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Jay Cutler directs three scoring drives in 17-3 victory
As Jay Cutler bounced up after a 12-yard, second-quarter run and slide, the Bears quarterback emphatically motioned to the official for a flag, believing Giants safety Michael Johnson had hit him late.
"They said I have to slide earlier," Cutler said of the play. "It was good to get hit out there a little bit. It has been eight, nine months since I've gotten some contact."
Calling for the penalty was the type of bravado missing in Cutler's debut at Buffalo, the kind of chip-on-my-shoulder attitude Bears fans can expect from their new leader this season.
In 25 plays during Saturday night's 17-3 exhibition victory over the Giants at Soldier Field, Cutler showed all the tools of a Pro Bowl quarterback.
He engineered three scoring drives, helped amass 222 yards of offense in three possessions, displayed his cannon arm during numerous rollouts and even gave a glimpse of his ability to run in the open field.
Not even an overthrow to Devin Hester -- one unlikely to stir up as much controversy as last week's -- could ruin Cutler's night. He completed 8 of 13 passes for 121 yards and one touchdown to go with a passer rating of 117.8, making it look easy.
"It wasn't easy," he said. "It's never easy out there. We're coming together as an offense. And we're not quite there yet."
Running back Matt Forte, who was held out of the first exhibition, made an immediate impact. He rushed for 58 yards on nine carries, including a 32-yard touchdown burst in the first quarter.
Everything appeared to click for the offense as the Bears jumped out to a 10-0 lead. Cutler completed his first three passes, including a 27-yard hookup with old Vanderbilt teammate Earl Bennett on the team's first series. Cutler missed Hester on third-and-10 from the Giants' 26 and the Bears settled for a 44-yard Robbie Gould field goal.
After the Giants faltered on their first possession, the Bears drove 80 yards in five plays, capped by Forte's touchdown. He followed a monstrous block from left guard Frank Omiyale on Giants linebacker Chase Blackburn. Omiyale seemed to drive back Blackburn 10 yards and Forte was untouched.
Cutler's final drive was his longest, a 10-play, 92-yard journey ending in a 1-yard touchdown toss to Desmond Clark. The missed overthrow to Hester didn't hinder the drive.
The key play was Cutler's 38-yard pass to lanky receiver Devin Aromashodu. Cutler perfectly placed the pass as Aromashodu stretched out in front of Giants cornerback Bruce Johnson. It gave the Bears first-and-goal from the 1.
The Bears' defense played better than last week, too, only surrendering three points on Lawrence Tynes' 42-yard field goal in the first half. But the starters, including Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs, had trouble bringing down Giants running back Brandon Jacobs.
The secondary did not get picked apart in the four series Eli Manning played. Manning completed 7 of 10 passes for 62 yards before exiting.
"Positive," Briggs said of the defensive effort. "Obviously there are some things that we can correct and work on. But there were some things we wanted to do today and we got them done."
Alex Brown's late first-quarter sack thwarted a Giants drive into Bears territory. Manning fumbled on the play but teammate Kevin Boothe recovered it. Marcus Harrison had a sack late in the game.
It was a rather uneventful night for Bears reserves on both sides of the ball. Backup quarterback Caleb Hanie did have a 13-yard touchdown run nullified by a holding penalty on Kevin Shaffer.
Now Cutler and the Bears prepare for next Sunday night's game against the Broncos. The nationally televised NBC showdown marks Cutler's return to Denver for the first time since the fallout that led to the Broncos trading him.
"It'll be a lot of fun," Cutler said. "Y'all going? It's a preseason game. Obviously there's going to be a little bit of drama wrapped around it."
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