Too Late

Jay Cutler was eventually replaced by Josh McCown, but not until the 2-Minute Warning in the 4th.  Which, as implied, tends to be of the too-little-too-late variety of actions. Nonetheless,  McCown took the Bears right down the field and found Brandon Marshall in the back of the end-zone to reduce the Bears’ deficit to 21-19. Then the Bears’ were gifted with two opportunities at the game-tying two-point conversion, neither of which they converted, and so the Lions now lead the NFC North by both a game and all the tie-breakers.  The Bears are now 5-4 on the year and tied with Green Bay for distant second.

The game opened with both teams scoring touchdowns on their opening possessions.  A fast-paced game seemed very much in the cards as Cutler came out firing on all cylinders and all was right with Bears fans. The defense was just as good,  keeping Calvin Johnson in check for a good chunk of the game. Reggie Bush was gashing the defense, but nothing came of it.  Then a player’s cleats descended on Cutler’s throwing hand, leaving a nasty mark.  Ordinarily, this would have caused concern for his ability to control and throw the ball.  But it didn’t deter Trestman and Kromer from sticking with their starter. Later he seemed to reaggravate his groin injury, and was noticeably hobbling for several plays.  Cutler was being hit often and the game was becoming more and more physical as it proceeded to grind its way toward the end.  There was a 900-pound gorilla in the room.

Cutler’s day was never in question no matter how much the Fox announcing crew incessantly talked about his injuries and the way his play was debilitating the offense.  Matt Forte was no help in mitigating Cutler’s injuries; the Lions were stuffing the run all day.  In the first quarter, the Lions stopped Michael Bush on a fourth-and-one that went nowhere from the start.  The attempt was in lieu of a field goal attempt by the reliable Robbie Gould.  The decision to go for it and its failure led to the eventual game-ending two-point conversion debacle.  Chicago’s offense continued to sputter with Cutler at the helm and the mounting air of second-guessing over the first-down attempt.

Television coverage consistently showed McCown with a helmet on and throwing on the sidelines. This exacerbated at-home and in-bar fans angst over an ineffectual offense under Cutler.  When McCown was finally inserted for the final drive of the game, he showed the poise and maneuverability that was expected but unrealized in Cutler.  McCown easily moved the ball through the air to put the Bears in a position to tie the game.  The eventual explanation for Cutler’s substitution was that he had a bum ankle that forced him out of the game. The ankle was never in question throughout, but the fact that the substitution came about so late in the game leaves many questions for first-year head coach Marc Trestman.  Not that every game isn’t important in some respect, but this game was for first place in the division and a potential home playoff game in January…as Detroit has the pleasure of knowing.

Going into the game the talk all week was that if Cutler didn’t perform he would be pulled.  Even though the opening drive resulted in a touchdown, he clearly wasn’t giving the Bears the best chance to win.  It’s tough to see this game as having gone in the loss column if Cutler had been pulled far earlier, especially with the way McCown performed for less than two minutes. It’s even tougher to consider that Cutler will continue to be the starter for the rest of the year with his hobbled abilities. McCown – by his visible presence on the sidelines the whole game – made it tough to avoid yelling at the coaching staff (which is really just my tv screen) to put him in the game a lot earlier.  In addition, a poll launched after the game by the Chicago Tribune showed overwhelmingly how many people were in favor of getting Cutler out a lot sooner.