BOURBONNAIS, Ill.—The San Diego Chargers dictated how much Jay Cutler played in the preseason opener for the Chicago Bears last Saturday at Qualcomm Stadium.
Not Lovie Smith. Not Mike Martz. Not Cutler.
It was Martz, the offensive coordinator, who made the candid admission this afternoon that Cutler got yanked after eight plays and the offense’s opening drive, which resulted in a field goal, because the Chargers were blitzing aggressively.
More specifically, ex-Bears defensive coordinator Ron Rivera, now the defensive mastermind of the Chargers, called blitzes on four of the game’s first five plays and six of the eight on the drive. Cutler was sacked once when running back Matt Forte did not pick up blitzing cornerback Donald Strickland, but he also completed two passes in the face of pressure and offensive line coach Mike Tice said he was happy to get the experience against the blitzes in the first preseason game.
“Just wanted to get his feet wet,” Martz said of Cutler. “Everybody has a different approach to the preseason games. Our approach was to get him in there and get him some nice throws down the field, get him loosened up with the receivers a little bit. San Diego had a different approach to it and there was a lot of pressure. We’re still kind of putting things in so when they are pressuring as much as they were in a preseason game, which is fine, everybody does that so it doesn’t make any difference.
“But we probably pulled him a little bit earlier than maybe I would normally. I just wanted to make sure we are further along with what we do before we keep him in there under that kind of circumstance.”
Cutler was also hit by linebacker Kevin Burnett when he scrambled from the pocket on a play. The Bears obviously would have preferred he slide or run out of bounds. A big part of the Chargers’ defense is blitzing and the team played it vanilla in preseason last year. When the defense got to the regular season and began pressuring, the timing wasn’t right. So the Chargers have made the decision to practice what they do during the season in preseason, and apparently the Bears thought it was too big of a risk to have their quarterback in there. As it was, Cutler’s backup Caleb Hanie left with a sprained AC joint in his right shoulder when he was sacked by linebacker Antwan Applewhite.
The Bears will likely play their starters into the second quarter this Saturday against the Oakland Raiders at Soldier Field. What if they blitz like mad?
“That’s a hypothetical question,” Martz said.
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