After the Chicago Bears opened the season with two wins, and I was previewing their upcoming game against the Packers, it looked like QB Jay Cutler was the reason why they were winning. The game against the Cowboys seemed particularly impressive at the time, though it's not too great with the hindsight that they had one of the worst defenses in the NFL last season according to Football Outsiders. But the point remains the same: the Bears can't win without a good game from Cutler.
Looking at his game log for 2010, it's clear that the Bears lost whenever Cutler had a bad game. He's wasn't terrible during their regular season loss to the Seahawks, but he only completed 43% of his passes in that one, which happened back when Mike Martz was still ignoring RB Matt Forte. Cutler wasn't great against the Dolphins (QB rating of 64.8) but that game was right after the Dolphins lost their top two quarterbacks and were forced to prepare for the QB Tyler Thigpen experience during a short week.
Against the Packers this season, he's had one good game, and one awful game. Here's how he's done against the Packers over the past two seasons:
|Date||Home Team||Yards||TD||INT||QB Rating||Sacks + QB Hits Against|
I was expecting to see his quarterback rating go down as the number of sacks and quarterback hits goes up. If anything, it's been going the other way, until they overwhelmed him back on January 2nd. Maybe the biggest factor for that bad game three weeks ago was that he wasn't able to complete a single pass to WR Johnny Knox (on 8 pass attempts to him). Knox has had some of his best games during losses (vs. the Seahawks, and the Redskins). Still, he's one of the best receivers in the NFL according to Football Outsiders, and stopping Knox again will be a priority.
While it's not expected to be painfully cold, it should be around 20 degrees at game time according to Weather.com, and that's not going to make it easier to throw the ball. Knox didn't have a great game (4 catches for 48 yards) against the Seahawks, so he doesn't appear to have an advantage in the poor footing at Soldier Field. As important as it is to get pressure and collapse the pocket on Cutler, it's just as important to cover Knox, and it will require a complete defensive effort to shut down Cutler and the Bears offense.