Jay Cutler. When his name is spoken around a Chicago Bears fan, who knows what the response is going to be. Heck, if you speak it around any NFL fan, the reaction is generally negative. But that needs to stop, and now.
All of the labeling of him as “not tough,” or having “bad body language,” or “not being clutch,” needs to come to an end. Maybe there were incidents that warranted criticism from the past few years; maybe there are still some things that need work now. The fact of the matter, however, is that Cutler has come out in 2013 and won. Yes, it’s only three games, but it’s been against three very good defenses and they’ve all required him to step up and change the Bears’ fate at some point near the end of each contest.
Against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 1, they were down 21-10. Cutler led them on two long second-half touchdown drives to take the lead, and then orchestrated a drive over six minutes long that ended the game entirely.
In Week 2 versus the Minnesota Vikings, Chicago was down 30-24 with under three minutes remaining. Again, it was Cutler who stepped up and led the offense to a touchdown, throwing a perfect back-shoulder pass to Martellus Bennett with only 16 seconds remaining.
Then, the most impressive of the three performances came tonight against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday Night Football: Prime Time. First off, let me just say that Cutler didn’t have the most spectacular game. In fact, going into his big moment of the game, he didn’t even have 100 yards passing, and that was in the final quarter.
The Steelers, despite having an 0-3 record, still have a dominant defense. It’s been the offense that has not provided for them. And Cutler could only take what he was given, that is, until he decided it was time to take matters into his own hands.
See, the Bears took over the start of the game. At one point in the first half, they had a 24-3 lead. But then things got stagnant on both sides of the ball, and the Steelers took advantage. In fact, with 10:43 remaining in the fourth quarter, Pittsburgh kicked a field goal that made it 27-23. They were within four points and had all the momentum; things were looking bleak for the Bears, as if they were going to give up a win they were thought to have secured in the first half.
It was at this time Cutler took responsibility for the Bears’ fate. Chicago’s drive, ensuing after that Steeler field goal, started with two poor running plays to Matt Forte which resulted in zero yards. It was third-and-10, and when all hope seemed lost, Cutler stepped up in a quickly collapsing pocket and found a running lane. Instead of sliding once he had the first down, he lowered his shoulder and bulled over safety Robert Golden.
That play wasn’t just a first-down scramble. It was a statement. A statement that Cutler wasn’t going to let the Bears go down without a fight, and that he was going to do everything in his power to win that football game.
In that moment, any doubt was erased that he is the leader of the Chicago Bears, something that’s been heavily questioned for the past few seasons, especially coming into his contract year.
Following that play, Cutler would convert another third-and-long, this time third-and-12, and hit Brandon Marshall with a beautiful 41-yard pass. Three plays later, third-and-five, he would then throw a perfect touchdown strike to Earl Bennett, effectively ending Pittsburgh’s hopes of a comeback.
Again, up to that point, Pittsburgh had practically shut down the Bears’ passing game. It wasn’t until Cutler stepped up, changed the tide and made plays happen, that the Bears were able to put the Steelers away. He made that drive, and he won this game for the Bears. And he did the same thing in their last two wins as well.
He may still make that one play in a game where you yell, “What the hell are you thinking?” at your TV. He still may not be Mr. Smiley all the time. Heck, people may never get past his #smokinjaycutler bit.
Nevertheless, he’s a winner. He’s proven that much, and he’s made that happen for the Bears so far this year. How much of that is Cutler? How much is Marc Trestman? How much is it just the fact that he has weapons and a solid offensive line? Who knows?
The only thing that is for sure, is that Cutler is the Bears’ quarterback, and now, he’s their justifiable leader.
Brian Neal is an NFL and NBA contributor for RantSports.com, and a senior mass communications major at Lewis University. Follow him on Twitter @brianneal23, “Like” him on Facebook and add him to your network on Google+.