Cutler, Gould lead Bears over Steelers, 17-14
It was a day of atonement for the Bears' offense, which started slowly but finished strong, outscoring the world-champion Pittsburgh Steelers 10-0 in the final 6:21 for a 17-14 victory.
Jay Cutler bounced back from a 4-interception aberration in the season opener to complete 27 of 38 passes for 236 yards, 2 touchdowns, no interceptions and a passer rating of 104.7.
His 7-yard TD pass to rookie Johnny Knox, who had team bests of 6 catches and 70 yards, tied the game at 14-all 8:39 into the fourth quarter, setting the stage for Robbie Gould's game-winning, 44-yard field goal with 15 seconds remaining.
"I think they brought me here for a reason, and I want the ball at the end every game with a chance to win it," said Cutler, who notched his first win as a Bear and chalked it up as a team victory.
"The defense stepped up and forced them to miss 2 (fourth-quarter) field goals, ours guys caught the ball, the offensive line did a great job, and we converted the third down with Devin (Hester), so it was three phases."
On third-and-4 during the final drive, Hester plucked a low throw off the soggy, newly sodded Soldier Field and picked up the first down with a yard to spare. After three short runs, it was up to Gould to knock through his eighth game-winning field goal.
"He's as good as gold," said special teams coordinator Dave Toub. "He's solid. He's a clutch kicker."
Gould is the third-most-accurate FG kicker in NFL history at 86.3 percent (113 of 131), and Cutler assumed it was a done deal when he and the offense got the ball to the Steelers' 26.
"He's made it in 5-degree weather and in snow and rain," Cutler said. "We knew we just had to give him a shot and he's going to do it for us."
On a day with off-and-on rain showers, Gould was looking into a light rain at the north end of the field, but he was perfect.
Tight end Greg Olsen, who caught just 1 pass for 8 yards in the opener and dropped a deep ball from Cutler in the second quarter Sunday after a vicious hit from Steelers safety Tyrone Carter, was instrumental in the tying and winning drives.
The Bears had just dodged a bullet when Steelers kicker Jeff Reed missed a 38-yard FG attempt wide left with 11:37 remaining that would have put the visitors up 17-7. Pittsburgh had driven to the Bears' 10 before Alex Brown threw Willie Parker for a 2-yard loss and then sacked Ben Roethlisberger for an 8-yard loss.
The Bears took the momentum and rolled 72 yards in 9 plays to tie the game at 14-14. The big play was a 29-yard catch deep down the middle by Olsen (3 catches, 41 yards) who got lit up again by Carter but held the ball.
"The first, he won," Olsen said. "He timed it up really well and was able to break the ball up as it got there. But the second one I won, and I'll take that."
On the Bears' next possession - following Reed's miss from 43, also wide left - Matt Forte picked up 12 yards on a screen pass. But he fumbled when hit by James Harrison and the free ball bounced across the 50-yard line where Olsen covered it.
"I was downfield blocking," Olsen said. "I have no idea what happened behind me. I heard the crowd start screaming, and I looked back and the ball was there, so I just tried to scramble and fall on it."
Until their final possession of the first half, the Bears' offense went nowhere, accumulating just 33 yards on 13 plays. The next 13 plays were much more effective.
With its worst field position of the day, the Bears' offense put together its longest and most impressive drive of the season, going 97 yards to tie the game at 7-7 on a 6-yard TD grab by backup tight end Kellen Davis with 19 seconds left in the first half.
Davis, subbing for injured Desmond Clark, got his first extended playing time in the NFL and responded with 5 catches for 38 yards. But after his first catch, a 10-yard gain, the second pass directed his way clanked off his hands.
"I'm assuming my teammates believe in me and have confidence in me as a player," Davis said. "So I felt like I let them down because I knew it could have been a big play."
Cutler told him to forget about it.
"We can't worry about drops; there's not enough time," Cutler said. "We'll worry about that later. I think all of us were disappointed, a little (ticked) off that he dropped it. But I told him, 'Hey, hang in there, we're going to keep going back to you.' "
Davis was hit from both sides after catching Cutler's pass just over the goal line, but the second-year player from Michigan State held on for his first NFL touchdown.
"It was tough holding on to the ball, but I had it right here (on his right shoulder)," he said. "Jay put it in a real good spot for me, so I got both hands on it and held on and tried to get to the ground before I got blasted again."