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Bears counting on Cutler, Marshall

FOX NFL Sunday crew recaps Week 12 action.
FOX NFL Sunday crew recaps Week 12 action.
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Greg Couch

Greg Couch has been a national columnist at AOL Fanhouse and The Sporting News and an award-winning columnist at the Chicago Sun-Times. He was featured twice in "Best American Sports Writing" and was recognized by the US Tennis Writers Association for best column writing and match coverage. He covers tennis on his personal blog. Follow him on Twitter.

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CHICAGO

It was late in the third quarter, after the Chicago Bears had settled for a field goal, when Brandon Marshall leaned over to Jay Cutler on the sideline and gave him the big news: “That catch puts me at 1,000 yards for six seasons in a row.’’

“You’re disgusting,’’ Cutler deadpanned.

This is the strangest, best quarterback-receiver combination this city has ever had. It might not be the best in the league, but it is so much more talented than anything Chicago has ever seen. It’s rare that the Bears have a quarterback who can throw, much less a receiver who can catch. But to have both at the same time?

They also have all the elements of being fatally flawed, though, which is why you have to be uneasy even after a game like Sunday’s. Cutler returned from his concussion, connected with Marshall 12 times and ended the Bears’ two-game losing streak. They beat Minnesota 28-10.

This is what happens when two entirely self-absorbed players realize that they need each other. But how long can it last?

Cutler was great. He also was Joe Teammate for a change. Remember earlier in the year when he bumped his offensive tackle, J’Marcus Webb, giving his teammates another example of his selfishness? On Sunday in the third quarter, Cutler bent down and. . .

Tied Webb’s shoe.

“I don’t know if that’s Cutler-like,’’ Marshall said. “But it was pretty cool, and we were all cheering in the huddle.’’

This was the Cutler that Bears fans want to believe in. Two plays after Minnesota cornerback A.J. Jefferson was called for a roughing penalty, Cutler flipped the ball at him sarcastically after running out of bounds. Cutler was called for taunting, but it didn’t matter. The Bears needed to see him stand up for his teammates.

Cutler has been a problem this year, bumping Webb, ignoring offensive coordinator Mike Tice and dropping the f-bomb on fans. He has shown fake-humility, trying to pretend that he’s a good guy and praise great play-calling, great blocking. Neither of those things work.

This Cutler Sunday was just the right one, putting his personality, uh, quirks to good use.

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“I loosened it and tied it,’’ Cutler said, talking about why he tied Webb’s shoe. “I guess my fatherly instincts were kicking in.’’

Cutler became a father in August.

But don’t look for Cutler to change because he’s a father. I am waiting for someone to push that false narrative. I still think Cutler is just the quarterback to kill you in crunchtime. He has done it before. But on Sunday, you saw what he can be.

Meanwhile, Marshall has apparently been a model citizen since coming to Chicago this year. The Bears signed him so Cutler could be with his favorite receiver again.

They were set up to be an all-time QB-receiver combo in Denver, but it never worked out. In 2008, they put together an incredible offense, but the Broncos had no defense and still didn’t make the playoffs.

So the Bears were taking a chance here. In fact, Cutler-Marshall never did make the playoffs, a detail that was starting to wear on fans in Denver. Cutler eventually left on bad terms with the team and the fans.

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And Marshall, despite his No. 1 receiver ability, was one off-field problem after another.

The pattern was this: Police were called, and charges weren’t filed, or were filed, then usually dropped. His father had claimed he fired a gun, but no charges. He and his girlfriend once both filed police reports alleging domestic abuse. No charges. He once had a charge of domestic violence dropped after he completed anger management counseling.

In 2007, he was at a Denver nightclub with a group of teammates, including Darrent Williams, who was shot to death when he left the club. Marshall reportedly testified that he had been part of the dispute that eventually escalated and led to Williams’ shooting. He pleaded guilty to a lesser charge after being arrested for driving under the influence. Suspended by NFL for violating personal conduct policy.

It goes on and on.

Now this city is counting on Cutler and him. They are counting on each other, too, and get along so well.

“When he comes in here,’’ Cutler said in the post-game press conference, “ask him about the catches he dropped, too. I’ve been giving him a hard time about that.’’

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Cutler laughed: “He played well. He played great. He’s a guy I can count on in every situation, and that’s why we brought him here.’’

The Bears recovered from an embarrassing loss Monday night in San Francisco, and needed this win. The offensive line has been a disaster, and during the week, guard Chilo Rachal was so upset over being demoted that he left the team. During the game, their best lineman, guard Lance Louis, and guard Chris Spencer, left with knee injuries. Coach Lovie Smith said he didn’t know how serious the injuries were.

Devin Hester suffered a concussion and had to leave the game. Matt Forte left with an ankle injury.

Half the offense was gone, and the Bears ran bootlegs, threw quick over the middle to keep Cutler from getting crushed.

And he and Marshall kept connecting.

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“The windows get small sometimes when you go against teams that really know how to play (the Cover-2 defense),’’ Marshall said. “When you have a quarterback like Jay Cutler, there is no hole too small. He was throwing some great balls and putting them in windows where most quarterbacks can’t throw.’’

It’s a combo that’s going to have to work for the Bears, even if it didn’t in Denver. So far it has been a perfect fit.

One more thing: During the game, Marshall also pointed out to Cutler that he is just 20 catches away from tying the Bears’ single-season record of 101 catches. He has always known all his stats.

Cutler called him disgusting again.

Tagged: Bears, Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall

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