Bears still need Jay Cutler to be playmaker

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The interception will stand out. They always do for Bears quarterback Jay Cutler because they always seem to come at the worst of times.

This time it was linebacker Clay Matthews who intercepted Cutler in the fourth quarter to seal the Green Bay Packers’ 31-23 victory at Soldier Field on Sunday.

“It is frustrating,” Cutler said.

But it’s not the full story.

It was a bad throw and Cutler knew it – “As soon I let it go, I knew we were in trouble,” he said – but it was an even better play made by Matthews, who came from the back side to step in front tight end Martellus Bennett.

The most damning element of the game was the offense’s inability to score from the six-yard line on four consecutive passes during the Bears’ first possession of the fourth quarter. They trailed 24-16 at the time.

Even though Matt Forte had been running with success, Cutler said the Packers’ defensive front forced them to throw at that point. Coordinator Adam Gase and coach John Fox want Cutler to be efficient, but they still need him to be a game-changer, not just a game manager, at times.

On Sunday, the Packers won in that situation. After Forte’s four-yard catch down to the 2, the Packers snuffed out a wide-receiver screen to Eddie Royal on second down, then blitzed Cutler into an early throw on fourth-and-goal.

“You’re not going to run against that front,” Cutler said of the four pass plays. “We had some good play calls. We messed up a few things that will get corrected and give us some better opportunities there.”

Cutler’s stat line wasn’t the best. He was sacked twice and finished 18-for-36 for 225 yards, a touchdown and a 67.5 passer rating.

But certain circumstances didn’t help him. Kyle Long started his first game at right tackle and admittedly had some struggles. Receiver Alshon Jeffery played for the first time since injuring his left calf on Aug. 12 and was phased in.

Things can and should get better for the Bears’ offense, which featured a variety of personnel groupings and different tempos.

“Jay played his ass off,” said Jeffery, who had five catches for 78 yards.

Other Bears thought the same. Cutler ran for 31 yards, which included a highlight-reel juke of safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix.

“He made some good plays and tough runs, making the guy the miss,” said Bennett, who had a 24-yard touchdown catch with 34 seconds remaining. “I was very proud of his performance.”

There were good signs, too. According to STATS, Cutler was 8-for-10 on third downs for 123 yards, seven first downs, two passes of 25 yards or more and a 117.9 passer rating.

But it still wasn’t good enough against Rodgers (18-for-23 yards, 189 yards, three TDs) and the Packers. Cutler, who has thrown at least one interception in every opener since 2009, knows that.

“I feel like I let the offense down on that pick,” Cutler said. “That being said, it is one game. We’ve got a lot of football left to play, and there’s a lot of bright spots to take out of this one.”

Fox will hold him to it.

“I thought Jay was good today,” he said. “But against this football team, we weren’t quite as good as we needed to be.”

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