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Columnist
Cutler struggles not as scary as Forte's
By Barry Rozner | Daily Herald Columnist
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Published: 11/16/2009 12:08 AM

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There are a lot of reasons to worry about Jay Cutler.

And they're all legit.

There's the 9 interceptions in the red zone the last two years, more than twice as many as any other NFL QB.

It speaks to his carelessness and lack of understanding of how important it is to protect the football.

It's also further proof, which they knew in Denver, that Cutler believes there's no throw he can't make, an ego-driven posture that loses football games.

There's also the fact that he's getting killed, and the Bears have to seriously wonder how this is going to affect him the rest of the year.

How many more hits can he take before he breaks physically or mentally?

How many more hits can he take before he's so gun-shy that he can't make a play?

How many more hits can he take before he just plain gives up?

And the frightening part is, how will this affect him long term?

They know he possesses the talent to make it big in the NFL, but if Bears players are sitting in their locker room and wondering today if Cutler knows how to win a game, they're not alone.

In Denver they wondered the exact same thing because Cutler's never won anywhere, and his record backs up those question marks.

They're genuine concerns, but even with that, Cutler shouldn't be the Bears' biggest worry.

There's the offensive line, the defensive line, the receiving corps, the defensive backfield and this little matter of a running back.

Do they have a top-flight NFL running back?

If he's on the roster, we haven't seen it this year, because the Matt Forte of 2009 looks nothing like the Matt Forte of 2008.

A bad year has gotten progressively worse, and as woeful as the offensive line has been, they actually made some blocks Thursday night and Forte was either too slow to hit the hole or simply refused to follow his blocks.

It's as if he didn't know where to go, and a running back who can't follow a block is not an NFL running back.

Forte was consistently freelancing Thursday and blowing up the play on his own.

Granted, sometimes the blocks weren't there, and he can't break a tackle to save his life, but when the blocks were there, he wasn't.

Either way, it looked really bad.

Then, there were the very successful screen passes the Bears ran the last two games.

That's the good part. The bad part is a couple of them should have gone for touchdowns.

If Forte isn't hurt, he's lost at least a step from a year ago.

When Thursday's game was still scoreless late in the first half, Cutler hit Forte on a screen left. The line did a great job and it went for 37 yards, but it should have gone for a score.

Forte had a convoy at midfield when he was chased down from behind by Niners safety Dashon Goldson. Any speed at all there and the Bears have a commanding 7-0 lead against a hapless San Francisco offense.

Instead, Devin Hester falls on the next play, the ball is picked, the Niners run it back, and a minute later they take a 7-0 advantage.

Instead of being up a touchdown - if the Bears had a back who could make a play - they're down a touchdown and never recover.

True, Jay Cutler is a worry. He looks nothing like the Hall of Famer everyone promised us in July and August, but he still has great talent, and if they can put some players around him, he can be fixed.

But the bigger worry is that after a great rookie year, Forte isn't suffering from a sophomore jinx. He's suffering from slow instincts and even slower feet.

If he's hurt, that would explain a lot.

If he's not, the Bears - a team severely lacking high draft picks the next couple of years - don't have a running back.

And that's downright scary.