Choosing Jay Cutler over Josh McCown might have been a bad decision by Marc Trestman early on for the Chicago Bears, but by the end of their 38-31 win over the Cleveland Browns it turned out to be the correct one. No one argues with bottom lines, which is the Bears currently holding on to the lead in the NFC North, hoping for the Detroit Lions to slip up in their next game and later as well.
After missing games for the last month, a rusty Cutler made Trestman regret he chose him to start early on, intercepted on the first drive of the game by the Bears and then again in the second quarter, turning into a pick-six. However, Cutler is made of some stern stuff, and wound up throwing three touchdown passes by the end of the game, splitting the spoils between Brandon Marshall, Earl Bennett and Alsho Jefferey. He got a huge help from Matt Forte in another big all-around game (127 rushing yards) and Michael Bush, who ran for a 40-yard touchdown to put the Bears two scores in front with 2:15 left in the game.
Jason Campbell had a bad game, as his short reign as the most successful quarterback in recent Browns history comes to an end, throwing two interceptions, both to the hands of Zack Bowman, one of them returned for a touchdown. Once again yards weren’t hard to get against the Bears defense, but it’s hard playing a game against them without losing the ball once or twice, seeing them take it in for a score. The Browns actually scored two defensive touchdowns, one off a Martellus Bennett fumble, but their defense couldn’t stop Cutler when it mattered, while Campbell was no longer playing like the answer to his team’s QB problems.
One of the things Trestman was brought on for had to do with changing Cutler from being less of a risk taker into more of a short game guy, and ending his dependency on Brandon Marshall, adding Bennett to the mix not to mention the rise of Alshon Jeffery. Cutler looked for Marshall way too much (targeting him 13 times), completing the play only six times (for 95 yards and a touchdown). When looking the other way, Cutler was an incredible 16-of-18 for 170 yards and two touchdowns. He stopped looking for him in the end, targeting Marshall on only six of his final 18 passes.
So is this the key to the Bears’ success this season, whatever is left of it? Winning the division is a must (Philly on the road, Green Bay at home) because the wild card spots seem to be going in the direction of Carolina and San Francisco. The Bears have a holey, opportunistic defense and a very talented bunch of playmakers on offense, but that will only work out against two vulnerable teams if Cutler sheds his rust and stops looking for Marshall every time he steps out of the huddle, and realizes that looking the other way is better for him and his teammates.