Print and Go Back ESPN.com: NFC North [Print without images]

Sunday, December 29, 2013
Jay Cutler performs in a losing effort

By Michael C. Wright
ESPN.com

CHICAGO -- Chicago Bears receiver Brandon Marshall pulled a Terrell Owens in the aftermath of his team’s 33-28 loss to the Green Bay Packers when asked about the prospect of Jay Cutler returning in 2014.

“That’s my quarterback,” Marshall said.

Cutler showed why Sunday. After eight previous outings of futility against Green Bay as a Bear, the quarterback finally shined under the bright lights against the Packers, throwing for two touchdowns and racking up a 103.8 passer rating while completing 62.5 percent of his throws, albeit in a losing effort. Cutler did throw one interception, but that came on a desperation heave with 10 seconds to play in the midst of his fight to rally back the Bears.

Jay Cutler
Jay Cutler played well Sunday against Green Bay, but have Bears fans seen the last of him?
“I thought Jay played very well tonight,” Bears coach Marc Trestman said. “I don’t know what the stats are. I though he threw the long ball well. He gave the guys a chance to make plays, which gave them the long ball. I thought he was efficient throwing the ball inside. I thought he was in total command of what was going on out there.”

Case in point: Cutler’s 5-yard touchdown pass to Marshall with 14:55 remaining. The Bears called a run-pass option, but Cutler was unsure of the coverage the Packers might show. Instead of checking out of the run, Cutler kept the call on but pulled the handoff at the last second and found Marshall for the touchdown.

“They had an all-out blitz,” Cutler said. “I left the run on, then I pulled it last second, just threw one up to [Brandon] and he did what he does best: make a play for us.”

The play was one of many Cutler made on the night despite limited opportunities. The Bears ran just 49 plays on offense, compared with 76 snaps for Green Bay, which dominated time of possession 35:09 to 24:51.

Cutler completed three passes for 30-plus yards, including a 67-yard bomb to a wide-open Alshon Jeffery. He also hit Marshall for a 37-yard gain and completed a pass to Matt Forte for 33 yards.

In eight previous games against the Packers, Cutler completed 127 of 237 for 1,518 yards and eight touchdowns, with 17 interceptions, to go with a passer rating of 54.8. Against the rest of the NFC North over that same span, Cutler had thrown for 33 TDs and 16 INTs.

The matchup against the Packers on Sunday marked just the third time in Cutler’s career he generated a passer rating of 100 or better and his team still lost. Counting the postseason, Cutler is 28-3 when he finishes with a passer rating of 100 or better.

“That’s a tough one to swallow,” Cutler said. “Right there, knocking on the door.”

Again, the Packers shut it in Cutler’s face. But neither this performance nor Cutler’s 1-8 record as a Bear against Green Bay should have any bearing on whether the team decides to bring him back in 2013, and it won’t. Cutler has just played the final game of a contract that paid him $8.47 million in 2013, and he wouldn’t get into what might take place in the coming weeks or month in terms of negotiations with the front office or the prospect of leaving.

Bears general manager Phil Emery has made it clear on numerous occasions he wants to bring back the quarterback, and Cutler has made it clear he wants to stay, even going as far as saying on ESPN 1000 that he’s optimistic it’ll “get done.”

“You’d love to predict the future,” Cutler said. “I’m not really going to get into what’s going to happen.”

Trestman declined to as well, saying, “That’s something for a later evaluation.”

“I would suspect that the Green Bay game, a rivalry game that’s going to play out for a championship, the speculation is let’s see how he does on this kind of stage,” Trestman added. “I thought Jay played well enough for us to win tonight.”

Marshall agreed, and unlike Cutler he offered a prediction for how the quarterback’s contract situation might play out.

“Jay will be back. So all the stories for the offseason you guys can just put that at the bottom. Write everything you have to say and just say, ‘Brandon said Jay will be back,’” Marshall said. “Just like I said Jay would be back from the groin injury, Jay’s gonna be back in a contract year. I don’t have any inside information. That’s my quarterback.”

Cutler, however, preferred not to ponder the future. Having displayed a tendency to be flippant in the past after a loss like Sunday’s, Cutler displayed genuine disappointment about how the game played out and the finality the defeat to the Packers presents.

Asked about his contract situation, Cutler shook his head.

“I think we’ll deal with that later in the week,” he said. “Right now, I’m kind of living in the moment. I’m a little upset about the game and how it went. This locker room is never going to be the same. [We’ll] miss some guys. Some guys are going to leave. Some guys are going to stay. It’s part of the business.”