After the latest string of solid play by an average backup quarterback in Chicago, Jay Cutler returned on Sunday afternoon to take on a defense that ranked in the top 10 in both passing and rushing.
Following a slow start, Cutler and the offense were able to do exactly what the offense has been able to do all season, put enough points up on the board to put their team in the position to win the game.
Cutler’s first drive started off well, as the Bears worked their way down the field. But it ended in many Bears fans’ nightmares, with an interception in the endzone. Cutler bashers were loud after the interception, and it didn’t get any better when he threw his second interception early in the second quarter.
The offensive coordinators on both sides adjusted their gameplans by the middle of the second quarter, shortening many of their passing plays given the strong winds that were causing timing issues with the receivers. It didn’t help that many of Cutler’s passes were sailing on him, but the more conservative play-calling would prove that less is indeed more at times.
Following the two interceptions, the Bears would fail to score on just three of their remaining possessions, including two punts and a lost fumble by tight end Martellus Bennett. They scored on four of their other drives, all touchdowns, giving the Bears a 38-31 win.
The biggest area of success for Cutler was on third down, where he was 11 for 12 with a perfect 158.3 passer rating. Cutler finished the day 22/31 for 265 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions.
Cutler’s timing was off with his usually reliable hookup Brandon Marshall. Marshall was targeted 13 times but had just six catches for 95 yards and a touchdown. Alshon Jeffery, who flourished with Josh McCown under center, took a bit of time to get himself in with the production of the offense. A big turning point in the game came when he came down with a tossup pass 45 yards down field. He finished the day with 5 catches for 72 yards and a touchdown.
One of the Bears former backup quarterbacks, Jason Campbell, was unproductive as the starting quarterback for the Browns. Campbell was 23-39 with 273 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions, good for a 67.6 passer rating.
If Sunday afternoon’s game showed something, it is that the Bears quarterback decision is an easy one with just two games remaining in the season. Coming back from an injury and into a game against the seventh-best passing defense in the league, Cutler was able to shake off the rust and lead the Bears to a victory.
The last two games will be against the 31st (Philadelphia) and 21st (Green Bay) passing defenses in the league. With the second-highest scoring offense in the league (trailing only Denver), the Bears stand a great chance at winning out, which is something they may need to do if they want to win the NFC North.