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Searching for answers

Bears face serious questions in wake of Jay Cutler's groin injury

Updated: October 20, 2013, 9:57 PM ET
By Jon Greenberg | ESPNChicago.com

LANDOVER, Md. -- Normally loquacious with detailed opening statements, Chicago Bears head coach Marc Trestman opened his postgame news conference with a call for questions.

Here's the catch: He didn't have an answer to the most important one.

[+] EnlargeJay Cutler
Harry E. Walker/Getty ImagesConsidering how tough Jay Cutler is, the fact he didn't get up right away Sunday was not a good sign.
Trestman was vague, but presumably honest, about the state of Jay Cutler's -- wince -- injured groin on Sunday afternoon, after the quarterback was knocked out of the game in the second quarter in the Bears' wild 45-41 loss to Washington.

"He's got a groin," Trestman said, channeling his inner Dave Wannstedt. "He's been evaluated. He'll be evaluated when we get back and we'll know more in the next couple days. It's a groin. It's not a knee, it's not an ankle, it's not a hip. It's a groin injury and it'll have to be evaluated. He'll get an MRI tomorrow."

Yes, Cutler has a groin and the Bears have a big, big problem if he's out. Josh McCown for a half is great. Josh McCown for a season is a sign to focus on the Bulls.

Just when Derrick Rose's knee issues seem over, now we've got another famous body part to worry about.

And, oh yeah, Lance Briggs and Charles Tillman were knocked out of the game too, which was pretty critical considering the Redskins won the game on a four-play, 65-yard drive with them on the sidelines.

Trestman sounded like a Chicago politician when asked about the defensive leaders' injuries.

"I can't remember," he said. "Doctors did talk to me, but I don't remember what [the injuries] were, actually."

Good time for amnesia. Better time for a bye week.

From players to fans, it was jarring to see Cutler lying on the ground grabbing at his side with about 10 minutes to play in the second quarter, as Redskins defensive end Chris Baker celebrated his sack by pantomiming reeling in a big fish.

We all remember the Caleb Hanie era.

Here's the truth about Cutler, whose toughness is unquestioned from Lake Forest to Blue Island. When Cutler gets popped, he usually pops back up, doing that shoulder twitch thing and looking to the sideline for the next play. The guy has experience dusting off sacks, after all.

"Yeah, you know usually if he gets hit, he's getting back up," left tackle Jermon Bushrod said. "When I first looked at him, he was down on the ground for four or five seconds, and I figured something was wrong. I'm going to pray for him. Because he's a tough guy and I'm hoping everything is going to work out."

Receiver Earl Bennett: "Anytime you see '6' down, he's one of those guys who pop up because he's real tough. He's one of the toughest players I've ever played with in my years playing college with him and in the NFL. It's tough to see him go down. I just pray he's all right and hope we can get him back."

McCown: "I was bummed, said a prayer, got my helmet on and got some throws and got ready to play."

After the injury, Cutler hobbled off the field and made his way onto a cart, where he was videotaped grimacing in severe pain. After the game, he was spotted sitting gingerly on a cart ride to the team bus, which could mean nothing. We don't want to put the cart before the quarterback, of course.

With no other backup -- Bennett is the emergency quarterback -- ESPN's Adam Schefter reported that Jordan Palmer, who was in training camp with the Bears, is coming to Chicago to sign with the team.

Here's the good news. After the week off, the Bears play Monday night game in Green Bay. Given his foibles at Lambeau Field, it won't be a shame if Cutler misses that one.

There's no point in looking forward to the schedule when we don't know the extent of Cutler's injury, but the past hasn't been kind to a Cutler-less Bears team.

In 2011, when Hanie replaced Cutler, the Bears went 1-5 and missed the playoffs after a 7-3 start. That led to general manager Jerry Angelo's firing and was the harbinger to Lovie Smith's dismissal.

This time, it looks like the Bears are slightly more prepared. But the jury is still out.

McCown played exceptionally well in relief of Cutler, completing 14 of 20 passes for 204 yards and a touchdown, and nearly led the Bears to a win. Then again, Hanie almost led the Bears to a playoff victory over Green Bay when Cutler got knocked out of the 2011 playoff game against Green Bay.

But besides experience, and just being a better thrower than Hanie, McCown also has Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery and Martellus Bennett, not to mention a healthy Matt Forte, a pretty strong line and Trestman himself.

Hanie had none of those things. But McCown has limitations, whereas Cutler had strengths.

McCown laughed when someone asked him about differences between his game and Cutler's.

"Have you seen him throw?" McCown said. "There's a difference in velocity in our throws when Jay throws it and I throw it."

McCown said he can't "push the ball down the field" like Cutler, who makes plays "that don't enter my mind to do." Still, Trestman liked how McCown controlled the offense in the second half, hitting quick slants with precision.

Cutler is a big fan of McCown, he pushed for his return as backup, and the feeling is mutual. While McCown is four years older than Cutler, he speaks about him in awed tones.

"He's very sharp to be around," McCown said. "I learn a lot from him, just watching him play and some of the things that he does."

McCown added, "There is a standard that he sets and you want to hold to it."

He did that and more.

On the Bears' go-ahead drive late in the fourth quarter, he hit Marshall for 28 yards and Jeffery for 35 yards on consecutive plays, before connecting with Martellus Bennett on a 7-yard touchdown pass.

The Bears scored on four of five second-half drives and the outlier was a Robbie Gould missed field goal.

"I thought we played more the type of offense we need to play on a regular basis, on a consistent basis," Trestman said.

[+] EnlargeJosh McCown
AP Photo/Nick WassJosh McCown played very well after Jay Cutler's injury Sunday, but Bears fans have seen that before and have been utlimately disappointed.
Meanwhile, Cutler didn't get off to a good start. He was 3-for-8 for 28 yards with an interception that was returned for a touchdown. Early in the second quarter, Alshon Jeffery bobbled a high pass that ended up in Brian Orakpo's hands and he took it 29 yards to give the Redskins a 17-10 lead.

With Cutler out, Trestman called more runs as he also wanted to keep a tired defense off the field. The Redskins had a 22:01-7:49 edge in time of possession in the first half.

Forte had a 50-yard touchdown run on the Bears' second drive of the second half and a 6-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter. He finished with 91 yards and three touchdowns, but failed to get out of bounds on a key play in the last drive of the game, which ended with a McCown sack as he waited futilely for someone to get into the end zone.

The Bears were down after the loss -- several special teams players were angry they got an offsides call on a successful Robbie Gould onside kick -- but the typically voluble Brandon Marshall wasn't in the mood to talk about the team's mood.

"You ask me about moods? I don't know about moods," he said. "This is professional football. You know, it happens. You lose some and you win some. You make play, sometimes you don't. This is professional sports. Guys get paid to get up and dust themselves off."

Jon Greenberg

Columnist, ESPNChicago.com
Jon Greenberg is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com. He has lived and worked in Chicago since 2003, and is a graduate of Ohio University and the University of Chicago.

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