CHICAGO -- Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler tilted his head to the side, and uttered two words to describe his method for breaking out of a 1-of-10 passing debacle early Sunday to light up the Indianapolis Colts for 333 yards and two touchdowns in a 41-21 victory.
“Keep throwing,” he said.
That’s precisely what the Cutler did to overcome a mistake-riddled first quarter in which he handed the visitors a 7-0 lead by throwing an interception on a pass intended for Matt Forte that was returned by Jerrell Freeman for a 4-yard touchdown.
Freeman’s score punctuated an already shoddy start by Cutler and the Bears’ offense. Cutler suffered a sack on Chicago’s first play from scrimmage and threw incomplete to Alshon Jeffery on the second snap. Cutler’s third dropback resulted in the INT returned for the TD by Freeman.
Cutler responded to that by throwing incomplete on five of his next six attempts.
By the end of the first quarter, Cutler had completed 3 of 12 for 21 yards and a passer rating of 4.9.
“We started off slow,” Cutler said. “I think that was a little bit of a concern on my part. My feet were all over the place. (I was) missing balls.”
Through the struggles, though, Cutler never lost confidence, according to receiver Brandon Marshall, who caught a team-high nine balls for 119 yards and a TD. Marshall said that “one thing he’s got a lot of is confidence,” adding “that’s what I love about a quarterback like that.”
“He doesn’t get rattled,” Marshall said.
Instead, Cutler rattled off five completions on his next six throws to start the second quarter for 89 yards and a TD to Marshall. By the end of the quarter, Cutler’s 4.9 passer rating had improved to 80.5 as the quarterback connected on 15 of 27 for 228 yards.
Cutler finished with a passer rating of 98.9 after tacking on a 42-yard bomb to rookie Alshon Jeffery with 6:08 left to play to cap a seven-play, 80-yard drive.
Going back to the 2011 season, Cutler has thrown nine touchdown passes and four interceptions in his last six games, finishing all but four of those contests with passer ratings of 96.9 or better.
Bears coach Lovie Smith admitted he didn’t expect the offense to perform so poorly early on, but said he never lost faith in Cutler.
“My perfect scenario had us scoring the first time, getting a takeaway and scoring after that,” Smith said. “You’re going to have to fight through some adversity; might as well get it out of the way early on and see what we’re made out of when things aren’t just perfect for you. There was no panic on the sideline or any of that.”
Cutler said he spoke with quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates on the sidelines, which played a role in him settling down. But Forte said the offense was “frustrated, so we had to come out and change that around.”
“It was a lot of just nerves and the start of the season,” Cutler said. “But we were able to work through it and put up some points. I’d rather just start off hot and continue hot. But it’s never a bad thing whenever you’re able to overcome it.”