CHICAGO -- With the Chicago Bears down 13-7, Jay Cutler walked off the field at halftime on Sunday to a cascade of boos after taking six sacks, throwing an interception and losing two fumbles while generating a passer rating of 18.1.
Perhaps the harsh treatment from the Soldier Field crowd motivated Cutler, who led his squad to a 23-22 comeback victory over the Carolina Panthers by completing 6 of 7 passes for 52 yards in the last 2:20 to put Robbie Gould in position to kick the game-winner.
Cutler admitted the crowd gave him and the offense what they deserved at the break.
"I'd boo us, too," he said. "I told those guys it was a boo-worthy performance, if you will. It's pathetic offensively what we put out there. It wasn't up to standard product-wise. So we've got to get better. We know that, the fans know that."
Chicago's struggles on offense continued well past the first half. The Bears sputtered to just 49 yards through the first two quarters while the Panthers outgained them by 177 yards and also led them in time of possession by 9:36.
Those issues, however, seemed a distant memory once the Bears took possession with 2:27 left to play at their own 22. As Justin Medlock booted a 45-yard field goal to put Carolina ahead 22-20 with 2:32 left to play, Bears receiver Brandon Marshall looked up at the clock before glancing back at Cutler.
"I'm sitting here shaking a little bit (because of) the cold weather, a little bit nervous," Marshall said, "and he just starts smiling, like, 'Well, here we go.' (That) just put me at ease right away. The guys feel that vibe and they play off it."
It resulted in Cutler completing four passes to Marshall and two more to Matt Forte and Earl Bennett before handing off to the running back for a 3-yard gain that put the Bears in position for Gould's game-winner.
Marshall led the Bears with 98 yards on nine receptions, while Forte and Bennett chipped in five and three catches, respectively.
"I don't feel like we stole it," Bennett said. "We went out and made plays when we needed to and won the game."
Sacked on Chicago's first passing play by Dwan Edwards, Cutler said the rib injury he suffered in Monday's win over the Detroit Lions wasn't a hindrance in his performance against the Panthers. Neither was the play calling of offensive coordinator Mike Tice, who called 10 running plays as the passing attack netted minus-15 yards because of all the sacks (55 yards in losses) taken by Cutler.
Forte and Michael Bush averaged 6.4 yards per attempt in the first half, but the Bears couldn't move the chains on third down. The team converted on third down just twice all day, and didn't make its first conversion until there was 9:27 left to play.
Just before halftime, Marshall noticed the crowd at Soldier Field booing and mentioned it to Cutler.
Bears coach Lovie Smith, meanwhile, chose to block out the early struggles of Cutler and the offense.
"The part that I can really remember -- a lot of things are going through my head -- is that last drive," Smith said. "When you're a great quarterback, most of the time in the league it's going to come down, no matter what happens early on -- (to) what you do in the fourth quarter, what you do with two minutes left to go in the game."
Undoubtedly, Cutler performed in the game-defining drive, which helped to erase a dismal showing. Cutler finished with a passer rating of 83.3, throwing for 186 yards. But the quarterback threw an interception and fumbled twice more, losing them both.
Of the six sacks, Cutler knows he played a role in at least a couple of them. That's why the quarterback said, "I kept asking (quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates) and (backup quarterback Jason Campbell) if I was staying in there too long; (I) wanted to know what the deal is."
During the final drive, Chicago caught the Panthers in a coverage they weren't able to change because of the up-tempo nature of the Bears' two-minute offense, which according to Cutler led to the club "hitting them, hitting them, hitting them."
So while the Bears survived the Panthers on Sunday, Cutler knows the reality of the situation.
"No one played well. I didn't play well; it starts with me," he said. "We're not worried. I don't think you can hit the panic button offensively. We have to keep looking at our mistakes, keep improving and keep trying to work on things. It's never easy in this league. Getting a win is a win. It's hard work."