THE MORNING AFTER: No blame game by Bears for Cutler’s pain

HOUSTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 11:  Jay Cutler #6 of the Chicago Bears fumbles as Whitney Mercilus #59 of the Houston Texans strips the ball at NRG Stadium on September 11, 2016 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

HOUSTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 11: Jay Cutler #6 of the Chicago Bears fumbles as Whitney Mercilus #59 of the Houston Texans strips the ball at NRG Stadium on September 11, 2016 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

HOUSTON – The eighth year has arrived for the quarterback in Chicago and already it might seem like enough.

Jay Cutler’s body should be saying that after three hours of football on Sunday afternoon.

“I don’t feel great,” admitted Cutler as he spoke at a podium inside NRG Stadium with his tie a little loose as he spoke to reporters. “I didn’t get hit a lot in preseason, so the last time I’ve been hit like that was last year.”

Technically it was last year but indeed it was the final game of the 2015 season. But that time the Bears’ quarterback was hit just six times in a loss to the Lions on January 3rd at Soldier Field.

On Sunday Cutler was hit 13 times.

13.

In 2015 the most that any team got on him was seven, done by the Lions and the Rams. In the last three games of that campaign Cutler was hit a grand total of 14 times.

That’s 180 minutes. The quarterback got that amount of hits in about a third of the time on Sunday.

“Usually, you want to build in to these, and then week four and five, when you’ve gotten used to it, take a few shots then,” said Cutler, discussing a more ideal introduction to the season. “I’ll bounce back pretty quickly though.”

But the beating he took from the Texans was a bad one. Among the 13 hits were five sacks – three of which came in the final ten minutes of the game and one nearly forced a turnover. A lunge forward by Cutler with defenders running at him saved what would have been a game-clinching touchdown for Houston.

It was a performance that looked like 2010 when he was sacked 58 times or even ’12 and ’14 when he was dragged down by opposing defenders 38 times. Once again it’s up to Cutler to tough out another rough offensive line day that contributed to a 23-14 loss to the Texans to open the 2016 season.

Yet the quarterback, oft criticized by fans and pundits, once again refused to lay blame at the feet of those to protect him.

“We don’t want to make excuses at all. We practiced against all kinds of stuff all week. Like I said, there was nothing up front, nothing on the back end, or anything defensively that we weren’t prepared for,” said Cutler. “I thought Dowell (Loggains) and his guys did a great job of getting us ready, and what they showed us, is what we got.

“It is what it is.”

In perspective it is what many thought it could be.

The Bears were starting a rookie center  in Cody Whitehair who had a botched exchange on fourth down in the first quarter that stalled a drive. Josh Sitton was starting next to the rookie after signing with the Bears on Monday while Bobby Massie was making his Bears debut on the end.

This was a combination of problems that Cutler himself realized had the potential to be problematic. Yet standing at the podium he was somewhat sympathetic to the plight his lineman had this week.

”I’d say it’s just time and experience,” said Cutler when asked about improving the line play. “It’s Cody’s first game out there. Sit’s (Josh Sitton) been with us for four or five days.”

All of those things are true. but getting hit 13 times as a result shouldn’t be apart of that Still this offensive line, like the Bears as a whole, are going to be a product of a lot of growing pains over the next four months.

“We just added a guy this past week. He slid in, we kind of juggled two guys,” said Fox of the offensive line. “All in all, I think the ability is there. Now, it’s just getting on the same page.”

Of course sympathies were a little less for the lineman themselves. Whitehair took full blame for the fumbled first quarter snap while the rest of the lineman pointed the finger at themselves for the transgressions.

“We can’t be helping ‘6’ off the ground like that,” said guard Kyle Long, referring to the sacks. “We should be patting him on the butt after touchdown passes.”

Lucky for them, Cutler was giving them a pat on the back even after an unlucky 13 to start a new season.