Jay Cutler puts his full breadth of skills on display

SHARE Jay Cutler puts his full breadth of skills on display

Whom do you watch in an NFL game?

Who’s the most important player?

The quarterback, of course.

So we watch Jay Cutler, and what we’re seeing is amazing. It’s not just that Cutler had a terrific game in the Bears’ 37-13 embarrassment of the Rams on Sunday in St. Louis. His 19-for-24, 258-yard, three-touchdown passing day speaks for itself.

No, it’s that he finally seems to be playing, at 32, the way we always dreamed he could play — with skill, alertness, accuracy, passion, smarts and leadership.

‘‘I’m not a big stat guy,’’ Bears coach John Fox said. ‘‘Contrary to what other people may think, I think he’s having a very good year.’’

Nobody could be arguing against that now.

With his near-perfect 151 rating against the Rams, Cutler has strung together eight games in a row with a rating above 88. He never has done that before in his 10-year career.

Quarterback ratings have their limitations, but they’re good for gauging consistency, the value of passing touchdowns and the costliness of interceptions, if nothing else. Cutler used to be the Turnover Kid, seemingly giving away games at the worst time. No more.

Against the Rams, he benefitted from two 80-yard-plus touchdown passes — one to tight end Zach Miller and one to running back Jeremy Langford — that were 5 percent catch and 95 percent run.

But those things happen, and kudos to offensive coordinator Adam Gase for making the calls. And kudos to Cutler for setting the plays up so that the catch-and-runs became possible.

‘‘I don’t feel like I did that much,’’ Cutler said afterward.

Ironically, that is the best thing he could have done. His tremendous physical talents always have been overshadowed by his random meltdowns, interceptions, lost fumbles and seeming inability to rally the team around him.

But when Langford is rushing for 73 yards and catching seven passes for 109 yards, a smart quarterback will stand back and let the magic unfold around him.

A dumb, confused or unaware quarterback will do something stupid to let the other team back into the game, such as throwing into coverage or forcing passes where they don’t belong.

Cutler managed it all perfectly. His run down the middle of the field on a read-option was a sweet play. It went for 26 yards, and Cutler slid to a stop rather than take abuse from closing tacklers. Smart.

‘‘That was top gear there,’’ Cutler said. ‘‘I saw No. 26 [safety Mark Barron] coming. I thought maybe of giving him a stiff-arm, keep going. But I was like, ‘I’m going to run out of gas soon.’ ’’

So down he went, and the Bears benefitted. Cutler has hurt himself before by trying to make tackles after interceptions or extend plays. When you weigh what’s important and what’s not, you see the field differently.

‘‘He continues to amaze me,’’ Fox said.

And let’s think about this: The once-dominant Packers, led by all-universe quarterback Aaron Rodgers, have lost three in a row. Hall of Famer-to-be Peyton Manning looked like Elmer Fudd in the Broncos’ loss to the Chiefs. Drew Brees, another future Hall of Famer, threw two interceptions and looked awful in the Saints’ loss to the lowly Redskins.

Yes, the Bears are only 4-5, and their early screwups likely will keep them out of the playoffs. But how about Cutler?

If you watched the game, you even saw Cutler — hold on here — smile. The things he can do with his agility and cannon arm suddenly seemed synched up with his mind and attitude.

He called Miller ‘‘a friendly target.’’ Of the patched-up but dominant offensive line and the solid running game, he said: ‘‘Second-and-five, second-and-six, you can live in that world.’’

Yes, you can. You can thrive in it, too.

Mr. Gase, you have helped transform this man. Right now, we won’t even ponder your likely departure after the season for a head-coaching job. That would mean Cutler would be working under yet another coordinator next fall.

So don’t look ahead. Enjoy it now. Cutler’s rockin’.

Follow me on Twitter @ricktelander.

Email: rtelander@suntimes.com

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