New York Jets 19 Chicago Bears 27.
While Jay Cutler is hardly playing at the MVP level that wide receiver Brandon Marshall predicted he would, he’s showed just enough poise in the last two contests to get the job done and pull out a pair of road wins, taking the Bears to 2-1 after losing the home opener to Buffalo.
On Monday night, Cutler went 23/38 for 225 yards and 2 TDs with 0 INTs and a lost fumble.
Nearly half of his yards went to WR Alshon Jeffery who hauled in 8 catches for 105 yards, but the real hero of the night was Chicago TE Martellus Bennett. The seventh-year pro scored both of the Bears’ offensive touchdowns on 5 grabs for 54 total yards.
After the game, Bennett explained his rapport with QB Cutler:
“Right now I feel I’m very intelligent on the field. The game is getting a lot easier. I know the offense better. I know what Jay wants.”
Bennett has found the end zone four times in three weeks and is on pace to surpass 100 receptions for the season. To put that into perspective, his career high is 65 in 2013.
Chicago jumped out to a quick 14-0 lead with just over five minutes gone off the clock.
On New York’s second play from scrimmage, Geno Smith threw a pick-six to Ryan Mundy, who picked off a floating screen pass intended for Chris Johnson.
But Smith and the Jets rallied, trimming the deficit to 17-13 at the half on a 19-yard Jeremy Kerley touchdown reception. Kerley led the team in receiving with 81 yards on 7 catches.
Chicago marched 80 yards down the field to start the second half and went up 24-13 on Bennett’s second TD. From there, two straight Nick Folk field goals trimmed the lead to five before Robbie Gould nailed a 45-yarder to stretch the Bears’ lead to eight.
Geno had one last chance to put together a game-tying drive.
With the ball on their own 20 and just 3:10 left on the clock, Smith led the Jets all the way down to the Chicago 9, picking up 51 yards on a bomb to Greg Salas.
But with six chances to score inside the red zone, New York turned the ball over on downs.
Is Smith the answer in New York?
In today’s NFL, teams are far less patient with young quarterbacks than they used to be. With more rookie and second-year signal callers taking their teams to the playoffs, youth and inexperience no longer is deemed to be a valid excuse for failing to win.
With Geno Smith there’s definitely enough positive going on to keep him holding the reins to see how he can develop. Michael Vick’s certainly not a long-term solution either, so as long as Geno’s showing progress, it’s worth holding out to see what they’ve got in him.
But Smith’s decision making is worrisome. He’s now thrown four interceptions in three weeks, which puts him on pace to equal last year’s total of 21.
While three players tossed more picks than Smith in 2013 (Eli Manning 27, Carson Palmer 22, Joe Flacco 22) all three had 100-plus more pass attempts.
It’s one thing to throw a lot of INTs because you’re a gun-slinger (Andy Dalton, 33 TDs with 20 INTs in 2013), but you simply won’t last long in this league if you can’t maintain at least a 1:1 ratio of scoring passes to turnovers.
It’s too early to pull the plug on the Geno Smith experiment, but it’s certainly one to keep our eye on.
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