Willie Young didn't need any more convincing that Jay Cutler is one tough quarterback.
The Detroit defensive end got all the proof he needed in the Lions' Monday night game in Chicago last year, when teammate Ndamukong Suh drove Cutler into the Soldier Field grass late in the first half, nearly crumpling the Bears QB like a tin can.
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Then-backup Jason Campbell replaced Cutler for one play. Cutler played the entire second half, as the Bears won 13-7.
"That was a signature hit he took," Young said of Cutler, who landed on the ball and bruised his ribs. "He got right back up and continued to play ball. Tough quarterback. He's probably one of the toughest in the league.
"You've seen him take hits and he just pops right back up from them. He's amazingly tough."
Cutler's toughness impressed Young again Sunday, as he threw for 250 yards and a touchdown in the Lions' 21-19 win, despite suffering a groin injury just 21 days earlier against Washington. The injury was expected to sideline Cutler at least a month.
"Hat goes off to him for being able to fight through and play through what he's playing through right now," Young said.
"Cutler's a strong guy," Lions defensive tackle Nick Fairley said. "He got up after every hit. We were like, 'We just got to keep coming and hopefully we get there enough to where he will be shaken a little.'"
Cutler, who the Bears said suffered an ankle injury Sunday, was hit repeatedly by the Lions, although Suh had the game's only sack. He once even tripped awkwardly over a Lion after a pass attempt. On a third-quarter pass play, Cutler grimaced and grabbed the inside of his left thigh after eluding pressure and releasing the ball. He went down to the ground but got up quickly.
"We knew that his mobility probably wouldn't be there this game," Fairley said of Cutler. "So we put it on the front four that we were trying to get there and shake him just a little bit."
"He didn't look slow," said Young, who had nearly intercepted a Cutler screen pass in the first quarter. "For the most part, he was hanging in the pocket. He was able to get out of the pocket and keep plays alive a little bit. Obviously I'm sure he was feeling his groin, but at the same time, he kept them in the game."
Despite admitting he "couldn't move around, couldn't be as mobile," Cutler never once left the field while the Bears were on offense until late in the game. That's when the Bears announced his return was questionable due to the ankle injury.
"I'm not surprised," Fairley said of Cutler taking every Bears snap until their final drive. "I figured he was going to tough it out, just knowing the type of competitor that he is."
After Matthew Stafford's 14-yard TD pass to Calvin Johnson put the Lions up 21-13, the Bears started from their own 26 with 2:18 left in the fourth. For the first time Sunday, Josh McCown trotted out to play quarterback. Ten plays later, his 11-yard scoring strike to Brandon Marshall pulled the Bears within 2 points with 40 seconds to go.
The Lions snuffed out the attempted conversion pass, as McCown threw the ball out of the end zone, but Young was called for a personal foul on McCown.
"They said I hit him in the head area," Young said. "I spoke to him after the game and I told him, 'Look, you know that wasn't intentional.'"
On the Bears' second try to tie the game, Farley tackled Matt Forte in the backfield, essentially sealing the Lions' win that gave them sole possession of first place in the NFC North.
"We knew it was a run the whole way," Young said. "You could tell we weren't playing pass on that last play."