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With little support, QB Jimmy Clausen struggles in place of Jay Cutler

Jimmy Clausen said he had “no idea” if he’ll be starting at quarterback next week against the Seahawks. But he sounded like he was expecting it when he was asked if he can run the Bears’ offense as well as Jay Cutler.

“Yeah. I can,” Clausen said after filling in for the injured Cutler in the Bears’ 48-23 loss to the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday at Soldier Field. “That’s what we want to do is starting Tuesday work to get this thing going again.”

If it’s Clausen time — as it appears it will be after Cutler suffered a hamstring injury trying to tackle Tony Jefferson on a 26-yard interception return for a touchdown in the second quarter — Clausen and the Bears offense will have to be a lot better than they were Sunday after Cutler went down.

No doubt Clausen was in a difficult situation — coming in cold without having had any first-team reps in practice. Still, the offense’s performance, from Clausen on down, was a disappointment. On a bad day for the Bears’ new coaching staff — all three phases allowed at least one touchdown and the Bears tied a franchise record with 170 yards in penalties — their failure to overcome the adversity of a key injury was a notable red flag.

Clausen completed 14-of-23 passes for 121 yards, no touchdowns and one interception for a 56.6 passer rating. The Bears’ offensive line committed six penalties behind Clausen after committing none behind Cutler. They allowed two sacks after allowing none of Cutler. And when the Cardinals decreased Clausen’s degree-of-difficulty with two miscues late in the first half with a 28-14 lead — a muffed punt and Carson Palmer’s interception — that gave the Bears first downs at the Arizona 22 and the Arizona 12, Clausen and the Bears could muster only two field goals to cut the deficit to 28-20. Talk about leaving points on the field.

“Any time you put a quarterback in the game who has had back-up reps during the week it’s tough,” Bears coach John Fox said. “But I think all in all, he did the best he could. And that’s all you can ask for as a coach.”

Well, not really. Even Clausen and his disappointed teammates held themselves to a higher standard than just trying their best.

“It was pretty tough, but that’s my job,” Clausen said.

“It’s a tough spot to be in, but it’s a tough sport,” right tackle Kyle Long, who took the blame for one of the sacks of Clausen. “You look around the huddle, we’ve got all the weapons in the world.”

“Of course there are always going to be issues [with a new quarterback],” guard Matt Slauson said. “It’s a new guy calling stuff; different tempos; different communication. But that is not any excuse. We just need to do a better job. That’s all it is.”

Clausen acknowledged the emotional letdown when he replaced Cutler. “I felt the air was deflated a little bit,” he said. “But guys did a great job, ‘Let’s go. Let’s go. Pick up the tempo a little bit and try to move the chains.”

It didn’t work out this time. With a first down at the Arizona 22 after Jaquizz Rodgers recovered a muffed punt, Clausen’s first two passes were batted at the line of scrimmage. His third down pass to Marquess Wilson was incomplete. “It kind of slipped a little bit,” Clausen said. “But I just have to give him a better ball than that.”

One play later, after Allen’s interception, the Bears had the ball at the Cardinals 12 with 54 seconds left in the half. On third-and-one from the 3-yard line, Matt Forte ran wide left and lost two yards. “We were on the [3] and couldn’t get in on the run. I don’t know why,” Clausen said. “We’ll have to watch the tape.”

A tough, disappointing start. But the way things sounded Sunday, he’ll probably get another shot at it.

“I felt good with the offense. I felt good where we’re at,” Clausen said. “We just have to watch the tape, clean up the things we did wrong; Keep getting better on the things we did right. Just get past this game. And get ready for Seattle.”