By John Mullin, CSNChicago.com
FORT WORTH, Tex. — Things that come to you when youre waiting for your 5:40 a.m. Monday flight to board…
As impressive as the Bears coaching moves were in Sundays 27-20 win over the Dallas Cowboys, the leadership of quarterback Jay Cutler was every bit as significant.
He didnt just play like a franchise quarterback. He behaved like one.
Cutler was under absolute assault from the Dallas front in the first three series of the game. Linebacker Anthony Spencer twisted him down by his facemask on the second play of the game. He was mauled by linebackers DeMarcus Ware and Keith Brookings on the seventh snap, a sack that was nullified by offsetting penalties. He was flushed into running on the re-played down and smacked down again by Spencer.
At this point Cutler was without his starting left tackle, former Vanderbilt teammate Chris Williams, who went out with a hamstring strain. Kevin Shaffer was a left tackle and struggling to get up to speed, literally, before he and right tackle Frank Omiyale were flip flopped.
But on that third series, Cutler already was keeping his head about him, something that did not always happen in 2009 when he was under siege, particularly in non-Soldier Field environs. Twenty of Cutlers 26 interceptions last season in fact were on the road.
This was a different Cutler, however.
Its a fourth-quarter game, said Cutler, who was 5-for-5 for 73 yards, a perfect 158.3 passer rating and the eventual game-winning touchdown pass on a deft fade route to running back Matt Forte. I think we are all maturing as an offense, I’m maturing in my fifth year.
Going through the ups and downs, last year helped a lot going through that struggle. But it helps the ride.
Some ride. If you ever wonder how much a single player, particularly a quarterback like Cutler, determines the fate of a team, consider: Cutlers teams are 17-0 when he posts a passer rating of 100 or better.
The paid attendance Sunday was 85,168 and there werent too many empty seats, by unofficial observation. If there were, Bears fans wouldve snapped them up.
The reaction roar to Bears plays was approaching the decibel level of Cowboys fans as this game went on, especially as Dallas difficulties mounted and boos were more than just scattered.
Same for coach Lovie Smith, who coined the nickname 4th Phase for the fan support. When we first came out, Smith said, we didnt know for sure that we werent at Soldier Field.
The nine penalties and 100 lost yards because of them in game one were pared down to two for a total of 10 yards Sunday. And one of those was assessed on Kevin Shaffer for a false start on his third snap, which in that stadium against that pass rush was at least partially forgivable…
The offense wasnt exactly balanced with 34 pass plays (29 attempts, one sack, four Cutler scrambles) vs. 18 runs (including one QB sneak). But a better way to evaluate balance is distribution. Of the Bears 49 plays, Matt Forte (10 carries, six targets on passes) and Chester Taylor (four carries, two targets) accounted for 22 touches. If you fold in Cutlers sneak, backs were the primary ball-handlers on about 47 percent of the plays run…
The defense truly did some bending along with its breaking of the Dallas psyche with its hits. The Cowboys posted at least one first down on all 10 of their possessions, not including the take-a-knee with 20 seconds until halftime (after the ill-advised final first-half play vs. Washington that led to turnover-touchdown, no way was Tony Romo giving that ball to anyone but the official.
Tight end Greg Olsen turned a hot read vs. a double blitz into a 39-yard touchdown catch-and-run. That was the only pass on which Olsen was targeted Sunday. Hopefully that wont spark the same silly hunt for a problem between Cutler and Olsen the way the one pass to Devin Hester vs. Detroit did to the Cutler-Hester link…
If youve got any thoughts, questions, whatevers that you want to get into, join me for the Monday online chat at 7 p.m. on CSNChicago.com. I like hearing what you saw and think, and besides, youve given me some great story ideas. I want to cover what you want to read.
No, I am not making this up…
A sign on the mega-scoreboard at Cowboys Stadium listed the sections behind which were stands that stocked vegetarian nachos. Vegetarian nachos. In Texas?! Where I think even the ice cream is required to contain meat?
Had to love the glow coming from Cody and Shannon of Odessa, seated next to me on this early flight. The newlyweds (Saturday, when Texas was playing A&M what were they thinking??) were on their way to five days in Oahu, and hearing about their wedding was one of those little things that just kind of make your day. Good luck, kids, and dont get sunburned the first day youre out there!
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