes a tremendous play, and you say, ‘That's why we got him.' You have to be willing to keep shooting. Now, do you have to have the wherewithal sometimes to say, ‘Probably the best play is to take a sack or whatever'? Believe me, I've known that my whole career, (but) that doesn't mean I've done that. That's the type of player Jay is."

While Favre has the lowest interception rate in the NFL, Cutler's 18 picks are more than anyone in the league. He's already had games with three, four and five interceptions, while Favre has been picked off just three times all season.

"No one wants to go through those types of games," Favre said of Cutler's nightmare experiences. "Physically speaking, he's as good as any guy in the league. But mentally, you've got to have a lot of resolve to begin with, and I know he does. That team will be much better off with him than without him.

"I think he's (darn) good," Favre said. "I know he knows that, and I'm sure, to a certain extent, that's what Donovan (McNabb) may have been talking to him about at the end of the (last) game. I think he'll be fine."

SERIES HISTORY: 96th regular-season meeting. Vikings lead the regular-season series with the Bears 51-42-2. The Bears won the only postseason contest in the series, 35-18 in a first-round game at Minnesota after the 1994 regular season. The teams have split the previous 14 games, but the Vikings have won two straight at the Metrodome and six of the last seven.

BY THE NUMBERS: 21 — Number of fumbles cornerback Charles Tillman has forced since entering the league in 2003, including three last week, two of which were recovered by the Bears. Tillman also has 22 interceptions, including two this year.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I feel like we're a good football team. Our record does not show that right now, but we're a good football team. Eventually we're going to do some of those things that have prevented us from winning games; why not this week? — Bears coach Lovie Smith.

NOTES

  • Defensive end Gaines Adams, who cost the Bears a second-round draft pick next year when they acquired him from the Bucs just before the trading deadline, has yet to make any kind of an impact.

    In five games he has two assisted tackles and no solos, according to coaches' film review, although his snaps have been limited to a handful or so per game. He also has no sacks, which was supposed to be his forte.

  • RB Matt Forte rushed for 152 yards on 44 carries in two games vs. the Vikings last season.

  • QB Jay Cutler has thrown 15 of his 18 interceptions this year in the Bears' five road games and just seven TD passes.

  • WR Johnny Knox has eight catches for just 66 yards in the past three games.

  • DE Adewale Ogunleye has just one-half of a sack in the past six games after getting 4 1/2 in the first four games.

  • WR Earl Bennett led the Bears last week with 57 receiving yards and is second on the team with 511 receiving yards and third with 40 catches after failing to catch a pass last year as a rookie.

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