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Enigmatic Jay Cutler Proves He Cares with Tenacious Comeback Upset

Ty Schalter@tyschalterNFL National Lead WriterOctober 11, 2015

Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler (6) breaks a tackle by Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson (56) during the second half of an NFL football game in Kansas City, Mo., Sunday, Oct. 11, 2015. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

"The composure of Jay Cutler!"

The Fox broadcast crew gushed over Cutler's ice-cold victory-sealing play: a shoestring pickup off a turfed shotgun snap, an instinctual flick of the wrist just in time to avoid the Kansas City Chiefs pass rush, a pillow-soft drop into Matt Forte's breadbasket.

Throughout his interception-soaked 2014 season, Cutler was excoriated over his apparent lack of passion—even favored target Martellus Bennett got in on the act. Apparently, the glum, slack-jawed look of seeming indifference that inspired the "Smokin' Jay Cutler" memes frustrated teammates as much as fans.

Cutler's lackadaisical play, it seemed, got both his head coach (Marc Trestman) and general manager (Phil Emery) fired. 

Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

By the beginning of this regular season, Cutler had lost his top two wideouts to injury, his offensive line had been reshuffled, and the defense was in profound transition. To no one's surprise, the Bears dropped each of their opening three games.

After that brutal start, the Bears started their trade-deadline fire sale a few weeks early, sending pass-rusher Jared Allen to the Carolina Panthers and linebacker Jon Bostic to the New England Patriots.

Less than one month into the NFL season, the new Chicago Bears decision-making staff had already given up on the season.

Jay Cutler didn't.

After giving the NFC champion Seattle Seahawks all they could handle for just over one half of football, the Bears gutted out a 22-20 win over the Oakland Raiders. A fluke, perhaps? A nice little gift to the fans in a season already over in all but math and name?

Nope: Cutler and the Bears' comeback upset win over the loaded Kansas City Chiefs was one of the best, guttiest performances of this young season. Though he wasn't running and jumping around like Brett Favre out there, Cutler proved beyond a shadow of a doubt he cares as much as anyone else on the field—if not more.

It didn't start well for Cutler. After failing to drive past midfield on the opening possession, he was strip-sacked in his own end zone, resulting in a Chiefs touchdown:

On the ensuing drive, Cutler set his jaw—well, metaphorically—and led the Bears on a 14-play, 7:20 drive that covered 54 yards and ended in a field goal. Not pretty, not even really effective, but against the blistering Chiefs pass rush it was something, at least, something to build on.

Over the rest of the first half, the Bears defense held the Chiefs offense to just a touchdown and a field goal. With the defensive touchdown, that still meant 17 first-half points the Bears had to equalize.

On paper, this was an all but impossible task: The Bears didn't have enough healthy weapons to play catch-up against a team with that much pass-rushing and secondary talent. Their Chiefs, themselves desperately needing a win to stay alive in the AFC West race, had too much to lose to put it in cruise control and let the Bears back into it.

Jay Cutler didn't care about the on-paper matchup; he just cared about getting the W.

The Chiefs' second-half opening drive ended when the Bears blocked a field-goal attempt. It's possible their season ended on that drive too; star tailback Jamaal Charles suffered a suspected ACL injury, as a source told NFL Media's Ian Rapoport:

Ian Rapoport @RapSheet

The immediate fear is that #Chiefs RB Jamaal Charles tore his ACL, source says, based on initial tests. He'll have an MRI to learn more.

Cutler led the Bears back the other way for a successful field goal of their own. Still down 17-6, the maligned, strip-mined Bears defense forced four straight Chiefs punts while it waited for Cutler and the offense to make progress.

It took a couple of drives, but it eventually came: With 3:11 left in the game, Cutler launched one off his back foot into double coverage:

Dov Kleiman @NFL_DovKleiman

The great touchdown throw from Jay Cutler earlier in the game to Wilson - https://t.co/Jlr51gfTSK

Last year, this throw goes for a pick. This year, it goes for a touchdown. Marquess Wilson hauled in the missile between two Chiefs, putting the Bears within striking distance.

What's the difference? Is it new offensive coordinator Adam Gase? Is it a sudden infusion of passion? No, Jay Cutler—for all of his streaky play and inscrutable facial expressions—is still a talented football player who'll put everything on the line to win for as long as he believes he still has a chance to do so.

The Bears, by trading off useful players for draft picks, have already given up on this year. But even though new Bears general manager Ryan Pace is probably more interested in drafting high enough to have a shot at nabbing Cutler's successor, Cutler's still going out there and slinging it with everything he's got.

When Cutler's game-winning pass found its way to Forte, the Bears' season shuddered back to life. In that moment, Cutler's toxic indifference became veteran "composure"—and the Bears, two games out of the NFC North basement and a half-game out of second place, became a team to be reckoned with again.

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