Lovie Smith was hired by the Bears nine years ago to do three things: beat the Packers, win the Super Bowl, and serve as a living statue outside Soldier Field in the offseason (okay, I made up the last one). He started off winning six of eight games against Green Bay, but Lovie's Bears have struggled as of late, losing seven of the last eight. Lovie did take the Bears to the Super Bowl in 2006, and reached the NFC Championship Game two years ago (losing to... the Packers). Lovie may be running out of time to turn around this season, and the man who can save it is Jay Cutler.
The Bears 1-7 record against the Packers since 2009 coincides with Jay Cutler's arrival in Chicago. I'm not going to draw a conclusion between those losses and Jay Cutler, since we all know Cutler was the biggest addition to the Bears in quite some time. More likely, the Bears recent struggles against the Packers correlate back to ole Jerry Angelo, the cheshire cat who gave us Cutler, finally a talented quarterback, yet forgot to give him anything resembling an offensive line or competent receiving corp.
That being said, look at some Bears-Packers game stats since Cutler's arrival:
|Date||Site||Bears W/L||Score||Cutler Comp/Att||Cutler Yards||Cutler TD-INT||Cutler Sacked||Rodgers Comp/Att||Rodgers Yards||Rodgers TD-INT||Rodgers Sacked|
If you're wondering about the December game from last year, yes, that was actually Josh McCown, but notice how little those numbers vary from the rest of Cutler's games in the Packers' series (except for the sacks). Only twice has Cutler thrown less than two interceptions, and he has never had a positive TD-INT ratio against the Pack. In five of the seven games Cutler's played in, he's been sacked at least three times.
Then you look at Aaron Rodgers' numbers against the Bears. He's had six straight games throwing for at least 200 yards, and averaged less than an interception a game. But, he's only thrown more than one touchdown twice, and only had three games where he's been sacked less than twice. Rodgers is a great quarterback, but against Lovie Smith's defense, he hasn't had a ton of success.
For me, this game - heck, Lovie's career as Head Coach of the Bears - comes down to whether or not Jay Cutler can step up and have a great game. He's capable of it, but he hasn't done it yet as a Bear. Cutler needs to be efficient, make smart decisions, and most importantly, avoid turnovers (you know, the usual). And while a lot of Cutler's success is dependent on how well his line is blocking, and having a strong running game, and his receivers not dropping it like its hot, its also time for Jay to step up and save the Bears' season and Lovie's job. It's asking a lot of a QB currently suffering from neck and knee injuries, and who has been battered, beaten and generally let down by a lot of his teammates due to their poor play (and the previous front office for thinking that role players and backups could be key starters). But Jay needs to step up to the plate and hit a home run for the home team.
Whether the Bears win or lose Sunday against the Packers, they will still have a shot at a playoff spot. A win could be setting them up for a Giants-esque run through the playoffs, and a possible shot at a division title. A loss means the Bears have to win the last two games to make the playoffs (probably), which is doable, but if Lovie can't deliver this time against the Packers, with his back against the wall and his career in the balance, then maybe it is time to move on.