LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Jay Cutler almost sighs, shaking his head in disagreement once statements are uttered about him playing the best football of his career.
Cutler insists he’s not -- at least not yet, anyway -- claiming “we’re still leaving some stuff out on the field.” Offensive coordinator Mike Martz concurs, and thinks Cutler and the offense’s best days haven’t yet been realized as the club prepares for Sunday's game against the New England Patriots at Soldier Field.
“He’s playing good, getting better,” Martz said. “I think he can get a lot better. We’re getting closer. We still made too many mistakes in that game [against the Lions]. But each week we inch closer to where we want to be and he’s included in that. But there’s stuff every week we need to clean up.”
Playing against a 10-2 Patriots team Sunday at Soldier Field, Chicago’s offense needs to be virtually Spic and Span for the club to extend what’s tied for the NFL’s second-best winning streak to six games. Cutler thinks the Bears are close.
“We want to be playing our best ball right now,” Bears coach Lovie Smith said. “We’re right where we want to be playing [the Patriots].”
Interestingly, though, with the Bears mired in a two-game losing streak heading into the Oct. 31 bye, no one would’ve expected Chicago’s offense to carry the team the way it did last week in the first half of its 24-20 win at Detroit. But even in the lean times, everyone believed in the unit’s potential, Cutler said.
“I think it starts at the top with Mike [Martz]. He never wavered at all. He does a good job in meetings of keeping guys positive, and on point with the system, believing in it, and showing guys examples on tape of how the system works -- if we do it right, what would happen,” Cutler said. “And guys got it. There were glimpses of it on tape, and guys understood if we completely got everything down we could be explosive. Are we there yet? Not yet. But we’re definitely on our way.”
The unit won’t reach its full potential until its young players advance further in their development, Martz said. The plan, the coach said, is to continue to expand the offense -- being mindful not to add too much -- as the season progresses.
“There’s never a vision of what I see [in terms of what the offense should be],” Marts said. “You have to know your personnel and put guys into position to make plays based on who you have. This isn’t an offense [where it’s like], ‘OK, here’s what it is.’ It’s a pragmatic offense. You have to go in the direction of whatever works, and that’s kind of what we do in both the running and passing game.”
Cutler noted a more business-like approach in the locker room as the stakes continue to increase with each upcoming opponent. While Cutler scoffs at the notion of him playing the best football of his career, the quarterback certainly feels pressure to avoid reverting back to the guy who threw four interceptions (one returned for a touchdown) in a 17-14 loss in October at home to the Washington Redskins.
With five touchdown passes and no interceptions in two games, in addition to back-to-back outings with passer ratings of 100 or better, Cutler appears to be on the verge of matching his three-game tear -- the best in his career -- from 2009 in which he passed for 7 TDs, and 1 INT to go with passer ratings of 100 or better in each of those contests, all victories.
“No one wants to be the guy to mess up at this point,” Cutler said. “Everyone wants to take care of their responsibilities, know their jobs exactly. You don’t want to look back, and you’re the guy who blew the game for us. Every guy is being responsible right now, and doing what they’ve got to do.”