In terms of scoring defense, the Chicago Bears and New York Jets entered Sunday’s contest ranked third and fifth, respectively. In what was expected to be a grind-it-out, low-scoring affair, the Bears instead outlasted the Jets in a shootout that functioned as a showcase for the skills of Jay Cutler.
Cutler threw for 215 yards and recorded his second straight game with at least three passing touchdowns. Sunday's performance marks his fifth such game this season, tying the Bears' record in a single season. Cutler's passer rating in the win Sunday was 104.2, meaning he’s 21-0 in his career when he has a passer rating of 100 or better.
Since his four-interception performance on Oct. 24 against the Redskins, Cutler has tossed 16 touchdowns against just seven interceptions; he threw just seven touchdowns and seven interceptions through the first six games of the season. Not surprisingly, the Bears are 7-1 since the Washington game with Cutler under center.
For the Jets, it’s the third loss in the team's past four games following a 9-2 start. While it’s the first loss when scoring at least 10 points in a game this season, the real issue has been the team’s vaunted defense -- the Jets have now allowed 93 points in their past three losses. Specifically, the team has become vulnerable to the deep pass, an area of strength in 2009.
The team allowed eight passing plays of 30-or-more yards in 16 games in 2009; through Sunday’s action, the team has allowed 20 such passing plays in 15 games in 2010. And while the team allowed only one such play on Sunday -- the 40-yard touchdown pass to Johnny Knox in the third quarter -- the Jets did allow four additional passing plays of 24-or-more yards, suggesting the deep pass remains an issue.
Jay Cutler, 2010 Season
Passing 21 or more Yards Downfield
Cutler had struggled throwing more than 20 yards downfield through the first 14 games of the season. On Sunday, Cutler was exceptional, throwing three touchdowns of 21 or more yards against the Jets, who had allowed only two passing touchdowns of that length all season.
And so that was the story: The Bears and Cutler overcame their issues with throwing deep effectively, while the Jets’ former strength -- defending the deep ball -- continued to be exposed as a weakness.
And now, the playoff implications; with their win over the Jets, the Bears have improved their chances for a first-round bye. They can clinch one in Week 16 with a loss by the New York Giants and a loss by the Philadelphia Eagles. The Jets clinched a playoff berth despite the loss because the Jacksonville Jaguars lost to the Redskins. Since the New England Patriots clinched the AFC East with their win earlier, the Jets will earn a wild card.
Other news and notes from around the NFL ...
• The Washington Redskins' three overtime victories are the most in a single season in franchise history.
• The Detroit Lions have won road games in consecutive weeks for the first time since 1993.
• In that same game, the Patriots extended their win streak over the Buffalo Bills to 15 games, the longest active win streak by one team over another in the four major North American pro sports.