The 2-7 Chicago Bears come to MetLife Stadium this Sunday to face the 6-3 New York Giants is a contest between two of the league’s most-storied franchises. Except this season, the stories are on opposite ends of the success spectrum.
The Giants’ defense is surging, finally amassing sacks and creating turnovers after an inexplicable and frustrating drought the first two months of the season. The Bears are a wounded group that is unraveling before our eyes.
Injuries to the offensive line, RB Jordan Howard and the suspension of star WR Alshon Jeffery (PEDs) for the next four games have left them scrambling for answers against a Giants’ defense that has been heating up behind DE Olivier Vernon, LB Keenan Robinson and safety Landon Collins.
In addition, the club appears to have lost faith in QB Jay Cutler. Strike that. The have already lost faith in Cutler. The only reason he is back in the starting lineup is because his replacement, Brian Hoyer, broke his arm and there was no one left on the depth chart.
Cutler played the first two games of the season, injuring ligaments in his thumb in the Week 2 loss to Philadelphia. He missed the next six weeks while Hoyer handled the QB duties. During his rehab, head coach John Fox reportedly told friends that he was “done” with Cutler but then Hoyer’s injury forced him to turn back to his inconsistent veteran.
Cutler came back with a vengeance two weeks ago, leading the Bears to a 20-10 home victory over the fading Viking on Monday Night Football only to put in a sorry performance last week down in Tampa in the 36-10 loss to the Bucs.
The Bears are not expected to keep the grossly overpaid Cutler past this season, so they are painfully riding out the string with him, but the chatter is getting ugly around the club with teammates expressing their displeasure with Cutler, who seem unaffected by the criticism.
“Unnamed source, I’m guessing?” Cutler said when told of the sniping as per the Chicago Tribune. “The source could be a lot of people. It could be a made-up source. It could actually be guys in there. If people start putting names on it, we can have a discussion about it.”
Cutler has been going through this his whole career. His body language and poor choice of words have always backfired on him, drawing labels that he is a player that doesn’t take his profession seriously, a notion his coaches dispute.
“I didn’t see that [lackadaisical approach] in his preparation,” offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains told the Chicago Tribune.
“But obviously, the way we played, I don’t think any of us were prepared. We need to do a better job coaching. We need to do a better job of executing plays. We win and lose together,” Loggains said. “He was the same guy we were praising against Minnesota. And obviously he didn’t play as well as he would have liked. I didn’t coach as well as I would have liked to. And the staff — no one. It’s a heavy burden to wear the crown. Jay’s the quarterback, so it falls on him.”
What is likely to fall on Cutler this Sunday are Giant defenders. They have been sacking and hitting quarterbacks at a high rate these past several weeks and intend to escalate their effort versus the sedentary Cutler.
“Hopefully he holds the ball a little bit longer,” said Giants DE Jason Pierre-Paul, who had two batted passes against the Bengals last week. “Then he has me and OV (DE Olivier Vernon) to deal with and the two tackles, maybe, but if he does – I am pretty sure that Cutler is a smart quarterback and once he gets rolling, he is rolling. You can’t let that fool you. I know that their record doesn’t say it, but they are a good team. But we know what we have to do – get to the quarterback, play the run first, can’t forget about the run because they have good running backs back there and that is all we are going to be doing. We are not too worried about Cutler. We have to be, but our job is to play the run first and get to the pass second. But as long as we keep playing good ball, we will be alright.”
That does not mean the Giants will be taking the Bears lightly, They know Cutler still has that quick release and penchant for the big play.
“They’re one of the top teams in the NFL in explosive plays,” said Giants DC Steve Spagnuolo. “That running back is as good as I’ve seen all year. Jay Cutler is a good quarterback. Every offense we play, you’re going to hear me say it’s a scary offense. They’re NFL players. They can do anything. We back off that much, we will have a problem. We’re not going to do that.”