Bears coach John Fox was impressed with how quarterback Jay Cutler performed in Sunday's 26-21 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but that's nothing new.
Cutler has been a model of consistency this year, posting passer ratings of at least 88.4 in nine of 11 starts since missing a game-and-a-half early in the season with a hamstring injury.
"He's done it all season," Fox said Monday. "He missed the second half of the Arizona game and wasn't able to play against Seattle. For six quarters when he wasn't in there, you feel it. The rest of the games he gives you a chance."
Throwing mostly screens and other short passes against Lovie Smith's cover-two defense Sunday, Cutler completed 20 of 27 passes for 156 yards with one touchdown, no interceptions and a 100.2 passer rating. He led the offense to two TDs and four field goals on its final eight possessions of the game.
With the Bears leading 20-14 early in the fourth quarter, Cutler scrambled for 16 yards on third-and-seven, sustaining a drive that resulted in a Robbie Gould field goal. On third-and-12 later in the period, Cutler stepped up in the pocket and rifled a 25-yard pass to Marc Mariani, setting up another Gould field goal.
The completion to Mariani was another example of Cutler extending a play with his feet, something he's done all season.
"It's an art he's good at," Fox said. "He's done it a lot. Everybody in the stadium knows you're throwing on third-and-12. So they pin their ears back. It's a tough spot. But he has a good feel. He's been way better in his pocket presence all season long, finding holes and buying time."
Cutler has passed for 3,414 yards with 19 TDs, eight interceptions and a 92.8 passer rating in 14 starts this season. He is the only NFL quarterback with at least 10 starts who has not thrown multiple interceptions in a game.
His performance is even better when you consider that the Bears' top four receivers heading into the season—Alshon Jeffery (9), Eddie Royal (9), Kevin White (0) and Marquess Wilson (11)—have played in 29 of 60 combined games, while tight end Martellus Bennett will miss five of the final six contests.
"He's had a variety of receivers," Fox said. "It's not an excuse; it's just a reality and when you figure that in, he's had a very good season."
Cutler and the passing game benefitted from a strong rushing attack Sunday that compiled 174 yards, the second-most this year behind a 189-yard effort in the season opener against Green Bay.
Ka'Deem Carey scored both Bears touchdowns on a 1-yard run and a 1-yard reception from Cutler. On both plays, Carey lined up in the backfield with fellow running back Jeremy Langford.
"It's not the first time we've done it all season," Fox said. " But any time you have two backs in there, there is a little bit of misdirection and uncertainty on which back's getting the ball. We've had a stable of them there for this season. The names have changed, but all-in-all we're pretty comfortable with all three of them that were active for the game yesterday and I think Ka'Deem showed he proved worthy."
Three undrafted rookies proved worthy on defense Sunday, accounting for all three Bears takeaways. Safety Jonathan Anderson recorded an interception and forced a fumble, linebacker Jonathan Anderson forced a fumble and linebacker John Timu recovered two fumbles.
"They earn that," Fox said. "Those guys did that. I didn't do it. Their coach didn't do it. They did it. This profession is about opportunity and when opportunity knocks, you bust the door down. It doesn't matter whether you're a first-round pick, a college free agent or a seventh-round pick. It's just a matter of producing when you're on the field."