It didn’t take long in Sunday’s 22-20 victory over the Oakland Raiders for quarterback Jay Cutler to show why the Bears desperately needed him to play through his hamstring injury rather than trot out backup Jimmy Clausen again.
Cutler was efficient and poised throughout the game, completing 28 of 43 passes (65%) and throwing for 281 yards and two touchdowns. He helped command an offense that dominated the time of possession and kept the Raiders on their heels.
Then, in the fourth quarter with the game in the balance, Cutler did — well, what Cutler does. He lofted a pass off his back foot intended for Martellus Bennett, which was intercepted by Cutler’s old nemesis, Charles Woodson.
The Raiders capitalized off the Cutler turnover and executed an 11-play drive in 4 and a half minutes, allowing kicker Sebastian Janikowski to kick the go-ahead field goal with just over two minutes to play.
That could have been a major turning point in the game, but Cutler executed the two-minute offense with precision, marching the Bears right back down the field to give Robbie Gould the game-winning field goal attempt. During the drive, Cutler converted on a great fourth-down throw to Bennett.
In an ideal world, Cutler would not keep throwing ill-timed interceptions — which is kind of a redundancy, because all interceptions are ill-timed. In another ideal world, the Bears would have one of the few elite quarterbacks that are actually in the league.
But we don’t have that on our hands. And as long as Cutler makes more good plays than bad, the Bears will continue to be competitive throughout the season.