On the John
Passing is fun!
Originally completed September 21, 2009
Following Pittsburgh’s first touchdown in yesterday’s Bears-Steelers game, Jay Cutler orchestrated a three and out. It was unspectacular in every way that a three and out can be. A pass complete to Greg Olsen for a gain of six, a Matt Forte run for a gain of one, a pass incomplete to Olsen. As the punt team took the field, my father laughed:
“Wasn’t Cutler supposed to, you know…change our lives, or something?”
Since Angelo made the move for Cutler on April 2nd, Bears fans everywhere have been waiting for the offensive messiah to lift them to previously unknown heights, the kind we’ve cursed from afar whenever Favre or Manning or Marino or Montana were on the screen.
And in the preseason, Cutler delivered. He played stellar football, revealing a command of the quarterback position Chicago fans have not seen since the radio days. He tossed balls all over the field with such ease and efficiency that we gave ourselves permission to believe in The Power of The Arm.
Four picks and a loss later, Bears fans were drooping. Early in the first quarter of Sunday’s game, our spirit was no better.
But Cutler ended up righting the ship with several flicks of that magnificent right arm, leading the Bears on three extended scoring drives that produced two touchdowns and the game-winning Robbie Gould kick in a 17-14 win at Soldier Field.
As he did a week ago, Cutler made throws that brought the “Holy #%@!” out of even the tight-lippiest of Bears fans. Like the Week 1 sideline throws to Hester and The Hustlin’ Johnny Knox, Cutler laid out the most beautiful of balls for Olsen in the second quarter. The pass resulted in the near decapitation of our young tight end, who, fortunately, went on to play and play well.
But Olsen was on the bench for this drive: 13 plays, 97 yards, Cutler going six of nine for 62 yards and a score.
And what a score! Third and goal from the six, 23 seconds to play in the half, Bears trailing seven-zip. Cutler looks left to the blanketed Knox, and then pivots his head to the right, taking two quick steps and machine-gunning a ball to Kellen Davis that sticks on his massive right shoulder as he absorbs a “take that!” hit from James Farrior.
Cutler’s second score was no less impressive. Now trailing 14-7, Cutler and the Bears took over at their own 28. Big Jay made three incredible throws on this drive, the first coming on a third and three from the Chicago 35 in which Cutler evaded the blitzing Farrior to his left, stepped forward and away from a diving defender, and then fired a ball twenty yards to Hester in double coverage. On the very next play, Cutler went play action and spun to his right, casually flipping a pass down the seam over the heads of three Pittsburgh defenders to a wide-open Olsen at the 25.
Five plays later, third and goal from the seven, Cutler in shotgun with an empty backfield and Knox lined up wide to the right. Of all the passes I’ve seen Cutler fling in the navy blue, this was the one that absolutely killed me.
The Steelers brought pressure on the right side of the Bears’ line, and something went wrong, because a blink after the snap the Steelers had not one but two dudes untouched and preparing to remove Cutler’s legs from his waist. At this point, Knox was at the four, not even into the first step of his break. And Cutler was screwed. A pump fake? A hopeless scramble? Probably a sack, one of those painful-to-watch body slams in which the ball carrier’s doomed escape attempt succeeds only in setting himself up for a more dramatic twisting and tossing of his useless frame…
Instead, Cutler uncorked an impossible throw off his back foot with one defender leaping to bat the ball away, and this God-blessed football traveled at top speeds from the fifteen all the way to the leaping Knox, who cradled it a step inside the goal line for the touchdown.
From snap to two-feet-down, the entire sequence covered three seconds.
How the hell did he do that? How did this human being throw a ball that far that fast to that exact spot that quickly without setting his feet while staring down two monstrous men each a step away from ending his life?
If this is what Pro Bowl quarterbacks look like, sign me up.
And sign me up for the Bears’ pass-catchers, especially those much derided wideouts Hester, Bennett, and Knox. Hester has turned into a versatile receiver—we all know about his speed, but he goes over the middle, has great hands, and runs better routes than most will credit. And Johnny Knox…Holy #%@! Those two plus Bennett, Olsen, and Kellen Davis all made outstanding catches of the leaping, stretching, darting, ducking, QB-saving and defender-evading variety, all in a win over the Super Bowl champs.
I don’t know about you, but two games in and I’m having a ball.
Copyright 2009, jm silverstein
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From September 13, 2009: Praising Jay