It looked worse than last year, when he fractured his thumb against San Diego on a November night in Chicago and, consequently, broke the hearts of Bears fans.
Caleb Hanie was about to become the Bears' starting quarterback. The Bears' playoff hopes were about to be dashed thanks to an ensuing five-game losing streak.
This time, on a cool night on the lakefront against NFC North rival Detroit, Jay Cutler lay crumpled on Soldier Field, nearly motionless after being chased down and sacked by nasty Ndamukong Suh of the Lions late in the first half of the Bears' 13-7 win Monday evening.
If the 6-foot-4, 307-pound Suh landing on the 6-3, 220-pound Cutler wasn't bad enough, it appeared Suh's forearm drove Cutler's head into the grass. But it was Cutler's ribs that absorbed the brunt.
He barely moved for two minutes, which had to seem like 20 to Bears fans -- who quickly got quiet.
Suh knocked the wind out of Cutler, who stressed that the play was clean since it occurred outside the box.
"I thought I was gone, and then he got a hold of me and I knew, from that point, it wasn't going to end well," Cutler said.
Veteran Jason Campbell, the new backup QB, quickly whipped off his baseball cap and strapped on his helmet.
But then Cutler, who was being attended to by multiple Bears trainers, bounced to his feet and jogged off the field.
Bears fans breathed a collective sigh.
Campbell hustled in, took a snap, scrambled for 5 yards and then hustled back to the sideline.
Cutler returned for the next play. Fans cheered.
Call it a pre-Halloween scare.
"It definitely scared us when he went down," said Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall. "He's tough, man. I was fortunate enough to get drafted with him in 2006, and being around him, that's what I see on a daily basis."
Before the half ended, Cutler headed inside to have his ribs evaluated, but he came out ready to go for the second half. While he didn't miss a snap, he didn't necessarily look sharp either. Cutler completed just 3 of 9 passes for 23 yards in the third quarter.
"Whenever you don't finish a half, there's a concern," said Bears coach Lovie Smith, who reported that Cutler suffered bruised ribs. "But he was able to come back out the second half and at least perform well enough for us to get the win."
Cutler's passer efficiency plummeted from 107.2 after the first quarter, which included his 7-yard touchdown toss to Marshall, to 83.7 at halftime, to 68.8 after three quarters.
He finished 16 of 31 for 150 yards and a 76 rating with no turnovers.
"Trying to throw the ball, trying to get my right side through was a little bit tough," Cutler said. "I missed some throws. I wasn't feeling exactly 100 percent, but we kind of had to fight through it. With the way our defense was playing, we were just trying to drag out the game."
More importantly to the Bears and their faithful fans, Cutler finished.
"Jay definitely gave us a lift with his emotional toughness," Marshall said.
"Unless it's a broken leg or something like that, he's going to get up," Smith of his QB. "He is a tough guy, and that's what you should have as your Chicago Bear quarterback. He was in some pain, but he fought through it."