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Cutler, Bears get another shot against Green Bay
By Bob LeGere | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 12/10/2009 12:01 AM

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Regardless of the won-loss record, no Bears season is ever considered a total washout as long as it comes with at least one win over the Packers.

Jay Cutler can find out Sunday at Soldier Field if the same is true for individuals, when he gets an opportunity to atone for his inauspicious Bears debut that included 4 Packers interceptions in the season opener.

Unfortunately for the Bears, Cutler's performance was a sign of things to come. He's thrown 16 more picks since then and is tied with Lions rookie Matthew Stafford for the NFL lead with 20.

Last week against the Rams was the first time in eight games that Cutler wasn't picked off at least once, and the hope is that he's getting better.

But has he improved?

"That's up for debate, maybe," Cutler said. "It's been a long year. It's been a lot of ups and downs. I'm really not going to go back and look at all the games we've made mistakes. We have to concentrate on Green Bay this week and just getting better this week."

Cutler was better against the Rams, but a 1-11 team isn't much of a measuring stick. Still, his 96.0 passer rating was his highest in four weeks and only his second mark above 79.6 in the past eight weeks.

For the season, Cutler's 75.3 passer rating is 22nd in the league.

By comparison, the Packers' Aaron Rodgers is fourth in the league with a passer rating of 103.3. He's been below 85.0 in only two of 12 games this season and has thrown just 3 interceptions for the year.

Cutler managed to throw for 277 yards in the first matchup, but the Packers' defense has improved considerably as it's adjusted to playing a 3-4 defense after switching from a 4-3 in the off-season.

The 8-4 Packers have won four straight and their defense is No. 1 in the NFL in yards allowed and is in the top five in rushing yards (4), average gain per rush (2), passing yards (3) and average gain per pass allowed (4). They're also No. 2 in interceptions and No. 6 in third-down efficiency.

One advantage the 5-7 Bears will have is a greater familiarity with the Packers' new scheme and how they play it. They didn't have much to go on in the season opener.

"It was tough that first game with a new defensive coordinator (Dom Capers)," Cutler said. "He didn't really show what exactly they were going to do with the 3-4, so there were a lot of unknowns. This time around, there is a lot more film on them, so we're going to get a better read on them."

The Bears have seen enough of Packers cornerback Charles Woodson to know they want nothing to do with the five-time Pro Bowler.

The 12-year veteran is mentioned in any intelligent discussion about defensive player of the year. Woodson's tied for third in the NFL with 7 interceptions, leads the Packers with 4 forced fumbles and is third with 63 tackles.

"He's one of the top guys in the NFL right now," Cutler said. "He's playing some of the best ball, probably, in his career."

Even the Bears' cornerbacks are impressed by Woodson's play.

"Woodson is a beast," Zach Bowman said. "I watched him on Thanksgiving. I watched him on Monday night, and he still has it. He's making plays."

The Packers' other cornerback, Tramon Williams, has had his problems, although he had one of the Pack's picks against Cutler and tacked on a 67-yard return.

But Williams was flagged three times for pass interference Monday night in the Packers' 27-14 victory over the Ravens, for a total of 106 yards in penalties.

According to Cutler, the Bears must take some shots down the field, especially against Green Bay defensive backs who love to play tight press coverage.

"You definitely have to attack them," Cutler said. "If you don't, they're just going to beat you up all day. There were some times in the first game where we took some shots. Johnny (Knox) got behind them once (for a 68-yard catch).

"We're going to take what they give us. If they want to come up and press us, then we'll definitely (get) some opportunities to run past them."