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Idea of Bears as contenders goes down hard with Cutler

by | CBSSports.com National Columnist

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- On one sack, Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler's head was practically screwed into the turf, like someone was twisting off the cap on a bottle of pop. On another, he was flipped, wrestling style. On yet another, one of his legs went in one direction, the other in the opposite, human wishbone-like.

It was the sack on a blitz by the Giants' Aaron Ross in the second quarter where Cutler -- I believe -- felt the most pain of all. Ross caught Cutler from behind and wrapped him in a bear hug before tossing him to the ground. It appeared the back of Cutler's head hit the turf hard.

If Jay Cutler keeps getting pounded like this, the Bears won't be around for the postseason. (AP)  
If Jay Cutler keeps getting pounded like this, the Bears won't be around for the postseason. (AP)  
When Cutler stood, there was a momentary wobble and then he jogged to the Bears sideline. He was replaced at halftime by Todd Collins, who is older than Betty White, but the way the Chicago's offensive line was blocking -- allowing nine sacks on Cutler in a half, an NFL record -- it might as well have been Todd Bridges under center.

In what easily was the worst game of the NFL season thus far, the Giants and Bears set football back to the Mesozoic era. More important for the Bears, the Giants' 17-3 victory didn't just result in the loss of Chicago's quarterback, it showed the previously unbeaten Bears for what they truly are: a barely average football team in a league of barely average football teams.

This game violated FCC standards more than anything Janet Jackson ever did, and it was because the Bears were so bad. In all, the Bears gave up 10 sacks -- the most in team history. No good football team ever does anything like that.

"When you get pressure like that, it's tough to do anything," Bears coach Lovie Smith said. "If there's something positive, this only counts as one loss. We finish up this first quarter [of the season] 3-1. We'll go back to work tomorrow and try to fix some of these things."

"The ball [kept] going backwards," said Giants coach Tom Coughlin with a straight face, speaking of Chicago's offense.

It just sounded funny hearing Coughlin say that, but it was a simple and accurate observation. Back, back, back they went. Sack after sack after sack.

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Cutler was physically traumatized, but the truth is about half of the sacks were Cutler's fault. The Bears quarterback added an interception to his league-leading 47 since the beginning of 2008. He has cut down on the throwing miscues this season, but his presence in the pocket remains absolutely Ryan Leaf-like.

On numerous occasions, Cutler held onto the ball too long, leading to a sack. Or he rolled out and seemed to forget there was a pass rush on his aft. Perhaps Cutler has had it beaten into his head that he can't throw a pick, so he's holding onto the ball as long as possible looking for an opening.

Whatever the case, a constant image was Cutler getting hit in the back, ball popping loose, Cutler getting up slowly.

The Bears' struggles ended with them going 0 for 13 on third down.

Collins was equally brutalized. Late in the game, he was smacked in the back so hard by linebacker Michael Boley he remained on the ground for about two minutes before exiting the contest. He was replaced by third-stringer Caleb Hanie, whose biggest claim to fame as an NFL quarterback is being picked off by Dominique Foxworth.

The Bears were thought to be contenders before this game, but that's a joke. The Bears aren't contenders. The Bears could easily be the 49ers, and even if Cutler had finished the game, Chicago still would've lost it.

The Giants crawled back to 2-2 and potentially saved their season. Coughlin and his Giants have shown repeated toughness under pressure, and it's a credit to him. He is one stubborn son of a gun and his team reflects that. The Giants might actually be contenders in a league where the Kansas City Chiefs are unbeaten.

The Bears? Not contenders. Not yet. Not now. Not after this monstrosity.


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