Bears vs. Packers: Jay Cutler Interception the Turning Point


The Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers faced-off in a Week 1 match-up between bitter NFC North rivals. The Packers are among the Super Bowl favorites this season, and despite playing on the road, entered the Week 1 as heavy favorites. Led by Aaron Rodgers and his potent offensive attack, the Packers were able to walk away with a 31-23 victory.

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However, the Bears fought hard all afternoon, and that result was very much in doubt until a late fourth quarter interception by Packers’ linebacker Clay Matthews. That interception thrown by Bears’ quarterback Jay Cutler was the clear turning point in the game.

We will start off earlier in the fourth quarter, where Cutler led the Bears all the way down the field to set-up a first and goal from the six yard line. Trailing by a score of 24-16, the Bears were trying to answer a Packers’ touchdown with one of their own to tie up the score.

Unfortunately, one Matt Forte rush for four yards, and three Cutler incompletions later, and the Bears’ turned the ball over on downs all the way down at the Green Bay two-yard line. A seemingly crushing blow, but at least they had the Packers backed all the way up.

Sure enough, Rodgers and the Packers went three and out, and Cutler led the Bears right back onto the field. After a nice return from Marc Mariani, the Bears’ drive began at the Packers’ 41-yard line with over six minutes of game clock remaining. Only down eight points, the Bears had plenty of time to attempt a comeback in this one.

A false start penalty and two Forte runs set up 3rd down and seven for the Bears right away. Cutler stepped up and made a nice throw in coverage to tight end Martellus Bennett for nine yards and a first down. The Bears seemed to be in business.

Cutler hurried the Bears’ offense back-up to the ball, and lined up in shotgun with three wide receivers to the left side of the formation. Forte was lined up to Cutler’s immediate right, with Bennett at tight end on the right side as well.

The Packers’ dropped into zone coverage as soon as the ball was snapped. Cutler received the snap, took a quick drop and immediately fired the ball to Bennett, who was running up the seam on the right side of the field. Bennett was about 10 yards down the field when Cutler threw the ball.

Unfortunately, this was the play where Matthews picked off Cutler. The Packers’ linebacker stepped in front of the Cutler pass, and took 48 yards downfield. Rodgers then immediately led the Packers down the field, and they scored on a two-yard Eddie Lacy run. The Bears tried to make a late comeback, but down by two scores after the Lacy touchdown, put the game out of reach.

Credit the Packers and Matthews for disguising their coverage on the play. Matthews lined-up over Bears’ left tackle Jermon Bushrod before the snap. With the Bears’ having three receivers on the left side of the field, he was much more likely stay on that side of the field. Cutler obviously thought the same thing.

NFL 9/13/15: Jay Cutler leads Chicago Bears’ offense against the Green Bay Packers in the 4th quarter.

However, as soon as the ball is snapped, Matthews floats in his zone coverage which is on the other side of the field.

NFL 9/13/15: Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler attempts a pass against the Green Bay Packers

Matthews put himself in perfect position to cut-off Bennett’s route, and steps in front of the pass from Cutler.

NFL 9/13/15: Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews makes a play on a pass from Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler.

An incredible play by a fantastic player, and it was the single biggest play in the Packers’ victory on Sunday afternoon.

If is unfortunate that this interception is going to be remembered most from Cutler’s Week 1 performance. His numbers were not great (18/36, 225 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT), but they were not that bad, and he looked better than what they indicate.

Cutler did a nice job of taking what the Packers’ defense was allowing him in this game. He was helped out tremendously by Forte and the running game, but maybe that is all he needs? If the Bears can take pressure off of their quarterback by helping him out with a strong and consistent rushing attack, perhaps Cutler will turnout to be better than he has shown in recent years.

Regardless, the Bears were in a position to potentially tie the Packers up late in the fourth quarter, and their drive was stalled by a Cutler interception where he mis-read the defense. Not exactly the first time that has happened before.

If the Bears are going to surprise and compete for the NFC North title this season, Cutler is going to have to be on top of his game. His Week 1 performance was mostly positive, but mistakes like what we saw with the Matthews interception, simply cannot happen. It was a great play by the defender, but Cutler simply costed his team an opportunity to win.

Next: Bears vs. Packers: Five Takeaways from Week 1

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