By Adam Hoge-
DETROIT (CBS) — General manager Phil Emery did everything he could this offseason to eliminate as many Jay Cutler excuses as possible.
They’ve been there and they’ve been legitimate. But they’re gone now and, good or bad, the results are on Jay.
For three weeks, those results were mostly good. Sunday in Detroit, they were bad.
“I think if I played better, this is a different ball game,” Cutler said afterward.
It’s an obvious statement, but a significant one nonetheless. He’s well aware of the weapons he has at his disposal and the offensive line is no longer the problem.
“I thought the offensive line battled all day long and did a great job, especially in the passing situations we were in,” Cutler said.
The protection wasn’t perfect, but it rarely is against Ndamukong Suh’s defensive front and it was “sufficient,” as head coach Marc Trestman put it after the game.
No, this one fell on the shoulders — more specifically the right arm and feet — of Jay Cutler.
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Four turnovers. Three interceptions. One very costly fumble.
Trestman gave Cutler a pass for the first interception as safety Louis Delmas made a great break on the ball and essentially ripped it out of Alshon Jeffery’s hands, but Delmas wasn’t looked off by Cutler and the ball was thrown into tight coverage.
There wasn’t any disagreement on the last two interceptions though.
“I was falling back on the one to (Brandon Marshall),” Cutler said. “I felt good about the one to Alshon, it just sailed on me. I’ll have to look at it and be careful with the ball. Both of them were open.”
They were open, but Cutler’s passes on both plays were some of the worst he’s had in a Bears uniform. The footwork on the ball intended for Marshall brought back flashbacks of Rex Grossman and the result was a floater that appeared to defy gravity in the air. Glover Quin pulled it down and returned it to the Bears’ two yard line. The Lions had scored on the play before and Stafford found Calvin Johnson one play later. Just like that — in three plays — a 10-9 Bears lead had turned into a 23-10 deficit.
After the game, Trestman praised his team for responding to adversity in the second half, but the reality is that the response from his quarterback came too late. The defense only allowed three points in the second half, but the game was out of reach because of Cutler’s last two turnovers.
“At halftime we got together and talked to our team that there would be a time just like this where the game appeared to be out of hand, and we decided that we were going to collect ourselves and go back in and play the next 30 minutes and see more about ourselves,” Trestman said. “I think we did.”
Unfortunately, the quarterback was a quarter behind the rest of the team.
On his third interception of the game, Cutler actually did a nice job of escaping pressure and he had Jeffery wide open up the seam, but badly airmailed it. But as they do so often, the defense came up with a takeaway of their own, as Major Wright’s interception gave the offense another chance — only down 14 points late in the third quarter.
That’s when Suh essentially ended the game. Running a stunt to the outside, Cutler didn’t see him coming, even though it was on his strong side. The clock inside his head didn’t tick accurately and Suh easily jarred the ball loose, as it was hanging below the quarterback’s side, exposed for disaster.
“Three-step drop for those guys up front. They think the ball is going to be gone quickly,” Cutler said. “I got away with it a few times with me moving back there and they held up, but that’s on me.”
From there, Nick Fairley picked the loose ball up and took the easy 4-yard stroll into the end zone to make it a 37-16 game.
To his credit, Cutler came back with a strong fourth quarter, throwing for two touchdowns that made it a one-possession game, but it was much too little, too late.
“It just boils down to my turnovers,” the quarterback admitted.
If nothing else, it’s encouraging that Cutler isn’t afraid to admit that, even with his head coach saying he “thought (Cutler) played tough and courageously through the game.”
There are no more excuses and No. 6 wasn’t trying to find any.
Good for him. Now he just has to play better.
Adam Hoge covers the Bears for CBSChicago.com and is a frequent contributor to 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter at @AdamHoge.