- Michael C. Wright, ESPN Staff Writer
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The vote of confidence came Monday during "The Jay Cutler Show" on ESPN 1000, a day after the Bears destroyed the Jacksonville Jaguars with a 38-point second half fueled by a pair of Cutler touchdown passes and defensive scores from Charles Tillman and Lance Briggs on the way to a 41-3 rout.
Carimi gave up the only sack on Cutler in the game, and was called for two false-start penalties during a drive in which the Bears were forced to settle for a field goal after the penalties moved the club from the Jacksonville 3 to the 13.
"The thing I like about Gabe is it's really important to him. It matters to him," Cutler said. "He's one of those guys where you don't have to say much to him. When he gets beat or whenever he loses, he's the first one out there to say, 'Hey, I'll get him next time.' Gabe is going to be fine."
Although left tackle J'Marcus Webb seemed to receive the bulk of the criticism for protection issues early on in the season, Carimi had been performing similarly. Coming into the matchup with the Jaguars, Carimi had been responsible for two sacks, three quarterback hits and
13 pressures in 270 snaps of action.
Against the Jaguars, officials flagged Carimi for a holding penalty in addition to the two false-start calls. Carimi has been penalized six times in five games. But like Cutler, Bears coach Lovie Smith expressed confidence that Carimi can rebound upon returning from the upcoming week off.
"All of us would like some plays back (from Sunday)," Smith said.
"Sometimes the offensive tackle stands out a little more. Gabe is a good football player. Yes, there were a couple of plays he would like to have back. But he's our guy, and his play will just only get better and better. Keep in mind for Gabe he hasn't played a lot of football for us. It's early in the year, and he'll be fine."
A first-round pick in 2011, Carimi played just two games as a rookie before going down with a knee injury that cost him the remainder of the season, and resulted in two surgeries.
Offensive coordinator Mike Tice cautioned early on that Carimi could struggle as he works to regain strength and range of motion in the knee.
Through the first five games, the Bears have surrendered 14 sacks, which shows an improvement over the group's play in 2011, when it allowed 18 sacks through the first five games and just five more over the next five contests.
"We're making progress, and I'm saying that about most of our team,"
Smith said. "In the last three weeks, we needed to do that. Just look at the amount of sacks we've had. Our sack totals are down. We're running the ball better. It all starts up front. When we weren't doing some of those things they were criticized a lot. So we have to praise them some now for the job that they've done."
The struggling Gabe Carimi is "the last guy" Jay Cutler is worried about.