LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) This time, Jay Cutler and Philip Rivers had little to say.
If there is any lingering ill will between them, the quarterbacks weren’t interested in discussing it as the Chicago Bears prepared to host the San Diego Chargers on Sunday.
“One little incident that got blown into a huge deal,” is how Rivers described it.
It happened on a big stage, in front a national audience on Christmas Eve in 2007, when Cutler was with Denver.
ESPN cameras caught Rivers yelling at him from the sideline after he threw an incomplete pass on a fourth down during the fourth quarter of a 23-3 Chargers victory, and Chargers linebacker Matt Wilhelm mockingly waving toward him.
When Denver and San Diego played early the following season, the quarterbacks didn’t say much to each other during the pregame coin toss. Later that year, Cutler made his feelings about Rivers clear on a Fox Sports Net show when he said, “I don’t like how he carries himself. I don’t like some of the stuff he does on the field.”
On Wednesday, Cutler didn’t have much to say. He basically sidestepped questions about the incident with Rivers, giving mostly short answers.
Where did the rivalry start? “I don’t know,” Cutler said.
Was it during that 2007 game? “I don’t remember,” he said.
Do you miss playing against him? “No,” Cutler said.
Have your feelings about him changed?
“I haven’t played him for years so it’s kind of different,” said Cutler, who last faced the Chargers in 2008. “It’s something that’s in the past. Defensively, he’s a great player. He’s still putting up big numbers, and they’re going to throw the ball down the field. The way we’re playing defensively, hopefully we have a chance to shut him down.”
As for his relationship with Rivers? When asked if he’s had a chance to soothe things with him, Cutler said, “I don’t know him. You have his number, so we can talk?”
Rivers said he’d gladly talk to Cutler, but he wasn’t about to pass along his number on a conference call.
“We’ve spoken in the past since then, whether it be the coin toss or the postgame,” Rivers said. “It wasn’t as if we were big buddies beforehand and then had a big falling off. I mean, he and I had minimal conversations even before all that got blown way out of proportion. But I have nothing against Jay. I think he’s a heck of a player. One thing you know about him, he’s a super competitor. One thing he’s doing right now is he’s leading his team to win four in a row, and I’m fighting like crazy to just try to get a win.”
The Bears are on a four-game win streak and are looking like strong contenders after a rough start. They pounded Detroit last week, intercepting Matthew Stafford four times while coming away with six turnovers in a 37-13 victory. That put them in a second-place tie with the Lions in the NFC North, which would have seemed hard to believe just a few weeks earlier given the way they were playing.
The defense has cut down on big plays. The run-pass balance on offense is better. The Bears are getting the ball out of Cutler’s hands quicker. Matt Forte is having a career year, and the blocking has improved, although the line did struggle against Detroit.
The Chargers? Well, they’re going in the opposite direction after a 4-1 start. They’re short-handed on the offensive line, thanks to injuries, and Rivers just hasn’t been himself.
He’s the league’s fifth-leading passer with 2,743 yards, but he also has more interceptions than anyone with 15. He got sacked six times against Oakland last week and now ranks third in that category with 25 – two more than Cutler.
It’s safe to say finding ways to keep the ball away from opponents and stay on his feet rank higher on the priority list than any issues he’s had with Cutler.
“We haven’t had much time to worry about that,” Rivers said. “We’re just trying to find a way to win a game. It’s been a rough stretch.”
Notes: Devin Hester said he was getting ready to come back into the game last week when Major Wright and Charles Tillman returned interceptions for touchdowns early in the third quarter to put away the Lions. Hester returned three punts for 122 yards in the first half even though he had strep throat, swollen tonsils and a fever over 103, not to mention a sprained ankle. .. The Bears continue to hold Julius Peppers out of practice because of a sprained knee.
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