“I was aware it wasn’t pretty,” Cutler said. “I knew we were throwing some misses and balls were hitting the ground. You can’t really worry about it.”
Instead, Cutler did something about it. At least that’s how it seemed when Cutler shook off a bad first half by hitting five consecutive passes and capping a six-play 80-yard drive with an 11-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Marshall to give the Bears a 21-6 lead with 1:59 left in the first half.
Starting the game 0 of 6 through the air, Cutler completed only 1 of 11 for 30 yards through the first 27:42. Cutler completed his first pass at the 13:48 mark of the second quarter, and never connected on another one until there was 2:18 left to play in the first half, when he tossed a 7-yard pass to Marshall.
Cutler followed that with a 35-yard pass to Alshon Jeffery to the Cardinals 38, then connected on back-to-back plays with Matt Forte and Earl Bennett before hitting Marshall for the score.
“Well, the passing game wasn’t what we’d like for it to be early on,” Bears coach Lovie Smith said. “You have to give them a little credit. This is a very good defensive football team. (Cardinals cornerback Patrick) Peterson is a heck of a player. We didn’t expect to come in here and score 50 points, and throw for 400 yards against them. But I thought we made the plays when we had to, especially after the first quarter.”
The Cardinals lined up Peterson over Marshall early on, and gave the cornerback safety help over the top. Marshall admitted to struggling to come up with a couple of catchable passes in the early going, and expressed disappointment after “throwing around that word ‘accountability’” after the team’s loss last week to the Green Bay Packers.
Marshall considered the matchup against Peterson, one of the game’s best young corners, a “one-on-one” opportunity “that you have to dominate.”
Marshall struggled to do that in the first half, and apologized to Cutler at halftime, telling him, “I’ll make the play for you next time. Don’t give up on me.”
Marshall finished the game with six catches for 68 yards and a touchdown. Cutler also spread around the ball to tight end Kellen Davis, Jeffery, Bennett, Forte, and Armando Allen.
“I was looking forward to this matchup (against Peterson), and dropping the ball on the slant and having the opportunity down the sideline on the left, I have to make those plays,” Marshall said.
Cutler needed to make plays, too, he admitted.
“I had a lot of missed passes. It wasn’t pretty,” Cutler said. “I missed a lot of throws; wish we had a few back. But we got the win which is the big part.”
Cutler completed less than 50 percent of his passes (46.2), but at least he never surrendered a turnover or suffered a sack. Given Arizona’s tendency to play so much press-man coverage, Cutler expected to make more big plays than the Bears managed to make.
Despite the poor start, Cutler completed timely throws when the team needed them most during the two-minute drill just before halftime. Still, the quarterback knows he needs to do better for the team to win the season finale at Detroit next week for a shot at the postseason.
“We knew were were going to get one-on-one going into this game. I thought we were just trying to do too much. We were trying to make the big play every time,” Cutler said. “We threw up a lot of go (routes) today and didn’t hit any. I don’t think it’s anything for concern. But we’re still going to throw them next week if we get press-man. We missed them today, and we’ll hit them next Sunday.”