Cutler's work pays off with big Bears comeback

On the stat sheet and the highlight shows, Jay Cutler's 4 touchdown passes in the Bears' 28-20 upset victory over the San Francisco 49ers are impressive.

But Bears coach Marc Trestman and Cutler's teammates were just as impressed with what he did before he began firing touchdown passes, starting several days before his big game.

The Bears' quarterback didn't have the luxury of throwing to Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, his two Pro Bowl wide receivers, in practice last week because they were hurt. But when the game, and maybe even the season, were on the line Sunday night, Cutler turned in one of the better performances of his career.

After the Bears fell behind 17-0 late in the first half, Cutler led an improbable comeback. He threw 3 of his TD passes to Marshall, who was hobbled during the week with a sprained ankle, and they all came after the QB took a vicious helmet to the chest from the 49ers' 318-pound tackle Quinton Dial.

"It knocked the wind out of me, so it was just a matter of getting enough time to get my wind back," said Cutler, who didn't miss a play. "Trest (coach Marc Trestman) understands that kind of stuff, so he called a run play and then we were back to business."

Three plays later Cutler fired his first TD pass to Marshall, who made a leaping, one-handed catch in the end zone near the end of the first half to get the Bears on the board and give them some momentum after an ugly and unproductive first 28 minutes.

That Cutler responded as he did after taking the shot that resulted in a roughing-the-passer penalty came as no surprise to Marshall.

"That's old news for us," said Marshall, who has had Cutler as his quarterback for six of his nine NFL seasons, three with the Denver Broncos (2006-08) and now three with the Bears after they were reunited in 2012.

"I've been around Jay for a long time, and I remember a couple years ago him getting criticized pretty heavily for not coming back into the game.

"But he's one of the toughest guys I know. You guys (media) won't understand that because, whether it's good or bad, his posture, his demeanor is the same. For me, it was just like, 'OK, get up and let's roll.' "

As exceptional as Cutler's game was - his 119.2 passer rating was his fifth highest as a Bear - Trestman said the 31-year-old quarterback did some of his best work during the week when he didn't know if he'd have Marshall or Jeffery (hamstring) on the field.

Cutler also knew the offense would be without two starters on the line, center Roberto Garza and left guard Matt Slauson.

And there also was a week of criticism following the bonehead interception Cutler threw in Week 1 that played a big part in the overtime loss to Buffalo. That one ill-advised throw had critics accusing Cutler of being the same old big-play-bad-play guy who has never fulfilled expectations.

But that's not the player Trestman has seen this year.

"I think Jay has really had an excellent start to the season, minus one play," Trestman said. "He's played really well, and he led the way this whole week.

"He did it through his demeanor right after the (first) game. He did it throughout the week in our building with the way he carried himself, the way he supported his teammates, the way he prepared for this game.

"We all looked to him this week to see how he would handle the adversity of last week, and he stood tall throughout the week, and our players followed."

Even though a noticeably hobbled Jeffery caught just 3 passes for 47 yards, he drew a pair of illegal contact penalties that came at critical times to help keep TD drives alive.

Just having his top two wideouts made all the difference to Cutler.

"It's huge," he said. "It's night and day. It was a long week without those two out there (at practice)."

Without Cutler's leadership all week and his performance at crunchtime Sunday, the Bears might be 0-2 and looking at a long season.

• Follow Bob's Bears and NFL reports on Twitter@BobLeGere.

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