We interrupt the great T.O. Debate of 2009 to post a bulletin: Pressure. Jay Cutler. Sunday Night. Atlanta.
Jay Cutler's putrid opening night performance has become a thing of nostalgia after two game-winning drives and three 100+ quarterback ratings. If the Bears had played this weekend, and won, Cutler would be riding a four-game win streak into a primetime battle with one of the conference's elite teams. But the Bears didn't play Sunday. And the guy who used to play quarterback here filled column space all over the city of Chicago.
Jerry Angelo and Lovie Smith need Jay Cutler on Sunday night. They need the man they've mortaged their careers in Chicago on to come through in the national spotlight, silencing the media and reassuring a fan base that just wants to win football games. Orton's success is not an individual threat to Cutler but it's quickly becoming one to an organization without a successful history of developing offensive talent. Or any talent for that matter.
But Kyle Orton's success is not the only reason there's pressure on #6 this week. Cutler's only other moment in the national spotlight (nobody counts 4 o'clock) was the disaster in Green Bay and a repeat of that performance will send the Haugh's and Morrissey's and Hayes' of the world (read: Chicago) to find out how to correctly spell Aykroyd when listing the other "Not Ready for Prime-Time Players". Cutler wasn't brought here to beat Seneca Wallace or the Detroit Lions. He was brought here to win games like Sunday night.
The Bears need to remove the leash and allow their franchise quarterback to beat a suspect secondary down the field. If Orlando Pace and Chris Williams can keep the Falcons' talented-yet-inconsistent pass rush out of the backfield, Cutler should have an opportunity put up 30+ against the Falcons. This team has too much speed at wide receiver to be limited to quick slants, flanker screens and underneath crossing routes.
Jerry and Lovie paid for the arm. They paid an awful lot. The only way to silence the building criticism is to show the country what you paid for.