Bears QB Cutler acknowledges he's feeling pressure
LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP)
Jay Cutler acknowledges there are times he feels pressure that really isn't there.
Maybe that explains why the Chicago Bears quarterback was out of sync against Green Bay last week even though he had enough protection after getting knocked around in the previous game.
He misfired, overthrowing receivers and getting picked off twice while completing 21 of 37 passes for 302 yards in a 27-17 loss. It didn't matter that he went from taking six sacks a week earlier at New Orleans to three against the Packers.
''Whenever you're getting a lot of pressure and you're getting flushed and you're getting hit a lot, that clock in your head is going to be tinkered a little bit,'' Cutler said Wednesday. ''It's going to start ticking a little bit faster. Even sometimes when you do have a good amount of time, you're going to be feeling it even if it's not there. So it's a constant battle. The more consistent we get up front and the more time I have, and the more comfortable I feel, the more consistent I'm going to get.''
No quarterback has taken a bigger beating than Cutler the past two years, and no offensive line has been more maligned than Chicago's. It was the team's biggest question mark coming into the season, and the Bears are not getting the answers they were seeking from a unit that ranks 31st heading into Sunday's game against Carolina.
All five starters are in positions they haven't played much in the past, with Roberto Garza moving from guard to center to replace the departed Olin Kreutz, and they're short-handed on the right side.
Guard Lance Louis has missed two games because of an ankle injury and tackle Gabe Carimi (knee), their first-round pick, is out indefinitely. Newcomer Chris Spencer and Frank Omiyale started in their place last week, but the way line coach Mike Tice sees it, the unfamiliarity and health are non-factors.
''I still feel we're eight deep. We have guys that have won games before in this league,'' he said. ''We went to the (conference) championship game with Frank Omiyale. Chris Spencer is a first-round pick who's played a lot of football for the Seattle Seahawks. That means nothing to me. That's looking for an excuse or an out. I don't accept that, and I don't think any of my guys are saying that, either.''
Bottom line, though, is there are issues.
While the pass protection improved, the run-blocking has been non-existent, and that goes a long way toward explaining why the Bears wound up with just 13 yards rushing, third fewest in franchise history, on 12 attempts against Green Bay.
They wound up calling 43 passes and nine runs compared to 52 and 11 in a loss to the Saints. But unlike the New Orleans game, coach Lovie Smith had no issue with the balance.
Execution was the problem. Tice said blockers were ''overshooting the pull'' and ''hanging too long on the three-technique.''
''We've got to clean all that up,'' he said.
It might help, too, if the Bears called for more handoffs. Tice said it's ''always harder'' to open holes when the offense is consistently in a pass mode.
''At the same time, the linemen are paid to execute the plays that are called,'' he said.
At least the blockers gave Cutler enough time. That the Bears couldn't take advantage is another issue.
If Cutler was a bit jittery, it was easy to see why.
That pounding he took against New Orleans resembled some of the beatings he absorbed last season, when he got sacked a league-leading 52 times in 15 games. His completion percentage is at 54.4 percent, about seven points below his career average, partly because he's rushing.
''I think all quarterbacks go through that, to some extent,'' offensive coordinator Mike Martz said. ''I think we looked at the tape. He was very pleased with the protection. That goes away, real quick. And he's very confident with where we're going with that thing, and we all are. We're excited about that part of it, to be honest with you and where we're headed. Last year, at this time, I was scared to death of our protections.''