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Jay Cutler discusses pressure of sacks

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Despite Jay Cutler's reputation for toughness, the Chicago Bears quarterback admitted Wednesday the pressure he's received through the first three games is affecting him.

Sacked 14 times thus far, Cutler seemed to describe the process of a quarterback becoming shell-shocked from sacks, pressures, and extraneous hits after the throw.

"You talk to any quarterback. Whenever you're getting a lot of pressure and you're getting flushed, and you're getting hit a lot, that clock in your head is gonna be tinkered a little bit," Cutler said. "It's gonna start ticking a little bit faster. Even sometimes when you do have a good amount of time, you're gonna be feeling it even if it's not there."

Perhaps the phenomenon Cutler described explains his inaccurate showing in Sunday's loss to the Green Bay Packers. Cutler suffered just three sacks in that game, but reverted to shoddy mechanics -- such as throwing off his back foot -- and misfired on several attempts, despite having what seemed like plenty of time to throw.

"All quarterbacks go through that to some extent," offensive coordinator Mike Martz said. "Last year at this time, I was scared to death of our protections. We looked at the tape [from the Packers game]. He was very pleased with the protection. He's very confident with where we're going with that thing, and we all are.

"I think what happens is you lose your poise a little bit. We got to a point in the third quarter where we had a chance to get right back in it, and we lost our poise. You've got to fight through those things, get by it and learn from it. If we don't learn, then you don't get better. I would expect we'll get a lot better."

Cutler wasn't sacked at all in the first half against the Packers, but five of his seven incompletions through the first two quarters came as a result of poorly thrown balls. Cutler threw high on missed connections intended for Devin Hester and Roy Williams. The quarterback also threw an interception on an underthrown ball to Williams and fired two passes behind rookie Dane Sanzenbacker.

"It's a constant battle," Cutler explained. "The more consistent we get up front, and the more time I have and the more comfortable I feel, the more consistent I'm gonna get."

Perhaps that's true, but the quarterback's sack numbers don't necessarily bear that out through his career. In his first season as a starter for Denver back in 2007, Cutler suffered 27 sacks, but completed a career-high 63.6 percent of his passes. The following year, Cutler suffered 16 fewer sacks but his completion percentage and passer rating dipped a little, while his passing yardage soared to a career-high 4,526 yards.

Despite the quarterback suffering the fewest sacks of his career in those two seasons, Denver's win-loss record over that time stood at 15-7, in part because of a poor Broncos defense and the offense's inability to put points on the board, despite the unit putting up huge yardage totals.

In Chicago, Cutler's protection hasn't helped much (66 sacks over the last 19 regular-season games), nor has the lack of offensive weaponry or Martz's pass-happy system.

While some of the top-flight quarterbacks have found ways to overcome such shortcomings, Cutler indicated it's just a matter of time before he's able to do the same.

Cutler also was adamant that his relationship with Martz hasn't been strained by the team's recent struggles, adding that he doesn't expect the offensive coordinator to scale back the complicated system.

Williams echoed that sentiment.

"I don't believe in scaling back," Williams said. "We're professionals and we have to be able to handle it. We have to get to the point where it looks great drive after drive after drive."

For that to happen, Cutler needs to be comfortable in the pocket throwing accurately. The quarterback also said the Bears need to put themselves into more manageable situations on third downs.

The Bears are currently 11-of-40 on third-down conversions, including 4-of-27 in situations where it's third-and-8 or longer.

"Whenever you're losing games, there's a little bit of a sense of panic and a sense of doom. We've just got to get over that. You've got to keep working," Cutler said. "Every single person made a mistake at some point in that game (against the Packers). There's a lot of football left. There's a lot of things that can happen. We're headed in the right direction. We've just got to hammer out the issues."

Michael C. Wright covers the Bears for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN 1000.