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Cutler, Bears look ready after win at Denver

ANDREW SELIGMAN
AP Sports Writer
AP Photo/David ZalubowskiChicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler heads off the field after the Bears' 27-17 victory over the Denver Broncos in an NFL preseason football game in Denver on Sunday
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CHICAGO – Fans showed up dressed like babies and wore T-shirts with a crying infant in a No. 6 shirt holding a football.

The only thing they didn’t do to Jay Cutler was rattle him.

He stood his ground and led Chicago to a 27-17 win at Denver on Sunday night in what amounted to the final rehearsal for the season-opener. Sure, there’s one more preseason game left against Cleveland at Soldier Field on Thursday, but the starters figure to play about one series.

The opener is Sept. 13 at Green Bay, and the Bears looked ready on Sunday. Or close to it, anyway.

“This isn’t your everyday situation,” Cutler said after the game.

No, it wasn’t.

Pro Bowl quarterbacks rarely get traded, yet that’s exactly what happened after Cutler found out new Broncos coach Josh McDaniels tried to acquire Matt Cassell from New England.

That led to a falling out and the deal that sent Cutler to Chicago for Kyle Orton and draft picks in April. Now, the Bears have their first franchise quarterback since Sid Luckman, and Cutler has a new beginning after a stormy split with the Broncos.

Going back to Denver was an emotional experience for him, and the welcome he received was about as friendly as expected. The boos were so loud when he stepped on the field he had to go back to the sideline to get the play.

Of course, Denver’s traitor is Chicago’s supposed savior.

Optimism is soaring now that the rifle-armed quarterback is wearing the navy blue and burnt orange, but whether the Bears get back to the playoffs after back-to-back misses also hinges largely on a defense hit hard by injuries and mediocrity the past few years. On Sunday, it stood its ground when it wasn’t standing on the sideline.

“I got stiff on that sideline, man,” linebacker Brian Urlacher said. “They go 97, 98 yards (on a touchdown drive). That’s awesome. We’re resting. We didn’t play a whole lot this preseason so far. We haven’t had a whole lot of plays. … It’s exciting to see what they’re doing over there.”

Another good sign for the Bears was this: Devin Hester breaking a 54-yard punt return to set up a short touchdown run by Matt Forte after struggling on special teams last year.

Cutler, meanwhile, stood in there against an all-out blitz from scorned spectators, not to mention his former teammates, and quickly regained his footing after a shaky start to finish 15 of 21 with 144 yards before calling it a night at halftime. That included a 98-yard march late in the second quarter in which he shook off a late hit from Elvis Dumervil and found Forte for a 6-yard TD, then pumped his fist in celebration.

It was an emotional display. It was an emotional night, period.

“I was really impressed with his poise, and his ability to stay focused,” offensive coordinator Ron Turner said. “With all the stuff going on all week, I mean, every time he turned around, people were talking about it. He had to put up with all that and I thought he did a tremendous job of staying focused on the job at hand.”

As messy as his split with Denver was, Cutler’s transition to Chicago hasn’t been completely smooth. Yet there’s no question he’s a big symbol of hope in his new home.

Sure, Mike Ditka and Tony Dungy have questioned his maturity. There were also reports of a rift between Cutler and Urlacher at the start of training camp, which both denied, and the quarterback offended Hester with his comments after the preseason opener. That quickly got smoothed over, and Cutler showed some maturity by taking a politically correct approach rather than talk trash leading up to Sunday’s game and after it.

“I do1n’t think he got too wrapped up in it,” tight end Greg Olsen said. “He treated it as a normal game. Obviously, there was a little bit more to it. But for the most part I think guys were looking forward to another chance to get better and go out there and make some plays and we did.”


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