Don’t Just Blame Cutler; Special Teams Failed, Too

Posted: January 25, 2011 in News
Jay Cutler

Bears quarterback Jay Cutler hangs his head in disappointment on Sunday, knowing he will have to face the criticism eventually this offseason (Getty Images).

The Bears loss to Green Bay in the NFC Championship was far and beyond disappointing.

Perhaps the cherry on top of the loss to Chicago’s most bitter rival was the torn MCL injury to quarterback Jay Cutler in the third quarter. The critics took an immediate chance to jump on Cutler for his toughness and durability when he failed to return to the game.

On a radio interview a day after the injury occurred, Dr. Brian Cole, an orthopedic surgeon who specializes in sports medicine at the Midwest Orthopedics at Rush, stated on WSCR-AM that there are three degrees of this injury. Cutler’s is reported to be a second degree, which may or may not require surgery and recoils discomfort and pain depending on how the knee is used. The example he gave was that an offensive lineman would likely be able to play thru the pain, but players who would be making lateral motions would likely suffer the most. The injury could result in a 2-3 week rehabilitation.

Yes Cutler had a disgusting performance. Cutler completed only 6 passes out of 14 attempts for a sad 80 yards and an interception. Cutler’s 31.8 quarterback rating was far too low for a player of his caliber. The offense seemed to never establish any success while he was in the game. While at the helm, the offense had only 99 net yards in Cutler’s half-and-one-series. A sad performance to say the least.

Whether he could have returned and played the rest of the game, only Cutler knows. If he was injured to the severity that he could not compete in the biggest game he’s ever played in, then that’s something he’s going to have to deal with for a long time.

The Packers defense feasted on Chicago for the entire first half. They seemed to have Cutler figured out down to a science. The running game was hit or miss as usual, forcing the Bears to try moving the ball thru the air. That plan failed.

But before everyone goes on to Tweet about how Jay Cutler is a wussy and he threw the NFC Championship game, the fact Chicago never had any offensive fire power early in the game is not entirely his fault.

The Bears special teams were frozen solid on the sidelines and never became the X-factor they usually do. Punts were iffy, the field goal team had two opportunities to score but never did, and the return game was dismal.

Pro Bowl kick returner Devin Hester was a non-factor in the loss. Hester, who was reignited this season as the elite kickoff and punt returner he was seasons ago, made no impact on the game. Opposing teams usually kick it away from Hester and surrender good field position or kickoff to Hester and feel the burn should he break a return free for pay dirt.

Hester returned just one kickoff Sunday for 24 yards and 3 punts for a combined 16 yards. Offensively, he caught no passes and never stretched the field to open up options for his teammates.

The Bears average starting field position as a result of the poor special teams play was their own 27 yard line, which would make any quarterback uncomfortable having to go 73 yards on average for a touchdown.

Green Bay only kicked off once to Hester. Rashied Davis, Kellen Davis, and Danieal Manning each returned one as well, combining for under 40 yards. Hester doesn’t only take blame for the crummy field position, so does the rest of the kickoff squad.

Chicago punter Brad Maynard even seemed to lose his edge yesterday. He sure got a workout punting 9 times, but averaged 33.4 net yards per boot. The Bears never forced Green Bay to have to start way deep in their own territory like the Packers did to the Bears. Green Bay started 4 drives from its own 20 or worse. Chicago had to endure that hardship 6 times, leading to 5 punts and an interception.

So while the initial fan reaction may tell you to point the blame finger at Jay Cutler, remember that he had no help at all yesterday and was faced with an uphill battle the entire first half. Matt Forte’s 160 total yards from scrimmage (17 rushes for 70 yards, 10 receptions for 90 yards) really came late when the Bears went to third stringer Caleb Hanie. Cutler just couldn’t spark big plays or sustain drives.

During the 7 drives Cutler was on the field for, the Bears punted 6 times and was intercepted. On their first 9 possessions, Chicago punted 8 times with an interception. The first 12 drives featured 9 punts, two interceptions, and only one offensive touchdown. I need not go further, you get the point.

In the end, somebody has to take the blame for the loss. While I feel it’s appropriate to give some to Cutler, just ration some to the side so special teams can receive their fair share of the loss. The defense played the best of the team’s three phases, surrendering only 14 points excluding the B.J. Raji interception return for a score.

We may never know what could have been from the NFC Championship Game with the “what if” statements. What I do know is that it is going to be a very long offseason for the Bears with nothing but questions and speculation.

For the city of Chicago, football can’t come back soon enough.

  1. Yeah, I still don’t know how to feel about all of this. I think that I agree with you on the special teams thing because it seemed to be the little things that the Bears couldn’t do right, and it ended up being the difference. That being said, I think that the score didn’t accurately reflect how bad Chicago got their ass beat.

    Bears fans have every reason to me upset, as this moment is the reason they traded Kyle Orton for this guy in the first place. However, remember that Cutler came over in that trade from the Denver Broncos, so you’d have to know that he wouldn’t have a grandiose level of conference championship experience.


  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Brett Lyons, Brett Lyons. Brett Lyons said: Don't Just Blame Cutler; Special Teams Failed, Too: #NFL #Bears #Packers […]

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