The Biggest Problem for Jay Cutler
Michigan freshman quarterback Tate Forcier found himself, just months removed from taking high school finals, playing in one of Michigan's biggest rivalry games against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
He was up against a stout defense, an opposing offense that had highly touted QB Jimmy Clausen, and a team ranked No. 18 in the nation, his Michigan team was unranked.
But he took his offense down the field and won the game by throwing a passing touchdown with just 11 seconds left in the game.
On the day, he had 240 passing yards going 22-of-32 with two touchdowns and an interception, leading Michigan to 38 points on the day.
After the game, when asked if he was nervous on the final drive, he said, "I don't get nervous."
USC freshman quarterback Matt Barkley was off most of his big game against Ohio State, and although he had below 200 yards passing and didn't throw a touchdown pass, he led the Trojans on their final drive down the field to win the game with about a minute left in the game.
What does this have to do with the Chicago Bears, whom this article is about?
Jay Cutler is known as a stud quarterback. He went to the Pro Bowl last season and threw for over 4,000 yards and 25 touchdowns last season; however, that doesn't tell the whole story.
Over the last three games of the season, only needing one win to clinch a playoff berth, he threw two touchdowns and four interceptions and didn't have one game with a QB rating over 75. The Broncos lost all three games and missed the playoffs.
Now, being nervous is not always a bad thing, sometimes it can drive you to do great things, but to certain people, being nervous can completely take you out of your game and it can completely ruin any chance you have of doing great things.
Cutler admitted the night before the game that he was nervous, according to Chris Collinsworth. I don't always agree with Collinsworth (people rarely do), but on this occasion, he was correct and it showed.
Cutler threw three interceptions in the first half of his debut against the Green Bay Packers, a game that was played at Lambeau Field against the Bears' biggest rival.
He then threw another interception as the Bears got the ball back, down by six points with one minute to go and no timeouts.
After the game, Cutler said, "There were a lot of failures. We've got to go back and look at it. I think we're still going to be a good football team; there's no need to panic."
Now sure, Nathan Vasher slipping while playing man coverage against Greg Jennings to allow the game-winning touchdown was a failure, but he played fine throughout the rest of the game, as did the entire defense.
And yes, Patrick Mannelly made a poor decision in calling the audible to a fake punt, an audible that Garrett Wolfe didn't catch and maybe the Bears win the game if they just punt it.
But the Bears would not be in that position if you hadn't thrown the ball up for grabs every time the Packers blitzed.
The only touchdown that the Bears allowed before the final big touchdown was on a two-yard drive that was set up on an interception against Cutler.
In fact, the defense allowed only one drive of over 50 yards the entire game, so you really can't blame them.
Devin Hester had four catches for 90 yards and a touchdown, and fifth-round draft pick Johnny Knox had a big catch that almost went for a touchdown, but guess how that drive ended.
For those of you who thought touchdown, you are unfortunately wrong, as Cutler threw an interception to 325 lbs defensive lineman Johnny Jolly.
Although the interception was extremely acrobatic, especially for a man of his size, the fact remains that he should have recognized the lineman staying back and not thrown that pass.
Finally, Jay Cutler gets his chance to completely redeem himself. One last drive, he can live up to all the comparisons that he used to have to deal with and be just like John Elway.
Go through adversity and come out the other end confident and ready to win the game.
However, on the first play of the drive, Cutler threw his fourth interception of the game, ending any chances the Bears had of pulling out a Week One victory over their hated rivals.
Now I don't think that Cutler is going to go out there and throw four interceptions a game. I fully expect that he will be able to lead the Bears to a respectable record, maybe even get to the playoffs.
The problem I have is that, when he is in crunch time fighting to save the season, is he just going to wilt under the pressure?
These are questions that should linger in the back of Bears fans' minds when he is going out there and dominating teams like Detroit later in the season. Yes, he will look good, yes he will have stats, but what will he do when the game is on the line.
The Bears get to come back home and face the Steelers next weekend, and that is an even more daunting task than facing Green Bay, even with Troy Polamalu and his amazing hair sidelined.
The Bears' offensive line isn't a great one, and he needs to realize that he needs to make plays or get rid of the ball.
Although he is a very good gunslinger, he is no Brett Favre, and he can't thread the needle into triple coverage like Favre could in his heyday.
The problem is, Cutler didn't realize that. He routinely tried to find a covered receiver when he was scrambling outside of the pocket instead of throwing it away.
If he had thrown it away on half of those interceptions, the game could have ended in a much different way with the stellar way that the Bears defense was playing.
Although this may be something for a different story, big props to Johnny Knox and Al Afalava, two late-round draft picks making plays in their rookie season.
As for Cutler, in a sticky situation with having to go against one of the best defenses in the NFL in Pittsburgh next week, and if he can't prove himself against a stout defense under immense pressure, Bears fans will only have to wonder if he can carry this team through the playoffs.
If we can come to expect big performances in big games out of people fresh out of high school, we should be able to expect a Pro Bowler to hold his own in a season opener, no matter how much pressure is there.
And if Cutler can't prove himself under pressure, the Bears may be stuck with a great QB who can't get it done when the spotlight is on him.
I'm Joe W.
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