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Insult to injury: Jay Cutler hurt, Bears badly beaten

The Bears are hamstrung.

Their quarterback, mistake-prone as he may be, has also proven to be, by far, their best option. But Jay Cutler limped to the locker room in the second quarter Sunday of what would become a 48-23 mauling by the Cardinals, having injured his hamstring, the team said, while trying to tackle safety Tony Jefferson.

The Cardinals safety had intercepted Cutler and was racing for the end zone. He stiff-armed the quarterback to the ground. Cutler never returned. The team stressed it was a lower-body injury, despite speculation otherwise.

“At this point,” coach John Fox said after the game, “he’s got a pulled hamstring.”

The Bears will run further tests before finalizing a diagnosis, but Cutler’s teammates sounded resigned to playing Sunday in Seattle, if not longer, with backup Jimmy Clausen at quarterback.

Clausen struggled in relief Sunday, completing 14-of-23 passes for 121 yards and one interception. He was sacked twice and posted a 56.6 passer rating.

Cutler, by contrast, was 8-for-8 for 120 yards when he threw the interception.

Fox didn’t take issue with Cutler trying to prevent the touchdown, although it might cost the quarterback significant time.

“Guys do that — I don’t care what position it is,” he said. “You prefer they don’t pull a hamstring or get injured.”

Cutler’s done that before; he broke his thumb in 2011 when he was hit while preventing a touchdown return by the Chargers’ Antoine Cason, who had intercepted him.

Cutler’s injury was the most dramatic in a series of small disasters Sunday.

The Bears trailed after only 13 seconds when David Johnson returned the opening kickoff 108 yards for a touchdown. They tied a franchise record with 170 penalty yards, and allowed Carson Palmer to throw four touchdowns, three to Larry Fitzgerald.

Twice late in the first half, under Clausen, they inherited the ball inside the Cardinals’ 22-yard line. They came away with two field goals.

“As a friend, obviously it’s tough to see your buddy go down,” tackle Kyle Long said. “As a pro, you’re like, ‘Hey, our quarterback went down. That’s why they train another one — to be ready.’”

Share Events on The CubeWith four minutes to play in the first half, the teams were tied at 14. Three minutes into the second half, the Cardinals led, 35-20.

“I’m not surprised, but I am surprised,” outside linebacker Pernell McPhee said. “We got a young team. I just think that everybody’s just got to know, ‘Hey man, once we get hit, that don’t mean we let go.’ We just got to keep fighting, keep pushing. …

“We just kinda laid down.”

The Bears tried to put a brave face on losing Cutler, but, with two home losses and a game looming Sunday at the reigning NFC champs, reality is settling in.

“I hate losing — especially losing at home,” outside linebacker Jared Allen said. “This is a great sports city. They deserve a winner, they truly do. You look at how the city reacted when the (Blackhawks) won. And everybody wants to be a part of that. Everybody wants to be a champion. That’s what we’re working for. “

Follow me on Twitter @patrickfinley

Email: pfinley@suntimes.com