Jay Cutler puts Bears up early before Geno Smith-led rally falls short
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Chicago Bears coach Marc Trestman needed a few extra minutes to clear his head.
His team took advantage of mistakes by the New York Jets to jump to an early lead, but then things got a little too close for comfort in a 27-19 win Monday night.
“It was quite a game,” Trestman said after arriving a few minutes later than usual for his postgame news conference. “I thought we played an excellent football team. They have the ability to run it and they play terrific defense. I’m just proud of our football team. It was a team win.”
Jay Cutler threw two touchdown passes to Martellus Bennett and Ryan Mundy returned an interception 45 yards for a score. Cutler finished 23 of 38 for 225 yards and Alshon Jeffery caught eight passes for 105 yards for the Bears, who got a 45-yard field goal from Robbie Gould to make it an eight-point game with 3:10 remaining.
The Jets (1-2) had one last opportunity to tie, getting into Bears territory on Geno Smith’s 51-yard pass to Greg Salas. But Jeremy Kerley was out of bounds in the back of the end zone when he made a leaping grab of Smith’s desperation fourth-down heave from the Bears 9.
Cutler took a knee three times to seal the victory for the Bears (2-1).
“We just have to ride this momentum,” Cutler said.
Smith was 26 of 43 for 316 yards and a touchdown with two interceptions — and nearly had a few others. Kerley finished with seven catches for 81 yards, and almost came up with a diving grab off a tipped pass in the end zone on the final drive.
“There were some plays you wish you could have back,” Jets coach Rex Ryan said.
The Jets lost wide receiver Eric Decker in the first half to a hamstring injury; he was questionable for the game with tightness in the hamstring. Decker said he pulled himself out when he couldn’t get it loosened up. Defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson also left with an injured right knee, but Ryan didn’t think it was serious.
The Bears went up 14-0 just over five minutes into the game.
On New York’s second play from scrimmage, Smith didn’t see Mundy lurking in the flat as he floated a screen pass to Chris Johnson. Mundy stepped in front of the toss and ran untouched into the end zone for a 45-yard score.
“I put ourselves in a hole with the interception for a touchdown,” Smith said. “We definitely chipped away and had a chance to win at the end.”
After the Jets stopped the Bears on three plays on their first offensive series, rookie Jalen Saunders dropped Patrick O’Donnell’s punt at his 40 and it was recovered by Ahmad Dixon. Cutler threw deep down the right sideline to Jeffery one play later, and cornerback Darrin Walls was called for pass interference to put the ball at the Jets 7.
Three plays later, Cutler rolled right and found Bennett in the back of the end zone to make it 14-0 — and get the MetLife Stadium crowd booing.
“There is a little lack of respect for me as a tight end,” Bennett said. “It’s kind of like a chip on my shoulder. They never really mention me.”
The Jets got on the scoreboard on their next possession, capping an 11-play, 55-drive with Nick Folk’s 43-yard field goal.
Chicago answered with a 15-play, 79-yard drive helped by cornerback Antonio Allen’s holding penalty on a third-down incompletion by Cutler. Gould’s 24-yard field goal gave the Bears a 17-3 lead 66 seconds into the second quarter.
New York cut the deficit to 17-13 with a 77-yard drive on which Kerley accounted for 51 — including a 19-yard touchdown.
A video review reversed a call late in the half on which the Jets might have taken the lead. Cutler was sacked by David Harris and lost the ball, but was declared down by contact. A review showed Cutler had fumbled, but Demario Davis’ return to the end zone was negated because the whistle had blown.
“It could’ve been a game-changing play, but the referee blew the whistle,” Harris said. “What can you do? What else is new? It seems like we’re playing against two teams out there sometimes.”
Added Davis: “I knew when I picked it up that it was a fumble. And, it should’ve been a touchdown.”
The Jets then went three-and-out.
Chicago opened the second half aggressively, marching 80 yards on six plays and capping the drive with Bennett’s 13-yard touchdown catch to make it 24-13. The Bears nearly had a 12-yard TD by Brandon Marshall earlier in the drive, but it was wiped out by a hands-to-the-face penalty on left guard Michael Ola.
The Jets also blew a possible scoring drive when Smith was intercepted by Kyle Fuller on a poorly thrown pass to David Nelson in the end zone on first-and-10 from the Bears 18.
“You can’t force it in that situation,” Ryan said. “You learn from it.”
Bears fullback Tony Fiammetta injured a hamstring and safety Chris Conte hurt his left shoulder. Neither returned. … Mundy also sat out portions of the game with a shoulder injury. … The Jets announced that late owner Leon Hess and former wide receiver Wayne Chrebet will be inducted into the team’s Ring of Honor on Dec. 1. … The Jets, who came in ranked No. 1 in rushing defense, held Matt Forte to 33 yards on 13 carries. … Marshall finished with one catch for 6 yards. He left the game in the second quarter after injuring his right ankle, but returned in the second half.
*Photo courtesy of Al Bello/Getty Images