With young offense, Jay Cutler’s play big positive vs. Patriots

Bears quarterback Jay Cutler knew he had to get going fast or he wouldn’t be going at all.

‘‘You’re kind of at a pitch count,’’ Cutler said of playing in the preseason. ‘‘There are only so many plays for us.’’

While it’s wise not to make too much out of preseason performances, what Cutler was able to do in the Bears’ 23-22 loss Thursday to the New England Patriots was important when considering what the exhibition games mean for him this season.

Cutler has a limited amount of time to establish a rapport with a new offensive coordinator, a new center, new receivers and new tight ends.

Bears QB Jay Cutler greets Patriots coach Bill Belichick after Thursday's game. (AP)

When Cutler left the game, he was 8-for-12 for 83 yards and the Bears led 11-0. He completed his first six passes, leading the Bears to an early field goal by kicker Robbie Gould despite a holding penalty against center Ted Larsen and an illegal-formation penalty.

‘‘It was good for us to get down there and overcome a few penalties on our part, get three [points],’’ Cutler said.

‘‘I felt good. We connected with [receiver Alshon Jeffery] on that big one [29 yards] early that kind of gave us a little bit of momentum.’’

It was an improvement from the 10-play workload Cutler had in the preseason opener Aug. 11 against the Denver Broncos. In that game, he never got going.

‘‘We were disappointed in our performance last week, and that is pretty well-documented,’’ coach John Fox said. ‘‘So some guys get challenged, and they responded.’’

How Cutler responded after being challenged in practices with Patriots is noteworthy. His performances Monday and Tuesday, while decent, were marred by pass breakups in various team drills. And it was more than the Patriots’ defensive backs; linebacker Jamie Collins was a problem.

‘‘We knew coming here that we’d go against a good football team, a well-coached [team], a disciplined group that has been in big games, been in big situations and has thrived in that,’’ Cutler said. ‘‘Having a younger team and guys looking to improve themselves, it was a good opportunity for us for three days to practice against a group like this and then try to go out and execute on game day.’’

Cutler was efficient and decisive behind solid protection from his offensive line. It helped that the Patriots’ defense didn’t show much. Cutler said the defensive looks were ‘‘pretty vanilla’’ because it was the preseason, but he still showed he’ll be patient as Fox’s quarterback.

Three of Cutler’s incomplete passes are worth mentioning: Kevin White dropped a pass, Cutler threw one away and Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler made an impressive breakup by jumping receiver Deonte Thompson’s curl route.

Cutler seemed happy to establish a rhythm with all the moving pieces around him. He and Jeffery have a sound connection, but his work with White is ongoing. White has only two catches for nine yards this preseason.

Zach Miller’s concussion has led to a rotation of tight ends. Tony Moeaki started against the Patriots and led the Bears with four catches, including one for a first down after Cutler eluded pressure. Cutler also threw a two-point conversion pass to tight end Rob Housler.

‘‘They’re getting better,’’ Cutler said. ‘‘Kevin is improving each and every day, and I think we have a
good feel about what Alshon can do out there.

‘‘I thought the tight ends played well. Tony Moeaki had a few catches and Rob Housler had a few catches, so that’s a group that we’re steadily progressing in the right way.’’

As for White’s drop, Cutler sounded almost happy it happened. Such plays lead to more dialogue between him and the second-year receiver.

‘‘He handles it well,’’ Cutler said. ‘‘He’s always the first guy to blame himself, no matter what the situation is, so I just try to keep him positive and keep him going. There’s no
point or real time for us to dwell on it. We have to move on, and he does that well.’’

A week after taking two third-down sacks against the Broncos, Cutler appeared comfortable behind his reworked line. He was virtually untouched when the first-team offense was on the field in the first quarter. Only right tackle Bobby Massie struggled noticeably.

‘‘The communication up there is pretty clean with those guys,’’ Cutler said. ‘‘The running game was improved. We’ve just got to keep heading in that right direction.

‘‘Hopefully we’ll have a cleaner game this upcoming Saturday [against the Kansas City Chiefs at Soldier Field].’’