Jay Cutler's Sunday evening started fairly well. The Bears quarterback was delivering the ball on-target and quickly against the Green Bay Packers, doing some positive things on the game's opening drive as he completed 3-of-4 passes for 30 yards before penalties eventually forced Chicago to punt.
The three-plus hours that followed were about as pleasant as a root canal for Cutler and the Bears. The quarterback was pressured, rattled and eventually removed, as backup Jimmy Clausen took the final snaps in the 55-14 loss. Cutler finished the night completing 59 percent of his passes for 272 yards and a touchdown, but also threw a pair of costly interceptions, lost a fumble and took three sacks in the humiliating defeat.
"We felt really good coming into this one," Cutler said following the game. "To play like that, you know, it's embarrassing."
For Cutler, the embarrassment not only came from the final score, but through his own performance. Coming off their bye week, the Bears offense hoped to be sharp early on Sunday. Yet problems arose for the offense during that first drive, as penalties pushed the unit back seemingly every time it began to move forward. After Chicago punted and the Packers came right down and scored their first touchdown, things only became worse. Cutler was intercepted on the second snap of the team's second drive, and by the time he touched the ball again, the team already trailed 14-0.
With Aaron Rodgers leading it, Green Bay's offense wouldn't be slowed down all half, and the Bears could not keep up. Chicago was shut out in the first 30 minutes, as the team's eight offensive drives in the first half ended with three punts, two turnovers and two turnovers on downs, along with a kneel-down going into the break. Cutler threw for 145 yards during the half, but by the time the team returned to the locker room, the score was 42-0 and the game was out of reach.
"We can't figure it out right now," Cutler said when asked about why the team started so slowly. "Any time you get down like that, especially against a team you feel good about, have a good week of practice, coming off a bye week, everybody's energized or enthusiastic, that's how you're going to feel. There's a lot of frustrated guys in that locker room, lot of frustrated coaches."
Cutler threw his only touchdown pass of the game in the second half, a 45-yarder to Brandon Marshall where the two beat one-on-one outside coverage. He also threw a pass that resulted in a touchdown for the Packers, as Green Bay cornerback Casey Hayward intercepted a throw that deflected off guard Kyle Long's helmet into the defender's waiting arms, which he brought back 82 yards for a score.
The turnovers, and the loss, continued a poor trend for Cutler against Chicago's oldest rival. In 11 career games with Cutler as the Bears' starting quarterback versus Green Bay, the team is 1-10. Cutler has thrown for 13 touchdown passes and 22 interceptions in those contests.
More importantly, the defeat dropped the Bears to 3-6 on the season, with five defeats in their last six games. Cutler is hardly alone when it comes to players who must improve for the team to win, as he has 52 teammates – and an entire coaching staff - that join him with that distinction. Moving forward, the entire organization knows it must perform better.
"We need (Jay's) continued commitment to this football team. It's not just him, it's all of us," coach Marc Trestman said. "I've got to do a better job of coaching him and he's got to do a better job of playing, just like we all do. Everybody's got to play better, at all positions
"Certainly the quarterback is the focal point, I'm sure he understands that. But again, we're not good in any one phase."
With seven regular season games remaining, it's now or never for Cutler and the Bears to show improvement. Nice starts and brief flashes of strong play aren't enough. It's time for the team to put together complete games in order to return to the win column.
"We got to stick together," Cutler said. "There's going to be a lot of stuff from the outside, and we know that, and it's rightfully so given the way we've played. So we've got to stay together and just keep working."