Bill Belichick praises Jay Cutler
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- In continuing the red-hot theme in comparing quarterbacks Tom Brady and Jay Cutler going into Sunday's showdown between the Bears and Patriots at Soldier Field, the numbers bear it out: They've been better over the last four games than their season averages.
He's definitely one of the best quarterbacks we've seen all year. We've seen some good ones, and I'll put him right there with all of them.” -- Bill Belichick
That's certainly not a fact lost on Patriots coach Bill Belichick when evaluating Cutler.
"Offensively, Cutler is playing very well," Belichick said. "He's having an outstanding year. I've been very impressed with him. He does so many things well, his accuracy, his release, reading coverages, getting rid of the ball quickly, just managing the team. He's really playing well."
Especially over his last four games. For the season, Cutler has completed 63.2 percent of his passes for an average of 231.4 yards per game, a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 17 to 10, a 92.8 passer rating and 15 total turnovers. But over Cutler's last four outings, he's completed 68.2 percent of his passes for a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 8 to 3 with a passer rating of 106.2.
"Going into December with the situation we're in, every game is magnified. Every game is very important," Cutler said. "The last two or three games have been fun offensively for us because you can really tell the guys are understanding what we're doing. They're playing fast. They know exactly when they make mistakes. They know exactly whenever we miss opportunities. I think that's the good part about it. It's getting fun. We're able to challenge guys more. It's been a fun run here."
Belichick couldn't put a finger on a specific area when asked where Cutler has improved the most. As a Denver Bronco, Cutler faced Belichick's Patriots in 2008, finishing with one touchdown, two interceptions and a 64.3 passer rating in a loss.
"The system he was in [at] Denver that coach [Mike] Shanahan ran was quite a bit different than what coach [Mike] Martz is doing," Belichick said. "It's the same player, but it's apples to oranges. The systems are just different. I think he makes a lot of good decisions. He's very accurate with the ball. He's made great scramble plays to keep plays alive with his legs both to throw and run. He's spreading the ball around, using the backs, tight ends, receivers. He gets the ball to everybody. He's definitely one of the best quarterbacks we've seen all year. We've seen some good ones, and I'll put him right there with all of them."
Brady certainly fits that category, too, and like Cutler, the Patriots quarterback seems to be on a tear. Completing 66.8 percent of his attempts this season for a 252.4-yard average, TD-to-INT ratio of 27-4, a passer rating of 109.6 and five total turnovers, Brady has significantly increased his production over the past four games. Starting with New England's 39-26 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Nov. 14, Brady has completed 73.4 percent of his passes for a 300.8-yard average, TD-to-INT ratio of 13 to 0 and a passer rating of 138.6 to -- in the eyes of many observers -- become a favorite for the league's Most Valuable Player award.
"Right now he's going through a streak where we're looking for other words to describe it," Bears coach Lovie Smith said. "He's a Hall of Fame quarterback, and this is what they do."
Not surprisingly, Brady isn't satisfied with his team's execution.
"Regardless of how I play, it's how our offense plays. We've still got some work to do. Guys have to get better play by play," Brady said. "We're still working for more consistency from all of us: myself, Wes [Welker], Deion [Branch], all of us. The games only get bigger from here. I'm not thinking about [awards]."
Michael C. Wright covers the Bears for ESPNChicago.com.