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It’s time for Bears’ Cutler to assert command of game

Published: Thursday, Nov. 8, 2012 11:29 a.m. CDT

(Continued from Page 1)

(MCT) — Jay Cutler could give the Bears an edge in nearly every game the remainder of this season.

At 7-1, the team is halfway to its second playoff appearance with Cutler in his fourth year with the club.

The Texans, also 7-1, come into Soldier Field on Sunday night with efficient Matt Schaub directing their passing attack that is based in large part on an effective play-action game. He’s eighth in NFL history in accuracy and has been one of the best road quarterbacks over the last two seasons with a 107.2 passer rating away from Reliant Stadium.

Schaub is like Cutler in that they are part of the large group of talented passers who have yet to win a Super Bowl. Cutler has far more athletic ability and a stronger arm than Schaub. Cutler has one playoff victory and Schaub none.

Cutler also has more quarterbacking gifts than the 49ers’ Alex Smith, who the Bears will face Nov. 19 in San Francisco. 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh is seemingly always backing Smith, who helped his team to the NFC championship game last year. Maybe if Harbaugh does so enough everyone will forget the 49ers pursued Peyton Manning in the offseason.

The Bears also will face Christian Ponder (twice), rookie Russell Wilson, John Skelton and Matthew Stafford in coming weeks. The point is the Packers’ Aaron Rodgers in Week 15 is the only quarterback with a superior resume on the remainder of the schedule.

A national television audience will be watching the next two weeks to determine if the Bears are legitimate contenders for Super Bowl XLVII. Cutler is 12-1 in his last 13 starts but acknowledges the defense has been carrying the club.

“I’m just trying to do my job,” he said. “The way our defense is playing, I’m just trying to minimize turnovers, try to convert on third down and protect the ball and make smart decisions in the red zone.

“We’re running the ball well. I think the offensive line is getting better and better. As they get better it’s going to open up more doors as far as what we’re able to do in the passing game and kind of open my game a little bit.”

It almost sounds like Cutler is describing a game manager, the label seemingly no passer wants on his game. But he has demonstrated the ability to be more than that and needs to perform that way for the Bears.

Beating good teams comes down to good quarterback play. If the offensive line doesn’t have its best game, the best quarterbacks find a way to overcome.

It’s something that sets apart the six active quarterbacks with Super Bowl titles, a group that has won 10 of the last 11. When Ben Roethlisberger won his second in 2008, he was sacked 46 times that season. Quarterbacks can make up for holes in the roster. They have to at various points in the season and the Bears know they’re not going to get defensive touchdowns every week.

“If you won a Super Bowl, you’re in that (other) level,” Cutler said. “Some of the things you do get taken for granted just because you’ve won a Super Bowl. Rightfully so. ... They’re at another level because when it counts they win Super Bowls.”

Teammates continue to marvel at the defense that is tops in takeaways and second in fewest points allowed, the most crucial statistics there are.

“We’re not going to catch the defense this year,” Cutler said. “It’s not going to happen. ... We just have to focus on ourselves.

“Every guy just has to get a little bit better each week every day at practice, and if we get a little bit better, by the end of the season we’ll be better.”

Cutler is in position to make the offense better. He has the OK to check out of plays, something he wanted and didn’t have in the past. He has a big-play wide receiver in Brandon Marshall who is on pace to post mind-boggling numbers of 118 receptions for 1,594 yards and 14 touchdowns. The 39-yard touchdown play at Tennessee was a play Cutler checked into.

There are elements of the offense that are clicking but there’s a long way to go. Cutler knows how he reaches that next level too.

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