CHICAGO - As Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith pointed out in his postgame address, his quarterback, Jay Cutler, is undefeated as a starter in the playoffs.
It was only his first playoff start, of course. But that was enough for Smith, who watched Cutler pass for two touchdowns and rush for two more in a performance central to Chicago’s 35-24 second-round win over Seattle on Sunday at Soldier Field.
Cutler was sacked six times by the Seahawks when Seattle upset the Bears in October. And his 16 interceptions were keys to several of Chicago’s losses along the way, leading many to question his consistency.
Sunday, though, he was extremely efficient (111.3 passer rating) and productive (274 yards on 15 completions). He was even historic, becoming the second quarterback in NFL history with two touchdowns running and two more passing in a playoff game. Cleveland’s Otto Graham did it twice.
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“Whether it was running the football or just making the different throws we ask him to do, he was outstanding today,” Smith said of Cutler.
The Bears were 0-12 on third downs in the first match against Seattle – 10 of 18 on Sunday. Cutler said his veteran teammates were important in helping him prepare this week.
“They make a lot of the younger guys, guys who never were in the playoffs, at ease. They kept everything on an even keel this week and had a lot of fun in practice and we came out here and it showed,” he said.
Cutler particularly benefitted from the work of tight end Greg Olsen, who picked up 113 yards on three catches, including a 58-yard touchdown pass in the first period.
“I don’t know if you’re going to get any better performance out of a quarterback in the playoffs,” Olsen said of Cutler. “Two throwing touchdowns, no turnovers, taking care of the ball, making those decisions, moving us up and down the field ... I don’t know what more he could have done. You can’t give enough credit to what he did.”
The Seahawks lauded his efforts, but free safety Earl Thomas wondered about the approach the Hawks employed, after blitzing worked so well in October.
“We didn’t pressure like we did the first game,” Thomas said. “We just sat back. If you look back at our games, when we sit back, we’re vulnerable. We didn’t get the pressure we wanted on the quarterback and he took advantage of that.”
Coach Pete Carroll was not surprised by Cutler’s passing, nor was his rushing entirely unexpected.
“He got out on pressure and did a nice job on the goal line,” Carroll said. “The quarterback draw play was a nice call. He did a good job. We knew that he can run well. He has pretty good speed and he has a knack for it. Unfortunately, he got away from us.”