With Cutler, Bears make right call

Bears show proper long-term view of a season that still looks promising

  • Pin It

With a knowing glance, Bears quarterback Jay Cutler made eye contact with backup Jason Campbell in the locker room at halftime of Sunday night's 13-6 loss to the Texans.

"Jay just looked at me and said, 'Be ready,'" Campbell said.

Do we know if a concussed Cutler might have seen two Campbells? The view of the Bears' second loss seems just as fuzzy.

Playing the second half without Cutler provides no excuse for the Bears committing four turnovers and being unable to stop the running game. But giving up just 13 points and 215 yards against a potent Texans offense in a game that came down to the last possession, even with Campbell playing, should produce no panic either.

The Bears arrived as one of the NFC's best teams knowing its offense needs to improve dramatically to make a Super Bowl run and nothing had changed by the time they were describing Cutler's concussion symptoms. They came intent to prove their first-half record was no fluke and left convinced only they weren't as good yet as one of the NFL's most complete teams.

"It's not like we were playing against the 31st-ranked defense or anything," Campbell said.

No, the Bears played against a Texans defense motivated by all the attention paid their ball-punching counterparts. Running back Arian Foster called the Texans "D" the league's best before kickoff and then defensive end J.J. Watt and company backed it up.

"We showed them we could win in any conditions, any game, any place," Watt said.

Oddly, the Texans did so without registering a sack — though forcing Cutler out of the pocket did lead to the second-quarter play that resulted in his game-changing concussion.

Ironically, Bears team President and CEO Ted Phillips spent an hour before kickoff inside a Soldier Field interview room on a panel designed to show the organization's commitment to concussion awareness. Phillips sat next to Lt. Gen. Michael Ferriter and former Bears Otis Wilson and Gary Fencik detailing ways the NFL and U.S. Army will join forces to "change the culture," regarding brain injury.

"We want to reduce the stigma many players and soldiers feel about head injuries," Phillips said.

Skeptics in the room snickered. Cynics wondered. Yeah, sure, but does he really mean it?

Then the Bears backed up the rhetoric with the right decision even if that couldn't have been the way Phillips envisioned players backing up their boss' word.

Forget that Cutler had thrown two interceptions and posted a miserable 16.7 passer rating. The Bears' best chance of beating the Texans still came with Cutler at quarterback, yet he sat out the second half after failing a concussion test.

"Of course he wanted to play," Lovie Smith said. "The decision was made for him. He understood."

Still, that couldn't have been an easy call even if it was the correct one. In erring on the side of caution the Bears showed the proper long-term view of a season that still looks promising.

The only question at all concerned why Cutler played seven more snaps after Texans linebacker Tim Dobbins' hit with 2 minutes, 56 seconds left in the first half — which drew an unnecessary-roughness penalty. Initially, Cutler stayed down on the turf but scrambled for 11 yards on the next play. He looked like the tough quarterback Chicago knows can take a hit, and understandably kept playing.

Smith said Cutler showed, "no symptoms until the half." Brandon Marshall described his buddy "being normal in the huddle."

In another era, all that would have been all the proof the Bears needed to send their team leader back onto the field — see their offensive team leader would be just fine — but not this one. On a night that began with the Bears talking about the strides they have made in the area of concussion awareness, Cutler's involvement ended with his team proving it.

Guess that is what happens when two of the NFL's best defenses get together.

The Texans arrived in Chicago for the NFL's first matchup since 1991 between two teams 7-1 or better thinking conservatively. Two Tim Jennings interceptions of Matt Schaub made that seem like a wise approach, especially after Foster gained 102 yards on 29 carries. At halftime, Smith told WBBM-AM 780 he was "worried we haven't been able to stop the run."

The Texans had no such worries. Tight end Kellen Davis, a symbol of wasted potential, lost a fumble and dropped two passes. Marshall let a TD pass slip through his fingers. This was no way to seize an opportunity.

Yet Cutler's concussion makes any statement this game was supposed to produce moot. Nothing that happened between these two elite defenses convinced me the Bears still couldn't seek retribution in the Super Bowl.

dhaugh@tribune.com

Twitter @DavidHaugh

  • Pin It