Cutler's Season Is in Flames, but Bears Are Holding the Gas Can

Andrew GardaFeatured ColumnistDecember 17, 2012

CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 16:  Jay Cutler #6 of the Chicago Bears tries to get up after being sacked during a game against the Green Bay Packers at Soldier Field on December 16, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. The Packers defeated the Bears 21-13.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Things have not been good for Jay Cutler the last few weeks.

He has thrown more interceptions (six) than touchdowns (five) and passed for under 200 yards three times as the Bears have dropped four out of their last five games..

What's happened to Cutler? Prior to the Houston game in Week 10, the Bears were 7-1 and Jay seemed to be doing well.

The truth is, nothing much changed offensively. What was already wrong had just been hidden by a combination of tremendous defense, poor play by the opposition and Cutler overcoming the deficiencies in his offense.

The offensive line has been awful all season long. They've had moments of stable play and for some time they actually were able to keep Cutler upright. However, the pressure has always been there, with the line just barely keeping him safe long enough to barely get off a throw.

It was only a matter of time before that line collapsed, being the house of cards it already was. Losing Lance Louise shouldn't be the tipping point, but it really was the final straw.

But there were plenty of sacks anyway.

Another factor has been the lack of a reliable wide receiver next to Brandon Marshall. Cutler will always go to Marshall first, but there are times when that's just not possible. When that happens you need to be able to go to another option and there isn't one.

Alshon Jeffery has been hurt much of the season, but even healthy he's a raw player who needs time to develop. You only need to see him struggle in a game like this past Sunday's, when a veteran was able to draw him into multiple offensive pass-interference penalties.

Do you know how hard it is to draw an offensive pass-interference penalty? Much less three?

Earl Bennett has been inconsistent, and now hurt. Devin Hester—there's a befuddling waste of a receiver. How Dane Sanzenbacher remains on the sidelines while Hester continues to prove that you can't teach an old dog new tricks is a mystery for the ages.

Cutler does have Matt Forte, but offensive coordinator Mike Tice seems to use him begrudgingly at most. Forte should be a guy to lean on for this offense, but that's not always the case.

All these things have been the case just about all season long. Sure, some injuries (and Chilo Rachal's bizarre midseason exit) have made it worse, but the problems were there in Week 1.

They were just hidden by a tremendous defense.

That defense is struggling with injuries itself. Losing Brian Urlacher and Tim Jennings was the coup de grace that sent it into a spiral.

We saw last week that Nick Roach was not ready to replace Brian Urlacher, but really that's no shock. That was a concern as far back as August when it looked as though Urlacher might be out to start the year.

The Bears apparently thought either Urlacher would make it through the season or Roach would suddenly be able to replicate all the long-time veteran does, because they didn't make a move to shore up the middle linebacker position.

Urlacher's injury hurt the pass rush, but they may have been able to overcome that had Tim Jennings not been hurt in Week 13. Not having him against the Vikings and Packers was brutal as Kelvin Hayden is nowhere near the corner Jennings is.

Really though, the defense just started to seem tired. The injuries were a part of that, but you could see the Bears defense start falling behind as far back as the loss to the 49ers, though it was most obvious from the loss to Seattle onward.

What does this have to do with Cutler? I'm glad you asked.

First, the Bears aren't generating the same level of turnovers, especially ones which result in touchdowns. Pick-sixes and fumble returns for scores are a thing of the past.

More importantly though, the defense is allowing too many points, too quickly. Cutler is behind the eight ball early in games, which allows opposing defenses to tee off on that shaky offensive line and, right behind it, their quarterback. 

Sure, Cutler has himself to blame as well. His decision-making goes south very quickly when he's under intense pressure. Sometimes he holds the ball when he shouldn't and his accuracy can appear streaky.

However, there has been far more going on here than Cutler regressing.

The team around him has folded like a house of cards. Cutler is as much a victim of that collapse as he is a culprit.


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