By Chris Emma–
HOUSTON (CBS) — Dressed like he was ready for a GQ shoot, Bears quarterback Jay Cutler certainly didn’t look like he just took a beating Sunday.
There’s no doubt Cutler cleans up well, but his word best reflected what had taken place in Chicago’s 23-14 loss at Houston to open the season, a game in which he got battered around in the pocket to the tune of five sacks.
How are you feeling, Jay?
“Hit-wise?” he replied. “I don’t feel great, no.”
Cutler’s Bears teammates let him down in the season-opening loss. The Bears went to the locker room at halftime looking strong, holding a 14-10 lead. Then came the second half, one of poor play.
By the end, Cutler just looked ready to go home. The offensive line showed its lack of cohesion, the receivers were inconsistent and the run game wasn’t good enough to complement the passing attack.
When the day was finally done, Cutler refused to pass any blame.
In the first quarter, the Bears elected to go for it on fourth-and-1 . Offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains called for a quarterback sneak, trusting rookie center Cody Whitehair to open a hole. Whitehair engaged his block before Cutler could grasp the football, and a fumble caused a turnover on downs.
“It takes two to make that work,” Cutler said of Whitehair’s mistake.
Whitehair claimed the blame himself.
“Cody’s going to,” Cutler replied. “That’s the type of guy he is. He’s a team guy. It means a lot to him.”
The second half opened with the Bears looking to build upon their lead. On the second play from scrimmage, receiver Kevin White stopped short on an out route. Cutler’s pass was thrown right at Texans cornerback Andre Hall, with White standing still off to the side of the turnover. It was a brutal blunder in his first NFL regular-season game.
“I’ll talk to Kev about it,” Cutler said. “First game out there. But it left my hand, it’s my responsibility.”
A game-changing moment occurred when the Bears were seeking a third-down conversion to extend a drive late in the third quarter. Cutler hit Alshon Jeffery in the numbers, but he dropped the ball. Houston would score on the following possession to take the lead for good.
What followed in the fourth quarter were countless hits to Cutler. He was popped in the chest, the ribs, the facemask and the legs. Cutler kept getting back up.
This wasn’t surprising given that that the offensive line was reworked this week, with Whitehair moving over to center to open up the left guard spot for the newly signed Josh Sitton. Adding to that, right guard Kyle Long is playing through a shoulder injury and was limited in his work all week. The Bears’ tackles just weren’t good Sunday, failing to seal off the edge of the Texans’ tenacious blitz.
Despite the tough day, Cutler kept bouncing back. He finished 16-of-29 for 216 yards, a touchdown and an interception.
For all the criticism Cutler takes, he revealed after Sunday’s loss why teammates view him as such a respected leader. Just this week, Cutler was voted a captain, as he has been each season in Chicago.
Cutler is the veteran leader on whom the Bears rely. After each loss, he’s a beacon of hope.
“We’re going to get better,” Cutler said after the latest defeat.
The Bears won’t be back in the playoffs until they get better around Cutler. General manager Ryan Pace kept the quarterback he inherited because the alternatives just aren’t that good, but more so because he saw the way Cutler could be the centerpiece of their plans on offense.
Once again, it was clear the Bears need to improve around their quarterback. And once again, Cutler refused to let his teammates take the blame alone.