by Nathan Rush
One day after Quinton “Rampage” Jackson takes on Jon “Bones” Jones in a light heavyweight fight at UFC 135, Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler goes toe-to-toe against the Green Bay defense in the heavyweight showdown that is Packers-Bears 183.
Both bouts could get ugly.
Many are already questioning whether Cutler will be able to walk away from the latest installment of a regional feud that spans 90 years and 182 games between two historic franchises separated by only 200 miles.
The 183rd meeting of the NFL’s oldest rivals is a rematch of last season’s NFC Championship Game, a contest in which Cutler was knocked out with what was later revealed as a sprained MCL in his left knee.
Still, for a variety of reasons, many felt Cutler simply quit after completing 6-of-14 passes (42.9 percent) for 80 yards, zero TDs and one INT for a 31.8 passer rating, while taking two sacks and countless hits from a vicious Packers 3-4 scheme directed by Dom Capers and led by headhunting linebacker Clay Matthews and sumo nose tackle B.J. Raji.
Sitting on the sideline making Cutler faces — which, to the layperson, are similar to Manning faces, just as smug, only less agitated and more apathetic — seemingly flipped a collective switch in the minds of fans across the country. Cutler became some sort of spoiled millionaire “Bartman” villain of the Chicago sports scene.
The national hate campaign against Cutler went viral faster than “David After Dentist.” Is this real life? Why is this happening to me? Is this gonna be forever?
A quarterback whose toughness had never been questioned — after all, the kid never even blinked while having his head ripped off on a weekly basis playing SEC comp at Vanderbilt — was suddenly labeled “soft.”
“Seems like the storyline has been about whether our quarterback is a tough guy,” said Bears coach Lovie Smith, after the 21–14 loss to the Packers in the NFC title game.
“Our quarterback’s a tough guy.”
Cutler enters this Week 3 fistfight against Green Bay having taken a league-worst 11 sacks through the first two games of the season, albeit against the Falcons and Saints, respectively.
“It’s just not good,” Bears icon Mike Ditka said on ESPN Radio’s Mike & Mike In The Morning. “There’s a lack of understanding on the offensive line on who’s supposed to block who. Or else, they’re just not very good. You can put it either way.”
After taking six sacks and a kick to the throat in a 30–13 loss at New Orleans last week, Cutler was asked whether or not he could make it through the rest of this season taking this type of punishment every week.
“I don’t know,” said a hoarse Cutler. “I don’t know.”
With Cutler’s good buddy Aaron Rodgers leading a high-octane Packers offense into Soldier Field, the Bears will have to put some points on the board in order to pull off an upset win as a 3.5-point home underdog. Keeping their 6’3”, 220-pound gunslinger on his feet is a good start. But Cutler has step up his game, too.
Last season, Cutler went 1–2 against Green Bay — with a 20–17 win in Week 3, a 10–3 loss at Lambeau Field in Week 17 and the previously mentioned 21–14 defeat in the Windy City in the NFC Championship Game — completing a combined 43-of-80 passes (53.8 percent) for 469 yards, one TD and four INTs, while taking seven sacks for 55 lost yards.
Worse, the Bears scored just one TD on 28 possessions led by Cutler in those three, er, two-and-a-half games.
On the bright side, Green Bay enters with the NFL’s 32nd ranked pass defense — having allowed Saints signal-caller Drew Brees to pass for 419 yards and three TDs, and Panthers rookie phenom Cam Newton to throw for 432 yards.
Will Cutler join Brees and Newton as the third straight quarterback to pass for 400 yards against the reigning Super Bowl champions from Titletown?
Or will he get knocked out?