Trailing by 17 in the second quarter last week, Jay Cutler rallied the Chicago Bears to an improbable road victory.
The New York Jets built a surprising 18-point lead in the second quarter on the road in their last game, only to fall apart in stunning fashion.
Trying to follow up on the thrilling win, Cutler looks to continue his sensational play Monday night when his banged-up Bears visit a Jets team trying to regroup from a collapse.
Chicago got off to a demoralizing start with 23-20 overtime loss to Buffalo at Soldier Field in Week 1, a performance that left little reason to believe it could bounce back last Sunday at San Francisco. The Bears looked to be on their way to an 0-2 start trailing 17-0, but a Cutler touchdown pass to Brandon Marshall just before halftime gave the team some life.
Cutler threw three more TDs in the fourth quarter — two to Marshall — and Chicago went on to win 28-20.
“We just kind of had to weather the storm,” said Cutler, who didn’t turn the ball over after two costly interceptions against the Bills. “We have to take a look at this film, break it down, and then we have to move on. There’s a lot of football left, so we just have to kind of keep building on this and get better and better each week.”
The Jets were cruising toward a 2-0 start with a 21-3 lead at Green Bay midway through the second quarter last Sunday, but gained 132 yards the rest of the way and lost 31-24.
Making the defeat even more painful, a 37-yard touchdown pass that would have pulled the Jets within one with about 5 minutes to go was negated because offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg was signaling timeout just before the snap.
“As a team, you go and you learn from this,” coach Rex Ryan said. “I’ve seen some teams that, when you have a game like this, it can turn your season on a positive note. That’s certainly the way I hope we respond to this game.”
Ryan’s secondary needs to show improvement after Aaron Rodgers passed for 346 yards and three touchdowns. The Jets were hoping the return of top cornerback Dee Milliner from a high ankle sprain would tighten things up, but he struggled against the Packers. He is now being slowed by tightness in his quadriceps and appears unlikely to play after sitting out two straight practices.
The secondary will have their hands full trying to slow down Cutler, who has a 61.6 completion percentage, 14 touchdowns and three interceptions in leading the Bears to a 6-1 record on Mondays.
Geno Smith excelled in his only Monday game, passing for 199 yards and three TDs to compile a career-best 147.7 passer rating in a 30-28 victory in Atlanta on Oct. 7.
Smith was without one of his favorite targets Sunday after wide receiver Eric Decker left early in the fourth quarter with a sore hamstring. Decker, who has team highs of nine catches and 137 receiving yards, was limited in practice Saturday after sitting out the previous three days and will likely be a game-time decision.
The Bears are plenty familiar with injuries to wide receivers, as Marshall (ankle) and Alshon Jeffery (hamstring) were questionable up until a couple hours before kickoff and played through pain.
Chicago was already playing without center Roberto Garza and left guard Matt Slauson, and the defense lost three starters to injury in cornerback Charles Tillman, tackle Jeremiah Ratliff and safety Chris Conte. Ratliff and Conte, who made a spectacular interception, could both return but Tillman will miss the remainder of the season.
Rookie cornerback Kyle Fuller and end Willie Young stepped up, with Fuller recording two fourth-quarter interceptions and Young tallying two fourth-quarter sacks.
“As I told the team, as you go on this marathon of a football season, you’re going to have opportunities to gain some backbone, and I think this really helped us and will help us,” coach Marc Trestman said.
However, Trestman was unhappy the run game took a step backward with Matt Forte rushing for 21 yards on 12 attempts after running for 87 yards on 17 carries in Week 1. Moving the ball on the ground won’t be easy against the Jets, who are allowing a league-low 52.5 yards and 2.8 per attempt.
New York is just as strong when running the ball itself, ranking first in the NFL with 179.0 yards per game. Chris Ivory has rushed for 145 yards and two scores and is averaging 6.3 per attempt.
The Jets will likely lean heavily on Ivory and Chris Johnson against a Chicago team that is giving up an average of 5.4 yards per carry.
The Bears won 38-34 in the last meeting in 2010, their third straight victory over the Jets. They are 7-3 in the all-time series.