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Jay Cutler heats up as clock winds down

Jay Cutler completed all five passes six-play 80-yard scoring drive close out second quarter. | Paul Connors~AP

Jay Cutler completed all five passes on a six-play, 80-yard scoring drive to close out the second quarter. | Paul Connors~AP

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Updated: February 22, 2013 2:12AM



GLENDALE, Ariz. — Jay Cutler always has the ball in his hands. But when the game is in his hands, he seems to become a different player.

There was no better example than in the final 2:18 of the first half in the 28-13 victory over the Arizona Cardinals Sunday at University of Phoenix Stadium. Until then, the Bears were leading 14-7 in spite of Cutler. He had completed 1 of 11 passes for 30 yards and a 39.6 rating.

But in the two-minute drill with limited interruptions and limited input from his coaches, Cutler suddenly was accurate, efficient and productive — a short pass to Brandon Marshall for seven yards; a deep ball to Alshon Jeffery for 35; a dump-off to Matt Forte for seven; a dart to Earl Bennett for 16; and finally, an 11-yard touchdown to a wide-open Marshall on a play that was all Cutler.

‘‘That’s Jay — I don’t know what it is about him,’’ Marshall said. ‘‘He called that route. I’m looking at [Cardinals cornerback] Patrick Peterson telling the safety, ‘I’m about to jump the slant, so please get over the top.’ And I guess Jay knew he was going to jump it. He called the option to that and I was in the back of the end zone wide open.’’

The urgency of the two-minute drill brings out the best in Cutler more often than not. Outside of that touchdown drive against the Cardinals, Cutler was 7 of 21 for 70 yards against the Cardinals. It was similar to the Carolina game, when the Bears needed a field goal to win in the final 2:23. Cutler was 5 of 6 for 52 yards, and Robbie Gould’s 41-yarder as time expired won the game, 23-22.

‘‘It’s faster, obviously,’’ said Cutler, who was 12 of 26 for 146 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions for a 76.8 rating. ‘‘I can’t really give you a reason why we hit on those plays and we missed on others. Similar coverage. I just hit ’em.’’

From Cutler on down, the Bears’ offense operates efficiently in the two-minute drill. As was the case against the Panthers, the Bears had no penalties in the drive and no dropped passes. That Cutler has more play-calling responsibility in those situations seems to be a factor, too

‘‘We go back and forth,’’ Cutler said when asked about his play-calling authority on those drives. ‘‘If we’re moving along, [offensive coordinator Mike Tice] gives me some ideas. If I like it, I like it. If I don’t, I change it a little bit. It’s kind of a back-and-forth I would think.’’

Cutler threw incomplete on his first six passes — though a deep ball for Alshon Jeffery netted a first down when cornerback Greg Toler was called for holding. A 32-yard catch by Marshall was ruled incomplete upon review. But he avoided disaster and was good enough when he had to be.

‘‘It wasn’t pretty,’’ Cutler said. ‘‘We made some plays when we had to. The two-minute drill was big. The offensive line did a great job. I missed a lot of throws. Wish we had a few back. But we got the ‘W,’ which is the big part.’’



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