Is Jay Cutler in danger of losing his teammates?
CHICAGO -- The body-language police couldn't dissect Jay Cutler's every move and legitimately issue indictments about him playing things too cool in the wake of a horrid four-interception outing in Sunday's 17-14 loss to the Washington Redskins.
Clearly, this one hurt Cutler deeply.
"We let a game get away from us. The defense, they have every right to be mad at us," said Cutler, clearly humbled by the experience. "[The defense is] the reason we have four wins. Offense has got to get up to their level. We blew that game, and most of that falls on my shoulders."
Perhaps all of the responsibility should go Cutler's way, considering Chicago lost by three points, with two of the quarterback's turnovers either leading directly to points (the interception in the third quarter that DeAngelo Hall returned 92 yards for a touchdown) or preventing the Bears from scoring them (Cutler's fumble on the Redskins' 1-yard line in the third quarter).
[+] Enlargehttp://a.espncdn.com/photo/2010/1024...utler1_300.jpgJonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesThe Redskins sacked Jay Cutler four times to match his four interceptions.
Such facts aren't lost upon Cutler's teammates, and at least one wondered privately after the game whether coach Lovie Smith's mantra of accountability extended to the quarterback, who has now thrown four or more interceptions in three separate outings since joining the team.
"We knew from watching Jay Cutler we were going to get some opportunities," said Hall, who tied an NFL record with four interceptions. "I didn't think they were going to come in bunches like that."
Surely, the Bears didn't, either. Based on Cutler's recent performances, in addition to the body of work from Chicago's 7-9 campaign in 2009, it's not out of the question to wonder whether the quarterback is in danger of losing the team.
In three seasons in Denver, the quarterback had never thrown more than three interceptions in a game -- and he threw three only once. Then again, Cutler had never taken as much punishment in terms of sacks (27 for the season, including 19 over his past 10 quarters), either.
The current situation evokes memories of last season, when the Bears -- 3-2 at the time -- dropped a 45-10 decision to the Bengals, thanks in part to horrendous defense and a three-interception stinker from Cutler. The Bears followed that by losing six of their next eight, with Cutler tossing 18 interceptions, compared to just eight touchdowns during the stretch.
"I know Jay was trying to win the football game as much as anyone out there," Smith said. "He's still trying hard. You go through some tough times, and you just keep working to get back out of it. Jay will come out of it like our football team will."
So the bye week might come at the perfect time for this reeling Bears team. Then again, time away could prove detrimental, leading to more finger-pointing than bonding, which isn't ideal considering the team's upcoming slate of games after the bye: against the Bills in Toronto, home against the Vikings and at the Dolphins, followed by a home date with the Eagles.
The Bears scheduled workouts for Wednesday and Thursday, and will take the rest of the week off. Defensive end Julius Peppers likes to come back quickly for redemption from games like this, which makes a bye week almost torture for him.
We let a game get away from us. The defense, they have every right to be mad at us. [The defense is] the reason we have four wins. Offense has got to get up to their level. We blew that game, and most of that falls on my shoulders.
” -- Bears QB Jay Cutler
"I'm not angry at anybody," Peppers said. "I'll get angry at myself first. We've got to keep our heads up and tell ourselves that game could've easily been won because it could have been. Right now, it's disappointing. We're disappointed because -- I've said it three or four times -- we should've won that game. I think we all feel like that. We all should feel like that. We're gonna be disappointed on this one for a little bit because it hurts. It hurts. It should hurt."
Bears nickel corner D.J. Moore, who returned a Donovan McNabb interception 54 yards for a touchdown Sunday, definitely hasn't lost faith in Cutler. Moore said he expects Cutler to someday be remembered as one of the best signal-callers in franchise history.
Still, it will be difficult for some to look past Cutler's struggles.
The Bears' offense staggered to 0-for-28 on third-down conversions over 10 quarters with Cutler running the show (dating back to Sept. 27), before the unit finally converted with 4:44 remaining in the third quarter. Cutler finished the game with a passer rating of 54.3, and hasn't posted a rating of 100 or better since Week 2.
"He's my dude; he's got the stuff," Moore said. "It's going to take some time, but he's got it. You can see it out there. Sometimes he makes mistakes or whatever, but who [doesn't]? Brett Favre made a thousand mistakes ... and that's per game."
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Cutler likely won't receive so many opportunities before Smith finally pulls the plug.
In pondering the approach the club needs to take into this week's bye, Cutler said he saw positives the team could build on moving forward, while pointing out the need to lead the offense's attempt to reach the level of the Bears' solid defense.
Cutler also took responsibility for the interceptions, in addition to the communication problems between with the receivers.
"I'll take them all," Cutler said. "It's just the little bitty things here and there. Little things add up to big things, and big things are reasons why you lose the game. We've got to eliminate it. Offensively, we need to make some steps. It's very devastating right now, and I'm very disappointed. When it's bad, you have to ride it out."
Michael C. Wright covers the Bears for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN 1000.